Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Vegetation Survey Analysis

At long last, thanks to our new data analyst volunteer, Lilli Johnson, we are now able to present some concrete results of the prairie restoration efforts.  Essentially, we have been conducting annual spring/summer vegetation surveys, beginning with the year prior to commencement of the restoration project.  

The survey consists of approximately 10 static transect lines of 20 meters in length. The vegetation is catalogued out for one meter in alternative directions on every other meter of the transect.

While it was possible to simply look at the prairie and gauge the impact, it is comforting to see these actual comparisons of native and non-native species over the surveys.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Bird Poker 2015

The first annual Bird Poker event at Commons Ford was a big success.  Nine teams participated in absolutely beautiful weather.  Thanks to all who participated.

So many birders in the park turned up two new species:  Long-billed Curlew and Barn Owl.  A total of (roughly) 98 species was tallied for the day which is a single day park record.  The full list is below. Most interesting misses were Greater Roadrunner and Eastern Screech Owl.  

The winning team, Crakes of Wrath, scored 53 points and also the most species (78).  Congratulations to Byron Stone, Noreen Baker, Christian Walker and Arman Moreno.

Birding the Hardway (Bryce and Rob Hardway) were only one point behind while the third place team, the Old Crows (Trent Miller, Fred Dalbey and Robin Doughty) had 39 points.

Thanks to all of our donors:  Native American Seed Company, Diane Sherrill of Native EarthScapes, artist Gail Woods, Brush Freeman and Barton Springs Nursery for their kind donations and support. All funds raised from this event will go toward continuing the Commons Ford Prairie Restoration Project.  Our expanded efforts include placing some education signs around the prairie this year.  

Mark your calendars and join us for Bird Poker 2016 during the last week of March.

The species list as submitted by participating teams follows:

Wood Duck       
American Wigeon      
Blue-winged Teal                        
Northern Bobwhite    
Wild Turkey      
Pied-billed Grebe     
Neotropic Cormorant         
Double-crested Cormorant        
American White Pelican     
Great Blue Heron      
Great Egret      
Snowy Egret     
Green Heron     
Black Vulture    
Turkey Vulture 
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk          
Red-shouldered Hawk                
Swainson's Hawk      
Red-tailed Hawk       
American Coot 
Long-billed Curlew   
Rock Pigeon     
Eurasian Collared-Dove    
Common Ground-Dove      
White-winged Dove   
Mourning Dove 
Barn Owl  
Great Horned Owl     
Common Poorwill      
Black-chinned Hummingbird                       
Ringed Kingfisher     
Belted Kingfisher      
Golden-fronted Woodpecker      
Red-bellied Woodpecker   
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 
Ladder-backed Woodpecker     
Downy Woodpecker  
American Kestrel      
Eastern Phoebe
Vermilion Flycatcher 
Ash-throated Flycatcher   
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher  
White-eyed Vireo       
Blue Jay   
Western Scrub-Jay   
American Crow
Common Raven
Purple Martin    
Barn Swallow   
Cliff Swallow    
Carolina Chickadee  
Black-crested Titmouse    
Canyon Wren    
House Wren      
Carolina Wren   
Bewick's Wren 
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher      
Ruby-crowned Kinglet       
Eastern Bluebird                
Northern Mockingbird       
European Starling     
Cedar Waxwing
Black-and-white Warbler   
Orange-crowned Warbler  
Nashville Warbler     
Common Yellowthroat        
Northern Parula
Yellow-rumped Warbler              
Golden-cheeked Warbler  
Spotted Towhee        
Rufous-crowned Sparrow 
Chipping Sparrow     
Field Sparrow   
Vesper Sparrow        
Lark Sparrow   
Savannah Sparrow    
Grasshopper Sparrow       
Le Conte's Sparrow  
Song Sparrow  
Lincoln's Sparrow     
White-throated Sparrow    
White-crowned Sparrow    
Northern Cardinal     
Red-winged Blackbird      
Western Meadowlark
Eastern Meadowlark                   
Common Grackle      
Great-tailed Grackle 
Brown-headed Cowbird    
House Finch      
Lesser Goldfinch      
American Goldfinch  
House Sparrow

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Get Ready for Bird Poker on Saturday, March 28, 2015!

So this year we decided to try something a little different for our annual Commons Ford Prairie Restoration Organization fundraiser. So folks, get ready for some Bird Poker!!

For a complete set of Bird Poker Rules, click on the following link

You can register for Bird Poker here

For more information, contact us at commonsfordpro@gmail.com
We will also be offering some fabulous prizes, all provided by our wonderful (and very talented!) donors...
Want a chance to win a free weekend stay at Native American Seed's Cool River Cabin on the Llano River in Junction?
Up to 6 adults, donated by Native American Seed Company
How about a copy of the essential birding reference, TOS Handbook of Texas Birds, personally signed by both authors, Brush Freeman and Mark Lockwood?
Four copies, donated by Brush Freeman
Or a beautiful print of one of the "Birds of Commons Ford" by popular local artist, Gail Woods?

Five prints from original watercolors, donated by Gail Woods
Or a $25 gift certificate from Barton Springs Nursery?

5 certificates donated by Barton Springs Nursery
Or another great prize, like a free one hour landscape consultation by NativeEarthscapes, or an energy psychology session by Robin Heart Shepperd, or ????
Then you need to play Bird Poker at Commons Ford Park on Saturday, March 28, 2015!
Here's how it works:
Teams consisting of 2-5 members will bird Commons Ford Park on March 28, 2015, anytime between 5:00 AM (park opening) and 3 p.m. If you want to participate, but don't have a team, let us know, and we'll help you find a team.
Birders of all skill levels and all ages are welcome. In fact, we're encouraging new birders with a special prize. (See below)
Bird species will be assigned point values according to how likely they are to be found in the Park during this time of year. We may even have a wild card or two! The fun part is that birders won't know what each species is worth until they turn in their hand.
Once you've finished your birding day, use your bird list to determine your best "poker hand". Turn your hand in to the judges by 3:30 P.M.
Winners will be tallied and prizes awarded. A special prize will be given to the winning team with the most birders having less than 2 years experience.
Entry fee is $50.00 per team member. Corporate or organizational sponsors may be enlisted to contribute part or all of a team's entry fee. Sponsors will be recognized in all promotional material for the event, on our blog, and on our FB page. All proceeds will go toward funding 2015 prairie projects. CFPRO is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization operating under the charitable umbrella of the Austin Parks Foundation.
You can register for Bird Poker here

Questions?  Contact us at commonsfordpro@gmail.com

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Don't Miss Out on the Last Commons Ford Bird Walks of 2014

The summer heat has officially given way to crisp, fall weather. And with that fall weather, comes fall birds! Common's Ford is a popular destination for wintering and migrating fall bird species, due in no small part to the abundance of food sources in the prairie.

Join us for one (or both!) of our two final bird walks in 2014:

Sunday, November 30, 2014 - Lead by Deb and Lee Wallace

Sunday, December 7, 2014 - Lead by George Kerr and Ronnie Kramer

The walks are free of charge but space is limited. Reserve your spot now by going to the Travis Audubon website  and registering.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Commons Ford Priaire Organization - News and Updates for 2014

Within just a few short weeks the hot and humid days of summer will come to a close. Fall is right around the corner, which is exciting for us because Fall is the best time of year to work in the prairie. However, despite the summer heat, we did have a  very successful spring and summer. Our dedicated core of volunteers braved the July heat to conduct our annual vegetation survey. This was our fourth year conducting the survey, and it has allowed us understand how drastically the vegetation has improved, as well as identify problem areas where invasive species continue to emerge and vex our restoration efforts. However, you can see from the below photos that the prairie is in full recovery, blessing us each year with a striking array of color as well as attracting a broad diversity of wildlife.

We are also happy to report that we are back on track and will be immediately moving forward with the prairie work scheduled for 2014.  Special thanks to Brian Block at PARD and Jeff Larsen, our new Park Grounds Manager at Commons Ford, for their support and assistance in moving the project forward.  We expect to continue our great working relationship with Jeff, Brian and others at PARD.

The main portion of the prairie is in excellent shape and is setting up for an interesting winter with lots of prairie birds expected.  As most of you know, the 2014 work focuses on expanding the "good portion" of the prairie to the north and east.  This buffer zone includes roughly 8-10 acres although it is laid out in more of a strip that runs east-west and then north-south on its eastern edge.  The work includes mowing and shredding which took place on August 27, followed by assessments and limited herbicide treatment only as needed in the buffer zone, followed finally by planting of a modified native seed mix in this zone.  We also expect to smooth out the uneven ground which exists in a portion of the buffer zone to insure better seed contact.  All of this work will be performed by our good friend and project partner, George Cates and Native American Seed Company. George has continued to work with us throughout the summer to modify the plan as necessary.

Given the excellent native growth in the prairie this spring and summer, and with decent rain throughout the summer, we are anxious to see the resulting impact on birds and other wildlife in the prairie.  Wintering sparrows and other prairie species should begin to arrive in late-September with the pace picking up in October.  Of course, we will be conducting our winter prairie bird surveys later this winter, but you should come check it out for yourself either on your own or as part of our monthly bird/nature walks (see below).

 Our monthly walks are continuing with August's walk led by Laurie Foss and Shelia Hargis.  Laurie and Shelia came up with an interesting concept for their two summer walks which focused on examining bird behavior rather than just ticking off the species.  As always, both of their walks were full and successful.  Thanks to both of them for their continuing support.

Ed Fair will be leading the next walk on Saturday, September 27 followed by Diane Sherill's plant walk on Saturday, October 18.  You can register for the walks through Travis Audubon Society by clicking here.  All walks are free and, although we encourage everyone to join and support Travis Audubon Society, membership is not required to participate in the walks.

Now that we are again moving forward, we can refocus on our future plans which include our educational outreach program.  We will be looking for volunteers soon, so stay tuned.

We are also re-visiting the kiosk concept and considering other alternatives which would allow us to achieve the same result and more as the kiosk is extremely expensive.  We will be discussing with Jeff and PARD the possiblity of placing some educational signs along the southern edge of the prairie which would contain the same information as the kiosk.  Additionally, we will consider and discuss the possibility of placing one or more shaded benches along the trail encircling the prairie.  Finally, we will look at adding a picnic table near the one located northwest of the main house.  All of these items are up for discussion, so feel free to pass along your thoughts.

Thanks again to all of you who have helped sustain this important and worthwhile project.  Enjoy the fall!