Saturday, June 04, 2011

Bolivar Peninsula

A drive along the Bolivar Peninsula is virtually guaranteed to turn up a good selection of birds at any time of the year. However, on Sunday the beaches were certain to be crowded with people, too, because of the Memorial Day holiday. So we decided to stop at only a couple of sites on our way to catch the Galveston ferry.
Our first stop was on the landward side of Rollover Pass. There were no birds on the beach because the latter was packed with people fishing and sunbathing, and the high tide meant that only a few small sandbars were visible. Nonetheless there were plenty of birds to see. Tricolored Herons, Brown Pelicans and Reddish and Snowy Egrets were busy fishing near a sandbar that held half-a-dozen tern species, Laughing Gulls, Black Skimmers and a couple of species of shorebirds, including American Oystercatchers.

We were hoping to see the Skimmers in action, floating over the sea with the bottom half of their bill cutting through the water in  search of prey. Instead they all seemed content to just rest on the sand.
Next up was our favorite site on Bolivar - the Audubon beach sanctuary. The beach leading up to the sanctuary was more crowded with holidaymakers than we had ever seen it but luckily only a handful of people had strayed beyond the wooden posts that block vehicular access to the western section.

A quick scan through binoculars revealed that it wasn't going to be one of those magical days when the beach can host literally thousands of birds. However, there were enough birds to make for a very enjoyable 30-minute walk - and, as is usual here, the birds let us get close.
Sanderlings were busy at the water's edge along with Ruddy Turnstones and a couple of Dunlins.


A solitary Marbled Godwit looked positively majestic as it strutted about.

Wilson's Plovers were looking good in their breeding plumage but they were upstaged by a pair of their Back-bellied cousins.


One section of the beach had a mixed group of terns, including several Sandwich Terns.

Another section was being shared by a group of Brown Pelicans and Neotropic Cormorants.

Meanwhile, some of the Least Terns that nest in the grass behind the beach made constant trips back and forth to the water.


We watched for several minutes as one Least Tern flew and walked around carrying a small fish in its bill. It seemed to be following around another Least Tern and so perhaps it was a male trying to impress a female by offering the fish to it. If this was the plan, it didn't work. Maybe the female was holding out for a bigger offering.

There were lots of both eastern and western Willets, the former much more heavily patterned than the latter.

At one point I must have come too near a nesting site because one Willet tried to drive me away. It would circle noisily above me and then swoop down to pass just a few feet away from my knees.

As it was now near noon, we walked back to the car and headed for the ferry, watching out (unsuccessfully) for White-tailed Kites along the way.

I was hoping that the ferry ride would bring a sighting of another of my target birds, the Magnificent Frigatebird. Even before the ferry had started moving I got out of the car, looked up and immediately spotted a juvenile Frigatebird. It was a good ending to what had been a very enjoyable trip!

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