A couple years ago, I started a contest to see how many people could find 200 species in any of the counties around Austin, Texas each year. In 2002, I set a new record, finding 305 species in Travis County. Last year, I didn't do as much birding, but managed over 200 pretty easily by summer. This year, with a new baby and being busy at school, I find myself at the end of the year a few birds shy of 200 for Travis County. And in just over a week, I will be moving to take a job with the National Audubon Society in Pennsylvania. So, the race is on. As of this morning, my 2004 Travis County list was at 192. Eight more birds to get to the magic number.
This afternoon, I took all three of my kids out to Webberville Park in far eastern Travis County. Picked up a couple nice year birds--a dozen Pine Warbler (#193), a pair of Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (#194), and the locally-rare-but-occasionally-found-here White-breasted Nuthatch (#195). I looked for but did not find the Winter Wren that Brush Freeman heard here earlier this morning, and didn't hear any Pileated Woodpeckers--my all-time-most-wanted-bird for Travis County, and one that has been reported off-and-on this park in the past two years. I did get a tantalizing glimpse of what very well could have been the woodpecker--but poorly seen through the trees across the river.
Did I say that I found all these birds while bouncing my six-month-old daughter on my hip while chasing my other two kids around the park? Not the easiest way to bird, but fun to play with the kids on the playground and get a few more year birds.
Earlier in the afternoon I stopped by Decker Lake, perhaps the most worthless lake in Travis County, hoping for a Bonaparte's Gull or Forster's Tern. No dice. Besides several dozen coots, a cormorant was the only other bird on the lake. A large American Pipit flock was along the road in the park, and several Eastern Bluebirds were nice to show the kids.
Denise is flying to Pennsylvania tomorrow, leaving me with the kids for the week. My goal--get to 200 species and pack up the house while she's gone. My quest for 200 begins in earnest tomorrow!