On Sunday morning I left home early to drive down to the San Jacinto Monument Park, hoping to see the Surf Scoter that has been hanging out there. We saw Surf Scoters all the time in San Francisco but it's a very rare bird for southeast Texas. Unfortunately, when I reached the park at 7:30, I discovered it didn't open until 9:00. So I drove the short distance to the Lynchburg Ferry landing to see what birds were hanging out near there.
Eastern Phoebes were all over the place and some let me have good looks at them.
A Loggerhead Shrike was equally obliging.
I wasn't surprised to see that the roadside utility wires had a Belted Kingfisher. I knew that, in typical Kingfisher fashion, the bird would fly off if I approached it. So I used the enormous zoom on my new camera to grab a photo from far away.
When I was finally able to enter the park, I stopped to take photos of a group of Black Vultures on the road. It was interesting to compare the gray, heavily wattled heads of the adults with the blacker, more feathered heads of the juveniles.
Down on the water a number of White Pelicans were fishing as a group.
There was a steady stream of other White Pelicans overhead.
The Surf Scoter had previously been seen mainly with a raft of Ruddy Ducks, and so I scanned the several groups of Ruddy Ducks in hopes of spotting it. No luck! The water was choppy and the only ducks were far away from the shore.
Disappointed, I wandered over to the boardwalk, where I was surrounded by Marsh Wrens.
Then I headed to the reflection pool, the side of which was crowded with Neotropic and (much larger) Double-crested Cormorants, along with a few Great and Snowy Egrets.
A flash of red on a chain-link fence caught my eye. A Northern Cardinal? No, it was a magnificent male Vermilion Flycatcher. I imagine it was the same bird that spent last winter at the park.
Before leaving, I decided to spend five more minutes looking for the Scoter. As it happened, I didn't need five minutes because the Scoter popped up immediately in the middle of a group of Ruddy Ducks. It was difficult to see the bird clearly but there was no mistaking the vertical white lines on its face.
So, mission accomplished.