After flipping through a birding field guide we got for a family member, one of us had some present envy and/or technology curiousity, and discovered an app for smartphones called iBirdPro. The advantage of this app over a field guide is that in addtion to pictures and information about the birds, the app plays their calls as well.
This day, the same one of us was playing with our four dogs out in a neighboring field, where we often see some bird action. When the dogs jumped out of the truck, they startled a hawk. The hawk flew to the other side of the field, stopped for a moment, then flew overhead, calling, and headed south. Using the iBirdPro app, the hawk was able to be identified as a Swainson’s Hawk.
A bit of research later yielded some interesting information about this hawk. Being that it is winter in Texas, and these birds usually spend the winter in South America, it is suspected that this particular hawk might have missed the party, and the flight path, and was unable to find its way south of the Gulf of Mexico. This particular species was blue -listed (at risk, but not endangered or threatened) in the late seventies and early eighties, and made it on to the National Audubon’s List of Special Concern in 1986. Currently, it is listed as a threatened species by California, but numbers elsewhere suggest the bird is more abundant than previously thought.
The National Audubon Society uses their Christmas Bird Counts as a way to keep track of what species are thriving and which ones are declining. The Christmas Bird Counts run from Dec 14-Jan 5. You have to become a member and pay a small fee to participate, but learning how to identify the birds is a first step in being able to participate in this activity. Here is the website of the Audubon Society to learn more information.