Category Archives: wildlife

Klyde Warren Park, Dallas

This tranquil gem sits at the heart of downtown Dallas. Traffic whizzes about and under it and high-rise buildings stand like sentinels around it. The park is a Buddha ‘midst the buzz. Its well-kept spaces include a botanical garden, a children’s park, and a dog park.

20171028_133412.jpgTuck into a falafel sandwich or just-baked pizza from the nearby food trucks.

20171028_133123.jpgAmble through the botanical garden, home to native plants, including this monarch magnet, the lantana.

Here are some monarch shots from a sunny October day.

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Monarchs migrate through North Texas twice a year. Once in the fall en route to Mexico, route reversed in the spring. Pollinator-friendly plants in the park’s Monarch Wrangler section give these beautiful butterflies a place to rest and refuel.

20171030_170045.jpgBottom of sign: This site demonstrates beneficial conservation management practices for the monarch butterfly and other pollinator species producing tangible values for natural resources and our Texan way of life.

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Flanking a botanical garden walkway are pink muhly on the left and mealy blue sage and lantana on the right, all drought-resistant Texas natives.

Apart from food trucks for noshing and green spaces for chilling, KWP has outdoor ping pong tables and a reading room. Weekend yoga, capoeira, tai chi and meditation classes make it a community wellness hub. The park even has a performance pavilion for music concerts.

Plan a visit to Klyde Warren Park.

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Cheep thrills

When it comes to building a home, some say location is everything.

house finch nest

house finch pair

Just ask Mom (right) and Dad (left). Can you guess what birds they are?

house finch nest

Look at their finch-astic creation and its “pebbled” rim.

house finch nest

Tucked in a carport nook

My apartment community has 3 banks of carports with a total of 70 nooks (possible nest sites). Fourteen of those nooks have nests in them. Carports closer to the tree-lined property edge and adjoining field have four times as many nests (12 of 42 nooks) as those near the interior (2 of 28). Makes me wonder if easy access to twigs and leaves (building materials) drove nook selection.

house finch nest

Short on neatness, big on warmth

house finch nest

The other nests are mansions compared to this one, but its Birdie B&B listing reads, “Cozy nook offers eggs-cellent shelter and total privacy.”

house finch nest

Talk about green building!

I walked over to the two adjoining sister properties to check their carports.

house finch nest

That “pebbled” rim again

house finch nest

house finch nest

Active recyclers with a zero carbon footprint

By building nests in carports, house finches enjoy protection from raptors and tree-climbing kitties, as well as shelter from the elements. I’m in awe of the little fliers for their design skills, building prowess, resourcefulness and strategic thinking. And they sing! Their chirpy tweets help me greet each day with a smile.

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What’s that bird?
I turned to this most awesome field guide to narrow it down.American Bird Conservancy's Field Guide: All the Birds of North America

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The range maps for redpolls, bramblings and Cassin’s finches don’t include Texas, so those birds are out. Besides, the male redpoll has a small red cap, but Dad has a lot more red on his head. So it comes down to purple finch or house finch. Given Dad’s red head and chest (but no red on his back), it’s a house finch pair.

house finch pair

This photogenic pair made identification a snap.

20170620_052236I have an older edition of All the Birds of North America, the American Bird Conservancy’s Field Guide. One of my most loved books. It was prescribed for an Intro to Birding continuing ed class I took at UT Arlington several years ago. I love the guide for ease of identification, water-resistant pages (in case you drop it in a pond), and small check boxes in the index (think life list). Amazon has a newer edition.

All About Birds by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is an amazing online resource. I learned that house finches “nest in a variety of deciduous and coniferous trees as well as on cactus and rock ledges. They also nest in or on buildings, using sites like vents, ledges, street lamps, ivy, and hanging planters.”

The print and online guides were my ID mainstay for the longest time.

But now there’s an app for it!
The magical Merlin Bird ID app (North America) suggests a location-based “bird pack” upon download. Five easy questions on location, date of sighting, bird size, main colors, behavior — and boom! — house finch.

Do I like the precision, speed, and convenience of the app? Absolutely. But I still have a soft corner for the print guide. Using range maps and matching coloration/markings on birds I see to beautiful illustrations works the brain and brings a different kind of thrill. Call it finding as much joy in the journey as in reaching the destination (that’s my bird!).

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P.S. I made sure to take nest photos when the parents were out foraging so as not to startle or alarm them. As an extra precaution, I took the pics sans flash, and all from below.

Crowley Park, Richardson

On a post-dawn walk through Crowley Park, I noticed it has something for everyone.

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Whether you picnic with friends in the pavilion,

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flop down for some “me” time,

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or hit the trail that circles the park

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for a flower-flecked walk or run,

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you’ll find views that thrill

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and views that soothe.

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Have tots with energy to burn? The park has two play areas, this one ringed with trees.

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Takin’ a breather without robin the bank

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means you sit on a deck

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watching ducks and turtles gather.

At ~58 acres, Crowley Park is the second largest of Richardson’s neighborhood parks. What strikes me is the city’s meticulous care in keeping the place pristine. Add me to Yelpers who love Crowley Park.

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Correction: In the original post, I stated that Crowley Park is Richardson’s largest. But it isn’t. Breckinridge Park (~417 acres) is. I love Breck, too!
– Gita, 13 May 2017

Bob Woodruff Park, Plano – North Pavilion

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It’s a Sun-day!

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Wakey, wakey

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Behold a bunch of Bob Ross do’s.

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Plan a party.

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Enjoy the pier and now.

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Jog the 0.9-mile trail around the lake.

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Have a beautiful day!

These shots are all from the North Pavilion side of Bob Woodruff Park. Here’s a location map. As I was driving home, a gorgeous grove by the South Pavilion called to me, but my to-do list was louder. Stay tuned for a separate post with photos.

Added 27 November 2016: Bob Woodruff Park, Plano – South Pavilion

Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve, Plano

Having explored this park one evening a couple weeks ago, I went back today morning to hear the birds’ dawn chorus.

Approach from the parking lot to the lake

Approach from the parking lot to the lake

Picnic pavilion at sunrise

Picnic pavilion at sunrise

A brisk walk on the 0.88-mile paved trail around the lake takes me 15 minutes. More than 5 miles of soft trails wind through the adjacent meadows and woods.

A brisk walk on the 0.88-mile paved trail around the lake takes me 15 minutes. More than 5 miles of soft trails wind through the adjacent meadows and woods.

Walk in the woods along Old Oaks Trail, where you'll find some of the city's most mature oak trees.

Walk in the woods along Old Oaks Trail, where you’ll find some of the city’s most mature oak trees.

Majestic oak, your roots are showing, and they are beautiful. That this tall tree stays rooted sideways to the creek bank is a structural marvel.

Majestic oak, your roots are showing, and they are beautiful. That this tall tree stays rooted sideways to the creek bank is a structural marvel.

As I leave the chirp-filled woods, I see this graceful heron seek out breakfast.

As I leave the chirp-filled woods, I see this graceful heron seek out breakfast.

On the City of Plano web page for Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve, you’ll find park hours, a trail map and more.

White Rock Lake, Dallas

Last weekend was a gorgeous one for Dallas. Mild temps and blue skies. Perfect for a visit to White Rock Lake. Fantastic bird- and people-watching, a view no matter which way you went, and the calming effect of all that water. Bliss.

You can enlarge the photos by clicking on them for a slightly better look. Only way to see the white beaks on the coots a few shots down.

What could be more soothing than chilling by a lake with a friend.

What could be more soothing than chilling by a lake with a friend.

White pelicans out for a synchronized swim

White pelicans out for a synchronized swim.

And humans out for a synchronized row. The Highland Park Crew: blue and yellow oars slice the water as guidance comes from the coaching boat at right. Hope the rowers had a hearty brunch afterwards—they sure earned it!

And humans out for a synchronized row. The Highland Park Crew: blue and yellow oars slice the water as guidance comes from the coaching boat at right. Hope the rowers had a hearty brunch afterwards—they sure earned it!

A clump of black-crowned night herons

A clump of black-crowned night herons

Two in a boat: a floating picnic

Two in a boat: a floating picnic

You can't tell from looking at the picture, but each of those cubbies is a boat garage.

You can’t tell from looking at the picture, but each of those cubbies is a boat garage.

Coots are a hoot. They waddle on land and bob on water, their white beaks leading the way.

Coots are a hoot. They waddle on land and bob on water, their white beaks leading the way.

A beautiful tree bedecked with late-winter ornaments. Know the name?

A beautiful tree bedecked with late-winter ornaments. Happen to know the name?

As I walked I saw father and son fishing side by side, another dad helping his little girl with her lifejacket for their kayak ride; a boy in the shade reading a book; a white-bearded man on a park bench, his wicker basket-fitted bicycle propped against it. Pink-cheeked babies, toned runners, fully kitted bikers, picnic blanket nappers—a lovely cross-section of humanity enjoying the gift of a beautiful day.

Saw quite a few birds for a late-morning visit. Bet it’s a birdwatcher’s dream at daybreak. A co-worker told me that migratory birds have been known to make a stop at White Rock Lake. Ah, flocks of feathered friends from faraway lands. I’ll come say hi.

Blackland Prairie Raptor Center

Nestled in Brockdale Park, a prairie paradise overlooking Lake Lavon in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, Blackland Prairie Raptor Center (BPRC) is home to gorgeous birds of prey. Cravin’ avian awesomeness? Here you go:

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Peregrine Falcon / Blackland Prairie Raptor Center

Did you know that peregrine falcons reach speeds upwards of 320 km/hour (200 miles/hour) when stooping?! Another cool fact: the traditional term for a male falcon is tercel. Makes me want to run out and buy a Toyota Tercel, which I doubt is even manufactured anymore.

Red-Tailed Hawk at Blackland Prairie Raptor Center

Red-Tailed Hawk / Blackland Prairie Raptor Center

Easy to see why the red-tailed hawk got its name.

Red-Tailed Hawk again

Red-Tailed Hawk again

From the BPRC website: “All of our raptor ambassadors have come to BPRC with circumstances that make them non-releasable. Due to their injuries or conditions, they would not be able to survive on their own in the wild. They have become the ambassadors for all wild birds of prey by educating the public about the issues concerning their future.”

Stunning ambassadors they sure are! Okay now, prepare for cute overload:

Screech Owl at Blackland Prairie Raptor Center

Screech Owl / Blackland Prairie Raptor Center

See how small this owl scales before the human! I think this one is called Sweet Pea. So cute, I want to pat her on the head and and give her a lollipop. Pretty sure she’ll want a mouse instead.

Screech Owl again

Screech Owl again

Barred Owl at Blackland Prairie Raptor Center

Barred Owl / Blackland Prairie Raptor Center

Named for the bars on its chest, the barred owl has an easily recognizable call: Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all? A BPRC volunteer quipped that they call this one Shakespeare because he’s a bard owl. LOL.

Apart from a fantastic presentation by dedicated volunteers featuring the above raptors and a few others, including two other screech owls, a great horned owl, a barn owl, a kite, and a kestrel, volunteers led prairie walks filled with cool facts about the flora.

Hey, Sunshine!

Maximilian Sunflower in Brockdale Park

Maximilian Sunflower in Brockdale Park

Eryngo is a prairie plant with purple flower heads shaped like pineapples, each about as big as your thumb.

Eryngo in Brockdale Park

Eryngo in Brockdale Park

Here’s the water wheel on site at the park. In the background you can see a deck with a roof shaped like the wings of a raptor in flight. Volunteers had set up a spotting scope on the deck for up-close views of birds visiting the lake.

Water Wheel in Brockdale Park

Water Wheel in Brockdale Park

BPRC’s offerings include First Saturdays, their on-site programming the first Saturday of every month. One such event drew me there and that’s how these pictures came about. You’ll find details on First Saturdays and more on their website.

You should go. You’ll have a hoot!

Great Horned Owl / Blackland Prairie Raptor Center

Great Horned Owl / Blackland Prairie Raptor Center