Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Good Morning at Baytown

Sunday morning at Baytown Nature Center was cold and windy! (When I arrived at 7:30, the temperature was 39F and the wind was well over 10 mph.) So I wasn't expecting too much bird activity.

I started by looking for the Brown Booby on the utility pylons that stretch across the bay. No luck! In fact, there were no birds at all on the pylons, although the end of the promontory did have an obliging Osprey.

When I first spotted it, it was on the grass, perhaps sheltering from the wind.

A few minutes later, it moved to a series of different perches along the water's edge.


I scanned Crystal Bay for Grebes, Loons and Hooded Mergansers. Again, no luck. However, I did get some good looks at a Red-breasted Merganser, always a nice bird to watch.

A walk around the loop trail turned up only common birds, such as Northern Mockingbirds, Blue Jays and Red-winged Blackbirds (below).

A Spotted Sandpiper was the only shorebird.

Brown Pelicans looked impressive against the rich blue sky.

The pond near the gazebo had a nice group of Roseate Spoonbills.

A White Ibis was hanging out with the Spoonbills.

While I was watching, it caught several small crabs.

Back at the Egret Tidal Flats a great Blue Heron was looking very stately as it prowled through the water.

A Snowy Egret flew to the other side of the road when I stopped by the pond.

Surprisingly, given how skittish they normally are, four Great Egrets seemed unconcerned by my presence.

So, too, did a Spoonbill.

As I was photographing the Egrets, I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. Yes! It was a group of eight Hooded Mergansers, the males looking spectacular with their black and white hoods.

Several of the males were competing for the attention of one of the females. Their display consisted of raising their chests out of the water, throwing back their heads and bobbing forward, while calling loudly.

Sad to say, the female didn't seem to be impressed.

After leaving Baytown, I headed north towards Highlands, where there is a birding site that I'd heard good reports of but had never visited. But I'll blog about that in a few days.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Last Week

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker that turned up a while ago is still busy working on the tree in our neighbor's front yard.

A Ruby-crowned Kinglet is a sporadic visitor to our feeders.

An Orange-crowned Warbler is a much more frequent visitor and comes to the suet constantly throughout the day.

Our year-round residents visit the feeders frequently, too. I rarely see our male Downy Woodpecker but the female is often on our new suet feeder.

It is almost impossible to watch our backyard feeders for five minutes without seeing some of our Carolina Chickadees and Carolina Wrens (below).

Northern Cardinals tend to come to feed very early and very late each day.


We have an awful lot of squirrels at present. As soon as we put birdfood on the fence or on any accessible feeder, squirrels turn up. As you can see, they feel quite at home in our yards.

CyFair Campus

Many winter species have now arrived on the CyFair campus, including Ruby-crowned Kinglets, White-throated Sparrows, Pine Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers and American Goldfinch.

Our many resident Northern Mockingbirds are visible - and audible - wherever you walk on the campus and our Great Egret (below) is usually not difficult to spot.

Our Red-tailed Hawks are not difficult to spot either. 

Among the brds that appear sporadically are American Robins and Eastern Phoebes (below).

On Sunday I had a very productive visit to Baytown Nature Center, followed by a good hour's birding at a new site on the east side of Houston. I'll post about these later this week.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Winter Ducks Are Back

I spent part of Wednesday lunchtime in what used to be Horsepen Creek Park but has now been renamed Deputy Darren Goforth Park. (It is located directly across Barker Cypress Road from the CyFair campus.) I was hoping that at least a few of our winter ducks had arrived.

At first glance, all I could see were a couple of Pied-billed Grebes and scores of American Coots (below).

Then I noticed that a couple of female Blue-winged Teal were mixed in with the Coots.

A male Mallard and three females (below) were hanging out nearby.

Far out on the water were several more ducks, including Northern Shovelers. A little closer there was a group of Lesser Scaup (below).

There were a couple of dozen Ruddy Ducks also but only a few females came within camera range. Last winter the pond often had 100-200 Ruddy Ducks.

Over on the other side of the pond I could just make out what looked through my binoculars like two Red-breasted Mergansers. A photo that I enlarged later showed that they were indeed Red-breasted Mergansers. That's a good bird to see on an inland lake or pond in our area.

As usual at this park, there were a handful of Great and Snowy Egrets, including the Snowy shown below.

As I was leaving, I spotted an Osprey flying from the park over to the college. When I arrive back on the campus, the bird was preening on a utility pylon.

It shouldn't be long now until many more ducks arrive in our area and so I'll be keeping an eye on the park pond from now on.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Back to Brazos

Since coming to Texas, we have always visited Brazos Bend State Park at least a couple of times each year. So I was surprised to realize that our visit yesterday was our first and only one of 2015.

Our most recent previous visit, in December 2104, had turned up comparatively few birds and yesterday's visit was unfortunately rather similar.

A leisurely walk around 40 Acre Lake produced only a handful of large wading birds: a Great Blue Heron, two Great Egrets, a Snowy Egret and three Little Blue Herons (below).

The park is a reliable place for seeing Anhingas and, sure enough, we came across one at 40 Acre Lake.

The lake also had a couple of Double-crested Cormorants and Pied-billed Grebes (below).

A family of Common Gallinules were pottering around in the shallows.

A 15-minute walk along the edge of Elm Lake was even less successful, producing only brief looks at a Red-tailed Hawk, three American Crows and a couple of Eastern Phoebes.

The main entrance path to Creekfield Lake was blocked but the trees nearby had their usual complement of Black Vultures. 

If the lakes we visited were quiet for birds, they certainly had plenty of alligators. An island in 40 Acre Lake had four good-sized  ones.

We encountered several more adult gators as we walked around the lake.


Later in the day I had a lucky meeting with a park volunteer, who explained that the Creekfield Trail was blocked off because there was a nest of alligators next to it and the staff were worried that the mother might not take kindly to people walking next to her babies.
He then offered to show me the nest.

Standing well back from where the mother alligator was lurking protectively, we counted 25 babies on the bank and in the water.

My final sighting of the day was of a couple of American Coots, cruising around unconcernedly between the mother alligator and her babies.