Increased bird population represents good report card for Mission Reach

3-year study shows migratory bird species, populations increasing along SA River

By Justin Horne - Weather Authority Meteorologist/Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - While most of us do not pay close attention to what is flying above our heads, the world of birding is big business in many parts of the world. In fact, the second weekend in May is celebrated as International Migratory Bird Day, a day that is not lost on local avian expert Martin Reid.  

"Oh, there's a lesser goldfinch flying across,” said Reid, looking through his binoculars. “Look! See that little dot?"

Reid can spot and identify just about any bird, or flying insect, for that matter. He also can identify birds by their sound.  

“I hear it,” Reid said of a painted bunting. “It's singing from up there in the tree."

Reid is not just a bird enthusiast; he leads a team of avian surveyors, tasked with finding species and populations of birds along the San Antonio River’s Mission Reach. Contracted by the San Antonio River Authority, the survey is part of a three-year study.  

"We've seen 186 species of birds within the restored area,” Reid said. “That's not birds flying over, that's not birds in the trees on either side, that's just within the project boundaries."

The numbers represent a measuring stick for the health of the river. Simply put, the more species and populations of birds, the better the ecosystem.

It has long been a goal of the ever-improving Mission Reach. The results, 2 1/2 years into the study, will likely make those at the San Antonio River Authority pleased.  

"I have been surprised by the number of unusual species we've seen here,” said Reid. 

Species like buntings and scissor-tailed flycatchers have made several appearances.   

"Just three weeks ago, in that tree over there, I found a tropical kingbird,” said Reid. “It’s a species that's never been seen before in Bexar County, anywhere."

Perhaps even more surprising, Reid, along with other birders spotted a bald eagle in some tall trees along the river. The eagle stayed around for a few months. It is an occurrence that proves the ecosystem is improving. 

"There's a painted bunting up there in the tree,” said Reid, pointing to a nearby tree. “We'll start to see more and more of migratory birds like that will have territories up and down the river."

To see all the bird species spotted along the Mission Reach and to read more about Reid’s findings, click here.

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