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Prairie Facts

Report on Maddin Breeding Bird Survey, May 25 - 27, 2018 by Kirsti Harms

Birds, heat and locks – and a GREAT TEAM!

Birds and birders:

Pat Merkord and I drove to Maddin on Friday, May 25.
Tom Willard arrived before us on Friday, and Erin Hatchett drove from Fort Worth early Saturday morning.
Having a couple of extra volunteers allowed us to split up and get the bird surveys done much more quickly. That was a good thing because it was very hot this weekend, and by 11 a.m. it was uncomfortable, and the birds were quiet.

In spite of that, the birding was good, and we accounted for most of our usual summer resident birds. The Cassin’s sparrows, Bell’s vireos, painted buntings and ash-throated flycatchers were abundant. A nice surprise was eastern bluebirds! (I’ve heard that they don’t breed this far west, but their presence this late makes us wonder if they might be breeding closer than we thought.) Erin found a yellow-billed cuckoo on a nest and shared her knowledge and enthusiasm for nests and the birds in them. Tom is becoming a regular volunteer and an enthusiastic prairie camper. Thanks to our great team!

The heat:

When we arrived around 6 p.m. Friday, Tom reported that the water trough was dry. That’s the first time this has happened in the last 10 years. (I had not been there since April 7 when it was near freezing!) The temperatures were still in the upper 90s; so we postponed any preserve tours for later, and went out for Mexican food.

Saturday was even hotter with temps as high as 107.
We birded early in the day and spent the afternoon relaxing. (Tom found a shady spot on the preserve and studied the midday bird scene. Pat, Erin and I opted for A/C at the Best Western.)
We came back in the evening and toured the prairie, checked on the prairie dog town (doing pretty well with at least one resident burrowing owl), and took a hike after the temps went down into the 90s.

Sunday morning we finished up the surveys and departed around noon.

It looks like hot temps for the next week, but luckily they’d had some rain the week before, so things weren’t as parched as they could have been. The creek has water and looks like it may have flooded recently. But I’m nervous about the summer ahead.

Locks and keys:

We wrenched open the shed door.  It had been inadvertently locked at the knob by a visitor, and I have no idea where that key is. The doors are locked with a latch anyway, because they have a tendency to blow open. The other missing keys were the upper trailer keys. (Not sure where they went. So, anyone headed to Maddin, wanting to stay in the old trailer will need to bring a key.)

The new trailer keys are in the microwave. Obviously, having people coming and going has its complications. I will work on getting a bunch of extra keys made.

Then, to top it off, Tom called me as I was headed home to tell me that the power company lock on our gate doesn’t close; meaning anyone can let themselves in at this point. I will contact the company this week and tell them to fix this.

Misc. projects:

Pat and I went via Junction and Native American Seed to pick up a pound of Midway Mix that I was hoping to apply to the bare area going to the creek along the new fence. The heat was a major factor in my delay.

And to other delays

: it was definitely too hot this weekend to schedule work days for mesquite control. We would have risked heat exhaustion on our volunteers. Something to consider for summer work days.