Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Walking the CyFair Campus

As regular readers will know, the
LSC-CyFair college is having to add new buildings to cater for a student population that gets bigger every year. So much of the campus is currently a huge construction site that has eaten up much of what used to be undeveloped green space. Yesterday I took a walk around the whole campus to get a sense of how the construction is affecting wildlife there. As I will clarify below, I was pleasantly surprised by what I found.

I started walking from the Library towards the Nature Trail and, almost inevitably, the first bird I came across was a Northern Mockingbird.

The fountain pond had several Red-eared Sliders, although all I could see of them was their noses poking up from the water.

Then in quick succession I spotted a female Great-tailed Grackle picking dead bugs off a lamp standard, a Killdeer browsing in the sand of our volleyball court, and a male Red-winged Blackbird flying over the tennis courts.

The Purple Martin houses had a pair of Martins.

The male ignored me but the female kept taking off and swooping around me.

Nearby, five Savannah Sparrows were grazing on the grass.

As I crossed to the Nature Trail entrance, a flight of four Black-bellied Whistling Ducks passed overhead, followed by a group of seven Great Egrets. A minute later a solitary Great Egret followed and this time I managed to get a photo.

The trees near the beginning of the Nature Trail were empty except for a White-winged Dove and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. That was the first Kinglet I'd seen here for weeks.

Northern Cardinals were cal
ling all around, while a Mockingbird was trying to make his mating song heard above the roar of a bulldozer. A male Brown-headed Cowbird looked lonely as he perched on top of a tree.

The area was heavy with the scent of honeysuckle ...

and Evening Primrose and other wildflowers were in evidence, too.

A Great Blue Heron flew majestically across the sky.

As I walked towards the modular buildings, I passed half-a-dozen more Mockingbirds, then I spotted a Lincoln's Sparrow that was too secretive for me to photograph. The ground there was covered with crawdad mounds ...

and with tracks left by our one remaining coyote.

Crossing the artificial river, I stopped to photograph a female Great-tailed Grackle wandering around on the rocks.

A moment later a large rat scuttled between two bunches of the prairie grass that covers much of the campus.

I headed for the large retention ponds, passing a male Red-winged Blackbird making his beautiful mating call.

At the waterfall, a couple of European Starlings, three Mourning Doves and yet another Mockingbird were grazing on the ground.

A Great Blue Heron flew over; no d
oubt the same bird I saw earlier.

As I reached the southern retention pond, a flight of ten Black-bellied Whistling Ducks crossed overhead.

Several male Great-tailed Grackles were making their raucous mating calls. I finally got to photograph one - but, unusually, he was calling from the ground rather than from a high perch.

Then I was lucky. A Tree Swallow flew past. That was year bird #150 for me.

The grass at the water's edge had a couple of Savannah Sparrows, plus four more Mourning Doves and another Mockingbird.

Then another treat: Five Cedar Waxwings were foraging in a small tree near the northern retention pond.

Back at the waterfall, a Snowy Egret had arrived and was busy pacing through the water, stirring up prey with his bright yellow feet.

Walking to the Library, I passed several more Mourning Doves and Savannah Sparrows, plus a Savannah Sparrow and yet another Mockingbird.

My final sighting was a pair of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks just close enough for a photo of them to be recognizable.

Overall, my walk made me feel less depressed about the effects of all the changes on the campus. There were signs of wildlife everywhere I went, and I saw 19 bird species, which was certainly more than I'd expected. So perhaps when all the construction ends next year, the campus will still be a good place to see a range of Texas birds and other wildlife.

Driving off the campus after work yesterday I noticed some other birds: a Loggerhead Shrike, a Common Grackle, a Red-tailed Hawk and a group of three very playful Scissor-tailed Flycatchers.


Jayne said...

How wonderful that the birds haven't been driven away by all the construction. Once things return to calm, the birds will be even more numerous, I'm sure. I'm envious that you can identify so many birds. I can only recognize a few species.

Jeff said...

I'm not great with identifying a lot of birds. I can usually cope with common species but I certainly get into problems with sparrows, gulls/terns and warblers.