Before the sun was up on Saturday, December 17th, birders were meeting to start the annual Christmas Bird Count in the greater San Marcos area. Although the forecast called for a chilly morning turning warm in the afternoon the drizzly rain was a surprise. This might put a damper on the birds but the binocular and scope group was ready to search.
Texas State doctoral candidate, Rebekah Rylander, organized 42 birders into teams that would cover seven different areas of the Hill Country and Blackland Prairie landscapes. The 15-mile diameter circle with San Marcos at the center covers wooded, rocky hills, open fields and ponds, lakes and rivers was
|Birding at Dreamcatcher Ranch|
expected to yield a variety of bird species.
Colton Robbins led the birding group in section seven that covered the fields and large ponds south of San Marcos from the Blanco River to the outlet malls. “Our most interesting sighting was a tie between a pair of Great Kiskadees doing their loud squeaky call back and forth, and a dark morph Red-tailed Hawk also known as a Harlan’s Hawk soaring over the Blanco River. Both are rare in Hays County and were exciting to see,” Colton said.
He continued, “Other interesting observations from our group included Snow Geese, a pair of Northern Bobwhites, and a Barn Owl. Plus more ducks than you could shake your binoculars at.”
Jesse Huth led a group downtown San Marcos, all the river parks, the fish hatchery and several county roads. They counted a Summer Tanager, a Say’s Phoebe, a Merlin sitting next to an American Kestrel, Couch’s Kingbirds, Black-crowned Night Heron and Egyptian Geese. Jesse said, The female Summer Tanager was probably the best sighting, it is very late for one to still be here. She was feeding on a paper wasp nest.”
While this was an inaugural event for San Marcos, the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is a National Audubon Society citizen science involvement event in its 117th year. The count takes all day as some groups started in the dark listening for owls in Prospect and Ringtail natural areas. The day would end with dinner at Garcia’s Restaurant in San Marcos.
One of the rarities seen was a Pyrrhuloxia at the Geiger Ranch on Lime Kiln Road. Rebekah added, “We did have other ‘rarities’ including the female Summer Tanager, Great Kiskadees, and Red-breasted Merganser being the super highlights.”
Rebekah said, “I have compiled a PDF of all the species we saw on the 17th, totaling 124! Not a bad first year I would say! We also had 42 people participating in this count, which was incredibly awesome.Thank you so much for volunteering your time, energy, and birding skills. Please give yourselves a big pat on the back, we couldn’t have done it without you!”
Colton said, “I’m already excited about next year’s count because this first time was sort of a test run and now we know where the good stuff is and I expect us to find even more species next year.”
Jesse added, “It was a really fun day to go birding, and got me out looking for new local places to bird. Hope to see more people out doing it next year.” Jesse added, “It was a really fun day to go birding, and got me out looking for new local places to bird. I hope to see more people out doing it next year.”