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Saturday, June 1, 2013

Cattle Egrets' long, arduous trip to north Texas

Cattle Egret

The familiar, white Cattle Egret originally comes from the "old world", primarily what's known as west Africa. Back in the 19th century, there was a lot of ship traffic across the Atlantic, and there have always been strong winds. Somehow, some Cattle Egrets reached northeastern South America in the late 1800s - present day northern Brazil. (exactly HOW they crossed the ocean will always be a mystery)

They like to hang around grazing animals, and Brazil had plenty. Very gradually, the Egrets expanded their range northward, always associating with large grazing animals.

The first documented Cattle Egret in North America (north of the Panama-Columbia border) was in 1952. By 1959 they had reached the southern part of Texas. About five years later they were here in north Texas.
             Lots of people are putting out nest-building material for birds. Dog fur (actually, any kind of fur) is a favorite. Wild birds like strands of yarn and thread too. However, make certain that strands are no longer than 3 inches (longer ones can tangle up their wings or feet). Dryer lint looks like it would be good, but NO.  It often contains harmful additives from detergent, fabric softener or bleach.      

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Places in north Texas to see birds

Birding can be done almost anyplace. Here's a partial list, so there are many places besides those mentioned. (my apologies if it's heavy on Denton sites - that's where I live). But I'm sure there are also good birding sites in Mineola, St. Joe, Wichita Falls etc.

There’s Denton's Northlakes Park, Southlakes Park, Lewisville Independent School District Outdoor Learning Area (LISDOLA), the Elm Fork/Trinity River Greenbelt corridor (Carrollton), LBJ Nat’l Grasslands (Decatur), Hagerman Wildlife Refuge. I’ve seen them in parking lots, near playgrounds, in drainage ditches, on cell towers, under bridges and in my own yard.  Good birdwatching!  
Your Yard.
Just about any yard in north Texas can host some interesting birds, at any time of year. Especially if you offer the basic things birds look for: fresh food, clean water, safe shelter and protected nesting sites. In other words, provide a good home for birds and you won’t have to leave home to see them.


The Nearest Vacant Lot.
A vacant, or “undeveloped”, lot is almost always a bird sanctuary. Plants have been left to grow, flower, go to seed and die naturally. It’s likely that nobody soaks it with pesticides. It can be a small meadow, forest, wetland, grassland, or a combination of the above. Often it’s an area that floods occasionally – a plus for birds.


Isle du Bois.
Part of Ray Roberts State Park (off Hwy. 455, on the south side); Actually, the entire park is full of all sorts of birds in their natural habitats, but Isle du Bois is my personal favorite due to the amount of grassland birds, and that it can be travelled by car. 


Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center.
This large, totally-natural area just northeast of Denton has all sorts of birds and other wildlife that you wouldn’t think would hang around here. It has several primitive trails that take you through wetlands, uplands, and several other environments. 


Cross Timbers Park.
Any park is good, but this is my favorite. Cross Timbers (in southern Denton) has lots of natural vegetative cover and flowing water that birds crave. Birds have plenty of protective cover with the native vegetation (in the natural areas), lots of water to bathe in and drink, and lots of natural food. They love it!


The Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area has a variety of ecological types, thus a wide variety of birds. It has expertly-led birdwalks on many occasions.  Call 972/219-7980 for information.


Elm Fork Nature Preserve.
The main trail is about 1-mile long, through virtually undisturbed woodlands, in west Carrollton. There’s an excellent birdwatching area near a natural pond, which is part of the old channel of the Elm Fork of the Trinity River, which long ago changed its course. This is what this area used to be like!


Shorelines of Lakes Lewisville & Ray Roberts.
Excellent wetland and shorebird watching near the parks and undeveloped areas. Also, since almost all birds like to be near water, varying environments and their natural bird species and can be found nearby.


Country Roads.
Almost any rural road is a good place to drive slowly and see birds from your car. In the summertime you’ll probably see Meadowlarks foraging in the fields,  Scissortail Flycatchers on fences, and Barn Swallows nesting under old bridges, and Red-tailed Hawks perched on dead trees. Northern and western parts of the county seem to have slightly more varied environments.


Wherever you least expect it.
There’s LBJ Nat’l Grasslands, Hagerman Nat’l Wildlife Refuge, Ray Roberts Lake, Heard Museum, LISDOLA, stream corridors, un-named parks, and that vacant piece of land down the street. Almost everyplace has interesting birds. I’ve seen them in parking lots, on golf courses, by drainage ditches, at construction sites, on cell towers, under bridges and in my own yard.