Friday, March 27, 2009

CAMN at Hornsby Bend

It was a blustery day at Hornsby Bend, which isn't supposed to be good birdwatching weather but it was the first time for me, and it seemed fine. It helps that Hornsby Bend is the best place in the country to see birds for a few it's the central flyway for bird migration and is on the edge of an ecosystem and two, the poop...which draws insects, which birds love to eat. For those of you not from around Austin, Hornsby Bend is where ALL of the one million gallons of sludge, and yard waste in Austin go to be converted into a product known as "Dillo Dirt" via composting. The facility is huge...there are 3 giant ponds filled with birds, and not just flycatchers...but everything!

Pipevine Swallowtail on Redbud Blossoms

The first birds we learned about are the Purple Martins. There is a colony of 48 houses that need weekly care, which takes about an hour. The Martins are endangered and you can help support the PMCA, Purple Martin Conservation Association by purchasing housing and various items to help care for and attract Martins.
Julia and Andy Balinksy, Capital Area Master Naturalists who care for the birds took the time to explain a little about the nesting requirements, pests and responsibility involved.

The standard gourd shaped colony

There were several Purple Martins flying around. They scavenge flying insects and do not feast primarily on mosquito's, as touted by many manufacturers of the popular houses.

Carol, on the left is our CAMN bird expert from our class, and on the right is our gung-ho birding teacher for the day Kathy McCormick...check out those duds!

We listened to a brief talk on the how to's of birding, and and some general information about flycatchers, vireos and warblers before heading out to pond#2. Kathy pointed out several species and I was amazed at how much fun it was. I had always wondered what the draw could be, and for me it is learning about the character of the birds...this made everything they did come alive!

The Duck Blind.

Look at this crazy construction...the bench is lower than the windows, therefore literally blinding you from the ducks!

The view from inside...the Yucca were blooming and covered with insects!

A Chimney Swift home. In my neighborhood we have a watch at the local elementary school, Brentwood. The Chimney Swifts have been coming for over 50 years and it's a wonderful opportunity to meet your neighbors!

Tiger Swallowtail on Redbud Blossoms

Here's our group heading out for a short hike, the best part of each CAMN class as far as I'm concerned...too much butt to chair puts the mind to sleep.

We were looking for owls and woodpecker holes in this grand, dead, old tree. Not removing dead wood is essential to bird habitats.
A slow spot on the Bend.

Here we saw a Red Shoulder Hawk, some Turkey Vultures and a Great Egret.

The thicket was a weekend volunteer project.
Mustang grape! Yum, I've got some growing in my yard...if it's a rainy year we'll have jam!
This place was spooky! It's one of the holding ponds, and strangely the place doesn't smell.

Duckweed, up close. The smallest blooming plant which remove phosphates, nitrogen and especially ammonia from water. Duckweed is found all over the world off fast moving rivers and can be transplanted by birds going from pond to pond.

What ever ate this salad, didn't chew 30 times. tsk-tsk.
Coyote who dined on bunny.
Coyote that dined on deer. Hungry coyote.

The yucca almost don't look real they are so waxy and perfect!
Northern Shovelers, Green, Blue and Cinnamon Teal and some American Coots.
After our outing we were treated to a few hours of Kevin Anderson talking about Urban Ecology, Sustainability and the history of Hornsby Bend. We also collected tons of information on birding in Texas, compliments of the Travis Audubon Society and walked away thoroughly enthusiastic about learning bird calls and coming back for the annual Christmas Day Bird Count which covers a 10 mile area around the Bend.

Hornsby Bend has won several awards for it's sustainability efforts and we are the only city in America to compost all it's sludge! There are several volunteer opportunities and bird watching events for adults and teens, Austin Youth River Watch is a high school program that's been going on since '92 and the bird survey happens on the second Saturday of each month at 7am, beginners welcome, you'll be paired with an expert. The third Saturday is a Bird Walk, 7:30-11am and is open to the public as well.

If your interested in learning more check out their website

We only have a few classes of CAMN left, they just keep getting more interesting all the time!


Pam/Digging said...

I've been out there on a school field trip. Fascinating place, and I didn't even realize Austin is the only city that composts all its own sludge. Icky as that sounds.

Bob said...

What a great post and with great pictures as well.

Kathy is in my NPSOT chapter here in Williamson Co. She really knows her stuff about birds and also a lot about native plants, and I do mean a lot.

ConsciousGardener said...

Yea, Horsby Bend is amazing...Pam, we saw Kevin speak at the GG class, he is the fellow with the PHd in Georgraphy and Philosophy...super entertaining, he's the force behind most of everything that goes on out there!

Kathy is great! Bob, are you a Master Naturalist?