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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Winter bird arrives in north Texas. Early bird?

White-throated Sparrow
A sharp-eyed reader saw the first White-throated Sparrow of this season. There are actually several species of these native sparrows such as the Chipping Sparrow, Fox Sparrow etc. They are all here in north Texas only during cooler weather - migrating here from Canada. The aggressive, pesky bird we informally call a sparrow (House Sparrow) is in another genus entirely.

Green Heron

Great Blue Heron

Many Herons seen around here migrate to warmer weather as cold weather approaches, but not all of them. Some stay around north Texas since our winter weather isn't very severe. Which means they can hunt fish whenever the water surface isn't frozen solid. If it does freeze, they'll hunt in nearby fields and yards for rodents and whatever else they can find to eat.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

"I forgot to fill the feeder" insurance

birds love native grasses like this
Birds are drawn to native prairie grasses if your feeder happens to be temporarily empty. In north Texas, now's the very best time to plant native grasses (not springtime, like up north). It's full of seeds - the freshest food around. In the winter, it's a great place to escape the wind and the cold.

In north Texas we're fortunate to have many kinds of native grasses (sometimes called "ornamental" grass) to choose from. Some favorites of mine are Little Bluestem, Sideoats Grama, Lindheimer Muhly, Indiangrass, Eastern Gamagrass and Windmillgrass.  These grasses are NOT your typical lawn grass; heights of native grasses range from 4 inches to 6 feet, they're drought-tolerant and almost maintenance-free.

A  group in Louisiana has a clever idea - one of those "that's so obvious I should have thought of it" ideas like we all have sometimes. They acquired a number of birdhouses for a scenic trail, and had each one engraved with a mile number to indicate how far along the trail you were (the inhabitants don't care if there's a big "4" on the wall).

It not only reduced the need for a huge number of signs, but will increase the total bird life.