Birding on the Prairie

We had our monthly field trip at Commons Ford on September 18. Sixteen individuals, including field trip leaders participated, and we were joined by our own Travis Audubon Executive Director, Joan Marshall.

We birded in the increasing heat from about 6:30 AM until 11:30 AM. We had 43 species, plus three other taxa. The number of species was lower than expected in that we only had three of our dawn targets (Great Horned Owl, Eastern Screech-Owl and Rufous-crowned Sparrow) and only one(!) warbler (Wilson’s Warbler).

Given the insect activity over the prairie, the number of swallows (Cave and Barn) was not surprising. Of course, the House Finches and Lesser Goldfinches are continuing to feed on the seeds in impressive numbers.

Photo by Vincent O’Brien

The highlight of the day was a Peregrine Falcon swooping down after a Wood Duck. The exhausted falcon missed its prey but perched in the open across the lake allowing us to get some great scope views and photos. This gave us the opportunity to consider the battle from the predator’s side. This bird was very likely migrating and was low on energy. It would need to feed in order to continue its migration, yet it had expended so much effort, its next attempt to go after prey would no doubt be even more difficult.

The prairie was also in very good shape for the end of summer. The rains have kept the prairie green and we were able to see all of the “big four” prairie grasses (little bluestem, big bluestem, yellow indiangrass and switchgrass). We also saw several clumps of eastern gamagrass. This species was specifically included in our second seed mix as it provides a good food source for prairie bird species. Several late-summer and fall wildflowers are continuing to bloom including gayfeather and both commons and Maximilian sunflower

Diane Sherrill will be leading our November 5 walk with a particular focus on the vegetation, but wintering prairie birds should be coming in as well. Register for her walk or upcoming monthly walks by visiting the Travis Audubon field trip page. Of course, you don’t need an invitation to visit Commons Ford Park or Prairie. Park hours are now 5:00 AM – 10:00 PM seven days a week.

Join us for the Big Sit at Commons Ford on October 9!