Upon arriving at Austin-Bergstrom Airport we were greeted by the sounds and displays of Great-tailed Grackles. Larger than the Common Grackle, these birds are not shy of humans and enjoy making a display of themselves. Their iridescent black color and yellow eyes are quite striking.
While we were waiting, birds were putting on their own show. Behind us, dozens of grackles were congregating making quite a racket. Then, across the river, hundreds of egrets landed in a single tree. Due to the distance I could not tell whether they were Snowy or Cattle egrets. Interestingly, both species of egrets and the Great-tailed Grackle are listed among six species of birds that have been identified as having "nuisance" heronries (nesting areas of colonial water birds) in Texas according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife publication Nuisance Heronries in Texas Characteristics and Management. Dealing with large populations of birds is another example of the challenges that occur when the human populated landscape intersects with wildlife. Although most people enjoy and are inspired by the beauty of seeing wildlife, they do not want it to interfere with their way of life. From the extreme of being a danger to air traffic at airports, to the nuisance of excrement falling on the family car, large congregations of birds may not be well tolerated by society. However, scientists continue to learn how closely interconnected all species are and that disruptions to one species can sometimes cause irreparable harm to entire ecosystems. As a reminder, the theme for this year's Earth Day is "Protect Our Species." We all must act to curb the massive rate of plant and animal extinction that is occurring across the globe
|Flock of Egrets along Lady Bird Lake|
After the sun set and as it started to get dark, the bats started to emerging from underneath the Congress Street Bridge. My small camera was inadequate to capture a good photo, but seeing them in person was a sight to behold. According to the Austin Bat Refuge, 814,000 bats took flight that evening. In August, that number may double when the pups are flying with the adults. It was surreal to look up in the sky and see a large black cloud, containing tens of thousands of bats, flying across the river. It's an experience I will not forget.
|It is difficult to see, but those black specks are all bats in the sky|
1. Bat Conservation International, http://www.batcon.org/index.php/our-work/regions/usa-canada/protect-mega-populations/cab-intro
2. Sustainable Food Center, https://sustainablefoodcenter.org/latest/gardening/austins-bat-history-and-the-benefits-of-bats-to-food-gardeners
3. Texas Parks and Wildlife, Nuisance Heronries in Texas Characteristcs and Management, Second Edition, Ray C. Telfair II, Bruce C. Thompson, and Linda Tschirhard
4. Austin Bat Refuge, https://austinbatrefuge.org/congress-ave-bridge/