GBH rookery, meadowlark puzzle, and other goodies
DUNCANVILLE, TEXAS — I headed for the dam at Joe Pool Lake after work today, figuring I had an hour or so of daylight.
A flock of American Pipits fed in the grasses just off the road. Most of the birds stayed hidden in the vegetation, but a few came up and offered me good looks. I estimated the flock contained 30 birds or more, and I was glad to get a refresher on their calls.
Even more exciting than the pipits, though, was the discovery of a Great Blue Heron rookery, which I had suspected might exist but hadn’t been able to locate before. There are perhaps 20 stick nests — most in one big tree — and several big, gangly herons stood on or near them. It’s going to be fun watching this spectacle unfold over the months ahead.
A bit farther down the dam, I again encountered a large flock of meadowlarks. I heard snatches of the gurgly songs and blackbird-like calls that belong to Western Meadowlarks. There were also rising flight calls and once a rattle, but I’m not sure I can tell the difference between the Western and Eastern versions of those two calls. I think it’s possible, and I intend to master them if I can.
I posted a message to the Texas birding list asking about meadowlarks in this part of Texas. Everyone agreed that both species occur here during winter, but beyond that, things got confusing. Each respondent had a different opinion on whether the birds occur in mixed flocks and which species is more abundant (and to what extent).
Next time, I think I’ll try bringing along a digital recorder to see if I can capture some of the calls.
As the sun set, the lake turned orange and turquoise … like a surreal reversed-color image, I thought. Thousands of Ring-billed Gulls converged on the water or wheeled in flocks above my head while huge jets descended toward the airport many miles away.