In the past I have witnessed an overly aggressive male of female hummingbird fighting off the other birds as if the feeder was his or her sole possession. Now I watch what is going on and the tables have turned on the “feeder bullies” as they are overwhelmed by the masses. The birds are still fighting, but the stakes have changed – they are fighting for a limited number of feeding sites. I once watched in amazement at a friend’s home in New Mexico three hummingbirds with their bills in the same feeder hole. I have also seen a larger number of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds this spring; possibly they are moving their breeding range westward.
This past week, I heard my first Chuck-Wills-Widow calling at dusk. I normally have several of these nightjars living around my home. I rarely see them other than just before darkness sets in, but their calls reverberate out of the woods monotonously for hours at a time. I have not yet seen a Common Nighthawk, but others in the area have seen or heard one. Like the horned-toad lizard, I am fearful that they are disappearing from the Hill Country.
In preparing for the upcoming Wings Over the Hills Nature Festival this weekend, I drove over to Junction to check on the two endangered species, the Golden-cheeked Warbler and the Black-capped Vireo(see picture above). My first check point was Easter Pageant Hill on the east side of the city. The number of birds in general was low, but the pageant had been the night before, so I concluded the birds had been frightened away from all of the lights and sounds of the pageant. I did hear and see one Black-capped Vireo singing his heart out in his breeding territory.
The next stop was South Llano State Park on the south side of the city. I heard the vireos had been seen and heard on the Fawn Trail leading out of the campground parking lot. I walked about a mile without seeing or hearing a vireo other than the common Bell’s Vireo. Disappointed, I returned to the parking lot to consider other venues for the blackcaps in the park. In a large juniper tree next to the lot was a pretty male Black-capped Vireo twittering his two to three note song nonstop for all to hear. My first thought was why did I just do a mile or more hike when I could have stayed in the parking lot?
Later, I visited one of the bird blinds along the main road into the park and found a blackcap singing within yards of the parking lot. See the included photo of this bird. Now I am wondering if I have made a discovery about where to find these so-called ‘elusive’ birds – parking lots. Forget the walking trails and just hang out in a parking lot and wait for the show to begin. I had never heard of these birds being seen at this site, so I was encouraged that the recovery of these endangered birds is progressing.
I made another hike into the cedar brush habitat to try to find the Golden-cheek Warbler between deer hunting blinds, seven and eight. Ask in the office for the location of these two deer blinds – it will be your best bet to find the warblers. The area is along a gravel road, about a mile from the agarita bird blind parking lot. Within fifty yards of reaching deer blind seven, I noticed several small birds engaged in a game of pursuit. I was in luck, as they were the golden-cheeks. I was able to find them without hearing them sing, not an easy accomplishment.
As I returned to the car, my hope was that these birds would let me find them a week later when I will be leading a trip on which the highlight of the trip will be finding these two endangered species. Maybe I should consider just hanging around parking lots and save the walks for other times and places. Unfortunately, I know that birding is not that simple of a task.