I have been birding at San Angelo State Park for about ten years. I have seen highs and lows. The highs were in the years of 2007-2008. Then O. C. Fisher lake started drying up. Gone were a lot of the water loving birds, herons, ducks, etc. You could literally walk across the lake and not get your feet wet. Then there was a program where spraying was done to kill the mesquite. Those trees and shrubs started dying and losing foliage, which was cover for some birds. About that time, we had some welcome storms that brought water back into the lake. The water reached the levels of 2007. That was welcome as the water fowl started to return. But now with withering temperatures we had recently, the lake is slowly dropping again.
I am not saying that birding is bad, but the birds that once were plentiful have had their numbers decreasing. There was a time when we would always see large numbers of hawks, osprey, and other birds of prey. Now we rarely see a raptor. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any. It is just to show that they are scarce. In our searches we have discovered one Swainson’s Hawk, two Red-tailed Hawks, and until yesterday we knew of only one Great Horned Owl that was hangout near the Isabell Harte picnic area. That increased by one yesterday when I tell you of a nice experience we had.
Yesterday morning, Ann and I decided to got to the park early, to check out the bird blind. It had been recently damaged in a storm, but it was now open again to the public. We drove down the lane to the structure and turned into the little parking area. Lo and behold, sitting on the fence next to the blind and about ten feet from the door, was the Great Horned Owl, pictured above. We sat in the car, or what I call our mobile blind. I was able to get that shot and several others from there. I was only about 35 feet from the bird, and to get out of the car would probably spook it. We observed it for about 10 minutes, not wanting to disturb it. However, after a few minutes, a volunteer that puts birdseed in the feeders drove up. That spooked the owl and off he flew. but it was an amazing experience, to be that close.
We were at the blind for about an hour and we saw Painted Buntings, Northern Bobwhite, Northern Cardinals, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Curve-billed Thrasher, Bell’s Vireo, Bewick’s Wren, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, (pictured above) and the usual doves, sparrows, etc.
After leaving the blind, we took a drive all through the park, seeking birds that don’t frequent the blind. Here are a few photos from those drives during the past couple of weeks.
Of course, I have so others that I haven’t processed yet, and some others that are just throw-aways. But we saw around 40-45 species in the past couple of weeks. Others that deserve mentions are Common Nighthawks, Western Kingbirds, Scissor-tailed Flycatachers, Black-throated Sparrows, Green Heron, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Greater Roadrunner, Wild Turkey, Pyrrhuloxia, Canyon Towhee, Bullock’s Oriole, plus the various doves and sparrows.
Looking back at what I have written, I suppose that I may have painted a bleak picture of the birding. But then I realized that most of the birds are here, just not in large numbers, such as the raptors. You just have to look a bit harder to see them. But, isn’t that the fun of the hunt????
So, I believe the birding at San Angelo State Park, is alive and well.
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