On Sunday I attended a field trip sparrow workshop, given by local birder, Stephan Lorenz. It was an all-day trip, on which we visited a site on the coast near Galveston, the San Jacinto Monument park and the Katy Prairie. Apart from learning how to better ID sparrows, I was hoping to see some sparrows that I normally miss out on. Stephan helped me to meet both of these goals.
Our first stops were two by the side of I-45 just before Tiki Village. In both places we walked out a short distance into the wetlands on the edge of Jones Bay. Our primary aim was to find Nelson's Sparrows, a species I had never seen before.
Within a few minutes we had good looks at several Nelson's (below), as well as at a couple of Seaside Sparrows.
Our next stop was the San Jacinto Monument, where Stephan quickly led us to get great looks at several Le Conte's Sparrows.
Of course, there were plenty of other birds at the Monument. I added Greater Scaup and Redhead to my 2014 list, in addition to a very cooperative Sedge Wren.
In the early afternoon we drove up to bird Longenbaugh Road on the Katy prairie. It was beautifully warm and we had good views of several raptor species, including Red-shouldered Hawk, Northern Harrier and Red-tailed Hawk (below).
In spite of the warm weather and the time, we located an active group of sparrows working a hedgerow and we followed the group along Longenbaugh for quite a while.
The main members of the group were half-a-dozen or more White-crowned Sparrows but other members included a Song Sparrow, an Eastern Towhee, several Field Sparrows and three Dark-eyed Juncos. Unfortunately, the harsh afternoon lighting was not good for photos and the only recognizable shot I managed was of one of the Juncos.
After this, we spent a little time on Sharp Road, where we added Crested Caracara and White-tailed Hawk (below) to our list.
We finished up the trip with a walk around Paul Rushing Park, where we practiced distinguishing between Savannah Sparrows and Swamp Sparrows by their flight patterns.
All in all, it was a very good day. I learned a lot about sparrows, I added a new lifer (Nelson's Sparrow), and we had great views of many of the other 80+ species we saw. So if you're ever looking for a bird guide in the Houston area, I can certainly recommend Stephan Lorenz. Thanks, Stephan!