Monday, May 11, 2009

Bolivar Peninsula

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On Sunday we went with friends Macarena and Carlos Aguilar for lunch on Galveston, and we also did a quick side-trip to the Bolivar Peninsula. It was our first visit to the area since two days before Hurricane Ike and we were very apprehensive about what we would see.
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The east end of Galveston showed some signs of damage but the residents have done a remarkable job with the clean-up and restoration. (The west end of the island is probably in a much worse state, though.)
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The ferry ride to Bolivar was as enjoyable as ever. While dolphins were absent, the normal crowds of Laughing Gulls and Brown Pelicans were around, as were several Neotropic Cormorants. The best sighting was of a Magnificent Frigatebird but, unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a recognizable photo of this.
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We only traveled the short distance from the ferry terminal to the bird sanctuary beach at the end of Rettilon Road, but even this was enough to show some of the devastating damage caused by Ike.
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Garbage and debris were everywhere, even in the trees.
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The store/motel where we had often shopped and had once stayed with our sister-in-law Jill was ruined and abandoned.
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The beach was in rather better shape than I expected and there were birds, though in smaller numbers than I've ever seen there.
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Brown Pelicans patroled the beach, accompanied by Royal and Common Terns. Judging by the way the were chasing off Laughing Gulls, Least Terns seemed to be nesting nearby.
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Brown Pelicans with Royal and Common Terns

Royal Tern

Great, Snowy and Reddish Egrets were fishing in the various ponds.
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Reddish Egret

The ponds and the beach also had small numbers of shorebirds, several in a range of different plumages. The Dunlins were easy to recognize ...
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as were Ruddy Turnstones.
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Ruddy Turnstone (left) with Sanderling

However, it took me a while to recognize this Willet, because it was in beautiful breeding plumage rather than its normal rather drab gray feathers.
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Breeding Black-bellied Plovers were distinctive ...
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but their counterparts in non-breeding plumage were a little tougher to identify.


Sanderlings were the most common bird and these, too, appeared in a range of plumages.





The visit to Bolivar was all too brief but we'll certainly be returning there before too long. Next time, we'll have to see how things stand further along the peninsula.
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Year Birds
I saw seven new birds, taking my 2009 total to 208.

4 comments:

Birdwoman said...

Since our somewhat traumatic visit to Anahuac on January 1, I've been reluctant to return to the coastal sanctuaries for fear of what I would find. The reports from Bolivar are encouraging though and I'm happy to see your wonderful pictures of the shorebirds there.

Jeff said...

Things are picking up. I believe that we'd have seen more birds on Bolivar if we'd gone to the section of beach near the jetty, but I particularly wanted to see how the Rettilon Road section had survived.
BTW, we didn't have time to bird Rettilon Road itself but I noticed there were lots of shorebirds on both sides of the road.

mkircus said...

Jeff, are you aware that we have western willets in winter and eastern willets in spring? I used to be confused each fall and spring until I found that out.

O'Brien,et al, the Shorebird Guide has great comparison pictures and discussion.

I used to bird all the upper Texas coast a lot before moving from Houston to the Hill Country.

Jeff said...

Hi.
Thanks for pointing that out. I reas something about it recently but hadn't realized that the difference linked with the seasons.