Friday, May 09, 2008

Big Weekend: Anahuac

There are few places more beautiful than Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge in the spring. The reeds and grasses provide a constantly moving background of different shades of brown and green, while clumps of wildflowers add patches of more vibrant colors. Then, of course, you have the beauty provided by the wildlife.

On this trip, I got to the refuge alone at around 7:30 a.m. and birded the Willows and Shoveler's Pond. I then went back to the hotel to pick up Dee, and we both spent the next couple of hours exploring the same parts of Anahuac.

One of the early birds at the Willows was a Blackburnian Warbler. Sorry about the dreadful photo below but at least it shows the Blackburnian's trademark throat. (Restless birds like warblers are hard to photograph with a digital camera because of the latter's shutter delay.)

The reeds at the edges of Shoveler's Pond were excellent for Least Bitterns and Purple Gallinules (below). My early morning drive turned up three of each. We saw both species again later.

The Willows remained good for birding later in the morning, with appearances by Magnolia Warbler, Orchard Orioles, Red-eyed Vireo, American Redstart and Common Yellowthroat. The Black-and-white Warbler shown below was very cooperative and came within 4-5 feet of us.

The bullrushes and reeds everywhere around Shoveler's Pond had numbers of displaying Boat-tailed Grackles.

Sparrows were few and far between. We saw only a couple of Seaside Sparrows and a handful of Savannah Sparrows.

Savannah Sparrow

The Shoveler's Pond boardwalk was very productive. The White Ibis below seemed to enjoy being photographed ...

... as did this Mottled Duck.

A Dowitcher and a Stilt Sandpiper were equally obliging ...

... as was this Solitary Sandpiper.

The other birds near the boardwalk included Least Bittern, Common Moorhen, Blue-winged Teal, Great and Tricolored Egrets, Glossy Ibis, Black-necked Stilts, Least Bittern, Eastern Kingbird and Barn Swallows.

Our final tally for the morning was 48 bird species, which is about the number we usually see in 2-3 hours at Anahuac.

We also saw 19 alligators. That equals our alligator-spotting record set at Brazos Bend Park a few springs ago.

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