Journal archives for June 2017

11 June, 2017

Baker Sanctuary 2017-06-10

This morning I spent almost 4 hours covering a little over 3 miles on the northwest part of Travis Audubon's Baker Sanctuary. Like when I visited last month, I wanted to see an area of the preserve I hadn't been on before. So after parking I crossed Lime Creek Road and followed a trail west until I ran into the west fence line. On the way I found the old limestone quarry site which I've only seen once before:

Baker Sanctuary Old Quarry - 1

Then I followed the fence line north until I found an old truck trail a little to the east which also led north. At one point the trail opened up to this beautiful view to the north:

Looking North from Baker

Golden-cheeked Warblers are less detectable now since most of the males have mostly stopped singing. (I think I only heard one song while I was out.) Of the four I observed, two were juvenile males with a little bit of green on their crown and back. I'm not familiar with this plumage and at one point I thought I might be seeing a late migrating Black-throated Green Warbler.

Golden-cheeked Warbler

Other highlights included finding an early Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly, having a family of Bewick's Wren come in to inspect me very closely while they were foraging, and lots of singing Field Sparrows and Painted Buntings. See my attached observations.

Here's my bird list:

And here are a few more photos on Flickr:

Posted on 11 June, 2017 00:55 by mikaelb mikaelb | 12 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

14 June, 2017

Shield Ranch 2017-05-13

On May 13 and 14 I was fortunate to be able to join Hill Country Conservancy on their annual EPIC campout. This year it was at the Shield Ranch just southwest of Austin.

There was one remarkable wildlife observation I wanted to record here. On the afternoon of the 13th I was sitting with other campers under the trees by one of the El Ranchito camp sites when I heard a Common Nighthawk vocalize. I looked up and started seeing several Common Nighthawks flying roughly southwest over the trees. I thought there were at least 20, and another birder in the group jumped up and ran out from under the trees to estimate 37. Less than a minute later the same birds flew back over, northeast, seemingly back to where they came from. I only heard a single vocalization.

What happened? I've never seen this many Common Nighthawks in one group. My guess is that this was a group migrating north together. This species is mostly nocturnal and usually migrates at night, so they were all probably roosting somewhere nearby when something disturbed them. They all flew up, circled around, and returned to their roosting site or somewhere close by. That's the best I can come up with!

Some of the other common birds I saw or heard were Painted Buntings, Northern Cardinals, Dickcissels, Wild Turkey, Northern Bobwhite, Rufous-crowned Sparrows, Field Sparrows, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Golden-cheeked Warblers. Here's an eBird list from the morning of the 14th:

See the attached observations. Here are mostly the same photos on Flickr:

American Rubyspot

Posted on 14 June, 2017 00:13 by mikaelb mikaelb | 16 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

17 June, 2017

Nalle Bunny Run 2017-06-17

Only two people joined me on the monthly group walk on Hill Country Conservancy's Nalle Bunny Run Wildlife Preserve this morning. Starting at 8:00, we spent about 2.5 hours covering a little over a mile and finding 31 species of birds. Here are some highlights.

Early in the walk we heard and then saw a singing male Summer Tanager. As we watched it it moved closer, then was joined by a male Painted Bunting. They were almost in the same binocular view at one point. Here is probably the same Painted Bunting, photographed nearby before the walk started. And below it is the tanager.

Painted Bunting

Summer Tanager Male

On our way to the spring a juvenile Great Horned Owl flew downhill across the trail and into the woods. This time of year there are many new birds, recently out of their nests. Some other juvenile birds we saw were Northern Cardinals, Black-crested Titmice, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and this Eastern Phoebe by the pools just below the spring:

Eastern Phoebe Juvenile

In the open spaces of the sandy prairie area down by the lake, the air was full of insects and birds. Insects too small for us to see were being hunted by dragonflies, flycatchers, and swallows. Dragonflies included Wandering Gliders, Spot-winged Gliders, Red Saddlebags, Black Saddlebags, Prince Baskettails, and some kind of river cruisers. The swallows were mostly Cliff Swallows and Barn Swallows, with a couple Northern Rough-winged Swallows mixed in. The flycatchers were Western Kingbirds, and here's one perched on a blooming mesquite tree. Although my photo doesn't show it, the bird's yellow belly matched the yellow blooms on the tree:

Western Kingbird

Also on the sandy prairie area, in a habitat type I didn't expect, we saw two Rock Squirrels. Both disappeared into an open irrigation pipe, this one with something in its mouth that we couldn't identify:

Rock Squirrel - 1

Here's our complete bird list:

And here are a few more photos on Flickr:

Attached are the same photos as observations.

Posted on 17 June, 2017 23:57 by mikaelb mikaelb | 6 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

21 June, 2017

Walburg BBS 2017-06-03

On June 3, 2017 I ran my first USGS Breeding Bird Survey (BBS). The US Geological Survey started these bird surveys in 1966 and they make up one of the most valuable data sets we have for North American bird conservation. The surveys are hundreds of 25 mile routes on back roads all over the United States, and some in Canada and Mexico. The routes are surveyed once per year in bird breeding season (usually June). They are traversed by car, stopping every half-mile to record every species of bird seen or heard for 3 minutes. Most are run by volunteers. Last winter I discovered that no one was surveying the Walburg route, and since it's close to Austin I signed up for it. This route starts in the small community of Walburg northeast of Austin and runs east. It passes south of Granger Lake and most of it is within the Granger Christmas Bird Count circle. It was a Saturday morning at 6:00 AM when I started this survey route.

Most of my route was through agricultural fields (mostly corn), with some stops in rural neighborhood areas, and a few stops near creeks with some riparian woods. I estimate that the most common species I recorded were Northern Cardinal, Mourning Dove, Dickcissel, Red-winged Blackbird, American Crow, Northern Mockingbird, Painted Bunting, Common Nighthawk, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Killdeer, and Lark Sparrow.

The Walburg route was first run in 1980 and has only been skipped 5 times since then. While looking through the historical data for this route, it broke my heart to see how two species in particular have declined. In 1980, 55 Northern Bobwhite and 128 Eastern Meadowlarks were recorded. I only observed 2 bobwhite and 7 meadowlarks. Interestingly, 2 other grassland species, Dickcissel and Lark Sparrow, seem to be holding steady on this route. And Red-winged Blackbirds seemed to be using the corn fields more than the Dickcissels. A single male Orchard Oriole, singing while it flew by, was probably the most interesting bird I recorded.

A few stops were on busy roads, but most were a real treat to experience, quiet with long views in all directions. Hearing the meadowlarks reminded me of my youth on the Texas coast. And at two stops Common Nighthawks were diving close enough for me to hear their wings rip the air as they pulled up. (See my two attached audio observations.) I ended the survey at 11:25 at a pretty spot on top of a hill and I felt it was a morning well spent.

Walburg BBS Roadside - 4

Here are a few more photos on Flickr.

Posted on 21 June, 2017 01:16 by mikaelb mikaelb | 2 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment