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. Follow us at www.facebook.com/travisaudubon
With each new cold front in November more birds should arrive, many with plans to spend the winter. Our rivers and lakes which were largely empty of big, noticeable birds other than herons and egrets will once again teem with life. Lady Bird Lake will fill with American Coots, Pied-billed Grebes and many species of ducks. Ponds may attract different ducks and waterbirds that prefer the slightly different vegetation and water depths they offer.
During the month, watch for silent flocks flying over in somewhat irregular lines or v-shaped formations. They may be Double-crested Cormorants, returning from places as far away as southern Canada. These cormorants are coming to slow-moving rivers and ponds to fish. A good place to look for a roost is in the cypress trees on the south side of Lady Bird Lake.
Cormorants are dark brownish-black birds with long necks. They are 32 inches in length with a wingspan of over four feet. They stretch their dark wings to dry after a dive since their feathers are not as waterproof as ducks. The immature birds have pale throats and undersides while the adults are all dark. Cormorants paddle with webbed feet but their hooked bills are one feature that sets them apart from ducks. If you can get a close look or photo, check out their stunning aquamarine-colored eyes.
Other overhead flocks of large birds you might encounter in November are Snow and Greater White-fronted Geese (the latter known to hunters as speckle-bellied). These birds are often noisy in flight, with lots of honking. Northeast Travis County is a good place to look and listen for them, although you might see a flock flying over any part of town. Most of them are en route to points further south in Texas where they favor the coastal prairies for the winter. It’s much less common to spot these geese species foraging on land or loafing in the water in Travis County, so you have to be quick to make an identification as they fly past. Taking a photo and then consulting a field guide or the excellent All About Birds website will help.
Rule out the cacophony of calling Sandhill Cranes which are bigger birds with longer necks and larger wingspans up to 7 feet. American White Pelicans will be silent. They are birds with huge wingspans of 9 feet, and heavy long bills viewed from below. Many pelicans will be passing through Travis County during migration and some will winter here.
A bird associated with creeks, rivers, lakes and ponds that often announces itself before you see it is the Belted Kingfisher. Listen for its loud dry rattle as it flies along waterways. While you can spot them occasionally in the summer, many more come to winter here. Belted Kingfishers are dependent on having clear water so they can see their main fish prey, and then dive in to catch it. They are stocky blue-gray birds about 13 inches in length, with crests and dagger-like gray bills. Sometimes they perch on wires over water bodies, but also can be found conspicuously perched on branches. Belted Kingfisher females are more colorful than the males, sporting a rust colored band around their bellies. The reason for this is unclear. See if you can determine the sex of the bird you find, to challenge your birding abilities and impress your friends.
Travis Audubon November Events — There are many reasons to get outside in the cooler month of November. Let birds be one of them. Events often fill quickly and some require registration.
Monthly Meeting — November 21, 7:00 p.m. Location: First Unitarian Universalist Church at 4700 Grover. Dr. Kevin Anderson will speak on Hornsby Bend: 60 Years of Birds, Birding and More. Hornsby Bend plays a key role in processing biosolids generated by the City’s wastewater treatment plants, but is also the top birding hotspot in Travis County due to its diverse habitats along the Colorado River. Come learn about this little known part of Austin.
60 Years of Birding at Hornsby Bend Celebration, November 23. Join us in celebrating the 60th anniversary of birding at Hornsby Bend with a full day of activities for all levels of birders. The day will begin with the start of a day-long Super Bird Survey. We will have free birding field trips in the morning and afternoon – and a special morning field trip led by young birders. There will be information tables and activities in the Austin Water Center for Environmental Research. While most don’t require registration, the light dinner does. See website for the full schedule of events.
Travis Audubon Field Trips —A great way to learn more about our central Texas birds is to go on a field trip. Check the website for other trips, and location and registration details. Most trips are free, and some require registration. Travis Audubon welcomes new birders on our field trips!
Beginners Bird Walk at Barkley Meadow November 2, 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. Barkley Meadows Park runs along the Onion Creek Greenway and is a relatively new park in Southeastern Travis County. Its gentle topography is typical of our Blackland Prairie and offers a variety of habitats including a riparian corridor, ponds, woodlands and open fields. There are good trails, so expect to walk about two miles. Winter sparrows and waterfowl are expected birds. Portable toilets are available.
The Beginners’ Bird Walk is open to birders of all levels and ages. It’s free. It’s fun. Membership is not required. Registration is not required. Some loaner binoculars will be available.
Hornsby Bend Monthly Bird Walk November 16, 7:30 until about 11 a.m. Join us to explore Austin’s premier birding site. This event is sponsored monthly by the Hornsby Bend Bird Observatory. Meet in front of the Center for Environmental Research. No registration required.
Birdability Walk at Govalle Park November 16, 8:00 a.m. -10:00 a.m. This is a bird walk tailor-made for people with mobility challenges. Govalle Metropolitan Park is at 5200 Bolm Road. There is a good chance to see Belted Kingfisher and Osprey along with more common birds. No registration required. Learn more about Birdability at this blog.
Compiled by Jane Tillman, Travis Audubon Volunteer