Monday, May 19, 2008

Birding Workshop held May 17 and 18

Selah staff members Steven Fulton and Colleen Gardner put together a new workshop to teach some of the basics of birdwatching. Justin Duke, the newest addition to our staff was involved in many aspects of the workshop, and in his 4 1/2 months here he has learned a lot about birds, including identification.

Eleven participants gathered in the Center for a delicious dinner before an evening of educational talks, pictures. and a night hike. There are lots of bird characteristics which help a birder identify the group a bird belongs to. They include beak shape and size which helps us know what that bird eats. For instance a Heron spears fish with a long sharp bill, a Warbler grabs insects with a small pointed bill, a Cardinal eat seeds with a strong stout bill, a Hawk tears meat with a hooked bill, and a Hummingbirds sips nectar with a long tubular bill. Feet and legs tell us whether a bird wades in water, catches and kills prey with its talons, or grips tree limbs.

Steven shows examples of bird characteristics, key markings, feather structure and bird silhouettes.

Suzanne and her sister-in-law Shy tackle an activity about bird beaks and food preferences.

Outside they listen for birds and discuss the importance of learning bird songs and sounds as a way of identifying birds that are difficult to see.

The group took a short break from birds to watch a bat emergence of Mexican Free-tailed bats at the Chiroptorium.
Hand-Colored-Lino Cut, by Margie Crisp

Upon returning to the Center, the group heard a fascinating talk by Sallie, a birds of prey rehabilitator. She told us about raptors and owls and the many things she has learned about them in her years of taking care of injured or orphaned birds. 

During the hike on Friday evening, Steven used his amazing ability to mimic a Screech Owl, and in response an owl flew to a branch within 20 feet of the group. I guess that the owl whose territory we were in wanted to find out what owl has invaded his area!
Pyrographic art by Kathleen Marie

I want to show everyone reading this blog some of the wonderful birds we see around the ranch. Since I collect nature art I decided to show examples of artwork done by friends and family. A volunteer at the ranch and good friend Kathleen Marie let me include some of her beautiful pyrographic art. My daughter Margie Crisp agreed to let me use some of her hand colored prints. Frances Sharp, my youngest daughter did a very nice set of painted wooden birds, and her Golden-cheeked Warbler is in the blog too. I also included an illustration that I did for the book about Selah, "Water From Stone".

Eastern Bluebirds live near our house in nestboxes so we see them frequently.
Hand-Colored Lino Cut, by Margie Crisp.

Black-capped Vireos live in areas where there are shin oak thickets.
Hand-Colored-Lino Cut, by Margie Crisp

Great Blue Herons are seen in shallow areas of Miller Creek and along the edges of tanks.
Hand-Colored-Lino Cut
, by Margie Crisp

Golden-cheeked Warblers nest where there are both Ashe Juniper and Spanish Oak. Woodwork & Painting, by Frances Sharp (website is about her goat ranch)

Painted Bunting(s) in Texas Madrone Tree, are seen here, and it is always a thrill to see such a beautifully colored bird. They look like escaped pet birds from the tropics.
Pyrographic art by Kathleen Marie

Carolina Wrens build nests in nestboxes and other places near the house so we see them often. They are small and their perky tail is so cute!
Pyrographic art by Kathleen Marie.

I keep a feeder full of thistle seed so a frequent visitor in my yard is the Lesser Goldfinch, which nests here in the spring and many of them stay here year round.
Pyrographic art by Kathleen Marie

Inca Doves can be heard here singing their mournful "no hope, no hope".
Pyrographic art
by Kathleen Marie

The male Vermilion Flycatcher is an amazing orange-red, and in spring-time they do a fluttering dance in the air, which shows off their brilliant plumage in order to attract a mate .
Water colored pen and ink illustration
by Margaret Bamberger, for "WATER FROM STONE".

The workshop group woke up before sunrise on Saturday morning in order to be out early to hear and see birds. The following list is most of the birds seen between 6:45 and noon. They are in the order they appeared on the list that I copied from one of the birders. Bold indicates that a picture of the bird is in this blog.

Indigo Bunting, Painted Bunting, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Lark Sparrow, Mourning Dove, Berwick's Wren, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Turkey and Black Vultures, Red-tailed Hawk, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Vermilion Flycatcher, Lesser Goldfinch, Purple Martin, Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Redwing Blackbird, Cowbird, Great Blue Heron, Wood Duck, White-eyed Vireo, Black and White Warbler, Golden-cheeked Warbler, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Mockingbird, Cardinal, Black-capped Vireo, Titmouse, Caracara, Pine Siskin. A Chuck Wills Widow and a Screech Owl were heard on the night hike.

I've seen Eastern Bluebirds going in and out of bluebird houses, so they are here. Inca Doves and Carolina Wrens are here also but were not on the list from Saturday.

A few comments made by individuals attending the workshop:

Elaine said, "I especially liked seeing the Golden-cheeked Warbler."
Suzanne said,  "Sallie's raptors were amazing. Steve called an owl and he showed up!"
Darwin said, "I loved it - I'll be back!!!"
Susan said, "This was great! A weekend away from work & the clock was a real gift."

Sallie, our rehabilitator had a pair of hummingbird nestlings in her care, and because they needed to be fed every 15 minutes, she brought them out with her.  She is not allowed to use them to show the public. However, she did ask for my help in feeding them, and agreed to let me take a picture to share on this blog.

Birdwatching is gaining in popularity for good reason. It is a wonderful hobby, and takes one out into nature. you can find birds in the cities in tree lined neighborhoods, in parks and in the country. Avid birders often take vacations in foreign countries with birding tour groups such as the Victor Emanuel Nature Tours. There is the National Audubon Society and Audubon Chapters (Travis Audubon) in many cities, towns, and counties, that have newsletters, and regular birdwatching outings. 

Check it out - it is lots of fun, and birders are really nice people to be around. They are generally enthusiastic, fun, and very good sports. I've been out in freezing wet weather with a group to see a special Mexican hawk that was reported in Texas. We covered ourselves with black garbage bags to keep dry, and not a soul complained about the weather or how long we had to wait for the bird to show up.


Sallie said...

Very nice, Margaret. Keep up the good work.

Lisa Spangler said...

Hi Margaret,

It was good to see you at the awards ceremony last night. Congratulations to you, David and everyone at the ranch again for a very well deserved award.

Thanks so much for telling me about your blog, I'll have to catch up on everything, but so far I love it!

Hugs and smiles,