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Saturday, June 8, 2013

The first "backyard bird" is native to north Texas

Purple Martin

        Purple Martins were probably the first “backyard bird”. That is, the first wild bird to become primarily dependent on humans for both its food and housing.  American Indians were the first to recognize their insect-eating ability. They set up hollowed-out gourds near living areas to entice Martins (members of the swallow family) to nest there, eat insects, and reproduce. The humans' habits scared up a lot of insects from the prairie floor - Purple Martins' primary food.

Use caution when buying a birdhouse, and make sure you get the pole that comes with it too. (Most lumber stores don't sell a decent pole, and you might be in for a lot of extra work yourself). You'll need to raise & lower it frequently for maintenance. A new Martin house might be unused for a year or so, until Martins (returning from their migration) have a need for housing.
Nowadays, many homeowners put up things that look like apartment buildings, and are used quite well by Martins. If you're considering a Purple Martin house, remember that they need a CLEAR 100-foot (dia.). The circle should be centered on the birdhouse itself, and contain no buildings or big trees. By far the best color for a Martin house in Texas is white, since it reflects the heat.



A low-cost, safe organic herbicide    Like many of you, we try to garden organically. It saves money in several ways, and it doesn’t kill every living thing (including birds) in your yard. Nor does it make the chemical companies richer.


I’m certainly no botanist, but here’s what I use to kill unwanted vegetation with success; one gallon of 10% vinegar (undiluted, from grain alcohol), mixed with 1 ounce of citrus oil and 1 tablespoon of liquid horticultural molasses. I just spot-spray the mixture straight, using an old spray bottle, without adding water. It works best when the unwanted vegetation is growing actively;  in north Texas it is ineffective after about the first week of July.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Part 2, more places around here to see birds

Denton neighborhood trails
Denton has at least 8 trails that are very ”birdy”. North Lakes Park, North Lakes Park - south, Avondale/Nette Shulz Park, Cooper Creek Park, Greenbelt Trail, Fred Moore/Phoenix Park, Southlakes Park, and Cross Timbers Trail. They tend to have plenty of water and native vegetation for birds. Maps are on the City of Denton’s web site.
Dimension Tract (Carrollton)
The "Dimension Tract", new to Carrollton’s park system, is on the south side of Beltline Road from the main preserve. The Trinity River flows through it. There is an area of woods and meadow and a large pond. The woods are old and untouched and contain many large old trees as well as young ones and underbrush,
River Legacy Park (Arlington)
This is a very natural park that’s not far away. Here is the URL for directions and so on: . Most of the trails are along the Trinity River, so you get both the riparian AND woodland environments. There are wildflowers and wildlife, in addition to the birds.
Pilot Knoll Park (Highland Village)
A 75-acre, underused park on Lake Lewisville’s far west end, where Hickory Creek flows into the lake. Much of the bird activity can be seen from the car, including an abundance of Bluebirds, Warblers and shorebirds. The entrance is off  Orchid Hill Ln.

Denton Municipal Landfill

Yes I said “landfill” but was thinking “dump”. A variety of birds like to forage amid the garbage. It’s particularly good for gracefully-flying vultures. Plus there’s a lushly planted buffer strip along Mayhill Rd.
Little Elm Park
Maintained by Little Elm, it’s a naturalistic park that takes in most of a peninsula jutting into Lake Lewisville, on the northeast shore.
 Prairie Creek Park (Richardson).
This is a relatively small, easy to walk park. It’s an excellent place to spot our native Texas birds, plus it attracts seasonally migrating birds as they take a break during a long flight. The park is between Custer and Collins, north of Campbell Rd. The actual boundary roads are Prairie Creek East and Prairie Creek West.

Spring Creek Nature Area (Richardson)

A natural park just off Central Expy. (US75), entered via a parking area on Renner Rd. and ending at Plano Rd. (although you can walk either direction, of course). In addition there is a half-mile inner loop trail that’s a little hard to get to, but well worth it.
Lewisville Lake Park (Lewisville)
A 350-acre park near the center of Lewisville - on the southern shore of Lake Lewisville. Enter at the corner of Lake Park Rd. and Mill Street.
Hickory Creek Parks
The town of Hickory Creek has several small parks on the northern shore of Lake Lewisville. Two of my favorites are Sycamore Bend Park and Hickory Creek Park.
White Rock Lake (Dallas)
This is a man-made lake (like all but one lake in Texas) but one of the oldest. Just east of the downtown area, it’s particularly good for water and shore birds, as well as an excellent waystation for migrating birds.
An interesting site because it has a variety of ecological systems - wetlands, forests, grasslands etc. The 80-acre nature area (administered by Lewisville School District) has almost 5 miles of trails, and a wide variety of birds