Thursday, January 20, 2011

Galveston Trip 2

Sunday morning we were out of the motel by 8:15 and heading west along Stewart Road on our way to Lafitte's Cove. Unfortunately, the weather was miserable - cold, dark and wet. This didn't seem to worry the birds but it probably meant we were going to bird mainly from the car - and that I wouldn't be able to get many photos.

We arrived at Sportsman's Road to see our first American Oystercatcher of the year. Then the marsh along the roadside had a mixed group of Great and Snowy Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, Tricolored Herons and White Ibis.

On the opposite side of the road, a Killdeer and a Wilson's Snipe were wandering around together.

The rain was really quite heavy when we reached the end of the road but we still had reasonable views of a Black-bellied Plover and a Clapper Rail.

As Dee had been talking about Sandhill Cranes, I had promised her I would find some. So we turned up Settegast Road, passed the Belted Kingfisher who hangs out there, and drew up beside a pair of Sandhills. The rain didn't let up but we enjoyed watching the pair graze.

Arriving at Lafitte's Cove, we were confronted with several Egrets and Spoonbills, as well as some Blue-winged Teal and Northern Shovelers. We tried walking the trail but soon gave up because of the rain.

Well, the day certainly wasn't turning out the way we had hoped and there were still several species that we hadn't seen, notably Reddish Egret and Black Skimmer. However, the weather was clearly going to limit us to sites that we could bird from the car.

I decided we should head to Big Reef, at the east end of the island. We'd visited the site once before but have not stayed because it was so crowded with beachgoers.

As it turned out, it was a good decision: There were no other visitors and we were able to park right at the water's edge, only a few yards from a group of perhaps 200-300 Black Skimmers, standing on sandbanks with the odd gull and tern mixed in with them. A few minutes later, the sky ahead was absolutely filled with large birds heading towards the Skimmers' sandbanks. They were more Skimmers, probably 500-600 of them.

The beach also had several Brown Pelicans, some Sanderlings, a Ruddy Turnstone and a couple more Black-bellied Plovers. 

 Black-bellied Plover

Best of all, we finally saw a Reddish Egret and got to watch it running about after fish.

It was now getting near the time when we had to head home. However, as Common Loons had been reported near the bridge on 61st Street, we took that route out of town. We pulled into the rough parking area below the bridge. And there in front of us, visible through the rain, were two Common Loons, which were soon joined by a third. 

Our trip hadn't worked out quite as we had expected but we'd both enjoyed it in spite of the weather on Sunday. We'd started off with a life bird (Prairie Warbler), had ended with a species we rarely see (Common Loon) and had seen quite a few other species in between. Our weekend list was 60 species, of which 25 were new for the year.

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