Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Commons Ford Monthly Walk, May 5, 2013

What a perfectly gorgeous spring day we were treated to on the morning of the May monthly walk at the Commons Ford prairie. A full contingent of 15 fun, enthusiastic outdoorists (I just made that word up) joined Diane Sherrill for a walk that was billed as “bird and plant”. We touched on plants and pointed out a few specimens—bright yellow Engelmann daisy in full, glorious bloom; Standing cypress just beginning to tempt with its seductive deep scarlet blossoms; white-flowered Bull nettle that will hurt you for days if you are unlucky enough to contact it directly with your skin. We also took a good look at probably the worst of the non-native invasives we’re fighting out here: Bermudagrass. We discussed the problems with these non-native invaders, which do not sustain native wildlife and also gobble up huge parcels of land to render them sterile and aesthetically boring.

But the plants had to—seemingly—take a back seat to the birds on this day. Here at the height of migration, after a major “fallout” on the coast due to late cold fronts, the diversity and numbers of birds was breathtaking. However, the birds wouldn’t have been tempted to stop here, and wouldn’t be able to be sustained here, if it wasn’t for the restoration efforts going on in the prairie. The diverse native plants feed the native insects, small mammals, and reptiles, and those in turn feed the small birds, who in turn (sorry!) feed the raptors. This project is proof that nature works, and that everything IS connected.

We saw and heard an amazing 64 species of birds in 4 hours. At times there were so many birds we couldn’t hear ourselves think for all the whispers of “there’s a…” or “what is this over here….” Not a bad problem to have when you’re out birding!

We particularly noted a large number (both in diversity and total numbers) of flycatchers, indicating that the prairie is sustaining a good population of insects. Or as I like to call them, “bird food”. There were many species of migrating warblers and vireos, particularly down in the pecan grove.

Highlights were the flycatcher trifecta of Western kingbird, Eastern kingbird, and Scissor-tailed flycatcher all sitting on plant stalks in the prairie within a few feet of each other; a couple of singing Orchard orioles; some very nice warblers, including Black-throated green, Pine ( a bit west of its most preferred range), American redstart, and Northern parula; and some nice sparrows, like a Clay-colored and a  somewhat late Vesper.
Thanks to all the participants who helped make this such a wonderful morning at the Park!

(Photographs by Keri Cooper, 2013)