Sunday, March 28, 2010

March 26th Report - San Angelo State Park

I had a highly disappointing trip to San Angelo State Park late last week. Some of the disappointment was just nature being nature. But a good deal of the disappointment has to do with the way the blind is being maintained these days. I know that this is going to sound like whining and it very well may be. And there are likely very good reasons as to why things are the way that they are. But having spent a good deal of time in this blind and a good deal of timing keeping it up when I was still a full-time resident of San Angelo, it is disappointing to see things as they were.

First, nature being nature... The light was horrible. Very bright with no clouds in the sky to soften it. The trees and other greenery has not come in strongly enough yet to act as a diffuser either, which meant on this cloudless day that I was really wasting my time as far as making images that were going to be printable.

But to the things that could have been changed... To attract birds to a blind, the ideal situation is to have three basic things: Water, food, and a sense of security. Of those three items, only one of the three (sense of security) remains.

A number of feeders were added to the blind area, which is a good thing. But when I went in, there was not a morsel to be found in any of the feeders. Zilch. Zero. The key to keeping a steady stream of birds coming in is knowledge that they can come to the area when they want to and feed. If it is hit or miss as to whether or not a food source will be there, it will be hit or miss as to whether or not the birds will take the opportunity to come in. It is possible that I just hit a bad day, or it is also possible that traffic has been so heavy to the blind (as far as birds go) that it was demand that left the cupboard bare.

But then there is the issue of water. Birds are attracted by the sound of water. There is a large and well-constructed water feature in the middle of the habitat area. But not a single drop of water was flowing through it. By looking at the level in the collection area at the bottom, it is fairly obvious that it has been weeks since water has been flowing through it. I'm not sure if this is a TPWD thing or a maintenance thing or a philosophy thing. But I do know that without a steady source of water, a good deal of the non-seed feeders will never come into the blind and the seed-feeders will look for other sources of water and food before coming into the blind area.

As a former member of the Board of Advisors for Friends of San Angelo State Park, I still have some contacts with the powers that be and I will find out why the water issue is the way it is.

As to the reason why I went in the first place... I arrived at the blind at around 9AM. Very windy and bright morning. Based on what my camera says, it was nearly 45 minutes before the first bird came down to where they could be photographed. Some White-winged Doves made it into the trees around the blind, but it was a House Finch that was the first to be brave enough to feed on the seed.

Once the House Finches gave the all clear, then the standard assortment of suspects made it into the blind, to include male and female Northern Cardinals, Titmice, White-crowned and House (English) Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds, White-winged and Mourning Doves, and Pyrrhuloxia ventured in. Eventually a very brightly colored Golden-fronted Woodpecker came in as well.

After seeing the results on the LCD and understanding that neither the light nor the wind was going to get better, I headed back home to finish my primary project for my trip back to San Angelo: Putting sod down in the backyard.

I'm hoping I will have better luck in early summer when I head back to San Angelo for another short visit.

Pyrrhuloxia, adult female (Cardinalis sinuatus), San Angelo State Park, © Jim Miller
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys), San Angelo State Park, © Jim Miller


Anonymous said...

I know they've been working on the new Pedernales blind (I posted some info on my blog). I hope that the SA blind is not being neglected because of that, but it seems unlikely. I still have yet to see a Pyrrhuloxia and I certainly haven't seen that woodpecker. Your sparrow picture still looks very good!

jim said...

Knowing what I know about the parks, the work on the Pedernales blind is almost certainly completely separate from SASP's blind. These projects, and the food supplies for them, are typically funded by the local "Friends of" groups because TPWD dollars are so thin.

I don't think the SASP blind is being neglected, per se. I am willing to chalk up the seed supply as a combination of a busy time for the birds and some inclement weather. The grounds were very well kept and the structure seemed to be in good shape. But I am very concerned about the water feature, and I fear that it is TPWD being TPWD. I'm still awaiting word as to what is going on there.

You really need to get out to the SASP blind before the weather warms up. The Pyrrhuloxia were pretty thick, but they will disappear into the brush once the weather warms up and the breeding season begins. It is worth the drive out from your neck of the woods.