Date: 2/7/17 1:47 pm
From: <dmarc-noreply...> (Redacted sender drbirdie for DMARC)
Subject: [texbirds] SparrowFest report for Saturday, February 4, 2017 - 18 sparrow species and some other notable birds, too
Hi All,

The 12th Annual SparrowFest was conducted Saturday February 4, 2017 at Balcones Canyonlands NWR west of Austin, and it was a great success! The weather was appropriately (seasonably) cool, with a daytime high of about 48 degrees, with almost no wind. The abundance and variety of sparrows and other birds was very good, as it has been for most of this winter in central Texas. We had 35 participants and I believe that every single one of them had excellent scope or up-close views of LeConte's Sparrows and Grasshopper Sparrows, and of the 3 "western specialties that we look for here - Canyon Towhee, Black-throated and Rufous-crowned Sparrow. The cumulative sparrow list for all field trips was 18 species, all but 2 of the 20 regularly-occurring sparrows of central Texas. We missed Swamp Sparrow, as we often do on the dry upland portions of the eastern Edwards Plateau that we bird during SparrowFest. We also mostly missed Eastern Towhee, the least common of our 20 regular winter sparrows.
My afternoon trip to Simons Tract had a female hybrid Eastern x Spotted that got Sparrowman very excited for a bit, as the bird had no white edges to the scapulars, but then we noticed small white spots on the wing coverts, indicating a hybrid bird. Dang!


Besides the sparrows, we had some other avian highlights, including 2 or possibly 3 Sage Thrashers in two locations on three different trips, 2 Sedge Wrens on Bill Reiner's afternoon Flying X trip, which participants watched taking leaf baths in a brief, light rain, and woodcocks on three different trips, including one bird that Jeff Patterson found in leaf litter at the Johnson Tract where we had heard another bird fly away, and briefly seen another bird scuttle away through the understory looking like a tan rat skimming over the dead leaves. Jeff was able to tell me where to look for the woodcock's black eyeball, and once I spotted that, we were able to get the entire rest of the group on the bird. That was pretty special!


As usual, SparrowFest participants were able to bird portions of the refuge that are not usually open to the public. Besides Cow Creek Road, none of the refuge tracts mentioned in this report are typically open to the public.


Many thanks to Jane Brunclik and her crew of volunteers with Friends of Balcones Canyonlands NWR, who churned out hot coffee and tea in the morning, and a hearty lunch of stew and salad, and then baked potatoes to go along with the evening sparrow countdown.


And thanks as always to my outstanding co-leaders, Jeff "Towhee Boy" Patterson, Randy "Pink-note" Pinkston and Bill "Spizella" Reiner, each of whom is a gifted naturalist and tour leader. I am blessed to have such great help.


These are difficult times for wildlife, for national wildlife refuges and for friends organizations, so please consider donating time, money or other resources to a wildlife refuge or friends organization near you. And I'll give you a little hint - we plan to do SparrowFest again next year, probably on February 3, 2018, and if you join Friends of Balcones NWR <https://www.friendsofbalcones.org> you will be among the first to get notice and to have a chance to register for next year's event. SparrowFest sells out every year (it's not "huge" but it is popular) well in advance of the event, so if you want to participate next year, it will help to have advance notice of registration.


An annotated birdlist follows:



Gadwall - 1 - Pond near Johnson tract
Ring-necked Duck - 25 - Pond near Johnson tract
Wild Turkey - 1 - Johnson tract afternoon trip
Double-crested Cormorant - 4 - pond along Hopewell Cemetery Rd
Great Blue Heron
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Red-shouldered Hawk - 1 - near Johnson Tract, and 1 heard at Peaceful Springs
Red-tailed Hawk - a pair at Simons and at least 1 at Johnson tract
Crested Caracara - 4 - 2 along Cow Creek Rd and 2 in afternoon at Simons tract. Uncommon but regular on eastern Edwards Plateau
American Kestrel - multiple locations
Killdeer - a few
American Woodcock - 4 - 1 at Peaceful Springs seen only by 1 participant, and at least 3 birds at Johnson tract
Eurasian Collared-Dove - 2 - Johnson tract. Possibly the first ever for SparrowFest
White-winged Dove - a few
Mourning Dove - less common than usual this winter
Greater Roadrunner - 1
Eastern Screech-Owl - 1 - a real one, heard at Johnson tract in afternoon
Great Horned Owl
Barred Owl - 1 - Possibly one heard in morning at Johnson tract
Red-bellied Woodpecker - This area is at the east / west dividing line between Red-bellied and Golden-fronted Woodpeckers
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe - small numbers on most field trips
Loggerhead Shrike - 1 - reported by one vehicle at Johnson Tract
Blue-headed Vireo - 1 - Peaceful Springs. This bird is uncommon in winter on the eastern Plateau
Western Scrub-Jay - 1 - (Woodhouse's Scrub Jay) reported by 1 or 2 trips
American Crow - small numbers. This area is an east / west dividing line between American Crow and Common Raven
Carolina Chickadee
Black-crested Titmouse
Verdin - 1 - Flying X morning trip
Canyon Wren - 1 - Flying X
Carolina Wren
Bewick's Wren
House Wren - small numbers
Sedge Wren - 2 - afternoon at Flying X
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
Hermit Thrush - small numbers
American Robin - Thousands
Northern Mockingbird
Sage Thrasher - 3 - 2 birds on Simons Tract and 1 found by Randy Pinkston along the airstrip at the Flying X
Cedar Waxwing
Orange-crowned Warbler - This is the only warbler typically seen in mid-winter at SparrowFest. Yellow-rumped Warblers are uncommon and limited to wet areas.
Spotted Towhee
Eastern Towhee - 1 - female hybrid Eastern x Spotted on afternoon trip to Simons
Canyon Towhee - 4 - 3 birds at Flying X and 1 at Peaceful Springs
Rufous-crowned Sparrow - Flying X, Simons and Peaceful Springs
Chipping Sparrow - a few, Johnson and Cow Creek Rd
Field Sparrow - not as numerous as usual, but seen on most trips
Vesper Sparrow - not as numerous as usual, but seen on most trips
Lark Sparrow - 2 small groups found only by Randy Pinkston's afternoon Cow Creek Rd trip
Black-throated Sparrow - 7 - Flying X, Simons and Peaceful Springs
Savannah Sparrow - not as numerous as usual, but seen on most trips
Grasshopper Sparrow - 30 - good numbers this year, and seen well by all trip participants
Le Conte's Sparrow - 40 - good numbers this year, and seen well by all trip participants
Fox Sparrow - Good numbers at Peaceful Springs, and 1 on morning trip to Johnson Tract
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow - lower numbers than usual
White-throated Sparrow - small numbers at Johnson Tract and at least one on Cow Creek Rd
Harris's Sparrow - most trips had this bird, which is often uncommon on the eastern plateau
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco - 3 - 1 on my morning trip to Simons and 2 on Randy's Cow Creek Rd trip
Northern Cardinal
Eastern Meadowlark - singing in morning at Flying X
Western Meadowlark - singing in morning at Flying X
House Finch - Small numbers on two trips
Lesser Goldfinch - Peaceful Springs
American Goldfinch - Cow Creek Rd



56 species, not counting the possible Barred Owl


It was a good day to be a Sparrowhawk!
Good birding ya'll,
Sparrowman

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