Bell County's rare birds grow in numbers
Our Town Temple is working on several stories about birds and wildlife. Here is our first offering! It's going to be a busy weekend with lots to do, and it's all in our What's Happening? calendar.
THURSDAY DECEMBER 2, 2021
“In the 1990s there were no bald eagle nests in Bell County, but today there are at least six.”
The American bald eagle is one of three bird species that have made significant comebacks in Bell County. One of the birds, the black-capped vireo, has been scratched from the endangered species list, according to a wildlife expert and former Fort Hood biologist. Gil Eckrich photo
By DAVID STONE, Our Town Temple
Three endangered bird species have made big comebacks in Bell County thanks to the work of a Fort Hood wildlife management team.
Gil Eckrich, a German-born Central Texan who has been in the US since 1964, was a biologist for Fort Hood’s Natural Resources Management team for 23 years and still volunteers his services with the organization.
“When I went to work at Fort Hood in 1991 there were very few golden-cheeked warblers and black-capped vireo,” he said. “Both were listed as endangered. As a result of our work, the vireo is no longer an endangered species and the golden-cheeked warbler is thriving.”
In 1987, 85 black-capped vireo called Fort Hood home. Today, there are more than 8,000 of the birds flying around the post in Bell and Coryell counties, he said.
“In a way, it’s man’s fault that the black-capped vireo nearly perished,” Eckrich said. “It started way back with the over hunting of buffalo in Central Texas.”
According to Eckrich, the American bison roamed throughout the area in the early to mid 1800s, and they were followed by great numbers of cowbirds.
“The buffalo stirred up the ground when they grazed, making it easy for cowbirds to find insects and seeds,” he said. “But since buffalo were constantly on the move, the cowbirds had to keep moving as well. They didn’t have time to build nests and raise a family, so they found other birds who would — including the black-capped vireo.”
Cowbirds are brood parasites, meaning they lay their eggs in the nests of other bird species. They destroy eggs already in those nests so their young have greater access to food brought by the host.
“Once the young cowbirds are born, they tend to shove baby vireos out of the nest,” Eckrich said. “When the cowbirds followed the buffalo, only one generation of vireo was affected. But after the buffalo were gone, cowbirds turned to cows but there was a problem — today’s cows don’t migrate, they stay in the same field. Therefore, the cowbirds don’t pass through an area, they stay there. Before long, very few young vireos survive.”
In 1991, more than 90 percent of the black-capped vireo nests on Fort Hood had been taken over by cowbirds, and vireo populations plummeted.
“The same vireo nests were hit again and again,” he said. “And soon, not many were left.”
To remedy the problem and restore populations of black-capped vireo at Fort Hood, Eckrich and his team trapped and controlled the cowbirds, and eventually they lowered the numbers of cowbirds on post. This enabled the vireo to stage a remarkable comeback.
“We worked with a variety of trap designs and kept improving our cowbird-control techniques,” he said. “What we did is now being used all over the state and in Oklahoma.”
Like the black-capped vireo, golden-cheeked warblers also were a victim of the parasitic cowbirds. Once cowbird numbers were under control, warbler populations soared.
“Fort Hood has always had a healthy population of warblers because of the ideal environment,” Eckrich said. “They like a mix of juniper and hardwood trees — Fort Hood and Central Texas are perfect.”
“Thirty years ago, we had about 4,000 golden-cheeks in the area,” he said. “Today, we have more than 5,000 — a nice increase. But in other areas of Texas, warbler numbers are much smaller so they remain on the endangered list but their situation is improving.”
The third endangered bird in Bell County is the bald eagle.
“In the 1990s, there were no bald eagle nests here, but today there are at least six scattered around the county,” he said.
“The eagle situation started to improve when DDT was banned,” he said. “DDT was used on crops to kill pests. Rabbits and mice ate the sprayed forage, then eagles and hawks ate the small animals and died. But once the DDT was removed, nature took over.”
Eckrich said the Temple area has several locations ideally suited for bird watching.
“Temple and the rest of Bell County is in a flyaway, meaning they are in the path of birds flying north to south and later returning north,” he said. “A lot of rare species stop around here, and last winter when it was so cold, we had a lot of northern birds show up here. Northern shrikes live in the Arctic Circle and generally don’t get further south than Minnesota. But last winter, some were spotted at Granger Lake.”
“Endangered whooping cranes pass through, and a couple years ago whooping crane families spent the winter at Central Texas lakes,” he said.
According to Eckrich, Temple has some prime bird-watching locations, including Lions Park.
“That’s a great place to watch birds, especially after a heavy rain,” he said. “Right now, you might see three species of woodpecker, yellow-rumped warblers, three species of wrens and the rare rusty blackbird. You can also see and hear owls at Lions Park.”
Bell County’s two lakes also offer rare birding opportunities.
“Go to Temple Lake Park or Dana Peak Park — any of the lake parks, really — and you’ll see gulls, cranes,” he said. “You never know what you’ll see out there.”
In addition to his biologist duties at Fort Hood, Eckrich has taught at Central Texas College and at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. He also is involved with the Twin Lakes Audubon Society where he operates the Website and produces a newsletter.
Eckrich also is an accomplished wildlife photographer with a love for birds.
But, in his free time, he can be found in the field with his camera, searching for his next great bird photo.
A black-capped vireo feeds a young cowbird that was left in its nest. Cowbirds rarely raise their own young; instead they raid a nest, kill the nestlings and leave their own eggs for the host bird to raise. This nearly led to the extinction of species such as the black-capped vireo but it all started with the slaughter of bison. Gil Eckrich photo
The golden-cheeked warbler has significantly increased in numbers during the past 30 years. Today, more than 5,000 of the birds live in and around Fort Hood. That represents an increase of over 1,000 birds since 1991. Gil Eckrich photo
In 1987, 85 black-capped vireo called Fort Hood home. Today, there are more than 8,000 of the birds flying around the post in Bell and Coryell counties. Gil Eckrich photo
Two Academie Musique groups to entertain First Friday crowd
Our Town Temple
Two groups from Academie Musique will be performing at this month’s First Friday on Dec. 3 in downtown Temple.
The school’s Virtuoso Violins ensemble has become a regular on the First Friday circuit. This will be the group’s third time at the monthly party, and this time around they are adding a fifth set.
“We’ll be here,” said instructor Alex Sellers. “This is what we do. This time it will be all holiday music.”
Virtuoso Violins — the ensemble frequently includes violas as well — will start their First Friday tour at 6 p.m. with a stop at The Hub. They also will perform at Nami’s Japanese Steakhouse at 6:25 p.m., Ras Kitchen at 6:50 p.m., Bird Creek Burgers at 7:15 and Treno’s Pizzeria at 7:35 p.m.
Also making the rounds for the first time will be the Academie Adult Show Choir, according to Academie Musique’s executive director Shelley Dennis.
“This group will start at Precious Memories at 6:20 p.m. before moving to Darling Decor at 7 p.m., The Hub at 7:40 p.m. and Nami’s at 8:20 p.m.,” she said.
In addition to their First Friday gig, Virtuoso Violins will open for the Temple Symphony Orchestra on Saturday at Temple High School. The ensemble will play at 6:45 p.m. before TSO begins its Holiday Concert.
GOOD. Water lightly stained; 60 degrees; 1.91 feet low. Catfish is good, drifting main lake flats and channel ledges on fresh cut baits such as shad and perch. White bass and hybrid bass in the main lake.
GOOD. Water lightly stained; 57 degrees; 1.24 feet low. The fall patterns continue. White bass are schooling in 45-53 feet of water. When the bite is aggressive, drop MAL Heavy Lures with silver blades and whitetails to fish vertically, and when the bite is holding to the bottom, allow the MAL Heavy Lure with a white blade and chartreuse tail to fish horizontally. Crappie are good on minnows and jigs in brush piles and timber. Blue catfish are good with fresh-cut bait and live bait.
ALADDIN JR. OPENS FRIDAY AT TCT
Part of the cast of Aladdin Jr. rehearse at Temple Civic Theater. The production opens Friday and will be presented Dec. 3-5 and Dec. 10-12 at TCT. For show times and to purchase tickets visit templecivictheatre.com. David Stone | Our Town Temple
AROUND TOWN: BRIGHT FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Santa Fe Market Trail, between The Yard and the Santa Fe Depot, is lit for the holiday season. The city trees at City Hall and in Santa Fe Square will be turned on starting Monday. David Stone | Our Town Temple
WHAT’S HAPPENING, CENTRAL TEXAS?
Central Texas largest and most complete calendar of event:
Temple Public Library
TEEN CRAFT CORNER: Every 4th Monday at 5 p.m. Join us for Teen Craft Corner! Take a break from the stresses of school and life, and create something fun during our monthly craft program! Our crafts will include projects such as string art, painting, learning about artists and their techniques, mixed media, and so much more! All supplies provided. (254) 298-5557
GREAT BOOKS ADULT BOOK CLUB: 2nd and 4th Mondays at 6 p.m. Seminal texts of Western civilization, pre-20th century philosophers, scientists and novelists. Readings span from Homer and Plato to Nietzsche and Freud. (254) 298-5557
BABY BOOKWORMS (Ages 0-12 months: Every Tuesday at 11 a.m. A half-hour of book sharing, rhymes, songs, exercises and parachute play. (254) 298-5557
SCHOOL-AGE STORY TIME (K-3rd Grade): Every Wednesday at 4:15 p.m. A half-hour of short films, stories and constructive play. (254) 298-5557
PRESCHOOL STORY TIME (Ages 3-5): Songs, stories, and a variety of literacy activities. (254) 298-5557
DUNGEONS & DRAGONS (Ages 12-18): First Thursday of the month at 5 p.m. Looking to explore the world of D&D but not sure where to start? Join us at the Library for our Beginners Dungeons & Dragons Program!
Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum
FACING THE INFERNO: THE WILDFIRE PHOTOGRAPHY OF KARI GREER: Colorful, intimate, and intensely dramatic images that capture the work of wildland firefighters in this new exhibit that runs through Jan. 15. Amazing photography. First responders and immediate family will be admitted free through Dec. 3.
December 2, Thursday — Die Hard at The Beltonian. It IS. a Christmas movie!. 6 p.m.
December 2, Thursday — Taproom Trivia at Fire Base Brewing Co., 7 p.m.
December 3, Friday — Mark Richey at Bo’s Barn. 8 p.m.
December 3, Friday - Christmas and Holiday Season First Friday downtown Temple. 5 p.m.
December 3, Friday - Sammy G’s Toy Drive Block Party at Fire Base Brewing. 7 p.m.
December 3, Friday - Clint Walker Blues Band is back at O’Briens Irish Pub. 9 p.m.
December 3, Friday - Karaoke Night at Spare Time. Pick your favorite tune and come ready to WOW the crowd! Join us every Friday from 9 pm to midnight! Don't forget to enjoy our full-service restaurant and bar while you wait for your turn!
December 3, Friday - Late-Night Karaoke at Corky’s. Join DJ Bryan of Hogue Productions who brings you the favorite hits for the crowds singing pleasure. Whether you want to watch the singers, or try it out yourself, Friday Night Karakoe is fun for one and all. 10 p.m. to midnight.
December 3, Friday - Stations of the Nativity at Saint Luke’s Catholic Church, 2807 Oakdale in Temple. The Stations are followed by cookies, hot chocolate and activities for children including stories, cookie decorating, and advent themed crafts in the Parish Hall. Join your friends and families at St Lukes for fellowship and create a new family advent tradition this year. 7 p.m.
December 3, Friday - Nolanville Night Market Grinch Fest. Whoville characters, photo ops with The Grinch. Artisans and vendors. 6 p.m.
December 3-4 - Christmas on the Chilsom Trail, Central Avenue and East Street in Belton. 6 p.m.
December 3-5 — Disney’s Aladdin Jr. at Temple Civic Theatre.
December 3,4,10,11 — “A Christmas Carol” at Tablerock Amphitheater in Salado. 7 p.m.
December 4, Saturday - The Elks Hoop Shoot, funded by the Elks National Foundation, is a free throw contest for children 8-13. Celebrating 50 years of developing gritty kids. Held at the Ralph Wilson Youth Club.1515 S. 21st St., Temple. 11 a.m.
December 4, Saturday - Fleece Fun Over Cocoa Class at Sammons Community Center. 10 a.m. to noon. Bring your grandchildren to Sammons to create a memorable experience by working together to make a fleece scarf! Enjoy some hot chocolate and refreshments to celebrate the completion of your unique creation. Each person who signs up will walk away with their very own handmade scarf. All materials are provided. Pre-registration is required. $7 Per Person, all ages welcome!
December 4, Saturday - Photos with Santa at Horny Toad Harley-Davidson. Bring your own camera or smartphone and get Free photos with Santa! Limited 3-photos per group.11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
December 4, Saturday - Proctor Victory Garden's Mobile Mercantile full of artisanal pickles & pepper jellies will be at Barrow Brewing Company’s Christmas Market during The Salado Stroll. Drop by 108 Royal Street in Salado to sample our briney faire! Noon to 7 p.m.
December 4, Saturday - Todd Snider, Cultural Activities Center, 7:30 p.m.
December 4, Saturday — Marcus Lindsey at Bo’s Barn, 9 p.m.
December 4, Saturday - Preschool Story Time at Temple Public Library. 10:30 to 11 a.m.
December 4, Saturday - Barrow Brewing Christmas Market, Salado. Noon.
December 4, Saturday - Santa at the Depot, Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum, 5-8 p.m. Put on your jammies, grab your favorite stuffed animal and come enjoy a magical evening with Santa at the Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum. Visitors can marvel at the sights and sounds of the holiday season as they wander through the winter lights on the Santa Fe Plaza and enjoy Christmas music. Enjoy delicious hot chocolate available for purchase from Kona Ice while waiting to see the man in the big red suit! TICKETS ON SALE at https://bit.ly/3CfFHFE. ALL tickets are ADVANCE purchase only. Tickets are required for admission. Limited ticket quantity is available. Tickets are $5.00 per person, children 2 and under are free. Ticket includes visit with Santa and a gift bag for children. General museum admission will be closed on December 4th to prepare for Santa's visit.
December 4, Saturday - Lance Wade Thomas rocks O’Briens. 9 p.m.
December 4, Saturday - Temple Symphony Orchestra Holiday Concert featuring soprano Priscilla Santana and tenor Brian Joyce. Temple High School. 7:30 p.m.
December 4, Saturday - Chisholm Trail Christmas Ball featuring Rick Trevino. Bell County Expo Center. 6 p.m.
December 4, Saturday - Game of Thrones Trivia Night at Fire Base Brewing. Free to play. 7 to 9 p.m.
December 4, Saturday - Epically Hogwarts Holiday at Mayborn Science Center in Killeen. 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
December 4-5 - Kris Kringle Mart presented by KC Council 3444, 2218 W. Avenue D, Temple. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
December 5, Sunday - Organ & Piano Christmas Concert at First United Methodist in Temple featuring Dr. Carl Bradley on the organ and Sam Davis on the piano. 4 p.m. in the church sanctuary.
December 5, Sunday - Adoration & Benediction at Saint Luke’s Catholic Church, 2807 Oakdale in Temple. 9 a.m. to noon.
December 5, Sunday - Elks Rest Memorial Service at BPO Elks Temple Lodge No. 138. 2613 Airport Road in Temple. Please plan to attend in honor of our Absent Members! 1 p.m.
December 6, Monday - The 75th Annual Christmas Parade and City Christmas Tree Lighting will begin at 6:15 p.m. This year's theme is “The Magic of a Traditional Christmas." Details will be made available on templeparks.com.
December 6, Monday — Belton Lake Parade of Lights at Dead Fish Grill. Watch boats on the lake decked with Christmas lights. Hot chocolate and chocolate bombs filled with marshmallows. 6 to 9 p.m.
December 7, Tuesday — Baby Bookworms ages 0 to 12 months at Temple Public Library. 11 to 11:30 a.m.
December 7, Tuesday — Tarok Card Party and Lessons at Czech Heritage Museum & Genealogy Center. We play for fun! Come learn to play Taroks, the 1400s European card game Czech brought to Texas in the 1800s. It’s just as popular today and tournaments are held all over Texas. Jimmy and Carolyn Coufal are award-winning tournament champions who teach and advise us purely for the love of the game. No fees or admissions. Just come join us! 7 to 9 p.m.
December 10, Friday - TISD Jazz Band – Merry Christmas and All That Jazz at Meridith-Dunbar Early Childhood Academy Auditorium, 5:30 p.m.
December 10, Friday — Vista’s Jingle Jam 2021 at Vista Community Church. Join us for the most fun, biggest, Christmas party of the year for your whole family. We'll play games, sing Christmas songs, have Christmas cookies and cocoa, and hear the Christmas story in a way kids can understand. And it is totally FREE! We’ll have a Jingle Jam session at 5:30pm and 7pm.
December 10, Friday - Bone at O’Briens. 9 p.m.
December 10, Friday —Branded Heart at Bo’s Barn. 8 p.m.
December 10-12 — Disney’s Aladdin Jr. at Temple Civic Theatre.
December 10-12, The Texas Nutcracker, performed by Classical Ballet Conservatory of Lisa's Dance Connection, performance at the Cultural Activities Center.
December 11, Saturday - Holiday Bazaar at Holy Trinity Catholic High School, 6608 W. Adams Ave. in Temple. Photos with Santa, Santa’s Workshop, food, perfect last-minute gifts. Vendor spots still available. www.holytrinity.com. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
December 11, Saturday - Photos with Santa at Horny Toad Harley-Davidson. Bring your own camera or smartphone and get Free photos with Santa! Limited 3-photos per group.11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
December 11, Saturday - Proctor Victory Garden's Mobile Mercantile full of artisanal pickles & pepper jellies will be at Barrow Brewing Company’s Christmas Market during The Salado Stroll. Drop by 108 Royal Street in Salado to sample our briney faire! Noon to 7 p.m.
December 11, Saturday — Winter Wonderland at Wilson Park Recreation Center. Santa’s coming to visit all the good little boys and girls at the Wilson Park Recreation Center. 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Join us for cookies, hot cocoa, gifts, and pictures during this special family event.The event is FREE; however, registration is required. Register today here: https://bit.ly/3CZEKBV.
December 11, Saturday — Downtown Temple Holiday Market & Food Truck Frenzy. Its Holiday Season! We are excited to partner our market series with another Food Truck Event! Come join us in Downtown Temple and spread some holiday joy by supporting local businesses in our area!We will have plenty of vendors, food trucks to satisfy anyone's cravings, live music and activities for kids! Come find that perfect gift for your loved ones - whether it be a new piece of jewelry, some unique bath products, or a fun knickknack. 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
December 11, Saturday - 5th annual Holiday Extravaganza at the Troy Community Center. Shop with local small businesses. 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
December 11, Saturday - Tucka Texas Takeover with LJ Echols, Fat Daddy and Mr. Smoke. VFW Post 1820, Temple. 7 p.m.
December 11, Saturday — 35 South at Bo’s Barn. 9 p.m.
December 11, Saturday - Holiday Laser Light Show at Barrow Brewing Co. in Salado. Part of the 61st annual Salado Christmas Stroll. 7 p.m.
December 12, Sunday - Temple High School Band Winter Concert in the THS Auditorium, 2:00 p.m.
December 13, Monday - Temple High School Orchestra Christmas Concert at THS Auditorium, 7 p.m.
December 14, Tuesday - Temple High School Choir Holiday Gift at THS Auditorium. 7:30 p.m.
December 17, Friday - Matt Cearley & The Rowdy Few, O’Briens. 9 p.m.
December 17, Friday — Hyway Traveler at Bo’s Barn. 8 p.m.
December 17, Friday — “It’s a Wonderful Life” at The Beltonian Theatre. 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.
December 18, Saturday — “It’s a Wonderful Life” at The Beltonian Theatre. 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.
December 18, Saturday — The Real Gun Show at Bell County Expo Assembly Hall. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
December 19, Sunday — The Real Gun Show at Bell County Expo Assembly Hall, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
December 19, Sunday – When Harry Met Sally… (1989), free movie at Cultural Activities Center. Boy meets girl, boy sees other girls, and girl sees other boys. Maybe boy and girl should have seen each other. “I’ll have what she’s having.” The event will include a pre and post-movie discussion with Dr. Joseph Taberlet. 2 p.m.
December 18, Saturday - Shinyribs, Cultural Activities Center, 7:30 p.m.
December 18, Saturday — People’s Choice at Bo’s Barn. 9 p.m.
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