Birding at Caddo Mounds

By Anthony C. Souther, Caddo Mounds Site Manager

View of reservoirIt is my day off, and as I sit at my dining room table looking out my back door, it’s a beautiful Texas day at Caddo Mounds State Historic Site. Although it has turned cold again (I’m told this is unusual for Texas at this time of year) it has not spoiled the day.

I look down the gently sloping ridge to the man-made reservoir, and I’m reminded of my first birding program here at the site. As the site manager, I have the privilege of living on the grounds. This is my backyard.

Illustration of bird's wingIn April 2013, Dr. Brent Burt, professor of biology at Stephen F. Austin State University, presented a birding program titled “Texas Birding 101.” He was an enthusiastic presenter, who easily transferred his love of birding to the program participants. One of the young birders, Sean, hardly left his side. Dr. Burt was so knowledgeable about the subject that Sean and some of the other young men dubbed him “Dr. Bird.”

The program began with classroom instruction, in which the participants learned about Texas birding hotspots and identification techniques. 

Tour group looking upSome of what we were taught to look for was field markings on the head, wing bars, leg color, eye color, wing and tail shape, and bill shape. Dr. Burt also talked about habitat, silhouettes, flight patterns, and body size. He ended his presentation by telling us that the most important items for a bird watcher were a good pair of binoculars and field guide. 

The best part of the day began when we moved outdoors and actually began to look for birds. Although the group was rather large at 28, we still had amazing results identifying the local bird population. 

Not all of the birds were identified by sight; Dr. Burt was rather adept at identifying birds by their call and at calling in birds by doing what he called phishing—making a noise that the birds then had to investigate. 

One young man was as fascinated by Dr. Burt’s “phishing technique” as he was with the birds it attracted.

Here is the list of the birds we discovered throughout the day (asterisk signifies we heard the bird but did not see it):

  • Young boy looking up at tour guideYellow-throated Vireo
  • Mockingbird
  • Scissor-tail Flycatcher
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Broadwing Hawk
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • White-eyed Vireo
  • Black Vulture
  • Northern Perulla
  • Tour guide speakingRuby Crowned Kinglet
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Tufted Titmouse*
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker*
  • Carolina Wren*
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Red-headed Woodpecker*
  • Lark Sparrow
  • American Crow
  • Blue Gray Gnatcatcher
  • Cara Cara (a rare bird for our area)

Birds on tree branchesIt was a perfect day for the event, and we hope to host more nature-based programs at Caddo Mounds, such as plant identification, wildflowers, medicinal plants, and mushroom identification. Keep an eye on our website for scheduling. If you have a program suggestion, contact Anthony Souther at 936.858.3218.

Caddo Mounds State Historic Site is located outside Alto, Texas, 26 miles west of Nacogdoches. The site is part of the lush Pineywoods landscape of the Texas Forest Trail Region.

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