Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bolivar Peninsula


We got to the Audubon beach on Bolivar Peninsula at noon on Sunday and were greeted by hordes of mosquitoes and deer flies. We quickly covered all our exposed areas with lemon eucalyptus insect repellent and this kept the bugs off our skin, although the flies congregated in large numbers on our dark colored pants/shorts and stayed there throughout our walk.

Caspian Terns were hanging out around a pool just where the road opens up onto the beach. They were surprisingly tolerant of our presence, as were most of the birds we saw later.

The public section of the beach was quiet for birds but the pilings that block vehicle access to the Audubon beach were occupied by a pair of juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Herons.

The pilings that sit in the sea were occupied, too, in their case by Double-crested Cormorants and Laughing Gulls.

The tide was high and so most of the beach was under water. This may be one reason why the number of birds was fairly small. As always on Bolivar, though, there were enough birds and species to keep our binoculars and camera busy.

Pools above the vegetation line had a Great Egret, a Snowy Egret and a very handsome Reddish Egret.

Reddish Egret

The same pools had a range of shorebirds. For some reason, most of the latter were much less shy than they usually are and it was easy to get within good camera range of many of them.

Willets and Long-billed Dowitchers walked gracefully through ponds ...


Long-billed Dowitchers

while Piping and Semipalmated Plovers scuttled busily around.

Piping Plover

Semipalmated Plover

The sea’s edge had Black-bellied Plovers, Western Sandpipers and small flocks of Sanderlings.


A solitary Long-billed Curlew did not let me get too close.

Further out into the gulf, the waters were constantly patrolled by Forster's Terns and Brown Pelicans.

As we were leaving, we noticed the pilings were now occupied by a much less happy-looking Reddish Egret.

We finished our outing with lunch at Mario's on the seawall in Galveston. If you haven't eaten there, you really should try it. We think it's the best Italian restaurant we've found in the USA - and we spent ten years in San Francisco. The pizza margherita and rosemary roasted chicken are to die for, while the gelati are even better! The prices are very reasonable, too.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Best Free Show in Texas

On Sunday we took the ferry from Galveston to Bolivar. I love the ferry! Not just is it free but the ride always produces some interesting sightings.

In the summer, you can usually count on seeing Magnificent Frigatebirds, and Sunday was no exception. Five circled high above the ferry as soon as we boarded and we spotted two more a few minutes later.

Last time we took the ferry, we saw a score of dolphins. This time there were fewer but they started appearing even before the boat left the dock. They were unusually active, with several of them leaping completely out of the water. Unfortunately, I didn't get a single photo.

I did a little better with pelicans. Three Brown Pelicans came within feet of the ferry's side while we were leaving the harbor.

However, the true stars of the show are always the Laughing Gulls. Some fly alongside.

Some prefer to find a good perch.

These two also found a good place to hang out ...

and they protested loudly whenever another bird would try to join them.

However, the real action is at the stern, because this is where people go and throw bread and other tidbits. The birds jostle for position even before the first piece of food is thrown.

Then the real action begins.

I'll blog on Thursday about what we saw when we got to Bolivar.



Monday, September 28, 2009

Mercer Botanical Gardens

As I mentioned in my previous post, I dropped in to Mercer Botanical Gardens on my drive home from John Pundt Park.

The gardens were as stunning as always but I was disappointed to find there were no butterflies. Extraordinary! Millions of beautiful flowers but not a single butterfly.

So as at Pundt Park, I had to lower my sights. And once again I was surprised. This time it wasn't fungi but lizards. It seemed that every second or third rock was occupied by some type of lizard warming itself up in the sun that was just starting to break through the clouds.

We get plenty of geckos and anoles in our yards but these were very different creatures and I thought they looked magnificent against the various rocks they were climbing on.

My final sighting was of a toad hopping happ
ily down the path unnoticed by the dozens of visitors entering the gardens.

On Sunday we're off to Galveston and Bolivar Peninsula. Given my recent luck with birding, we probably won't see very many birds!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

When Birds Are Scarce

At 8:00 a.m. yesterday I was at the entrance to John Pundt Park in Spring just as the gates were opened. It was a cool and cloudy morning and I was looking forward to a couple of hours of woodland birding.

By 8:30 all I had seen was a female Cardinal and and a Great Blue Heron, and I had to accept that it was going to be one of those days when the birds just don't cooperate. So I started lowering my sights, literally, and looking for butterflies among the plants.

Unfortunately, butterflies too were very few and far between. However, looking for them got me paying more attention to the flowers and plants that surrounded me.

I lowered my sights even further, right down to ground level. To my amazement, I found that the paths were lined with an extraordinary number and variety of fungi. Here is a sampling of the different types I saw.

On my way home, I popped in to Mercer Botanical Gardens. I rarely see many birds at Mercer but it's a surefire site for seeing lots of butterflies. In my next post, I'll show you what I found there.