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Bird Watching with Jane Tillman

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Bird Watching on the Trail, by Jane Tillman

My husband and I decided to check out the Trail on the Sunday morning of Labor Day Weekend to see what kinds of birds call it home. Since fall migration is underway, we were also on the lookout for migrants like Warblers, Orioles, and Monarch butterflies.

It was already 10 a.m. and close to 90 degrees, and already lively along the water– not the best birding scenario. Thank goodness for all the side trails and benches where one could pause and look.

Even with the drought, most trees looked reasonably healthy, perked up a bit by the recent rain. In bloom were Trumpet Vine with its orange flowers, along with red Turk’s cap and purple bindweed, and two hummingbirds (either Black-chinned or Ruby-throated) were fighting over the healthy blossoms at Lou Neff Point.

The birds most in evidence (ignoring the ubiquitous European Starlings, Great-tailed Grackles and Rock Pigeons) as we made the short three-mile loop were Carolina Wren, Northern Mockingbird, White-winged Dove and Blue Jay.

We also saw and heard Carolina Chickadees, Titmice (most likely a hybrid of Black-crested and Tufted), House Finch, Northern Cardinals and Downy Woodpeckers.

All of the above are permanent residents, so you can find them around the lake at any time of the year.

The best bird sighting, though, was a single, bright-eyed migrating Wilson’s Warbler, feeding on insects on the south side of the lake very close to the Trail. Several White-eyed Vireos, which spend their summers with us, and one Green Heron flushed by passing kayakers, also made appearances. Another neat thing about this time of year is the number of juvenile birds in evidence — like wrens with extra short tails and mockingbirds still with spots.

To make the most of bird watching on the trail, learn the songs and calls of the permanent residents. For example, listen for the rolling “tea-kettle, tea-kettle, tea-kettle, tea” of the Carolina Wren or the rhythm of “quick, pick up the beer check – quick” of the White-eyed Vireo. You will most likely hear the birds before you see them. With all of the good habitat surrounding the lake, the birds are there. They just require a little patience and awareness to spot. And remember to look up!

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology All about Birds is a great resource, or join a free Travis Audubon Society field trip to get more out of your outdoor life.



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