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On May 1st just after lunch, my friends and I decided to venture out to the realms of Wall Doxey State Park with hopes that the dissipating rain clouds and the bluing of the sky would make for a memorable hike around the lake--and that, it was. From the start of the hike around the lake, the birds were noticeably more active than in the past couple of days. Common birds were immediately heard by their calls, including TUFTED TITMOUSE, NORTHERN PARULA, RED-EYED VIREO, NORTHERN CARDINAL, and BLUE-GREY GNATCATCHERS. Just around the lake's edge when walking around clockwise from the parking lot, one could distinctly hear a LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH, which is the same location where I had first seen it rather than just hear its call. As we made our way into the wooded area, we found an assortment of fungi that we could not identify (but took pictures to ask Dr. H later), salamanders under logs, frogs and toads hopping from puddles, a mothering beaver, and even a pair of turtles in the bout of a courtship ritual. After all of these great finds, we continued onward with our birding, where we came across a couple SUMMER TANAGERS, a hammering RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER, followed by its family member--PILEATED WOODPECKER. It was a great day enjoying nature's pleasantry before the busy weeks ahead near the end of school. From this trip, I do want to emphasize to everybody to heed the dangers of ticks because I was bitten by a tick that transmitted the symptomatic rash of a Lyme-like disease.
Other species seen:
-EASTERN WOOD PEEWEE
Photos of the trip can be seen with the following links:
Meghan McNeill & Adam Smith
April 30, 2016
Early Saturday morning a few of us from Dr. Hoeksema’s ornithology course had the pleasure of birding with David Sibley. Mr. Sibley is one of the most prestigious ornithologists as well as artists in the United States. He is known for his phenomenal birding field guides. My fellow classmate Adam Smith and myself were in the 8:30 group to bird at Rowan Oak for an hour. Fortunately, we were able to avoid the rain for the majority of the trip, but the birding was slow due to the inclement weather making way.
Although the birding was slow, Mr. Sibley’s plethora of knowledge was exciting. He was informative on bird psychology, and educated us on some new birding facts that we had never heard before. For example, he was able to begin to form a possible explanation for the “confused” AMERICAN ROBIN who resides in the Rowan Oak area that has a half AMERICAN ROBIN-half- CAROLINA WREN song. Mr. Sibley said it is possible the Robin had learned the call during its juvenile years in the nest, if the nest was nearby a CAROLINA WREN’s nest.
It was a pleasure to bird with fellow Mississippi birders from around the state in our home stomping grounds. Other notable birds we observed were SUMMER TANAGERS, ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAKS, and many CEDAR WAXWINGS. If you would like to view our list of birds identified by sight and sound, you can follow our link to the eBird checklist.
Saturday morning, April 30, I went out to the Clear Creek Recreation area at Sardis to go on a short birding expedition. To my surprise I immediately observed five WILLET's congregated on the shore at the boat launch. WILLET's are not common in Lafayette county, but can be observed on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. To be honest with you, I was unable to identify the exact species and had to be assisted by bird expert, Dr. Hoeksema, my Ornithology professor. Luckily, I was able to snap a few (poor quality) pictures of the shorebirds before they flew off.
Other than the shorebirds, I also observed PURPLE MARTIN's in the provided bird houses at the boat launch, and of course some CHIMNEY SWIFTs gliding overhead. While driving, I observed a few other bird species, which among those already mentioned, you can check out on my eBird link provided below. http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S29301704
This morning Dr. Hoeksema escorted fifteen members of our Ornithology class to Rowan Oak for a birding walk. We arrived at Rowan Oak around 7:45 am and departed around 10:15 am. It was a sunny pleasant morning. We began in the west lawn which was brimming with birds. Here we saw several ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAKS and SUMMER TANAGERS. We were lucky enough to have a BROAD-WINGED HAWK fly in and perch in a leafless tree nearby, surveying the area and doing some preening. She hung around for quite a while so we were able to get an excellent look.
We also got a good look and listen at a few GRAY CATBIRDS hanging about. As we ventured around the property, we noticed a baby rabbit sitting in the leaves under a tree only about five feet away from us. She seemed very calm and allowed us to get close for a good look at her adorableness. Soon after, we came across a turtle on the lawn who was not very excited about being picked up and examined. She zoomed away at top turtle speed as soon as we set her down. We continued our walk into Bailey’s Woods to search for warblers which were fairly plentiful. There were many birds moving about high up in the canopies so it was a little tricky to get a bird in the binoculars. We had a decent look at a few AMERICAN REDSTARTS and further into the woods we heard and got glimpses of BLACK & WHITE WARBLER, BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER, TENNESSEE WARBLER, and CHESNUT-SIDED WARBLER. We also noticed two COOPER’S HAWKS some distance away. As we were crossing the bridge by the creek, we got a great look at a YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO hopping around in a tree. Overall, it was a successful trip with great looks at grosbeaks, tanagers, catbirds, and a cuckoo and a truly incredible look at the broad-winged hawk.
Here is the e-Bird checklist for this morning:
Once a week our ornithology class visits Rowan Oak and Bailey’s Woods, a small patch of forest in the center of Oxford. On Thursday, April 21, the weather was dreary, but we all loaded up into the vans for the short drive across town, hoping that the blanket of clouds might dissipate rather than darken. When we arrived at Rowan Oak, the class stood around the vans listening for what birds were most immediately identifiable. There were RED-EYED VIREOS and BLUE-GRAY GNATCHERS, some CHIMNEY SWIFTS twittering overhead, NORTHERN CARDINALS and BROWN-HEADED COWBIRDS.
As everyone keyed in on the most common calls, we set out walking around the property. The lighting was poor, which made it challenging to identify birds in the tops of trees, against the backdrop of white sky. So we practiced listening and scanning for birds against the green of dense foliage along the forest edge and in its understory. One of our classmates was awarded a prize for identifying a species that the class had not before seen: an ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER perched among a messy tangle of vines.
After having all gotten a look at a male SCARLET TANAGER, a WOOD THRUSH, and a small group of TENNESSEE WARBLERS, we began our walk into the woods from the open lawn. Pausing atop a gully’s edge we listened for a BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER, but we never sited the bird. However, in searching for the warbler, we came very near a male ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK foraging in a slender tree.
The highlight of the trip, however, was on the latter portion of the trail. From our place on top of a high ridge, the class got a great (though brief) look at a BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER. Then, it was mostly more of the same species we see and hear each week: the CAROLINA WREN, the LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH, etc.
As it began raining, we started back toward the trail’s entrance, but not before Dr. H pointed out a large orange fungus twenty feet from the path. PALE CHICKEN OF THE WOODS is what he called it. As he picked a handful, he told the class that this was one of the several local species of edible fungi, best served fried. Several of us took his word and picked our own pocketfuls to try.
The walk back was far less eventful than the walk in, likely because we were all eager to get out of the rain. Once we reached the trail’s entrance, Dr. H suggested breakfast at Bottletree Bakery, so we ended our morning of birding with pastries and hot coffee.
Here is the eBird checklist for that morning: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S29097972
April 12, 2016
What a great day for birding!
We departed this morning around 7:30 on two vans, Sardis bound! After turning off of hwy 6 onto the road which would eventually turn into the dam, we found ourselves stopping briefly to exchange walkie talkies in order to alert the other half of the group if anything was spotted- that's when I knew it was getting serious!
We were then greeted by a kind and bright old gentleman who stopped to check on us. He said his grandson was also with the biology department today and wanted to see if he were with us and if everything was okay; Dr. Hoeksema reassured the man, and we were on our way. This interesting interaction led to Dr. H explaining the phenomenon I've now come to call “Lemme show you these eagles!” In which a birder, while birding, comes in contact with a non-professional (fisherman, hunter, someone just enjoying the outdoors) who knows of a MAGICAL eagles nest that they just absolutely must show the birder, while also teaching said birder anything they may not already know about Eagles. Dr. H was sure we were about to experience this phenomenon, alas we escaped before learning of any Eagles nearby.
As we came to cross the dam, we began to get a great look at many different species (http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S28923646) We saw tons of American White Pelican, a first of the year for me, as well as two juvenile bald eagles! We rounded down the dam collecting a few more species before heading over to the trail walk parking lot.
Upon parking and exiting the vans at Clear Springs Nature Trail we heard a plethora of birds singing and calling, almost an overwhelming event, but after tuning our ears we started picking out a few targets: Louisiana water thrush, both downy and red headed woodpecker, as well as a few warblers. After collecting ourselves and planning the walk for a moment, we were off!
The boardwalk led us past the initial barrier of trees into a clear opening of swamp that allowed us to see quite a few species. Some new birds identified were the Indigo Bunting, Hooded Warbler, and the White-eyed Vireo. The whole area of Boardwalk that encompassed this beautiful swampy lagoon could not have provided a better habitat for a diversity of birds. The red headed woodpeckers specifically loved the tall bare Cyprus trees, and there was no shortage of warblers to be seen or heard! It was a beautiful sight and provided the class ample opportunities to practice identifying species. A complete list can be seen here: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S28923737
After our walk through the nature trail, which was across the street from the boardwalk and presented several great looks at similar species, we headed back to the vans and made our way to the lower lake area of Sardis. A small island of sand near the center of the lower lake provided an area for several species we were able to identify including Forster’s Terns, Ring-billed Gulls, American White Pelicans, and one Cattle Egret! These species and others that were identified can be found here: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S28923740
Cynthia Harris & Thomas Moorman
4/14/16, from 7:40AM until 10:25AM
Rowan Oak & Sparky's Garden
Sharp-shinned Hawk Yellow-rumped Warbler
Chimney Swift White-throated Sparrow
Ruby-throated Hummingbird Summer Tanager
Red-bellied Woodpecker Northern Cardinal
White-eyed Vireo Indigo Bunting
Red-eyed Vireo Brown-headed Cowbird
Blue Jay House Finch
Tufted Titmouse Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Carolina Wren Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
American Robin Cedar Waxwing
Louisiana Waterthrush Northern Parula
Above: Our group looking at a Summer Tanager at Rowan Oak.
After a morning of mostly identification by ear at Rowan Oak, we loaded up into the vans and drove over to what we now like to call Sparky’s Garden. Sparky’s Garden, which we planted on this day, is a hill crest now planted with native species, such as dogwoods (Cornus sp.), Viburnum, Oak-leaf Hydrangea, and Pawpaws amongst others. The hope is to show that native plants can be beautiful when used in landscaping, as to encourage more people to consider using them, instead of foreign ornamentals which are largely ignored by insects, and thus, down the line, don't contribute to the well-being of our native species. Most of our class began the planting process, while myself (being Thomas Moorman) and a few others broke off from the main group for about 15 minutes to create the location’s first bird list. Across the skinny road from where we were planting is a lovely, dense, older growth forest area, from which we heard a number of different species, including a White-eyed Viero, some Blue Jays, and a Red-Bellied Woodpecker. In the immediate vicinity of the garden we found the expected species: White-throated Sparrows, American Robins, a Carolina Chickadee, and a pair of Tufted Titmice amongst others. After we created the list, my team joined the planters. I planted some native hydrangeas, and we finished by mulching with pine straw. Here’s to the health of those plants, that they might flourish and grow beautiful to the common observer, that they might usher in a new age of native plant landscaping here in Oxford, Mississippi.
This is the full list of encountered species:
Red-bellied Woodpecker Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
White-eyed Viero American Robin
Blue Jay Northern Parula
American Crow White-throated Sparrow
Carolina Chickadee Northern Cardinal
Tufted Titmouse Brown-headed Cowbird
Also, we found a Fowler's Toad. It was very cute.
Onward to the next adventure,
Cynthia Harris and Thomas Moorman
On Thursday, April 7, our ornithology class experienced the first of many birding expeditions to come. Our grand commencement began at the grounds of Rowan Oak and Bailey’s Woods. It was a bright yet chilly day, succeeding a day with a significant amount of rainfall. Birding began at 7:45 am and continued for another two and a half hours. From start to end, there were chirps, fluttering, and the incessant Brown Thrasher. While the earlier start to the day made for tired bodies and droopy eyes, the twenty-nine specimens roused our spirits for what will hopefully be a memorable end to this avian-filled semester.
YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (MYRTLE)
A Photo of the trip can be seen with the hyperlink.