Saturday, January 9, 2016

Big Year Brazos County 2015

On a whim, and spurred by an unusually insatiable need to go see things, I decided to do a Big Year in Brazos County in 2015. It at least kept me close to home and kept me busy (or productively procrastinating).

Why did I do this? I don’t know… I’ll try to explain more at the end. Suffice to say, it was the right time to commit to something a little eccentric like this!

Let’s break this down by some general grouping, as I’m sure no one wants a day-by-day report (and I don’t want to write it!)!

How many roads must a man walk down, before he finds that dang finch!?!?
Frequently traveled county roads highlighted in blue.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Butterflies, butterflies, butterflies

With the upcoming NABA Butterfly Count, I’ve been out practicing- or trying to practice- finding, observing, and identifying our local butterflies. Initially, I was very gung-ho about it: I want to see everything, not miss an ID, pick out the unique or interesting butterflies, and generally have a rewarding time.

I didn’t succeed. As it turns out, I’m not very good at IDing butterflies. They’re small, fly fast, hide in the bushes, and can have very cryptic or subtle colorations. I mean how hard can it be to identify a Monarch? It’s big, iconic, easy to see! It seems to me that the Monarch is the butterfly equivalent of a Bald Eagle. They’re everywhere- on billboards, tv, symbols in businesses and of the US. But in real life when you’re out looking for a Bald Eagle, they can be pretty difficult to find. You’ll find Cardinals and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, and Grackles much more easily. And don’t forget the I-got-a-quick-glimpse-and-thought-it-was-a-Bald-Eagle but it was really a Crested Caracara. Monarch’s have those too: Queens, Viceroys, and Soldiers. Heck, a quick glimpse of a Gulf Fritillary can send you to the wrong ID!

It's... uh... ok. It's not the thing I thought it was.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A Rose(-breasted Grosbeak) by any other name...

In the Olde Worlde, things were much simpler.  There was only one of everything, so they could just refer to The Kingfisher, The Robin, The Wren, etc.  There were a bunch of LBJs (Little Brown Jobs) that were called buntings: Reed Bunting, Pallas's Bunting, Little Bunting, etc.  Occasionally, these showed a little bit of character- the Yellowhammer for instance (not to be confused with the State Bird of Alabama).  These birds can show up in Alaska and even more rarely on the West Coast of the Lower 48.  These are in the genus Emberiza, and are the "type genus" (whatever that is) of the family Emberizidae.  There was another bunch of LBJs in the Olde Worlde that were called Sparrows: House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Italian Sparrow, etc.  These didn't show up at all in the New World. These are in the genus Passer and are the type genus of the family Passeridae and the order Passeriformes.  

Yellowhammer. Not the European kind though.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sounds of the times

As we move from winter to spring and summer, the trees and bushes start up their photosynthesis machinery again. While great at providing shade for the tired birder, leaves are also super at hiding everything we want to see! At our recent Birding101 outings and Field Trips, we’ve been talking about the benefits of birding by ear.

Red-eyed Vireo mid-song.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

RBAS Spring Challenge 2015!

All right! It's time for another RBAS Challenge! What we want to do with this challenge is encourage birding right in your backyard and report your sightings to Ebird.

In case you don't know, is a citizen science data entry platform that aggregates bird sightings from all over the world and makes them available to anyone and everyone that's interested in learning about bird distribution, recent sightings in a particular place, or historical trends. All of this data allows researchers at Ebird make a Migration Forecast- a resource that combines our submissions to Ebird with weather forecasts to predict which species will be where, when they'll be there, and if there's going to be bad flying (good birding) conditions.

They can also compile all of this sightings data and make some really awesome migration maps! Here's one for the Indigo Bunting. Very cool!

To better attract birds to your backyard, we've set up a resource for you. Some of the basics of backyard feeders and yard set up are discussed, as well as the benefits for planting native plants. We've linked out to a lot of other resources as there is a lot of information available on this topic!

The Challenge

Our Spring 2015 Challenge is to submit at least 10 Ebird lists from your backyard before 01May2015. This gives you 6 weeks to get 10 lists! Easy! If you don't have a backyard, pick a favorite park or neighborhood spot and see what you can find.

For everyone that completes the Challenge, your name will be entered into a raffle to be held at the 13May RBAS Meeting. Prizes will include guide books, bird feeders, and whatever other items we can conjure up. We're expecting to have around 20 prizes, so lots of people will walk out of there with something!

Once you've gotten your 10 Ebird lists in, REGISTER for the drawing!


For a quick how-to-Ebird, I've made an instructional video covering the basics for setting up an account and submitting a list. a free site- no cost you the citizen scientists- it is sponsored by National Audubon and Cornell Lab of Ornithology! So get reporting!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Big Day!

Every year in late January or early February, the country pauses to take in a spectacle like no other: Months of preparation, training, late nights and early mornings, tough competition, and a singular focus to survive. That’s right, it’s:


Now the Superb Owl celebrations were originally a way for t.v. comedian Stephen Colbert to avoid the legal ire of the NFL by talking about the “big game” without permission last year (relevant part starts about 2min in). Now in good fun, National Audubon’s CEO David Yarnold got in on it to talk about some of the issues with the Barred Owl/Spotted Owl management in California.

Who manages you? Who manages you all!?

Friday, January 2, 2015

2014 RBAS Year in Review

As we look forward to the new year, let’s take a quick minute to look back at Rio Brazos Audubon’s 2014. We ended the November Challenge (well, we ended with the Christmas Bird Count, but I was sick so I can’t tell you about it!). And it’s well overdue to post the winners to the group! 

We had a very good response in for sketches and photo submissions… and a good response from the voters!

To calculate the winners, each vote was weighted (1st pace vote got 5 points, 5th place vote got 1 point) and total scores were tabulated.

Our grand prize winner of a field guide and a bird feeder was:

Gus Cothran and his Chipping Sparrow!

Chipping Sparrow by Gus Cothran