by Lorraine Cherry, Friends of West 11th Street Park
Welcome to spring in the park! This is always an exciting time of year, as the woods seem to green up almost overnight, flowers are blooming everywhere, swarms of butterflies are around, and the spring migrant birds are passing through. These colorful visitors stop here after wintering in Central and South America. When they have rested and refueled, they continue on to their summer homes in the north. Our lush understory and new growth trees provide an welcoming temporary habitat, and offer some excellent birding opportunities for both novices and more experienced birders. Over the next few months, you might see tanagers, orioles, buntings, many species of warblers, and more.
If you are a beginner at birdwatching, you may wonder what you should be looking for to help you identify a bird. Here is a list of pointers from Houston naturalist Jerry Walls:
- SIZE: What size is the bird? How does its size compare with a sparrow, cardinal, blue jay, crow, eagle, etc.?
- LEGS AND TAIL: Does it have long or short legs? A long or short tail?
- COLOR: What color is the bird? Are there identifying physical characteristics such as bars on the wing, a head crest, etc.?
- BEAK: What is the shape of the beak/bill: Is it wide, thin, cone-shaped? Is it long or short? What color is it?
- LOCATION: Where did you see the bird (e.g., near open water, a pond, wetland, forested area, open prairie, in the city, at a bird feeder)? Was it feeding on the ground, perched on a high branch, flying overhead?
- MOVEMENTS: Did you notice any special movements such as tail wagging, “shivering” motion, bobbing its head, pecking on a tree, etc.
- FLIGHT: If you saw the bird flying, how did its flight pattern look? Was it flying in a straight line, undulating, soaring?
- TIME: What time of the year did you see the bird? What time of day?
- SONG: Did the bird call or sing? What did it sound like?
With these descriptions and a good field guide, you will be well on your way to identifying the specific bird that you saw. Two highly recommended guides are: Birds of Texas by Roger Tory Peterson and The Sibley Guide to Birds by David Allen Sibley. To see a list of birds that have been reported at West 11th Street Park, visit the Audubon Society’s EBird site at http://ebird.org/ebird/hotspot/L281716. For descriptions of some recently seen birds at West 11th Street Park, including our famous woodpeckers, check out our park webpage at http://bit.ly/ParkBirds