Thursday, January 28, 2010

Katy Prairie Again

Still no time for real birding but I drove to work via Warren Lake and Longenbaugh Road. I didn't bother taking a camera along. Perhaps I should have.

Before I even reached 290 I saw my first new year bird: #104 Spotted Sandpiper. To be honest, I was surprised not to have seen this particular bird earlier in the year. It hangs out by the same small pond at Cole's Crossing every winter but this year it seemed to disappear in late December.

There were nine Red-tailed Hawks and lots of American Kestrels by the roadside.

Warren Lake had a Northern Harrier and a pair of Bald Eagles (2010 species #105).

The college again had lots of Ring-necked Ducks, Lesser Scaup, White-winged Doves, Eastern Meadowlarks, Savannah Sparrows and Yellow-rumped Warblers. More exciting, though, was a Gray Catbird (2010 bird #106).

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Brief Visit to Surfside

On Saturday I was leading a workshop in Lake Jackson and decided to take advantage of the trip to pop in to the beach at Surfside. I hadn't been there since September 2008, when we were rudely forced to interrupt a vacation by Hurricane Ike.

The area was in much better shape than I expected, although birds were few and far between. The weather didn't help either; it was one of those very misty gray mornings.

Although most of the gulls I saw were Laughing Gulls, one Herring Gull put in an appearance, taking my year list to 100.

A Great-tailed Grackle looked very stately if a little out of place on the beach.

Several Ruddy Turnstones (species #101) looked much more at home ...

as did a handful of Sanderlings and Wil
lets, and a solitary Black-bellied Plover (year bird 102).

On the drive back to Lake Jackson, several cormorants were lined up on wooden pilings by a roadside pond and I was thrilled to see that there was a Neotropic mixed in with the Double-crested.

Neotropic (left) and Doble-crested Cormorants

So that took my 2010 list to 103, with a week of January still to go. Not a bad start to my birding year!

Red-tailed Hawks continued to be very common: I saw 10 on this trip. American Kestrels were even more common, although the lighting conditions made it impossible to get any good photos.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Plenty of Birds Around

. While our yards have been quiet since good weather returned last weekend, there have been plenty of birds around in our area. I only wish I'd had more time for birding! A short visit to Kleb Wood and a drive along Longenbaugh Road added 8 species to my year list. A couple of brief walks around the CyFair campus each turned up 17-18 species, including year bird #99: a dozen Ring-necked Ducks. Here are a few of the photos from my week.

Eastern Meadowlark

House Wren

Eastern Phoebe

Loggerhead Shrike

Red-tailed Hawk

Black Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Friday, January 22, 2010

Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge

After leaving Bolivar beach, w
e headed east along the peninsula. Although a lot of rebuilding is going on, the destruction caused by Ike is still very evident, particularly around Rollover Pass.

We weren't very lucky with birds at Anahuac NWR but it was good to see that the refuge has been largely cleared of hurricane debris and is recovering well.

While we were having a picnic lunch by the ruins of the Visitor Center, we were entertained by the sight and sounds of thousands of Snow Geese crossing the sky.

A Red-tailed Hawk add
ed to the show.

The pond on the left of the road had scores of Egrets and White Ibis, as well as many White-faced Ibis.

The loop road turned up very little except for a few Savannah Sparrows.

A Peregrine Falcon and many Northern Harriers were all too far away for photographs.

On our way out of the ref
uge we came upon this rather mysterious bird.

It was clearly a hawk, but which kind? After posting photos and asking for advice on BirdForum, I was eventually persuaded that it was a Krider's Red-tailed Hawk
. Very different from our typical Red-tails. However, in our area Red-tailed Hawks vary so much in coloring that it's difficult to know what a "typical" one looks like! Compare the bird above with this one seen earlier on our trip.

Red-tailed have been very abundant this winter. So far, I've seen at least one every day in January. We saw a total of 31 on our trip to the coast.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bolivar Peninsula

On Monday we took the Bolivar ferry from Galveston. As usual, several Brown Pelicans escorted us out of the harbor.

For the first time in ages we didn't see a single dolphin on the trip but there were the normal hordes of Laughing Gulls being fed by the passengers.

The harbor at Bolivar also had two small groups of Red-breasted Mergansers.

We drove the beach from Retilion Road to the boundary of the Audubon beach area and then walked as far as we could along the latter. This stretch of beach almost always has hundreds of birds and sometimes thousands. This time we counted just 19. That's individual birds, not species!

After passing five Double-crested Cormorants on pilings, we saw five Long-billed Curlews fishing the water's edge near two Ring-billed Gulls.

Long-billed Curlew

Ring-billed Gull

The Gulls and Curlews were new
2010 birds, as were four Sanderlings and three Dunlin.



A group of Lesser Scaup were floating offshore, too far away to photograph.

Then we got lucky when a flock of about 200 Wh
ite Pelicans flew in and settled on land beyond the beach.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Galveston Island

Monday morning I was up and driving along Stewart Road just after dawn.

The roadside was very quiet except for several Snowy Egrets and some Great-tailed Grackles.

I turned onto Settegast Road in the hope of finding Belted Kingfisher and Sandhill Cranes. I stopped to photograph a Great Egret and a Snowy Egret fishing a creek, both looking particularly beautiful in the morning light.

A Belted Kingfisher flew before I could get a photo but a nearby Red-tailed Hawk stayed a moment longer.

There were no Sandhill Cranes in the fields but, as I was leaving, a pair flew overhead.

Lafitte's Cove
Lafitte's Cove was in much better condition than when I was there last spring and there were plenty of common b
irds: Yellow-rumped Warblers, Northern Mockingbirds, American Robins, Savannah Sparrows, Green-winged Teal and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Good looks at a Common Yellowthroat and a glimpse of two Inca Doves added two more birds to my year list.

American Robin

Galveston State Park
The park seemed totally devoid of birds except for some flocks of Savannah Sparrows and this Eastern Phoebe.

Then one of the highlights of the trip: a pair of Sprague's Pipits, a life bird!

Sportsmen's Road
The rocky area at the end of 8 Mile Road had only a single bird, my first Reddish Egret of the year. So I wasn't too optimistic about Sportsmen's Road. However, I had gone only a few yards when I spotted a group of Roseate Spoonbills with a Tricolored Heron. (Both were new year birds.)

Tricolored Heron

The Spoonbills flew off when I stopped but a few moments later I came across a more relaxed
Spoonbill, fishing near a Snowy Egret.

Although the piers in front of the houses seemed to have mainly crowds of Laughing Gulls, there were significant numbers of Willets.

There were also dozens of American Oystercatchers. As I had previously seen only a couple of individuals of the species, this was an exciting sighting for me - and another new 2010 bird.

Then it was back to the Beachcomber Inn to pick up Dee and Alan for the drive to Bolivar and Anahuac.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Brazos Bend State Park

At noon on Sunday we spent an hou
r or so at BBSP.

We started with a look over 40 Acre Lake that produced very little except American Coots, Great and Snowy Egrets, a Yellow-crowned Night Heron, and this Great Blue Heron.

We followed up with a walk around Creekfield Lake. Coots here were joined by Pied-billed Grebes and Common Moorhens.

Common Moorhen

White Ibis fished from the bank while Mottled Ducks cruised the waters.

Red-eared Sliders sunned themselves on branches sticking out of the water while a solitary crocodile tried to be invisible in plain sight.

The best sighting of the day was this Cottonmouth, happily curled up by the edge of the path.

The area around the Visitor Center had Eastern Phoebes, Red-winged Blackbirds and Carolina Chickadees.

Before leaving, we stopped in very briefly at Elm Lake. There were a couple more alligators but the only birds in sight were a score or so White Ibis.