What to watch for in May: Flycatchers
Here’s the Central Texas bird forecast for the month, courtesy of Travis Audubon. Learn more about Central Texas birds and bird-related events for all ages at travisaudubon.org or by calling 512-300-BIRD. Travis Audubon is on Twitter and Facebook. Follow us on Twitter @TravisAudubon and give us a like at www.facebook.com/travisaudubon
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher by Jane Tillman
With Warmer Weather Come Beautiful Flycatchers
There are several kinds of flycatchers showing up in the Austin area now, including the elegant, showy Scissor-tailed Flycatchers. You can identify them easily due to their ridiculously long and aptly named scissor-tails. According to allaboutbirds.org Scissor-tails are especially fond of grasshoppers, crickets and beetles. In common with other flycatchers they perch and wait for prey, and then fly out to catch it in mid-air or on the ground, often taking it back to the perch to eat it. Listen for their distinctive “pik” calls or sharp squeaky notes. Then look for gray birds, with dark wings and salmon-colored flanks. The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher has a distinctive silhouette, and is easy to see perched on utility wires and fences, even at 60 miles per hour. Two places in Austin to see them are Roy Guerrero Park on the east side and Commons Ford on the west side.
Western Kingbird by Joe Hood
The striking Western Kingbirds are back too, setting up territories and nesting in grocery store parking lots. Look for an 8 inch bird with lots of yellow on its belly, and a gray head and chest. It does not look a bit like a grackle or pigeon.
Acadian Flycatcher by Jane Tillman
Confusing Flycatchers are Migrating North
Our May forecast also predicts frustrated bird watchers, as the confusingly plain, somewhat drab Empidonax genus of flycatchers move through Austin migrating north for the summer.
These small flycatchers seem big headed, with wing bars and usually white eye rings. Take a look at an Acadian Flycatcher, a localized Austin breeder with the classic Empid look. It is just shy of 6 inches long, with a pale belly and olive-greenish back. This could describe the other five too, with gradations of gray, green, and brown to be considered, along with bill length, shape and color, and wing length.
Even when an “Empid” cooperatively sits out in full view for a minute or two, it can be difficult to determine which of the five expected species you are looking at. Take a picture and it still may not clinch the identification. Some species are best identified by voice, but migrants may not be very vocal until they reach their breeding grounds. If you hear its explosive PEEET-sah, you can add it to your life list as an Acadian. But if it is silent, just enjoy it for the Empid that it is, and wish it a safe journey north.
Travis Audubon Monthly Meeting: Photo Big Year of 2013
6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 21, 2015
Hyde Park Christian Church, 610 E 45th St., Austin, TX 78751
Imagine trying to photo-document every species you see during a calendar year. Isaac Sanchez challenged himself to do just that.
Isaac will retrace his Photo Big Year of 2013 when he photographed 603 species in the ABA area. (The American Birding Association checklist area includes North America north of Mexico.) Isaac will share his adventures of both birds and birders that span 13 states and Alberta, Canada.
Isaac received a BSc degree in Chemistry at St. Mary’s in San Antonio and received a PhD in physical chemistry from the University of Delaware. Isaac lived, worked, and birded in the eastern part of the US for 25 years until 1988 when he returned to Texas to join the Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Texas. Currently, he holds the William J. Murray, Jr. Endowed Chair in the Cockrell School of Engineering. He served as the Travis Audubon RBA compiler in 2002-2003.
Field Trips — Beginners welcome. Check the Travis Audubon website for field trips and details. http://travisaudubon.org/get-outdoors/field-trips
Two hour Friday! At Circle Acres with Jane Tillman and Mike Rogan
Friday, May 8, 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.
Monthly Bird Count at Hornsby Bend
Saturday May 9, 7:00am and 4:00pm
Balcones Canyonlands NWR
Sunday, May 10th 7:00am
Two-hour Tuesday! at Booty’s Road Park, led by Dan Callaway
Tuesday, May 12th, 7:00 to 9:00am
Laguna Gloria Art Museum Grounds
Saturday, May 16, 7:30 to 11:00 am
Hornsby Bend Monthly Bird Walk
Saturday May 16, 7:30am to 11:00am
Super Tuesday! At Commons Ford Ranch Park, led by Ken Zaslow
Tuesday, May 19th, 6:30 to 10:00am
Super Tuesday! At Blanco State Park, led by Terry Banks
Tuesday, May 26th, 5:45 to early afternoon
Here is a talk you won’t want to miss.
Hummingbirds of Central Texas
- Date: Thursday, May 28, 2015
- Event Location: Wells Branch Community Library, 15001 Wells Port Dr, Austin, TX 78728
- Event Fee: Free
- Time: 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. CDT
- Instructor: Shelia Hargis
- No registration required
Shelia will cover the basics of hummingbird natural history, and will focus on common species expected in our area and how to ID them. Some hummingbirds from other parts of the state that occasionally show up here will be mentioned. In addition she will talk about how you can make your yard a hotspot for hummers and recommend some places to go to see hummingbirds, especially during migration.
Compiled by Travis Audubon volunteers Jane Tillman and Jorjanna Price