Saturday, February 06, 2010

Birding at Work

One of the (many) things that I love about my job at Lone Star College - CyFair is that the campus is a pretty good birding site. So to see birds all I have to do is get to work early or take a walk during a coffee break. In fact, some days I don't have to do any
thing: I see birds as I'm driving onto the campus or parking my car or walking between buildings. For example, on Tuesday an Eastern Phoebe, a Northern Mockingbird, a Yellow-rumped Warbler and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker were hanging out in mesquite trees between the Library and the Tech building, undisturbed by the hundreds of students passing within yards of them.

Unfortunately, we don't seem to have as many species as we had a couple of years ago. Then I would regularly see over 20 species on a winter's day; now it's usually more like 16 or 17 species. The reason probably is that the college is expanding and new b
uildings are springing up on what used to be scrub land. The area around the college is also much more developed than it was when I moved here and this is no doubt also impacting wildlife.

On a brighter note, the two large retention ponds beside the Barker Road entrance to the campus are now attracting more ducks than they used to, presumably because more ducks have noticed them on flyovers and have added them to their flight plans. In
summer the ponds have become the regular breeding grounds for several pairs of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks. In winter, we now get significant numbers of Lesser Scaups and Ring-necked Ducks, plus occasional visits by Canvasbacks.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks at CyFair in 2007

On most winter days the soccer fields still attract flocks of Savannah Sparrows, Eastern Meadowlarks and Killdeer, often joined by groups of Mourning Doves and European Starlings. The parking lots always have plenty Common and Great-tailed Grack
les, while everywhere on the campus has numerous Northern Mockingbirds.

At present, the nature trail is dominated by White-winged Doves: Sometimes there are only a score; at other times there may be 60 or more. Other birds still appear, of c
ourse. On Tuesday the White-winged Doves were outnumbered by a flock of 70 Cedar Waxwings.

Two of our Cedar Waxwings

I regularly see Yellow-rumped Warblers, Northern Cardinals and American Robins on the trail and recently sightings include Brown-headed Cowbirds, Lincoln's Sparrows, Eastern Phoebes, a House Wren and a Gray Catbird. On most days I can also count on seeing one of our pair of Resident Red-tailed Hawks perched on the utility pylons behind the trail.

Birds turn up in less predictable places, too. Every summer pairs of Western (yes, Western) Kingbirds nest i
n the roof of the basketball court and in one of the parking lots.

Western Kingbirds in 2009

Loggerhead Shrikes can appear anywhere at any time. And there's always
a Great Egret somewhere; the one below had abandoned the ponds on Monday to hang out in a grassy area behind our mobile classrooms.

All in all, I certainly feel very fortunate to have so many birds at my place of work!


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