Tag Archives: birding

Equinox at my door

Today (March 20th) marks the first day of spring this year. I got to White Rock Lake 15 minutes before sunrise to listen to birds greet the day. And was I in for a treat! I took short walks along Lawther Drive, parking in the small lots around the lake.

dawn sky over White Rock Lake in Dallas, Texas

Dawn sky over White Rock Lake

I saw coots and mallards and wood ducks on the water. The male wood duck sports an aerodynamic helmet. Such authority. So cute.

Dawn at Whiterock Lake Dallas

I call this the chandelier tree.

My eyes were on the waterfowl, but chirps rained on me from the trees.

A red-winged blackbird drew me into a reed patch with its trill. No pictures of the RWB,  but got a quick shot of two racing shells. Sidebar (book suggestion): The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. Great read!

Racing shells on Whiterock Lake, Dallas

And then I heard honking in the sky. The unmistakable call of Canada geese! I looked up and sure enough, a pair!


See the two specks in the clouds about a third of the way up from the bottom and more than a third of the way in from the left? Canada geese.

I was definitely hoping I’d see Canada geese, but I wasn’t expecting to see them. So this was a bonus and I was content with the glimpse and the honks. I tried again to take pictures of the red-winged blackbird, but the reeds and the bird’s motion meant a few unusable shots. So I started walking back to the car when loud honking at the water’s edge stopped me in my tracks. I looked back:

Canada geese on Whiterock Lake

Oh, hello … Canada geese. I can’t even …

I kept my distance to give them space.

Canada geese on Whiterock Lake, Dallas

Seconds later, they took to the skies.

Canada geese on Whiterock Lake, Dallas

Flap flap

Canada geese on Whiterock Lake, Dallas

In sync



White Rock Lake, Dallas – 2

Happy Earth Day! White Rock Lake is home to flora and fauna that boost the happy.


A pair of coots

The coot’s white bill and dark feathers and its bobbing motions make it Chaplinesque.

The Filter Building sits on the southwest bank of White Rock Lake.


The Filter Building once housed a system to purify lake water for city consumption. In the 1950s, the city began to rely on its other lakes for water, so the Filter Building stopped serving its original function. Today you can rent it for private and corporate events.

Glad they left the name and the very cool sign untouched.


Mauve magic of Texas mountain laurel


Coot stalking

The white structure is a boat garage.


The water looks fine. Let’s go.

I took these pictures one misty morning last month. Here’s a sunny day post on White Rock Lake from four years ago.

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.


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


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!).


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.