News From The River (con't)
Hot Birding Spot in Dallas (con't)
Dodd said seeds and tubers produced by certain aquatic plants were intentionally planted to attract birds. Delta arrowhead – also known as duck potato – feeds migratory dabbling ducks. Invertebrates associated with these plants (such as dragonflies and damsel flies) begin their life cycle in the water, providing another food source for birds. Aquatic plant communities are habitat for aquatic insects and small fish fry, which in turn feed larger predators such as bluegill and largemouth bass. These fish, in turn, are common prey for wading birds such as the great blue heron.
Wetland managers lower water levels during the spring and fall to expose mudflats, attracting visiting shorebirds such as lesser yellowlegs and other sandpipers, and allow vegetation to grow. Water levels are raised in the winter to inundate vegetation to attract northern pintails and other duck species.
A diverse community of native Texas grassland species was planted around each wetland. Selected plantings, such as Eastern gamagrass and switchgrass, benefit sparrows, dickcissels, chickadees, and doves. A diverse plant community supports a diverse insect community, which supports an additional suite of birds, such as American kestrels and loggerhead shrikes.
Many birds stop while traveling one of the great migratory superhighways: the Central Flyway, which can lure great numbers at one time. In late December more than 6,500 waterfowl were observed here, primarily pintails, Northern shovelers, gadwalls and ring-billed ducks, the Corps reports.
Dodd has a front-row seat, and has seen her own work rewarded.
“It was exciting to observe a mother wood duck and her ducklings in the Wood Duck Pond this year,” she said. “We planted it with species that we thought would be beneficial to wood ducks.”
“There’s always an opportunity to see really great birds, especially at a place like the Lower Chain of Wetlands. By the nature of the habitat, you don’t know what you’ll see from one minute to the next,” Homayoun said.
The wetlands are open to the public. The Trinity Bird Count welcomes newcomers, who can accompany volunteers as they walk through the habitat. Information is available at www.trintybirdcount.com.
Texas lies within the Migratory Central Flyway for birds leaving North America for the southern states, Mexico, Central America, and South America. Of the 338 species that are listed as Nearctic-Neotropical birds (breeding in Canada and the U.S.), 98.5% or 333 of them have been counted in Texas. This means that of the 629 species of birds documented in Texas, 53% of them are this type of migratory bird. Texas is vital to these amazing feathered creatures and ecosystems such as the Lower Chain of Wetlands are a welcome haven during bird migrations providing food and cover to rest.
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