Journal archives for June 2019

01 June, 2019

Walburg BBS Scouting 2019-06-01

I scouted the USGS Walburg Breeding Bird Survey route today. In 2017 I volunteered for this route and have surveyed it twice since then. No issues were encountered along the route this morning, and I hope to survey it officially next weekend. Only one Northern Bobwhite was heard, and only three Eastern Meadowlarks. Attached are some iNat observations I made along the way. And here are a few eBird checklists I made:

Posted on 01 June, 2019 21:42 by mikaelb mikaelb | 22 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

15 June, 2019

Nalle Bunny Run 2019-06-15

Despite nine registrations, only four people showed up for this morning's monthly group walk on Hill Country Conservancy's Nalle Bunny Run wildlife preserve. It's too bad since we had a fun morning seeing some great birds! We had barely started walking down the hill when we got a distant but pretty good look at this male Painted Bunting that had been singing for at least 30 minutes:

Painted Bunting

This group was very fortunate to see this bird. On many previous group walks we've heard this species singing all morning but could never get a look at one! This wasn't the only Painted Bunting on the preserve. Later down by the lake we heard another singing that turned out to be an all-green first-year male. There could be two pairs of Painted Buntings breeding here.

When we inspected the spring box we found this small toad clinging to the inside wall. Despite it literally having red spots, I think this is the much more expected Gulf Coast Toad rather than Red-spotted Toad. There were many tiny young Gulf Coast Toads around. (It would be very exciting to find a Red-spotted Toad since they historically occurred in the Austin area, but they haven't been seen around here for years.)

Gulf Coast Toad

Other good bird observations made on the walk included pretty close looks at Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, a male Summer Tanager, a White-eyed Vireo, and female Ladder-backed Woodpecker. By the large cottonwood trees on the eastern fence line we saw a Red-shouldered Hawk missing some tail feathers. (This is a seldom observed species on the preserve, even though I'd expect them to be common here.) We got to hear Canyon Wren, Red-eyed Vireo, and Northern Parula. This female Eastern Bluebird was down by the lake, near a juvenile bluebird it might have been feeding:

Eastern Bluebird

Near the end of the walk almost back up by the gate this bright orange beetle caught by eye as it flew in and landed on a Mexican Hat wildflower:

Orange Beetle on Mexican Hat

I made a very preliminary identification of its species, and I'm hoping more knowledgeable iNaturalist users will help me confirm or correct it.

I ended up recording 25 species of birds. Here's our complete eBird list.

Here are a few more photos on Flickr.

And the same photos are attached as iNaturalist observations to this journal post.

Posted on 15 June, 2019 21:25 by mikaelb mikaelb | 6 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

23 June, 2019

Walburg BBS 2019-06-08

On Saturday morning, June 8 2019, I officially ran the USGS Walburg BBS route that I scouted on June 1. The route is made up of 50 survey points on 25 miles on back roads south of Granger Lake in eastern Williamson County. Weather was just about perfect for a survey, clear skies and almost no wind. The temperature was 67º when I started at 5:57 AM and 86º when I finished at 11:15 AM. This was the third time I've run this BBS and this might've been the best so far for some of the targeted grassland species. Of the 50 stops, Eastern Meadowlarks were heard singing at 8 stops, Lark Sparrows at 6 stops, and Dickcissel at 14 stops. A nice surprise were singing Horned Larks at 2 stops. (See the attached audio observations.) Northern Bobwhite was only recorded at 2 stops.

I recorded a species new to this survey route (which started in 1980). At stop 5 I heard a Wild Turkey. And it sure was fun hearing Great Horned Owls at the first 5 stops.

This was the first time I've run the survey on a Saturday morning instead of Sunday. Car traffic was not too different. 6 or 7 stops are difficult (and a little scary) because of the amount of highway-speed traffic, but all in all this route is on quiet roads and is pretty fun to do. The orange reflective vest that USGS sent me seems to be performing its intended dual purpose to improve safety and lend an air of authority to my presence. No one stopped to ask what I was doing!

Photos from this survey are on Flickr here.

Here are two photos, from the first stop and the last:

Walburg BBS Point 1

Me at Walburg BBS Point 50

Posted on 23 June, 2019 15:11 by mikaelb mikaelb | 17 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

29 June, 2019

Nature Day at Nalle Bunny Run 2019-06-22

Here are some highlights from Hill Country Conservancy's EPIC Nature Day at their Nalle Bunny Run wildlife preserve, which was on Saturday June 22, 2019. I was able to arrive early and go on a solo birding hike finding 29 species. Most notable were maybe two Yellow-throated Warblers, a rare summer breeding species in Travis county that prefers cypress trees in riparian habitats. For the last few years I have only detected one male returning each spring on the preserve, so I was excited to find one near the white house and then hear another much further west. At least two male Painted Buntings were heard singing on the property and I got this photo of one of them foraging in an agarita bush:

Painted Bunting - 1 - 2

A singing Northern Parula and calling Broad-winged Hawk were two other bird species I was excited to observe.

I flushed two White-tailed Deer does a couple times while walking around, and near the cemetery encountered this little fawn that might have belonged to one of them:

White-tailed Deer fawn

@jacobddowen found this Texas Map Turtle by the boat ramp which finally came out of its shell (literally!) to show everyone the cool markings on its head and neck:

Texas Map Turtle - 1 - 2

I got to lead a small group of attendees on a short walk around the preserve. During the walk I saw what I first thought was a large tarantula hawk wasp, but it turned out to be this Giant Prairie Robber Fly! This is the largest species of this predatory fly group in north america, and it was the first time I've ever seen one. It was over 2 inches long!

Giant Prairie Robber Fly

Here's my complete eBird list from my early morning solo walk.

Attached are nature observations from both the group walk and my solo walk.

And here are the same photos on Flickr.

Posted on 29 June, 2019 21:56 by mikaelb mikaelb | 15 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment