Thursday, September 25, 2008

New Yard Bird

On Monday, we had a new species show up in our backyard. It was a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Unfortunately, it was just passing through and hasn't been seen again.

A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Coincidentally, when we spent two hours at Sheldon Lake Environmental Center last week, six of the eight birds that we saw were Blue-gray Gnatcatchers.

This takes our yard list to 42. That's bird species seen in our yards since we moved to Cypress in January 2005. Of course, the number would be a lot higher if we counted birds that overfly our property!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Before and After Hurricane Ike

On Wednesday, we had to evacuate Surfside because of Hurricane Ike, and so we drove home via Galveston, with a side trip over to the Audubon beach on Bolivar.

The beach was as full of birds as ever.

We were hoping to see Magnificent Frigatebirds on the ferry ride but had scores of views of Bottlenose Dolphins instead.

The hurricane came early Saturday morning and it was still strong when it passed over Cypress. However, we were lucky: We lost only some tree limbs and our pwer went out for just one day.

I posted a while back about how woodpeckers ride out storms by clinging to trees. During Ike, I was able to see one of our Red-bellied Woodpeckers doing just that. It hunkered down against the trunk of our elm and kept moving to whichever side was most sheltered.

We won't be going to Galveston or Bolivar again any time soon. The island was very badly hit and the peninsula was really devastated. Like us, Surfside got the "clean" side of the storm but even that was enough to cause a huge amount of damage. Ike had one good result, though. The public beach there was rather spoiled by 14 houses built years ago right on the waterline. Apparently, 10 of those houses aren't there any more!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Vacation Interrupted

On Monday we went down to Surfside, where we had rented a beach house for four days. It was perfect weather and the location was great for fishing (for my daughter's partner, Jose-Luis) and birding (for me). The first afternoon, we sat on the deck watching Willets and Laughing Gulls arguing on the beach as a Reddish Egret hunted in the surf. Jose-Luis was thrilled to catch a small Hammerhead Shark.

Jose-Luis enjoying Surfside beach ...

while a Reddish Egret fished a few yards away

The next day, I drove to Brazoria for dawn to do some early-morning birding. Most of the refuge's ponds were dry but there were still enough birds to make the trip worthwhile. Amazingly, there were absolutely no mosquitoes, a first for Brazoria. It was particularly good to see large numbers of adult and juvenile Black-crowned Night Herons, mixed in with Roseate Spoonbills, Black-necked Stilts and various Egrets.

Dawn at Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge

Black-crowned Night Heron and Roseate Spoonbill

Killdeer in the early morning light

Later in the morning, I drove along the beach at Surfside and was rewarded with great views of shorebirds, including American Oystercatchers, Willets, Black-bellied Plovers and Ruddy Turnstones. Gulls and terns were plentiful, as were Brown Pelicans (including a couple which were mating).

Black-bellied Plover

American Oystercatcher


Brown Pelicans

In the afternoon, Jose-Luis continued, encouraged by having caught a second, larger shark. The rest of us went to Brazoria, where my daughter Emma saw her first Roseate Spoonbills.

Great Egret at Brazoria

Roseate Spoonbills (with White Ibis and Snowy Egrets)

Our visit ended well when Emma spotted a young coyote wandering among the flowers by the side of the exit road.

We all woke up on Wednesday looking forward to more beautiful days in Surfside, which Jose-Luis had decided was "paradise." Unfortunately, Hurricane Ike intervened: A mandatory evacuation order was issued and we had to pack up and leave at 10:00 a.m. So much for paradise!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Brazos Bend State Park

Yesterday morning, we took my daughter, her partner and our grandson to Brazos Bend State Park for a picnic.
The park seemed unusually quiet for birds but was still well worth a visit.

40-Acre Lake

40-Acre Lake had scores of Common Moorhens and 7-8 Green Herons, as well as a few Great and Snowy Egrets, White Ibis, Anhingas, Cormorants, Little Blue Herons, Eastern Kingbirds and Red-winged Blackbirds.

Green Heron


Common Moorhen Family

White Ibis

We also saw 14 alligators, including this one lying on the path.
At Elm Lake, the birding situation was similarly quiet, except for scores of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.

The picnic area was busy with noisy American Crows - and swarms of dragonflies.