Much to learn and observe -- BioBlitz

Annie Wagner's drawing of the Least Grebe
   We had excellent hike leaders ready to impart a wealth of knowledge to curious minds. David and Ann Wormer led the birding hike along Tex's Trail and through the Berms. The list of birds they observed or heard is impressive.  Also impressive was Annie's drawing of the Least Grebe, one of a pair floating peacefully on the pond.
  Mosquitoes were not the anticipated problem and the only rain was a brief shower at the start of the 9 a.m. event.
   Minnette Marr led the plant walk as the youngsters recorded their observations on iNaturalist and took photos. Mostly of wildflowers but many other discoveries including a goodly number of insects and even a frog or two.
   There was no reason to get hungry as Adam Salcedo led the edible plant walk and talked about the many tasty plants growing along the path. Some hikers indulged in taking a taste.
  The birding list is below and recorded on eBird, checklist S29831595.
  The iNaturalist observations were recorded under the Texas Geo Project.
  The morning event left time for everyone to continue their journey or head out for weekend chores.
-- LJ (Photos on our Facebook page)

Bird Observations
Ringtail Ridge, Hays, Texas, US
May 21, 2016 8:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Protocol: Traveling
2.5 mile(s)
Comments:     Bio blitz for San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance
44 species (+1 other taxa)
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  2
Least Grebe  2     2 adult birds located within a little pond known on the 
map as "Blood Pit"  Seen well through a scope by all individuals. 
Initially spotted by a 10 year old girl on my walk named Annie, as," 
there are two small birds on the water"! Put digital camera on scope and
took some pictures that are identifiable but not beautiful! Waiting for
them to be e-mailed to me.The kids loved seeing the small size and 
yellow eyes!!
Great Egret  2     Flew over
Green Heron  3
Black Vulture  X
Turkey Vulture  X
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  1     Flew over
White-winged Dove  X
Mourning Dove  X
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  2
Chimney Swift  4
Black-chinned Hummingbird  2
Crested Caracara  1
Empidonax sp.  1     Seen very briefly. Had white eye ring and wing bars and that is all the detail that could be seen
Eastern Phoebe  X
Ash-throated Flycatcher  2
Western Kingbird  3
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher  4
White-eyed Vireo  3
American Crow  2
Common Raven  2
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  X
Purple Martin  X
Barn Swallow  X
Cliff Swallow  X
Cave Swallow  X
Carolina Chickadee  X
Black-crested Titmouse  X
Verdin  2     Calling
Carolina Wren  X
Bewick's Wren  X
Northern Mockingbird  X
European Starling  X
Cedar Waxwing  14
Mourning Warbler  1     heard only one but could not see him
Yellow Warbler  1     beautiful singing male seen by all the kids
Summer Tanager  X
Northern Cardinal  X
Painted Bunting  X     several singing males, one of them a "first year" male
Great-tailed Grackle  X
Brown-headed Cowbird  X
House Finch  X
Lesser Goldfinch  X
House Sparrow  X     from nearby apartment complex

BioBlitz at Ringtail Ridge this Saturday morning

   The sun will be shining and the mosquitoes will be dining but come outside and learn what is growing in the natural area at Ringtail Ridge, 1814 Old Ranch Road 12 (between Dakota Ranch Apartments and Crestwood Shopping Center).
  A bioblitz is a survey of all the living things within an area. It usually involves the public, especially school-age children, to discover the biodiversity within a natural area.
  The rain is forecast to take a break and allow exploration of the trails. Minnette Marr, a local botanist, is leading a plant walk identifying the wildflowers, grasses, and trees found in the 45-acre natural area. Birding walks lead by master naturalists, David and Ann Wormer, will identify all the usual suspects; mockingbirds, wrens, cardinals, but also the possibility of
painted buntings and aquatic birds finding three different water sources. A highlight of the guided walks is Adam Salcedo who will identify edible plants found locally.
    Saturday's schedule is bird and plant walks at 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. and the edible plant walk at 9:30 a.m.
Vincent DeBock led a tree hike at Commons Ford in April.
   Other activities include finding out who makes our trail maps and what goes into the final product. Katie Steele with the City of San Marcos, GIS Department, will be on hand to answer those questions.
   Texas State University (Geography Department) will host several kids activities and trail crew members with the Greenbelt Alliance will assist visitors. Other sponsors include the City of San Marcos and the Hays County Master Naturalists.
  Visit the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance facebook page for any last-minute cancellations (in case the weatherman gets it wrong). We're counting on good weather but like we said at the beginning, be prepared for hungry mosquitoes with appropriate clothing and spray. There's additional information on a story map Also recommended is downloading the free application, iNaturalist and add the "Texas Geo Project" to enter and track your observations.
-- LJ


Birding at Spring Lake

The morning was cool and the air was raucous with the sounds of birds in the surrounding trees. Swallows were feasting on all the bugs that were in the air over the lake in front of the Meadows Center. Warblers, Kingbirds, Mockingbirds, Cardinals and more flew from pecan tree to cypress and oak.
Stephen identifies the feeding swallows as they feast on bugs.
A highlight was the sighting of the Bay-brested Warbler and Yellow-billed Cuckoos. Two other favorite sightings were the colorful Wood Duck on a log in the lake and a Great Kiskadee in the tree far across the lake. Easily spotted in the morning sun with a vibrant yellow breast.
Birders numbered 16 at one point and travelled only from the parking lot to the still-closed boardwalk as there was so much to see in the short distance. Wildflowers were in abundance as the restoration project has really blossomed (pun intended).
Stephen Ramirez ably led the hike which concluded in under 90 minutes although some birders struck out on their own for more sightings.  --LJ

30 species (+1 other taxa) total
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
Wood Duck
Pied-billed Grebe
Green Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Black Vulture
Red-shouldered Hawk
Mourning Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Chimney Swift
hummingbird sp.
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Great Kiskadee
Western Kingbird
Blue-headed Vireo
Barn Swallow
Cave Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Carolina Wren
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Northern Parula
Bay-breasted Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Summer Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Great-tailed Grackle
Orchard Oriole
House Finch
House Sparrow