Thursday, November 21, 2013

Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR

Our Saturday trip to Attwater NWR wasn't as productive as we'd hoped, probably partly because the weather was windy and overcast. It was only after we left that I realized we hadn't seen a single wading bird during our 2+ hours at the refuge. I think that's the first time this has happened to us in over 10 years of birding NWRs in Texas.

Our first sighting was of an American Bittern, which crossed the entrance road before we had time to react.

Most of the birds we saw on the refuge were sparrows. Most of these were Savannah and White-crowned, but there were also several Vesper (below), Grasshopper and Song Sparrows.

Northern Harriers, Black Vultures and Turkey Vultures (below) were everywhere and they seemed to be enjoying the windy conditions.

Northern Mockingbirds, Eastern Meadowlarks and Loggerhead Shrikes (below) were also common.

It is now possible to access, on foot, a stretch of land across the old bridge.

The wetland area there had an alligator, the first we've ever seen at Attwater.

Nearby we had good looks at a House Wren and an Eastern Phoebe.

Although we never saw a duck, plenty of Greater White-fronted Geese and Snow Geese passed noisily overhead, as did 15 Sandhill Cranes (below).

As usual, the road between Sealy and the refuge had a good number of raptors: Northern Harriers, Red-tailed Hawks, Ospreys and a White-tailed Hawk.

Although Attwater had many fewer birds than we had anticipated, we both felt the trip was worthwhile. The landscape there is beautiful and the fact that we were the only visitors was a bonus.


Marilyn Kircus said...

Thanks for posting. I haven't visited that refuge in years but I have three wonderful memories of it. The first was a time I was there at sunset and watched flock after flock of sandhill cranes come in and nest in the little back pond.

The second was a time I got to watch two cara cara fight and eat a carcass very close to the car.

And the third was the time my Master Naturalist Class went out there to learn about the Attwater Prairie Chicken and then collect bugs for the babies.

The staff figured out that there were not a high enough density of small bugs for the baby birds. So each spring, they get volunteers to come out and catch bugs. It is a really hard job, as you have to rapidly swing your net through hip high grasses. I think it took about an hour or more to collect a gallon bag of bugs.

The bugs are then shut up in a gallon zip lock bag, and refrigerated. Each brood is fed a gallon of bugs every two hours through the day for the first two weeks.

So the more successful they are at getting hatchlings, the more volunteers they need to keep them fed.

Jeff said...

That's pretty amazing, Marilyn!

Dorothy Borders said...

I've never visited this NWR. It's on my list to see, maybe in the next few months.

Jeff said...

It should be good once winter really sets in. Sparrows are particularly good there.