Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Weekend on the Coast: Part 2

As in January, we didn't have to wait for the Galveston-Bolivar ferry on this trip. Quite a change from the summer, when a 60 or 90-minute wait isn't unusual.

I resisted the impulse to add to my already-huge collection of photos of Laughing Gulls around the boat, and I didn't manage to get a
single photo of the several dolphins that kept surfacing nearby. However, I couldn't resist taking a photo of a Double-crested Cormorant in the harbor.

Once more, Bolivar Flats Beach was hosting very few birds.

Willets seemed to be the most common visitors. With their drab gray plumage, they are not the most exciting of birds.

That is, until they fly! I was thrilled to finally get a photos showing how beautiful their wings are in flight.

There were a few Sanderlings and three Lo
ng-billed Curlews, a bird I always love to see.

Long-billed Curlew

Then at the
water's edge I noticed a different bird, my first Marbled Godwit of the year.

A group of 100-200 White P
elicans and a scattering of Brown Pelicans was too far offshore for photos but I saw what looked like a long line of Laughing Gulls at the far end of the beach. As I approached, I realized I was actually seeing 1,000-2,000 American Avocets.

When I took a couple of shots of the ne
arest birds, the whole flock lifted off and moved further away. What a sight!

Since it was already afternoon, we decided not to stop anywhere else on Bolivar and to drive straight to Anahuac. The refuge is recovering well and almost all of the debris deposited by Ike has now been cleared.

The visitor's center is still in ruins but was already attracting its annual visit by Barn Swallows.
The ro
ad nearby had a very handsome Red-tailed Hawk.

Red-tailed Hawk

Although the Willows area is now devastated, we stopped for
a few minutes to admire a flock of male Red-winged Blackbirds.

Red-winged Blackbird

Deanne insisted that I also photograph one of the handsome female Great-tailed Grackles perching on reeds nearby.

The loop produced very few birds indeed - a dozen or so American Coots, Northern Shovelers and Blue-winged Teal, a handful of Yellowlegs, a few Savannah and Swamp Sparrows, one Snowy Egret, one White Ibis and two Black-necked Stilts (new year bird). American Alligators weren't too plentiful either; we saw only five.

Swamp Sparrow

Trip Summary
Given that we seemed to see only a few types of birds at each stop over the weekend, I was amazed to find that the trip total was 75 species. These included eight year birds: Common and Forster's Terns, Black-and White Warbler, Boat-tailed Grackle, Marbled Godwit, American Avocet, Barn Swallow and Black-necked Stilt.

My year list now stands at 139. At this stage last year I had seen 154 species - but that included 38 species seen on trips to Phoenix and San Francisco, plus several more on a weekend trip to Rockport and Aransas. So this year's total isn't bad, considering that I haven't yet been more than 70-80 miles from Houston.

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