I got to sit on the front porch for a few minutes this morning. Finally. And I got excellent news!
A familiar chirp told me to look up. And oh happy day, there were barn swallows scoping out the area. I love watching them swooping around and eating bugs. I don’t mind the two nests they rebuild every year, either. It’s our thanks for their services.
As I was looking for a swallow to take a photo of (failed), I saw another familiar friend, our loggerhead shrike. These guys take care of larger bugs for us and leave them impaled on barbed wire fences. I wrote a lot about them when I went on a field trip looking for them at last year’s Master Naturalist conference.
One reason I love porch sitting is the easy bird watching. I’ve seen a red-tailed hawk, black buzzards, mockingbirds, and of course, the field sparrows, too. I hear crows. I sure wish my laptop battery wasn’t dead, so I could do my work outside.
My time with the Master Naturalists ended on a high note with a post-conference outing to Old Settlers Park in Round Rock. The idea was to observe how a declining species, the loggerhead shrike, has adapted to using the park as a habitat, and is thriving.
Before the outing, I’d attended a session led by Jim Giocomo on “The Geography of Grassland Birds: How International Bird Conservation Efforts are Linked.” He talked about how agencies and Master Naturalists can help provide these birds with more appropriate habitat, track their locations, etc.
In that talk, he mentioned his own work with the loggerhead shrikes (the only songbird that is a predator), which conveniently nest right near his house and showed us some great footage of baby shrikes. In one film, the parent birds keep trying to stuff a dragonfly in the mouths of the babies, but it keeps getting stuck. It was hilarious.
Jim’s luck in finding birds to observe over entire breeding seasons has given him lots of insights, so it was really fun to go with him and fellow biologist Tania Homayoun out in the field to see what he sees.