Monday, June 30, 2014

High Island Rookery

If you want to see plenty of action at the Smith Oaks rookery in High Island, you should go soon. There are still plenty of birds to watch but the chicks are growing up fast.

In my previous posts I focused on the Roseate Spoonbills and Great Egrets. However, there are plenty of other birds around the pond that contains the rookery.

I didn't see any Anhingas but Neotropic Cormorants were very numerous.

A few of Tricolored Herons were nesting but I couldn't get any worthwhile photos, so I had to settle for this shot of a White Ibis instead.

Here and there among the many Great Egrets were the much smaller Snowy Egrets. Groups of young birds were waiting for their parents to return with food.

As soon as a parent returns, the chicks follow it around, begging for a meal. 

If parents don't oblige quickly enough, the chicks have ways of encouraging them to cooperate.

No wonder that several of the adults sometimes fly to a different part of the rookery just to get a few moments of peace!


Thursday, June 26, 2014

June in Our Yards

Quite a few young birds appeared in our yards in May, notably a House Finch, a couple of Carolina Wrens and several Northern Cardinals (below). 

However, June is the month when the offspring of most of our resident birds appear. 

We seem to have so many new Blue Jays that we can't keep count. Some of them are still looking scruffy but some are already sporting nice crests.

We have rather more young White-winged Doves and House Sparrows (below) than we would wish for.

Luckily, our latest young male Red-bellied Woodpecker soon moves the doves and sparrows away from the feeders. 

He has an extraordinarily long tongue!

Less dominant is a young Downy Woodpecker, which turns up regularly.

The new arrival that we're most excited about, though, is a Tufted Titmouse. It's the very first time that Titmice have bred in our yards.

The youngster has been coming to our feeders for a couple of weeks. Like most young birds, its beak is edged with yellow.

The other day it seemed to feel that the heat was just too much to bear.

(In reality, it was probably sunbathing either to get more Vitamin D or to get rid of parasites.)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Great Egrets at High Island

While the most strikingly colored species in the Smith Oaks rookery is the Roseate Spoonbill, the latter are not the most numerous species there. This honor belongs to the Great Egrets. On every visit I have ever paid to the site, Great Egrets outnumbered all other species combined.

The observation decks give great views of the Egrets as they fly to and from their nesting sites.

While normally the most graceful of birds, Great Egrets can look a little ungainly when taking off or landing.

I've noticed that when they return to the nest, they tend to call out to let their partners know they are coming. I suppose this is the Egret equivalent of "Honey, I'm home".

Most of the Egrets hang out in nuclear family groups of two adults plus chicks. However, some appear to cluster in larger groups. 

The chicks in this group were the youngest that we saw on this visit.

Whether recently-hatched or a little older, all the chicks spend their time waiting for their parents to come back and then noisily begging for food.

If the parents do not produce food quickly enough, the chicks will get their attention by grabbing their bills.

Of course, Great Egrets are not the only Egrets at High Island. There are plenty of Snowy Egrets also. But I'll leave blogging about these until my next post.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Friday Fotos

This week's pictures are ones I took last Saturday at the Smith Oaks rookery in High Island.

As usual, the most colorful of the nesting birds were the Roseate Spoonbills.

Although I've seen it many times before, I still get a thrill out of seeing Spoonbills fly overhead, their pink wing feathers contrasting with the blue sky.

They even manage to look graceful when they come in to land in the rookery.

We were too late to see any Spoonbills with eggs in their nests but there were plenty of young birds around and some were still in the nest. The too below were obviously very young because they were very white and had not yet developed their spoon-like bills. 

Others were a bit older out of the nest but were still concerned with only one thing: getting their parents to feed them.

Then, here and there, you would see a juvenile bird wandering around on its own, looking rather forlorn and confused amid the noise and chaos that is the Smith Oaks rookery.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Back to Anahuac

Saturday morning we drove down to Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. As it was a hot day and we didn't arrive there until 10:00, we weren't expecting to see a lot birds. However, there turned out to be plenty of activity.

Cliff Swallows were busy raising their young in the old Visitor Center.

Most of the Barn Swallows that nest there every year had already left but a few were lingering on what looked to be empty nests.

Just outside the building, a Killdeer had decided to lay her eggs beside the road.

The utility lines nearby had lots of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers.

We spent the rest of our time at the refuge doing a slow drive around Shoveler's Pond.

Neotropic Cormorants were occupying many of the signs and posts.

Grackles were everywhere, too. I can never tell whether adult males are Great-tailed or Boat-tailed.

Luckily females are a little easier to ID. This bird's dark eye marks it as a Boat-tailed.

The only ducks we saw were a couple of flyover Fulvous Whistling Ducks.

Black-necked Stilts were making a lot of noise, irrespective of whether they were foraging in the water or circling above.

Male Red-winged Blackbirds were displaying and calling.

Eastern Kingbirds, normally common at Anahuac, were few and far between.

There were also very few birds on the water, except for Common Gallinules and a family of Pied-billed Grebes.

Several of the bushes and trees along the road were hosting Cattle Egrets.

We spent some time watching a pair of Tricolored Herons building their nest.

One of my target birds was Least Bittern. Unfortunately, we saw only one and it disappeared before I could even raise my camera.

Another target species was Purple Gallinule, a bird that we regularly see at Brazos Bend State Park but occasionally also spot at Anahuac. It must be a really exceptional year for Purple Gallinules at Anahuac because we saw no fewer than twelve on our drive around Shoveler's Pond!

After finishing the loop around Shoveler's Pond, we met up with our friends (Carlos and Macarena) and drove over to High Island, where we wanted to check out the rookery at Smith Oaks.