of flycatchers. Thirteen species have been
recorded. Most noteworthy were the second
UTC record of Black Phoebe discovered by
John Trochet, and two sightings of Say's
Phoebe. The Black Phoebe and one of the
Say's were photographed by Ted Eubanks, Jr.
On Several trips, 7 to 10 Vermilion Flycatchers were recorded in a single day.
Five species of vireos and 26 species of
warblers have been recorded in the park.
Two species, Prothonotary Warbler and
American Redstart, were observed in summer
and in such numbers as to influence status
changes reflected eventually in the 6th
edition (January, 1980) of the UTC Checklist. As many as 20 singing male Prothonotary Warblers could be found among the park's
swamps and wooded sloughs. No doubt, the
species is a common nester in its preferred
habitat on the UTC. However, prior to visits
to the park, access to this habitat type was
very limited. I made a most exciting discovery on June 18, 1977 when I found two
singing territorial American Redstarts in a
heavy forest in the park. For four successive summary singing Redstarts could be
found. Both males and females were observed,
and once, Ted and I observed a male carrying
food. Unfortunately, a nest or very young
fledglings were never found.
Fifteen species of sparrows have been recorded in the park. Savannah, Henslow's and
LeConte's sparrows have been observed in the
grasslands and many other species have been
observed elsewhere within the park.
This summary should give birders an idea of
what to expect at Brazos Bend State Park.
In the next few years, many species should
be added to the park checklist of birds. As
an example, the two Eared Grebes observed
on the recent OG field trip represented a
new sighting. Thus, the list now stands at
231! Not bad for an inland area without any
salt-water contact! Visit the park after it
opens and find a new species yourself. Good
HOW TO BE A GOOD BIRDER, OR NEVER TURN
YOUR BACK ON AN EMPIDONAX FLYCATCHER
By T. Ben Feltner
Improving your birding skills and becoming
one r-Z the "hotshots" is not a matter of
V_cK or inheritance. It is a condition
brought about by selective birding practices
and dedication. The following are some
basic tenets that should help you improve
(1) Get to know your local birds backwards and forwards and sideways. While
rushing out to look at those beautiful
spring warblers is great stuff, it actually does little to sharpen your skills. It
is much more important to be able to
identify an Orange-crowned Warbler in its
several fall plumages complete with its
nuances of non-field marks. Know as much
as you can about the common birds around
you. These are what you measure all else
against. A female House Sparrow and an
immature female Dickcissel at a winter
feeder look remarkably alike. But if you
know House Sparrows well, you would immediately pick out the Dickcissel, an
excellent winter bird. This is the method
by which Arlie McKay, the best local birder
ever produced, consistently found "good"
birds. He birded daily and really looked
at all the birds around him.
(2) Don't carry a field guide into the
field. How many truly good birders do
you see thumbing through book pages while
studying a bird? This is not done to
impress others, it is part of the mechanism of really learning birds. A novice,
someone who has not yet identified and
learned 200 or so birds, might be excused
for toting a guide, but after a good basic
core of species put your powers to work,
not Peterson's. Do not be dismayed if you ,
cannot name every bird immediately. When
you are confronted with something new.
look at it, study it, make copious notes.
You will end up knowing more about the bird
than if you looked it up on the spot 50
times. Field guides will make you lazy.
(3) Do study the field guides at all
spare moments when not in the field.
Carry one to your office and browse it
through during breaks and at lunch. Keep
a copy in the bathroom, one of the greatest of study areas. Turn off "Dallas"
and thumb through the new Geographic Field
Guide. It is not necessary to try to
learn verbatim what the books say. Do not
try to intensely learn every field mark
for every bird, just browse. Constant
exposure to knowledge through this means
will insure that some will "rub off"
eventually. As time goes on you will
notice you can remember things you didn't
even think you knew.
(4) Associate with good birders as much
as possible. Whenever you see a field
trip is going to be led by a good birder,
join it. Listen to the leader when he is
pointing out field marks. Many times they
are pointing out things that are not in the
books. Bob Behrstock is particularly
adept at that. If you don't understand
why a certain bird has been identified as
a such and such , ask. Most
good birders are more than happy to explain.
The speed with which you make identifications in the field is impressive only
if you get them right. Watch Elric
McHenry at work sometime. He very seldom
makes rapid pronouncements; but he is one
of the best birders in the area, and when
he reports a rare bird, go look at it.
It will be there.