Willow Waterhole Bird Survey
Next Survey: July 20 at 7 AM
Leader: Mary Ann Beauchemin, Senior Naturalist at the Nature Discovery Center. The Nature Discovery Center is partnering with Houston Audubon to conduct the Willow Waterhole survey.
American Kestrel at Willow Waterhole
Latest Report: June 15
We had a pretty nice bird survey last Saturday at Willow Waterhole. The highlights of the day showed up on the East side of Post Oak (the Prairie side) and include a Roseate Spoonbill, a Sora and a Northern Rough-winged Swallow. These last 2 species are considered "rare" for Willow Waterhole location, at least at this time of year.
I also wanted to mention for those of you who could not stay to help combine the count list for all 3 areas that I did extend the time of the count last Saturday longer than usual. It turns out that while walking back to our cars we ended up seeing 4 more species that had not been seen earlier! In order to include them, I extended the count time to 9:26 am. The additional species were the 2 Laughing Gulls, 3 American Crows, 1 Snowy Egret & 1 Neotropic Cormorant. Mark also spotted and shared with the remaining group 2 more Mississippi Kites circling above the pond just west of the car parking lot! Last of all, I promised people that I would include the official e-bird definitions for when to use juvenile or immature in e-bird reports, so here it is:
Juvenile vs Immature: When in doubt use 'Immature' for any bird that is not an adult. 'Juvenile' is more specific, describing a bird still in its juvenile plumage. This plumage is held only briefly for many songbirds (just a few weeks after leaving the nest) or up to a year for some larger birds like hawks. Once a bird has molted out of this plumage it is no longer a juvenile. If you can't determine this, but know that the bird isn't an adult, just use 'Immature'.
A very special thanks to David Crabtree, and Mark Meyer and Wes Browning who joined me in leading the individual survey area groups this morning. Many thanks to everyone else who was able to help with the survey this month: Bryant & Mae Boutwell, Melita Delgado, Gerry del Junco, Twilight Freeman, Michael Honel, Barbara Massey, Mary Elizabeth Newberry, Khanh Nguyen, Greg & Ju-Ling Poston, Dolores Peterson, Melinda Pumpelly, Ruth Roach, Anna & Tristan Sand, Barbara Stern, Katherine Swarts and Margaret Swarts.
Our next survey will be Sat, July 20, starting at 7 AM. I will be out of town, but Mark Meyer has once again agreed to lead the survey that morning. I hope some of you can help! -- Mary Ann Beauchemin
The Willow Waterhole Bird Survey was started in June 2007 and is held on the third Saturday of each month (but no survey in December). During the 2-hour count, the number of species identified can range from around 30 in summer to over 50 in the winter.
The survey begins in the parking lot of the Gathering Place at 5310 South Willow Drive. Our usual starting time is 8 AM, but we begin at 7 AM from April through September. We split up into three or four groups to cover the park thoroughly, and as of mid-2015, nearly 200 species had been reported to eBird. For a list of species reported to date, see eBird.
The Willow Waterhole Conservation Reserve is the site of an ongoing retention pond project of the Harris County Flood Control District. With excavation underway on the fourth of six ponds, the 290-acre park continues to be an excellent birding area within the City of Houston and just outside the southwest corner of Loop 610.
Birding Willow Waterhole
The major part of the Willow Waterhole reserve is on the west side of South Post Oak Road, and that is where three of the ponds are located (with two more to come). Good places to park for birding these ponds are on Ricecrest Street and on the Clematis Lane cul-de-sac off of Gasmer. Also, adjacent to the parking lot at the Gathering Place on South Willow is a short, woodland path to the unconcreted Willow Waterhole Bayou, which marks the northern boundary of the park. Another parking area is on the gravel road at the eastern end of Dryad Drive behind Westbury High School.
On the Willow Waterhole property east of South Post Oak Road, the fourth of the six ponds is being excavated. This is also where the endangered Texas Prairie Dawn flower (Hymenoxys texana) is located and where several species of sparrows have been seen each winter. Because the flower is an endangered species, the HCFCD is required by law to return much of the surrounding acreage back to coastal prairie, including removal of non-native vegetation. Access to this property is at the south end of Windwood Drive or along Gasmer.