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 reasons...one 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!
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!
Look at this crazy construction...the bench is lower than the windows, therefore literally blinding you from the ducks!
Here we saw a Red Shoulder Hawk, some Turkey Vultures and a Great Egret.
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 http://www.hornsbybend.org/
We only have a few classes of CAMN left, they just keep getting more interesting all the time!