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Wild About Houston Film FestivalPart of the 2018 PRAIRIES & POLLINATORS A REGIONAL CELEBRATION Wednesday, at

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Prairie Facts

Report on Maddin Prairie Preserve, December 9-10, 2017 by Kirsti Harms

The Winter Bird Survey December 9-10, 2017

Maddin Prairie Preserve

by Kirsti Harms

Tom Willard, Kelly Walker and I arrived the afternoon of Friday Dec. 8. Tom set up his tent at the bottom of the hill, on the actual prairie because that’s where he wanted to sleep. Kelly and he spent the next two, rather cold nights (mid 20s) tent camping, and seemed to enjoy it. I opted for the old trailer and a space heater.
Our little crew spent Saturday morning and late afternoon hiking some of the survey points on the property. Conditions were pretty good for conducting a survey: daytime temperatures were mild, sunny and NO wind. But there wasn’t a lot of bird activity. Not sure if it was because of the recent snowy weather or the lateness of winter this year.  The birds were more active in some of the warmer areas. We did see most of our usual winter residents, esp. the sparrows (good numbers of White-crowned Sparrows). We also saw lots of Meadowlarks and Sandhill cranes (flying over).

Friday night was the all-night coyote howl, and the Great Horned owls started hooting Saturday night. Ran into a few feral hogs during our survey, but Kelly and Tom managed to scoot them along. I’m a bit more intimidated by hogs. Got a really good look at a porcupine in a mesquite eating mistletoe berries—one of their favorite foods. It was entertaining to watch him scratch himself. Not sure how that works for a quilled creature…

Pat and Glenn Merkord joined the survey Saturday afternoon. They saw a flock of Rusty Blackbirds. That’s a new sighting for Maddin.

Later, Glenn tackled the riding mower problem with his usual quiet determination, and succeeded in getting it started again! I had him give me a tutorial and took notes.

Our fire pit got a lot of use as well. In addition to her other skills, Kelly is an avid fire starter. Both evenings were spent sitting around the fire—very nice, since it gets dark so early in the winter (and temperatures drop fast). The moon rise was late, so it was also a good opportunity to star gaze.

Pat and Glenn decided to sleep in the new trailer Saturday night. They can vouch for how cold it gets on a cold night… might need to look at getting the heat working. There is propane and a heater, but the ducts are damaged in spots. Pat says there is a type of propane space heater that could work as well.

The Merkords stayed on after we left. (Sleeping in the old, but warmer trailer Sunday night.) Glenn was busy mowing roads on Sunday, so next visit, the driving should be easier on the under carriages of our vehicles.

Tom and I discussed getting more people out to Maddin. He was under the impression that this is some kind of exclusive place. Not really. Well, special yes, with limited access, but not exclusive. I hope to have more time to organize events out there, and work on spreading the word. We did agree that we don’t want huge groups out there (don’t have the facilities for that) but 5-10 people for a weekend would be manageable. And more if they are only out for part of a day, like the TOS field trip. We have discussed having a bioblitz in spring, in addition to at least one winter work day and our usual breeding bird survey.