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  • Writer's pictureVicki Wilmarth

Christmas Bird Count 2020--Amarillo

Eighty-nine species of birds showed up on Saturday, December 19, 2020, to be counted by 15 local birders in the 121st Audubon Christmas Bird Count.

For our second annual participation in the Christmas Bird Count, Rohn and I chose to again bird Lake Tanglewood, a residential lake southeast of Amarillo but squarely within the 15-mile radius counting area for Amarillo. Lake Tanglewood is a gated community that no one regularly birds for eBird. But it provides both water and woods birding, so I enjoy getting the occasional opportunity to observe the birds that have gathered there for winter.

Our gracious hosts, Anette and Taylor Carlisle, are long-time birders and learned nature lovers. Anette is currently reading and recommending Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake. It was a great pleasure to walk their favorite spots at the lake, laugh at their stories about past Christmas Bird Counts (ask them about the boat dying in the middle of the lake during one count) and discover Lesser Scaups, Hooded Mergansers, Pied-billed Grebes and busy little Bushtits with them.

Of course, since I am such a raptor fan, the highlight of the day for me was seeing four Bald Eagles, including the magnificent mature pair that decided to perch together on a snag just in time for us to snap pictures. In my case, 250 pictures! I love how digital cameras let you take as many snaps as you want to get the perfect one, especially when you carry around 128 GB memory cards (I remember when I had desktop computers with less storage capacity than that).

Rohn, Anette, Taylor and I saw lots of other great birds for a total of 47 species just in the four hours we spent at the lake.

(Great Blue Heron, Bushtit, Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Cardinal, Belted Kingfisher, Rufous-Crowned Sparrow).

The rest of the Amarillo counting crew was also successful. We ended the day with 89 species observed at Palo Duro Canyon, River Falls and the roads in that part of eastern Randall County, three more species than last year. Here is the list from that count;

Thomas Johnson, our intrepid organizer and compiler for the Christmas Bird Count, made an important observation about the future of birding (and life) in our area.

Our birding territory is steadily being eroded by development and many formerly productive areas in the part of Palo Duro Canyon that are not in the state park are now becoming neighborhoods. More water has been impounded along the developed region and that further diminishes the delivery of water to the main State Park, already, largely dependent on treated wastewater from Amarillo. Our water table and natural springs feeding the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River have dried up, many in the last 30 years and the water table continues to shrink. Without human supplied water from the aquifer, most of our region would be completely devoid of open or flowing water now.

Tom's words are a sobering reminder that if we want to continue to enjoy the natural beauty of the Texas Panhandle, both the flora and the fauna are counting on us to be wise stewards of our limited water supply and other resources.

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