27 February 2009

A note of Golden-cheeked Warbler documentation

sent to an editor of a North America bird periodical, to a member of Texas Birds Record Committee, to a staff member at a NWR...

Heidi and I came across the earliest documented sighting of a Golden-cheeked Warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia) today. The GCWA is an endangered songbird and the only species to nest exclusively in the state of Texas.

Anyhow the letter is as follows:

D.D. Currie,

Heidi let me know of your request for further details on our GCWA sighting.

First, some brief and pertinent personal background:
My family lives in Waco, and thus this area has sort of been home (or "homebase") for me for over a decade now. I am a wildlife biologist. I have recently returned "home" from spending most of last year working with the San Clemente Loggerhead Shrike Recovery and Monitoring Project on an island off the southern CA coast.

I have also been employed in the past as a GCWA Seasonal Biologist with TNC @ Ft. Hood.

I was showing Heidi, my fiancee and knowledgable birder, one of my favorite GCWA spots due to ease and proximity to Waco. This being Meridian SP.

Alright. Details. We were actually still on the Long-eared Owl high, a species we had just encountered on the well-known GCWA trail (the paved portion of the Shinnery Ridge Trail), when while driving downhill ultimately to head to the other portion of the park I swore I had heard atleast part of the Golden-cheeked call.

It's a vocalization I would hear in my sleep after day-in and day-out work at Fort Hood. To me, I always phonetically had it in my head as "I'm a busy bird-IE! " I stopped the truck, and then heard it in full. At that point we were just trying to determine in front of us, behind us, above us...from what direction is this GCWA calling?

We determined where, found a parking area at campground site # 24, and the call continued. Close.

Heidi and I then were able to localize a couple of 30' tall Ashe Junipers, in very thick Juniper-oak vegetation association, where this bird must be. Again, close, from canopy-height..." I'm a busy bird -IE! "

Heidi saw the movement.

We both got on it. It was calling while foraging along the upper 4' of these mature Juniperus. So we had him for 15 minutes of relatively steady singing, and 3-4 minutes of visual observation. Granted this visual obs was as one would expect from this family, pretty much bouncing around inside and outside the juniper, appearing-disappearing. During this time, I noted the white breast continuing to a white belly. Heidi then mentioned, "yeah and the black crown, nape, and back..."

This bird was diagnosed as soon as the full song was heard again. But I always like to emphasis those things when the first opportunity presents itself, because Black-throated Greens liked to be fairly tricky, certainly in appearance, but to a degree in pitch and syllable in song.

GCWA, in GCWA range, in GCWA habitat, and a GCWA. Since getting back to Texas, I've been looking forward to spring for familiar butterflies and migration.

This was a great reunion to an old friend.

"Is it still February??", laughing as we thought. I told Heidi "this Golden-cheeked has gotten here before any Black-and-White Warblers or White-eyed Vireos..." "we still have hordes of DE Juncos around."

I had forgotten how we left the bird. I've just asked Heidi and she reminded that "when we left it, it had just foraged further into the woodland."

I guess that's pretty much it.


1 comment:

  1. Perhaps for April 1st (or Halloween - and try for a record late bird!) we should dress as Junipers and go loiter in GCWA habitat to see if they'll forage on us. Perhaps I do need a nap this afternoon, as well.