Journal archives for January 2019

January 19, 2019

Nalle Bunny Run 2019-01-19

Ten people joined me this morning for the monthly group walk on Hill Country Conservancy's Nalle Bunny Run wildlife preserve. It was cold and clear, and very windy! A norther came through early this morning and when we started at 9:00 AM the wind was blowing steady at 10-15 mph with gusts up to 30! Temperature started in the mid-40s and probably got up to 50 by the time we finished the walk shortly after 11:00 AM. Despite the wind we found 24 species of birds and here are some highlights.

I joked to the group that we might not even leave the parking area by the gate, because before we even started walking a Common Raven flew over us croaking, then an Osprey, then a Red-tailed Hawk! We did eventually leave the parking area and on our way to the spring we found a nice mixed-species foraging flock of songbirds that included Carolina Chickadees, Black-crested Titmice, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Chipping Sparrows, Bewick's Wrens, and a single briefly seen Blue-headed Vireo. The spring was overflowing, and a small Rio Grande Leopard Frog made a brief appearance just before we closed the spring box lid.

On the sandy prairie area the cute little boy with the group found a really cool feather. When I got home I looked it up and I'm 99% sure it's a tail feather from a Red-tailed Hawk:

Red-tailed Hawk Feather - 2

Shortly after starting back up the hill we spotted our best bird of the morning, a Merlin perched in a bare tree not far from the driveway. As we watched it we realized it was eating something, and when I got home and looked at my photos I found this:

Merlin - 1

That's a little bird foot hanging from its mouth!

On our way back up the hill through the cedar elm parkland habitat the birds were slow. But I found this very interesting scat in the trail:

Possible Bobcat Scat

I've never seen any evidence of bobcat on the preserve, but this scat sure does look like it could be from a small bobcat. The hard and white surface, and the segmented structure are the clues I'm going by. I'll have to get out my tracking field guides and research it more.

Here's our complete bird list on eBird.

And here are a few more photos on Flickr.

Attached are a few observations.

Posted on January 19, 2019 22:31 by mikaelb mikaelb | 4 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 26, 2019

Nalle Bunny Run 2019-01-26

I was fortunate to spend a beautiful morning on Hill Country Conservancy's Nalle Bunny Run wildlife preserve this morning. Temperatures were in the low to mid fifties with a very light noth wind blowing. When I started out a single dark cloud was directly overhead but the sun was shining below it, and a short distance down the driveway I was able to get maybe my best photo of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker ever:

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker female

In years past, Eastern Bluebird was a hard bird to find on the Bunny Run. But I've been seeing them more often here for the past year, and this morning I was excited to see this pair inspecting one of the many nest boxes on the preserve (between the white house and the lake):

Eastern Bluebirds on Nest Box - 1

Maybe they're here to stay!

I found the best bird of the day below the huge cottonwood trees on the east fence line. The dense vines and brush looked like a good place to do some "pishing" and when I did, I immediately heard a Spotted Towhee call in response. But the next bird I saw was a female Eastern Towhee. These two species used to be considered one species, the Rufous-sided Towhee. But years ago they were split into the western Spotted Towhee and the, well, eastern Eastern Towhee. Spotted Towhee is an expected winter resident in central Texas, but Eastern Towhee is rare here. (Although this winter a few have been found around Austin.) I wasn't able to photograph the male Spotted Towhee but I got a few shots of the female Eastern Towhee. Here's one of them:

Eastern Towhee - 1

I cropped the photo wide to show the preferred dense cover both of these species prefer.

It's fun to anthropomorphize about these two birds that seemed to be together. Was this a chance encounter? Is this eastern gal spending the winter with this western guy? Will they split up and head their distant eastern and western breeding grounds come spring?

I had pretty good luck finding mammal tracks this morning. There were a few muddy patches around, and some spots in the sandy prairie area were moist enough for the loose sand to hold tracks a little better. I found many White-tailed Deer tracks, a few Gray Fox, Coyote, and Common Raccoon tracks, and these small five-toed tracks which I'm pretty sure are from a Striped Skunk:

Squirrel Tracks - 3

UPDATE: Kim Cabrera (@beartracker) corrected me on the above track identification. (See the attached observation.) They are hind tracks from a squirrel, and since both fox squirrels and rock squirrels could be at this spot, I don't 'think we can know which these tracks are from. Thanks Kim!

Since we found that scat that looks so much like it's from a bobcat last weekend, I was hoping to find more evidence of bobcat today, which I've never seen signs of before here. But alas, none of the tracks I could find were feline. And I didn't find any similar scat.

All in all it was a fun morning. I visited some corners of the preserve I haven't seen in a long time, the weather was great, and I found a rare bird! I found 36 species of birds total, in almost 3 hours covering about 1.7 miles.

Here's my complete eBird list.

Here are a few more photos on Flickr.

And attached are some observations.

Posted on January 26, 2019 23:09 by mikaelb mikaelb | 14 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment