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Bird Surveys

Rice University Bird Survey

Leaders: Cin-Ty Lee and Mark Kulstad

Bi-Weekly Census on Tuesday Mornings
Next survey tentatively scheduled for: July 9, 2019

We're conducting a biweekly census on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month. During migration periods, we may schedule more frequent counts. Meet at 7:00 AM in Intramural Field 6, which is between the Tudor Field House and Wiess College. Park in the Moody Center Visitor Lot, which is accessed from the entrance to campus at the intersection of University Blvd and Stockton St. From the Moody Center parking lot, walk east along the paved road past Reckling baseball park to the intramural area. We begin at Harris Gully. From there, we will make a circuit around campus and end at the café at the Brochstein Pavilion. 

If you'd like to participate in the survey, please contact: Cin-Ty Lee at ctlee@rice.edu to be put on the mailing list. Our posted schedule is tentative and subject to updates.

Latest Report: May 14, 2019

We conducted our official Rice-Houston Audubon bird survey today, May 14, 2019.  I was joined by Cassidy Johnson, Doris Heard, Carol Price, Janet Neath, Alan Mutt, Charles Fischer, Mark Kulstad, Chris Hysinger, Pedro Brandao, and Daniel Morrisett.  The spring migration of songbirds is near its end by mid-May. However, radar from last night and before dawn this morning still showed large numbers of migrants passing overhead. Skies were perfectly clear in terms of weather. Most of these birds are in a rush to get north so they do not usually stop in Houston unless we have a hard rain.  This morning, migrant numbers were low, but there were still a few migrants around, confirming that migration is still on, even this late in the season.  Beginning at Harris Gully, we had the usual Yellow-crowned and Black-crowned Night-Herons flying over as they go back and forth between their nesting sites at Rice (and neighborhood) and the bayou. Gulf Coast Toads and Squirrel Treefrogs were calling from the cattails.  A Cooper's Hawk made a surprise showing, chasing blue jays and mockingbirds unsuccessfully.  Our large mulberry tree is almost barren of fruits now, and this was the first day we did not see the Cedar Waxwings, so perhaps they have finally departed for their northerly breeding grounds. We searched the brushy areas for migrants, but did not find any except for our lingering catbird, which was still singing its head off, hoping to get a mate.  

Things got more exciting as we entered the oak grove just behind Huff House.  An Eastern Wood-Pewee called, a Great Crested Flycatcher flew overhead briefly, but the highlight again was our nesting Red-shouldered Hawks, now with three medium sized fledglings!  They are growing up fast and probably, within a week or so, they will be out of their nests, testing their wings for the first time.  Further searching of the oak grove produced a few of the typically late migrants we get here.  A couple of Swainson's Thrushes popped up into the trees, followed by an Acadian Flycatcher.  Our last bird was another empidonax, which stayed high in the canopy, eluding us continuously. We eventually got on the bird and it turned out to be a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.  Mid-May is the peak of flycatcher migration, even though many of the warblers have passed through already.
 
What is so special about going out into nature, even in an urban environment, is that every day is different.  The birds are still migrating, but each week brings a different set of birds.  And each week, a new set of flowers comes into bloom. Today, the first prairie clovers were in bloom. What will come next?  How fortunate we are to be able to experience these rhythms of life.

Until next time... look up, look down and listen to the trees.
Photos of today's outing are here:  https://downtoearthquestions.blogspot.com/
-- Cin-Ty Lee

228 species of birds have been recorded at Rice. It ranks as one of the top migrant traps in Harris County. At the right time of the year and with the right weather patterns, numerous migrating songbirds and sometimes migrating hawks and waders can be seen. For an urban environment, Rice stands out for the number of unusual birds that have shown up over the years. Oddities have included Wood Stork, Zone-tailed Hawk, Harris’s Hawk, Swallow-tailed Kite, American Woodcock, Virginia Rail, Vermilion Flycatcher, Western Kingbird, Calliope Hummingbird, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Rufous Hummingbird, Sprague’s Pipit, Bell’s Vireo, Cassin’s Vireo, Townsend’s Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Grasshopper Sparrow, LeConte’s Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow, Harris’s Sparrow, and Western Meadowlark.

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