Here from the quasi-confinement of my Allandale home in Central Austin, I’ve been noticing the birds lately.
One reason? Less traffic hum means I actually hear nature. I woke up a 5 a.m. and instead of the buzz of traffic on nearby MoPac, I listened to a chorus of tree frogs and early-rising birds. During the day, I’ve spotted flocks of noisy, electric green Monk parakeets (a non-native species started by escaped pets in the 1970s), a few red-tailed hawks scanning for rodents, a screech owl or two, and a high-flying blue heron.
During these shelter-in-place days, Travis Audubon is encouraging people to take a closer look at what’s perched in the tree branches just outside their doors.
The non-profit organization’s annual spring Birdathon – during which avid birders team up and compete to see how many birds they can spot in a single outing – has been postponed until the fall migration. Instead, they’ve scheduled an hour-long Backyard Bird Count for Wednesday, April 15. From 8-9 a.m., head out onto your back porch, or a nearby green space, and make a list of each species you see. Include the location where you saw each bird, the number of individuals you saw or heard, and email it to email@example.com.
The submissions will be compiled to create a snaphot of the birds seen around Central Texas at the same time on the same day in 2020.
Even beyond the backyard bird count, now’s a good time to pay attention to the birdlife. (This New York Times story explains how the bird population of North America has dropped by 29 percent in the past half century https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/19/science/bird-populations-america-canada.html.)
“The good thing about birds is they’re really kind of all over the place,” says Rich Kostecke, director of research and planning at the Nature Conservancy in Texas. “Even if you just got out into your backyard, you’re likely going to see some birds, and we’re hitting the beginning of spring migration. Any day a new species could pop up as they start pushing north.”
One rarity that’s made an appearance in Austin this year? A white wagtail, common in Europe and Asia with a small population that lives along sea cliffs and in man-made structures in Alaska. A single specimen, apparently blown off its migration route, has been observed at Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Metro Park several times in recent weeks.