Keeping Bexar Audubon Society members informed of activities, issues, policies, and proposals
that affect us all is important to us. We’ll post articles to ensure you’re up to date and
aware of the latest conservation news, projects, and research, as well as offering suggestions on ways you can help, including taking action in your own backyard.
“If you really think the environment is less important than economy, try holding your breath while you count your money.” [by Dr. Guy McPherson, environmental, health and industry activist]
Coalition for Sustainable Rookeries in Bexar County Seeks to Develop Workable Strategies
The Coalition for Sustainable Urban Rookeries is a group of science-based organizations that seek to develop community-inclusive strategies to address the urban-avian conflicts in Bexar County.
Urban bird rookeries are colonies of birds that gather in large groups during nesting season. These birds include colonial waterbirds like gulls, terns, cormorants, pelicans, herons, egrets, and ibises.
The urban-avian conflict in Brackenridge Park involving a Cattle Egret rookery has negatively impacted water quality in the San Antonio River, caused the closure of playgrounds and structures, created areas unusable by guests/staff due to feces, and threatened endangered species cared for by the San Antonio Zoo.
It is important to develop sustainable urban rookery management plans to balance the well-being and habitat availability of local wildlife populations, our river's water quality, and the community's public health and quality of life.
The long-term goal of the Coalition for Sustainable Urban Rookeries is to develop science-based solutions and community-inclusive strategies to address urban-avian conflicts in Bexar County. Read more.
Proposed Strategy in a Nutshell
Objective: Draw colonial nesting wading birds away from urban parks or neighborhoods by creating multiple attractive rookery environments far from urban centers, airports, etc. Creating multiple sites increases probability of success.
What the colonial nesting wading birds want: These birds are looking for a space safe from predators with a food source nearby and structures in which to build their nests. Food source is primarily aquatic: fish, crustaceans, amphibians. In particular, the birds are attracted to small islands since the surrounding water inhibits most predators. The water shoreline needs to be relatively shallow to allow foraging with a gentle slope to deeper water.
Strategy: Find ponds or lakes with desired shoreline and water year-round. Simulate islands by using artificial nesting structures (ANS) in the deeper part of the lake. Number of ANS is tied to size of lake and used to indirectly manage rookery size. So a large lake may have 10-15 structures with six platforms each, while a small lake may have five structures with four platforms each. The birds will prefer the ANS to trees because they are surrounded by water.
The member organizations of the Coalition for Sustainable Urban Rookeries are Audubon Texas, San Antonio Zoo, The Nature Conservancy in Texas, Bexar Audubon Society, and San Antonio River Authority.
Do You Have a Purple Martin House in Need of Rehab?
Did you know that east of the Rocky Mountains, Purple Martins depend 100% on human-supplied housing? It's important to keep Purple Martin houses in good condition for Purple Martins to use when they return to Texas for nesting in February. Otherwise, invasive species such as House Sparrows and European Starlings will use them. Bexar Audubon Society would like you to email us at [email protected] with your contact info and a photo (if possible) of the Purple Martin house you'd like to donate for rehabilitation. Click here for a flyer about how to be a successful Purple Martin landlord.
Join and Support the Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Take Advantage of the Great Learning Opportunities Offered
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers a variety of online courses to help you with bird ID, gardening for birds, photography, learning to draw and paint pictures of birds, and more. Check out the courses offered here.
Opinion: A woodpecker is officially declared extinct. Why should we care?
Opinion Piece by Bruce Beehler. Published in the Washington Post: October 1, 2021
Bruce Beehler is a local naturalist and author of 12 books, including “Natural Encounters” and “Birds of Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia.”
On April 28, 2005, conservationists and government officials held a press conference that made headlines across the world. Their bombshell announcement: the ivory-billed woodpecker, long thought extinct, had been rediscovered in bottomland forest in Arkansas. The bird had last been seen in 1944. Here was an example of the phoenix-like rebirth of a “lost” species—an icon of the great old-growth forests of the Deep South and a species that had charmed the imaginations of great American naturalists from John James Audubon to Roger Tory Peterson. There are very few natural history stories over the last century that equal this one for the excitement, joy, and amazement it generated.
Now, fifteen years later, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) has issued another announcement, formally declaring the ivory-billed woodpecker to be extinct. Most of those in the know will not be surprised, though the finality of the story is causing sadness. Read the rest of the article here.
Speak Up for Texas Wildlife!
The bipartisan Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is gaining attention in the U.S. Senate and building momentum. We need ALL TEXANS to help our fish and wildlife by contacting our U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz to ask that they cosponsor the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, S.2372 (see contact info and sample message below).
Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would be a game changer for Texas’ at-risk fish and wildlife and their habitats. You can learn more by watching this video or visiting this website. In addition, please read the following:
Decline of North American Avifauna. Rosenberg et al. 2019. Science 365(6461)
Direct Mortality of Birds from Anthropogenic Causes. Loss, Will, Marra. 2015. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics Vol. 46:99-120.
Three Billion Birds Report: Cornell Lab of Ornithology
3 Billion Birds Gone: American Bird Conservancy
Phone calls and messages from Texans to our Senators would go a long way to encourage their support for protecting fish and wildlife.
Senator John Cornyn:
Call D.C. Office: 202-224-2934
Send a message through his website.
Senator Ted Cruz
Call D.C. Office: 202-224-5922
Send a message through his website.
Sample message/call script:
As a Texas constituent, I would like to ask that Senator _______ please vote yes for the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, S.2372. This bipartisan legislation is a common-sense conservation approach that is good for fish and wildlife, good for business, good for working lands, and good for Texans. Thank you!
New Conservation License Plate
A new conservation license plate designed by Houston Audubon and sponsored by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is now available. The new plate is dedicated to protecting birds and their habitat and features an Eastern Meadowlark, an iconic prairie species commonly found throughout Texas. This species was chosen because it is in need of conservation action and the habitat is one that Houston Audubon is deeply committed to restoring. For each license plate, $22 of the annual $30 fee will be used toward Houston Audubon’s bird conservation efforts. For more information and to order, visit the Conservation License Plate page on Houston Audubon’s website.
Click here for a list of products that can help you reduce the use of plastic in your everyday life.
From retailers that ship all over the nation to local butchers and shops, here is a guide to the ranches and retailers that sell products raised on Audubon-certified bird-friendly land.
Keep your cat safely enclosed in an outdoor space while protecting birds and other wildlife. Catio Spaces offers DIY plans for building any one of a variety of cat patio (catio) designs. Use the promo code BirdsRus at checkout and BAS will receive a 10% donation.
Bird netting, which is commonly used in gardens to keep birds and other wildlife from getting to your fruits and veggies, can also be dangerous to animals. Watch this brief video to find out why you should not use netting in your garden. Alternatives are shown that are safer and less likely to harm wildlife that may get tangled in netting.
Changes in SA Materials Accepted for Recycling
The City of San Antonio has updated their website to show you what's acceptable for recycling in the way of paper, plastic, metal, and glass. The San Antonio Report offers an in-depth article about recycling locally and elsewhere.
The American Birding Podcast brings together staff and friends of the American Birding Association to discuss birds, birding, travel, and conservation in North America and beyond.
Join host Nate Swick every Thursday for news and happenings, recent rarities, guests from around the birding world, and features of interest to every birder.
Much of Texas has little data about the bird species present because 95% of the state is private land. Birding with a Purpose is a Bexar Audubon program to provide structured, repeatable bird surveys to large acreage private landowners to raise awareness, initiate dialog about the potential of their land to contribute to the betterment of birds, and discuss how to manage their land for bird habitat.
All survey data is submitted to Cornell Labs of Ornithology via eBird. Cornell data scientists are doing ground breaking research with eBird data to produce color-coded maps showing relative abundance by species and geography. Providing high quality survey data with multiple surveys per year on land that typically is not birded is of tremendous scientific value.
Please sign up if you'd like to participate in one of our upcoming surveys.
Creech Prairie: Friday, April 7 | 8:00 to 10:00 AM
This 88-acre prairie site near Floresville needs 6 people to survey. To get to the Creech property, enter this address into Google Maps or similar navigation programs: 1467 County Road 401, Floresville, TX 78114. Look for the big blue barn near the road to confirm you are at the right place. Please sign up here.
Schmidt Ranch: Saturday, April 15 | 8:00 to 11:00 AM
Help conduct a bird survey on this 300-acre ranch near Pipe Creek at 16012 State Highway 16 South. We need at least 10 birders to cover a property this large. Please sign up here.
Kirchoff Prairie: Sunday, April 30 | 8:00 to 10:00 AM
The Kirchoff Prairie near Floresville is a 200-acres site has been divided into 4 sections, so we need 8 people to survey. The address is 1444 County Rd 210, Floresville, TX 78114 and the drive is a little over 1 hour from central San Antonio. Google Maps will take you to the gate. Come through and park where directed. Call 210/867-7507 if you need further instructions. Please sign up here.
Haggard Ranch: Saturday, May 27 | 8:00 to 11:00 AM
Bexar Audubon will be conducting surveys in each of five management areas on the Haggard Ranch in South Bexar County. The surveys will be conducted quarterly and the collected data will be used to inform and improve the Prairie Restoration Management Plan for Haggard Ranch. We need 10 people to sign up here.
Kirchoff Prairie Bird Survey Jan. 28, 2023
From Don Kirchoff: Guided by Bexar Audubon Society leaders Patsy and Tom Inglet, our Winter Bird BioBlitz on Saturday, January 28, 2023, was another great event.
Patsy, Tom, Ken Butler, and Derrick Mims each led a team to a 50-acre quadrant on the prairie and for two hours 20 birders identified species and counted individual birds.
The approximate tallies for day are: 53 bird species and 430 individual birds counted. Details and photos by quadrant can be viewed on www.eBird.org “KirchoffPRS.”
Steffinie Blankenship, Master Gardner and Master Naturalist candidate, photographed the team (Tom Inglet, Teresa Craig, and Britt Coleman) that she was on and that observed the largest number (38) of species in the NW Quadrant of the property.
In the NE Quadrant a pair of LeConte’s Sparrows, a bird that nests in Canada and was out of its normal winter range in Wilson County, was observed. This bird joins a Sage Thrasher as the second “out of range” bird observed on the prairie in January!
The team in the SE Quadrant, led by Ken Butler, observed five Long-billed Thrashers.
The team in the SW Quadrant, let by Derick Mims, observed the most individual birds (129).
This was another terrific birding day on the prairie despite wet grass and muddy shoes from recent rains!
Volunteers Needed for International Shorebird Survey
To know where conservation is needed and if initiatives have been effective, shorebird scientists require a broad understanding of species populations and trends. In 1974, Brian Harrington at Manomet organized the volunteer-based International Shorebird Survey (ISS) to gather information on shorebirds. ISS contributors are shorebird enthusiasts who contribute to important shorebird science by visiting their favorite patches several times during migration season and reporting their shorebird counts to eBird. If this interests you, please contact Sam Wolfe, Shorebird Biologist, Texas Coast ([email protected]) to find out how you can help. Read details here.
David Ringer, formerly with National Audubon and now an independent consultant, is publishing a nature newsletter called Beautiful/Wonderful. His articles are well written and fascinating. Here's the link.
Take Action to Support Texas Wildlife
The Recovering America's Wildlife Act has now gone to the U.S. Senate for a vote. Reach out to our U.S. Senators from Texas on the contact pages of their website. Ask them to vote YES for the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. Click HERE for guidance.
Solar Panel Recycling
In order to avoid an onslaught of e-waste accompanying our rapid solar development, scientists are developing ways to recycle solar panels, minimizing their environmental impact. Entrepreneurs and economists alike are also eyeing the huge financial value that a practical recycling method would offer.
So, can solar panels be recycled? The short answer is yes, but the process needs refining. Here’s what we know.
MBTA Bird Protections Restored!
Letter from Marshall Johnson, Acting Chief Conservation Officer, National Audubon Society
Dear Bexar Audubon Society Members:
I’m thrilled to report that the Biden-Harris administration has repealed a rule that severely limited bird protections under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA)—one of the nation’s first environmental laws, which Audubon played a lead role in creating. The rule, established by the previous administration, eliminated the incentive to protect birds and gave businesses a free pass for bird deaths, even those that are avoidable. The Biden administration will now work to strengthen the rules under the MBTA to advance and clarify the law’s protections.
Thanks to generous supporters like you, Audubon has been defending the MBTA from unprecedented efforts to gut it for four years. The administration’s announcement on Wednesday is a milestone accomplishment and reminder of how vital the Audubon movement is for birds. But with three billion birds lost and climate change threatening the future of those that remain, there’s no time to rest. That’s why we’re also working with Congress to pass the Migratory Bird Protection Act, which will safeguard the MBTA for the future. We’ll keep you apprised of our efforts as we move forward.
Thank you for all that you do. Together, we’re shaping a brighter future for birds.
Acting Chief Conservation Officer
Fun Family Activity—Attracting Hummingbirds
by Julio Cardona (Porch.com)
Hummingbirds are the smallest birds in the world, and they’re quite an impressive sight when they flock to your backyard. If you’re looking for ways to get your children, nephews, or grandchildren interested in learning more about these birds, it’s easy to attract them to your own yard for a fun family activity. With the right food, feeder, and setup, attracting hummingbirds is easy. Let’s discover together some awesome tips that will make your family activity fun and successful. We will also learn some basic information about these incredibly fascinating birds and how to attract them. Before you know it, you’ll have a fabulous flock that will make bird watching a favorite pastime for the entire family. Click here to read the entire article.
Audubon for Kids
Which Matters More to Sea-Level Rise:
Glaciers or Icebergs?
In this experiment, kids test whether land ice or sea ice causes oceans to rise as the planet warms.
What is Plirding?
In Sweden a few years ago, a movement called “plogging” sprang up, encouraging runners to pick up trash along their run. Plogging (a combination of Swedish plocka upp —“picking up”— plus “jogging”) took off in popularity, and runners around the world now turning every run into a treasure hunt, picking up any trash they find.
Inspired by plogging, “plirding” is picking up trash while birding! Picking up even a couple of pieces of trash while we’re out on the trail or in a park can help make a difference. And as others see our example, they might be encouraged to pick up trash too—or perhaps even not throw it on the ground in the first place.
A quick note in these times of COVID-19: please continue to maintain the recommended 6’/1.5m of social distancing while out plirding, and do not pick up anything you do not feel comfortable picking up. The CDC recommends the use of face masks and hand sanitizer, and we think wearing gloves while plirding is always a good idea!
New iNaturalist Project: Bird Window Strikes in 9 Central Texas Counties
SAVE BIRDS FROM GLASS COLLISIONS! Birds can’t see glass. As a result, up to one billion birds hit glass and are killed each year in the U.S. alone as they try to navigate around houses, office buildings, and other obstacles.
This iNaturalist project seeks to document window strikes that result in bird mortality by collecting data on such strikes in the nine-county area served by Bexar Audubon Society. This data will be used to EDUCATE people about the danger that glass poses to birds and to INFORM individual and city decisions on building practices and bird conservation (bird-friendly glass and strike prevention methods).
If you find a deceased bird whose death was caused by flying into a window, please take a photo of the bird and upload it in iNat to this project. We need the specific location where each photo was taken (name of building, street address, GPS coordinators, or other locators). We are collecting data to document where the strikes are occurring so we can address the underlying causes (glass type, lighting, feeder position, plantings that attract birds, etc.)
IF YOU FIND AN INJURED BIRD that has obviously hit a window, please call Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation EMERGENCY NUMBER 830.336.2725; their staff will advise you.
WARBLER WOODS CAN TRANSFER DECEASED BIRDS TO TEXAS A&M: Warbler Woods Bird Sanctuary in Cibolo, just northeast of San Antonio, is licensed to hold the birds that will then be transferred to Texas A&M. If you find a deceased bird, even a common one:
1. Put deceased bird in a plastic freezer bag and include a note with county in which the bird was found, reason for death if known, species if known, date if known
2. Remove air from plastic bag and store in freezer
3. Make arrangements to bring bird to Warbler Woods Bird Sanctuary by emailing [email protected]
4. Place the bird in the garage freezer at Warbler Woods and email Warbler Woods to let them know you have dropped off the bird
By Allison Hayne
June 4, 2021 Update: The Purple Martin house at the Alamo Heights Little League ball fields has been a huge success this year. Next year I hope to add some hanging gourds to the bottom. I suspect we will have a full house next year. So far out of 14 compartments, we have 8 nesting pair! Today I did a nest check and we have 22 eggs and 14 babies! The pair with 6 babies has their hands full!!! The other house still has no takers. We will relocate it next year, as it’s just too close to nearby trees.
April 2020: One of the important migratory bird species in Texas is the Purple Martin, North America’s largest swallow. Purple Martins winter in South America, primarily in Brazil. In mid-January, Purple Martins begin showing up along the Gulf Coast of North America. Their breeding range in Texas includes most of the state except the Trans Pecos region.
East of the Rocky Mountains, Purple Martins nest exclusively in human-supplied housing because of loss of habitat and competition. To ensure successful nesting, housing must not be impeded by tall trees within 30 to 40 feet with wide-open flyways. Entry holes must be resistant to European Starlings and houses must be accessible for regular inspection to help control competition from introduced species such as the House Sparrow and European Starling. For housing located in the country, a predator guard is a must to keep snakes from climbing poles and eating whatever they find inside.
Thanks to many generous donors, my husband, Elliott, and I purchased a 12-gourd rack and installed it close to St. David’s Church in Terrell Hills. With permission from the City of Alamo Heights, we have assumed responsibility for the two Purple Martin houses on Viesca St. at the Judson Nature Trails and at the Alamo Heights Little League fields. We received financial backing from local residents as well as support from Bexar Audubon Society to make necessary repairs to the existing T-14 Purple Martin houses at those locations. We have observed successful nesting pairs at all of these sites.
If you need assistance with mapping out a Purple Mountain house location, maximizing its effectiveness, or are interested in donating an unused house to the PurpleMartins78209 Project, please contact me at [email protected] or text 210/289-6477. Monetary donations can be made by Venmo @Allison-Hayne.
When It's Okay (or Not) to Feed Birds
Providing food—for photography or simple enjoyment—can be a thorny issue. For guidance, ask yourself these three questions: Is this species at risk? Is the food appropriate and safely provided? Is feeding this bird likely to change its behavior in harmful ways? Read more in this thought-provoking article from National Audubon.
Seven Things Every Nature Lover Should Know
Understanding bird etiquette and obeying the law are common threads that unite us in our hobby and experience. The welfare of birds must come first. Here are seven of the most important things to remember to protect yourself and birds. Adapted from Birds and Blooms (Dec. 2019/Jan. 2020) article by Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman. Read more.
What are the Best Native Plants for Your Yard?
Search the National Audubon Society's Native Plant Database by zip code
to find the best native plants for birds in your area.
Do you Have Old Bird Lists But No Time to Enter in eBird?
Allan Seils, Travis Audubon Society Member, has a passion for preserving historic bird records. He has digitized and uploaded to eBird thousands of bird sighting records that otherwise would be lost—a hobby he does for free. If you have old field notes/checklists you want to have digitized and possibly uploaded into eBird or other databases, please contact Allan by email.