Monday, January 13, 2014

Paul's Texas Trip Part 1 (Austin Birding)

Birding can be a bit slow in Ontario during the winter and it's only natural to want to go elsewhere to see birds. Just take a look through any field guide and you start to wonder: could I see these strange, exotic birds that populate the south half of America? So when the chance to go to Texas arose a year and half ago, I jumped at it. Actually I planned this trip mostly to see my cousin, Mark, and his family, who happen to live in Austin and to give a talk at a conference. But it also turned out that this was my chance to go birding: Texas style!

My entire family came along, which doubled the fun of this adventure

Our trip started out on New Year's Eve and after a long and somewhat unnecessary layover in Dallas, we finally made it to Austin early on New Year's Day. After sleeping in, I had to see what was lurking in Mark's backyard. It turns out that Mark has feeders (bonus!) and a large (actually enormous) seed tray (even better!). There were House Sparrows, Blue Jays, Northern Cardinals, Common Grackles, White-Winged Doves, and American Goldfinches that were coming and going. A Northern Mockingbird stopped by and my year list had just jumped to seven species in a matter of minutes. 

We hung around the house for a while and after lunch went out for a walk. Somebody read my mind, as we ended up at a large park with a giant playground and a small reservoir full of waterfowl. I headed for the water and found Gadwall, Northern Shovelers, a Great Egret, Ruddy Ducks, a Pied-Bill Grebe, Double-Crested Cormorants, American Coots, Ring-Billed Gulls, overhead where some Black Vultures, and loudly announcing its presence was a lonely Killdeer. 

Bird walking on New Year's Day in Round Rock, Texas
The entire group of us took a long walk around the reservoir*. We found a couple of Northern Mockingbirds, a Loggerhead Shrike, and lots of Mourning Doves and Rock Pigeons. It was a nice time and it took me up to 21 birds for the year. We headed off into Austin after that for dinner and that was the end of my birding on New Year's Day.

The next morning, before heading out into the Texas hill country, I did a bit more backyard birding at my cousin's place. American Crows and European Starlings came and went. More grackles stopped by and this time they included some Great-tailed Grackles. And an Eastern Phoebe briefly visited the bird bath.

Twenty five bird species for the year and I hadn't even left Austin's suburbs yet

*Note: Paul cannot spell the word "reservoir" to save his life -Damon.

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