START YOUR UTC YEAR'S LIST JANUARY 1st by Margaret Jones
1977 has been the most fascinating birding year I've had since I saw my first warbler
and thus got "hooked". Starting this year with the self-imposed "carrot" of 300 species seen by December 31 dangling in front of my eyes, I found that goal reached by
August 6! Then the hunt began In earnest to see how many could be added in the months
This goal had been reached by paying assiduous attention to checklist occurrence dates
(this meant going out and looking for certain species that would be at their most numerous at certain times of the year, or might be found only during a brief period), the
most likely habitat for each species, and how weather affects migration movements (In
the spring on the coast, a wet norther Is the time to go birding).
A number cf unusual birds were found by going out as soon as possible after hearing of
them. And a lesson learned In regard to that was the absolute necessity to later observers of pinpoint accuracy In the first observer reporting the exact location of an
unusual bird. So often such a bird can be found later In the same spot. Read about
the Burrowing Owl in Places to Go for a case in' point.
Margaret Anderson has been my compadre In a great deal of the birding I've done this
year, and has shared generously from her fund of knowledge of bird behavior, when to
see what where, etc. Others have been equally generous In sharing Information on
whereabouts of certain birds we may otherwise have missed. And luck has played a
part, too, such as the sighting of the Virginia's Warbler, referred to last month.
We know we live in a marvelous birding area, and this list was started with the Idea
of finding out how many of the birds on our checklist I could see in one year. Margaret and I, birding together or with others, have gone out as least once a week, sometimes more. Together we have proved the point I wanted to make in the beginning: the
birds are here If you just get out and find them. As of December 3, Margaret A. has
Iisted 326 species seen, I have 324 (she has seen six species I've not, and I've seen
four she hasn't) and a 330 year's list, not even thought of last January, seems tan+a-
In order +o make our Iis+s uniform, we went through the checklist and marked It to
conform to A.B.A. rules, i.e. counted as one those which are now lumped: Snow-Blue
Geese; Red-tailed-Krider's-Harlan's; Myrfle-AudUbon's Warbler; Baltimore-Bullock's
Oriole; Eastern-Spotted Towhee; Slate-colored-Oregon Junco; omitted "sp." and the hybrid Brewster's Warbler. We used a checklist to keep our records, marking the date
beside the name of each species as we saw it. I also made a check In the month's
column so I could see at a glance how my sighting compared with the occurrence key.
My record shows that 168 birds had been marked by the end of January, a good start!
So plan now to start your 1978 year's list (Tony Galluccl's Cypress Creek Christmas
Count January 1st would be an excellent beginning), for you will have a lot of fun,
perhaps learn something you didn't know about the birds which come through the upper
Texas coast, and Improve your birding skills.
PLACES TO GO
** The Burrowing Owl on Texas City Dike is creating the most Interest right at the
moment. It has been seen In the same spot since November 23, the latest sighting at
this writing being December 3. I made two fruitless trips there, but, though I had
the correct general location, it took Margaret Anderson's pinpoint directions for me
to find him. Go out the dike to the restroom almost at the end, count back toward the
land, twelve telephone poles, starting with the one nearest the restroom (or .6 mile).
The bird has consistently been seen between the IIth and 13th poles, in the rocks on
the north side of the dike. This is almost at the beginning of a sandy beach that
curves out from the dike. You may have to walk alongside the rocks, pishing as you
go. He is very easy to pish up, and perches on his long legs while staring "owllshly"
** The Harris' Hawk, seen last winter on Hwy 3, between Ellington Air Base and Metro
Airport, is back. There is also a melanislic Red-+all In +he same vicini+y, so if
you see one perched, check very carefully, for -they are bo+h dark hawks. The Red-+ail
has dark reddish-brown breast and almost black belly band, the Harris' has a dark
brown front with dark reddish legs, and Is slimmer and smaller looking. Of course,
when either flies, the tall Immediately helps Identify it.
** You will note from the C-H that Hooded Mergansers are being seen at the Mercury
Drive Dredge Disposal area. We are advised that late In the afternoon Is the best
chance of seeing them. That is the best time for this birding spot anyway, for the
sun Is a+ your back then. Remember +he traffic Is heavy, pull-offs are few, and wa+ch
for soft spo+s on the shoulders when you do pull off.