Monday, February 21, 2011

What's Goin' On: Birding

We finally got a weekend without terrible weather or sick family members so Tom and I were able to undertake a New Year's resolution we'd made together. Psyched up by having identified a Carolina Wren; we decided to add occasional birdwatching treks to our time together (yes, we know they live everywhere and we should have noticed them before this year but we'd never stopped to look at one before so ... it was a big accomplishment for us).

With Hannah in tow we set off for nearby White Rock Lake. And when I say nearby I'm not kidding. Maybe 10 minutes in traffic. Maybe. Hannah actually wasn't in tow but more leading the pack as she loves birds and also identifying trees. However, we didn't want to haul lots of books around so we settled for the one Hannah had bought for her bird class which truly did make it easy to figure out which birds were which. I mean to say when you're looking at gulls from quite a distance away it can be hard to tell which one has a ring around the end of its beak and which has a ring around the middle of its beak ... unless you know that one lives in California exclusively (yes, the imaginatively named California Gull).

Eventually we found a fairly unused part of the bike trail in our wanderings and some teeny tiny birds that were buggers to see in the tangle of branches they were hopping around in. Plus they were against the sun so it was tough to see any feather colors. However, working as a team (Hannah - white eye ring, striping on feathers, Tom-forked tail, me-beak and body shape) we figured out it was a Ruby Crowned Kinglet. Which seems a misnomer because you only get to see the itty-bitty patch of ruby when a male is excited ... or maybe when it is annoyed. Anyway, you couldn't see any ruby really. Most of the time it looked like this. I felt especially proud because when Hannah was flipping pages, the kinglet general picture caught my eye and I kept coming back to it (beak shape is all important to me).

We also saw innumerable other birds which I forgot were actually birds (ducks, seagulls, etc.) because I was on the outlook for something new. However, we now have proper names to go with them.
  • American White Pelican (to be fair, this is not exactly common; we were pretty surprised to see a pair of them settle on the water near us)
  • Ring Beaked Gull
  • Double Crested Cormorant
  • Great Egret
  • Green Parakeets (there are colonies of feral parakeets living at the lake from the larger sized such as these, down to the budgie sort)
  • American Coot Duck
And, of course, starlings, grackles, mourning doves, mockingbirds, cardinals, and sparrows. Which are all so common I can see them in my yard. But at least after this I did remember that they were birds. Not just part of the scenery.

The extra bonus was that we were near the spillway and the trail there winds through trees and has water flowing picturesquely over rocks. It was lovely and a balm to the soul as long as you were sure to stay "Left!" so the bikers could whip by.

We're looking forward to doing this again and I'm pretty excited thinking about going to Chicago in May (when Rose graduates) so we can go to Jackson Park which has prime bird watching, or so I've read.

On a side note, Jackson Park is fast turning into the place we are all looking forward to. Rose has long recommended the Industrial Museum as something Tom would enjoy. He's been reading The Devil in the White City and how has come across the park's huge connection to the World's Fair which is the central event of the book. So we're getting many a fine tale told about not only the fair but the Jackson Park connection. We'll be well prepared for that day trip.


  1. Julie... I think there's a bird watching group/organization around WHite Rock Lake if you're interested... and of course there's also the relatively new Audubon Center in south Dallas that has some trails too.

  2. thanks for the post.. I also like to go birding in marshes south of Houma, LA. We see a lot of brown pelicans and white pelicans, and of course gulls, egrets, etc.

  3. I wish they all could be California Gulls.....

  4. Yes, that joke was made. We can count on Tom for those things. And it spun through my head all afternoon. Good thing I like the Mamas and the Papas. :-D

  5. thanks for sharing your birding adventure (from a fellow birder)