Michael G. and I spent the day after our Del Rio Christmas Bird Count – Dec. 24, Christmas Eve – going back over our territory and trying to find bird species we had missed on Count Day.
The rules of the Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count allow counters to tally bird species seen within seven days after the official Count Day. One may then add the species to the overall list of birds seen as a “Count Week” bird, although one may not include the number of individual birds seen of that species. Rules. Ugh.
For years, Mike and I have gone out a day or so after our official count to try and find species we missed, and in 2019, we missed quite a few.
Mike thinks – and he may be right – that the birds just aren’t here because it’s been so dry.
But we also missed species like Bronzed Cowbirds, which we typically find in the Walmart parking lot and Peregrine Falcon, which routinely perches on the big cell tower off South Main Street just south of the railroad tracks.
We also didn’t see our Gray Hawk, a neotropical raptor that has been the star of our Del Rio Count for the past few years. Typically, this hawk can be spotted perched on the utility lines along the railroad tracks paralleling Ogden Street near Bank & Trust Baseball Field, but on Count Day, the hawk just wasn’t there.
Mike and I spent several hours poking around the Calaveras Creek drainage in far south Del Rio. We parked just off Brodbent Avenue across from the San Felipe Cemetery and continued along the creek on foot.
The dry conditions over the past six months have reduced the Calaveras Creek to little more than a trickle. Right now it’s really nothing more than a serious of stagnating pools fringed with cattails and other water-loving plants.
The little bit of water that remains, though, is an irresistible magnet for birds.
On Count Day, we had walked along the Calaveras Creek near the old La Loma cemetery and found Lincoln’s Sparrows, Field Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows and a male White-collared (Morelet’s) Seedeater.
The following day, we found a Song Sparrow, and, farther upstream, a Swamp Sparrow, a number of Common Yellowthroats and a female seedeater.
We also took some time walking along the San Felipe Creek upstream from the Tardy Dam. There, we added Yellow-crowned Night Herons and a pair of Lesser Scaup.
There were several other coups as well: We found a male Wood Duck on the “racetrack” at the Silverlake Wastewater Treatment Plant, paddling about with a group of other ducks, and we found a flock of Brewer’s Blackbirds at the livestock pens near the county fire station off Leonel Martinez Boulevard.
Best of all, though, we got to spend one more day birding together.
Karen Gleason is the senior staff writer for the Del Rio News-Herald. She loves nature and the outdoors and has been an avid bird watcher since childhood.