What to watch for in November – Birds Hitching Rides on Cold Fronts
Here’s the Central Texas bird forecast for the month, courtesy of Travis Audubon. Learn more about Central Texas birds and bird-related events for all ages at travisaudubon.org or by calling 512-300-BIRD. Follow us at www.facebook.com/travisaudubon
Cold fronts mean the arrival of our winter birds, including that little dynamo the Ruby-crowned Kinglet, its cousin the Golden-crowned Kinglet, and ducks of all sorts. Listen for the haunting calls of Sandhill Cranes as they fly high overhead, with many heading to the coastal prairies.
Ruby-crowned Kinglets are tiny songbirds that constantly flick their wings. They’re a rather drab olive color, with two white stripes on their wings and a white ring around their eyes that gives them a big-eyed expression. The male has a red crown, but he displays it only rarely. They spend their summers in the Northwest and Canada and they winter throughout the South, up the Eastern Seaboard and down into Mexico. Here in Texas their long, bubbly and very loud summer songs are replaced with a staccato “di dit,” “che dit” or an extended series of “chet chet chet,” which sounds like miniature machine guns.
These “micro” birds are frequently seen and heard in Austin’s wooded greenbelts. They can often be observed without binoculars since they spend most of their time foraging in the low to mid-story eating spiders and bugs off of foliage. They will occasionally eat berries, like those of American beautyberry and native lantana. You may see them come to your suet feeder during very cold weather. (Suet should only be offered in the cold months to prevent it from going rancid.)
The Golden-crowned Kinglets’s gold cap is always visible on both the male and female. They are less numerous than Ruby-crowned in Austin’s greenbelts. Compared to Ruby-crowned, the Golden-crowned Kinglets forage a little higher in the canopy, are pale gray on the belly, and instead of a white eye ring, they have a white eyebrow. Their call is a sibilant high, thin “seee.” These remarkably sturdy birds can survive temperatures of minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit so they are able to winter over much of the continental U.S.
Bird Watcher’s To Do List for November
If we have cooler days and cold nights, the birds need more energy than ever. Stock up those feeders. Black-oil Sunflower Seed is the best single food you can offer. Feeding birds comes with several responsibilities though. Prevent seed from getting moldy, ensure that the birds don’t become easy pickings for cats, minimize the possibility of bird collisions with windows and keep the feeders clean. Cornell Lab’s Project Feeder Watch has bird feeding tips.
It is important to keep in mind that many birds don’t visit feeders at all. Fall is a good time to plant bird-friendly trees and shrubs for them. Travis Audubon has recommendations for central Texas gardeners.
Be a lazy gardener and resist the urge to cut your plants back quite yet. Seed heads will keep your goldfinches happy, and stems and leaves can provide shelter for insects that chickadees and kinglets will enjoy.
Travis Audubon Monthly Meeting Join us for the November 16 meeting featuring Jim and Lynne Weber. They are Texas Master Naturalists with a love for Big Bend, reflected in their book “Nature Watch Big Bend: A Seasonal Guide.” 7:00 p.m. Hyde Park Christian Church 610 E. 45th St. Austin, TX 78751
Travis Audubon Field Trips — Beginners welcome. Check the Travis Audubon website for field trips and details.
A great way to learn more about our central Texas birds is to go on a free field trip. While most take place on the weekends, Travis Audubon has Tuesday field trips too. Selected events are shown below. Fall is a wonderful time to enjoy Austin’s birds. While some field trips require registration the ones listed below do not.
Wells Branch Bird Walks November 13 and 18, 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. 15108 Wells Port Dr. Austin, TX 78728. This is an excellent location for birders of all levels of expertise. The walking is easy on wide granite or paved trails. A small pond attracts ducks and occasional herons and egrets and there is a bird blind.
Super Tuesday at Barkley Meadows November 14, 7:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. A fairly new Travis County park known for attracting lots of ducks, meadowlarks and an occasional Anhinga.
Hornsby Bend Monthly Bird Walk November 18, 7:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. 2210 FM973, Austin, TX 78725. Visit the premier birding site in Austin, on the grounds of Austin’s solid waste treatment plant. There should be an American Kestrel on the powerline.
Old Settler’s Park Round Rock November 21, 7:30 – 9:30 a.m. The lake attracts wintering ducks and there is a riparian area that attracts songbirds.
Compiled by Jane Tillman, Travis Audubon Volunteer