Saturday, February 02, 2013

Birding Hornsby Bend

Hornsby Bend is a name associated with many things - a sewage treatment plant, a Biosolids Management Plant . . . and . . . an amazing place to see many species of birds!  

in 1959, G. Frank "Pancho" Oatman noticed ducks flying across the Colorado River.  Following them, he was the first birdwatcher to explore the sewage treatment facility.  He found waterfowl in large numbers, several that had not been recorded in Travis County.  

Today, many birders frequent both the roads around the ponds and the trail along the Colorado River.  A birding visit to Hornsby Bend never disappoints.  While the species of birds varies through the seasons - there is always a wide variety.  

I spent time around the ponds today.  Here are some of the Highlights:

There were hundreds of northern shovelers, possibly 1000. Some resting on snags, others basking on the shore, while others use that amazing beak to forage.  They were everywhere.  Sometimes they form large groups that spin like a pinwheel stirring up the surface of the water to find food.


There were both male and female lesser scaup to enjoy.

There were several eared grebes. A couple of them gave me good photo opportunities.

There are always shorebirds.  I am still working on learning to identify this large group of birds.

Least sandpipers are usually found in flocks of 10 or more.  They are a small shorebird and they fly off and land together.  Note the green legs.  They also have a characteristic posture in how they insert their beak in the mud to find their food.

I think this is a spotted sandpiper. I have yet to see one in all of its fine breeding plumage.  Out of breeding season it is much plainer without the spots. It does have a characteristic behavior - bobbing as it forages.  

Today I saw 14 species and this was just from around the ponds.  One of these days I need to take the trails through the woods to the Colorado River. I've done it once - and there are even more bird species to see.