Birding a Different Part of Texas
Updated: Jun 12, 2020
At the beginning of June, birding in the Texas Panhandle slows down and can seem a little, well, monochromatic. The migratory birds are mostly gone and the hot, dry, windy days of summer can make a Panhandle birder a bit lazy. But there is nothing like a trip to completely different ecosystem to help pep up the doldrums.
So Rohn and I took our camper to Lake Texoma during the first week of June. The Corps of Engineers campground where we stayed was very "birdy" because it sat right on the lake. Shore birds fished along the rocky bank and summer songbirds hopped through the post oaks overhead. Every morning we were awakened to a variety of birds chattering, which was either lovely or annoying, depending on what time we had fallen into bed the night before.
Among the birds we never or rarely see in the Panhandle, Lake Texoma was populated with (left to right) mouthy Tufted Titmice, happy Eastern Bluebirds, colorful Great-crested Flycatchers, nasaly Fish Crows, preening American White Pelicans, bright red Summer Tanagers, small White-rumped Sandpipers, fleet-winged Carolina Chickadees and angelic-looking Snowy Egrets.
One of the big thrills for me was seeing a Yellow-throated Warbler perched (but not for long) just above our campsite. I've never seen one before, so it was a "lifer" for me. According to EBird, the last time anyone reported a Yellow-throated Warbler in Randall County (southern part of Amarillo), where I live, was in 2004. So I had no chance of seeing this one at home.
In fact, I had five lifers on this trip (the Yellow-throated Warbler, the Fish Crow, the Summer Tanager, the White-rumped Sandpiper and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird). Growing up in the Dallas area, I'm sure I have seen some of these birds before (I am positive that I have seen Ruby-throated Hummingbirds several times), but I never paid that much attention to birds before 2019. So there are lots of birds that have not yet made it onto my EBird checklist. And as I have learned in the last 18 months, for many modern birders if it is not on your EBird list, you didn't see it!
We also saw some birds that we see at home, like the Scissor-tailed flycatcher (above), but seeing them in a new environment (with trees, hills and water) was a treat. And it was an opportunity for me to get photos of them in different settings. So suddenly (left to right) Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Male Dickcissels, Canada Geese goslings, Killdeer, Great Blue Herons, Eastern Phoebes, Cardinals, Female Diskcissels, Swainson's Hawks, Purple Martins, Mockingbirds, Roadrunners and Great Egrets seemed more interesting, maybe even exotic.
After more than 2 months of COVID-19 stay at home orders and closed campgrounds, it was also a treat to just get away from the house in our camper for a few days, particularly when the scenery was so green and the water was blue and cool.