SMGA Welcomes new board members, officers

(l. to r.) Anna Huff, Philip Quast, Sherwood Bishop and Paul Murray
  Sunday's annual meeting of the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance at the Dunbar Center included the introduction of four new board members: Sherwood Bishop, Anna Huff, Phillip Quast and Paul Murray. The new board met the next day, March 7, and elected officers: Mark Taylor, President; Bill Adams, Vice-president; Sherwood Bishop, Treasurer and Lance Jones, Secretary.
  Standing committees and their members include: Stewardship; Todd Derkacz and the trail crew; Outreach: Lance Jones, Charlotte Wattigny, Melissa Nicewarner Daly, Anna Huff and Stephanie Bryant; Conservation: Mark Taylor, Philip Quast and Fundraising: Sherwood Bishop.
  The San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance needs more than trail work volunteers. Members can assist by serving on one of the committees and influence the direction the organization takes in the coming years as San Marcos grows.

Blanco Shoals Birding -- March 5, 2016

  From the parking lot at 1201 E. River Ridge Road we could hear and see more than 250 Common Grackles in the leafless pecans. Like a silhouette the black birds filled the tree limbs and carried a conversation that was powerful. In large groups they would fly down to the freshly mowed grass and scour the ground. And so we began our walk though the natural area of 81 acres that bounds the Blanco River in north San Marcos.
From the parking lot at Blanco Shoals Natural Area
  Stephen Ramirez led a dozen of us through the pecan grove to the river banks with anacua, cypress, cottonwoods, sycamore and mesquite. Bringing great identification skills, describing the difference between two different warblers by their markings, he continued to educate and enhance the birding experience. Each monthly hike brings the handful of regular birders and first-time visitors to the sunrise outing.
  During our hour-and-a-half sojourn we saw many different species including the Cedar Waxwing,Great Egret and more. The snags housed three different woodpeckers; Red-bellied, Ladder-backed and Downy. In some cases we heard the drilling sound and then spied the source.
  The monthly birding hikes are led by Stephen Ramirez with additional expertise from Colton Robbins. They take place on the first Saturday of each month and the sightings posted on facebook pages, eBird and this blogpost. To join the group contact to be placed on the eMail listing.  -- LJ
As reported to eBird our list included:
1 hour(s), 30 minute(s)
1.5 mile(s)
Stephen Ramirez
29 species total
Blanco Shoals February 19, 2016
2 Double-crested Cormorant
1 Great Egret
1 Turkey Vulture
1 Red-tailed Hawk
1 Eurasian Collared-Dove
2 White-winged Dove
5 Mourning Dove
3 Red-bellied Woodpecker
2 Ladder-backed Woodpecker
1 Downy Woodpecker
2 Blue Jay
1 American Crow
4 Barn Swallow
2 Black-crested Titmouse
1 Carolina Wren
2 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
5 Northern Mockingbird
8 European Starling
10 Cedar Waxwing
1 Orange-crowned Warbler
3 Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)
2 Song Sparrow
1 Lincoln's Sparrow
4 Northern Cardinal
15 Red-winged Blackbird
250 Common Grackle
5 Great-tailed Grackle
2 House Finch
7 American Goldfinch

Golden-Cheeked Warbler Nesting Season

Return of the Warblers 
Jonathan Scalise, City of Austin Balcones Canyon Preserve Biologist 
[Reprinted with permission:
Austin Water Utility is owned and operated by the City of Austin.]

Migration is an incredible evolutionary development that is performed by a multitude of different kinds of animals from salmon, crabs, locusts, ladybugs, and butterflies to bats, elk, whales, and birds. These migrations can span hundreds of miles, cover great elevation changes, or cross great bodies of water. Even monarch butterflies have been documented moving 80 miles in one day. Migration is an adaptation that allows animals access to prime food sources or breeding grounds. Around here, spring usually marks the start of the migration performed by migratory birds. Many species of birds that fly south for the winter for the warmer weather and better food supply make the trek back north this time of year to reach their breeding grounds. The Texas coast is a great place to witness fallout, an amazing aspect of avian migration.  Thousands of birds reach land after making the long flight across the Gulf of Mexico and it can seem like they are pouring from the sky to rest, recuperate, and refuel.

The Golden-cheeked Warbler is a species that overwinters in southern Mexico and northern Central America, where it lives in the forested mountain regions. In early March, male warblers begin arriving in Central Texas and choosing territories in forests of mature Ashe Juniper mixed with oak species. Amazingly, males often return to the precise territory they defended the prior year. They sing to let neighboring males know they are there and ready to defend their territory if necessary. Soon after, females begin arriving and pairing up with males. This annual migration event is timed with the seasonal increase of the local insect population. As each species of tree goes through its process of putting on new leaves, it becomes covered by insects that prefer the softer, immature leaves. Golden-cheeked warblers are insectivores and the staggered nature in which trees put on leaves in the spring ensures the warblers have plenty to eat during the metabolically demanding breeding season.

Just a couple of days after migrating back to central Texas and choosing a mate, female warblers choose a well hidden spot in a tree crotch or on a branch and get to work building their nest of strips of ashe juniper bark, spider webs, and feathers. They can finish their nest building in 5 days or less and then typically lay an egg per day for an average of 4 eggs. The baby warblers hatch 11 days later and 9 days after that are ready to leave the nest. By the time the young warblers are a month out of the nest they can essentially feed and fend for themselves (although they may still receive food from a parent) and will be soon ready to head south for their first time and continue the cycle of migration.

The City of Austin leads hikes to see the warblers each year,