Monday, June 29, 2015

Anahuac - beautiful as ever!

Saturday we spent three hours at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, probably our favorite nature site in southeast Texas. Even when there aren't a lot of birds around, the refuge always producing at least a few interesting sightings - plus we both love the wetlands landscape.

On this trip the refuge was as beautiful as we've ever seen it. 

Much of the water surface in Shovelers' Pond was covered in waterlilies.

And grazing among the lilies were Purple Gallinules. Lots of Purple Gallinules. We saw at least ten adults from the road around the pond.

Best of all, though, we were privileged to be able to watch a family of two adults and five chicks out in the open for more than ten minutes.

Surprisingly, we saw many fewer Common Gallinules - only a handful of adults and two chicks.

We would have felt the 2-hour drive to Anahuac was well worthwhile if all we had seen had been Gallinules. However, there were many other bird species present on this trip. I'll wait to comment on these until my next posting.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Back to Texas Birding

After our trip to Utah it was certainly a change to come back to birding in Texas. 

Our first Texas birding trip of the summer was a brief visit to Sheldon Lake State Park,  which you now have to drive into via the entrance on Garrett Road.

There is a huge field on the west side of the entrance road and on this occasion it was covered in birds. There were scores of White Ibis. Some were young birds.

Others were full adults.

A few Cattle and Snowy Egrets were grazing with the Ibis. So too were several Black-bellied Whistling Ducks. (You certainly know you're back in Texas when you see BBWDs!)

It was more surprising to see that a dozen or so Little Blue Herons were mixed in among the other grazing birds.

Down at the Environmental Center ponds there was much less activity. The ponds did look beautiful, though, because many of them were covered in water lilies.

The most common birds around the ponds were Yellow-crowned Night Herons.

Although I searched in vain for Green Herons, we came across a couple of Great Blue Herons and Tricolored Herons.

We also spotted a young alligator skulking in one of the ponds.

After visiting Sheldon, we drove over to Aweigh Drive in Crosby to look for the Swallow-tailed Kites that summer there. Unfortunately, we didn't arrive until late morning, by which time the Kites had dispersed from their roosting sites. So in the end we had to settle for just a quick view of a single (distant) Kite.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Utah: Two Very Different Sites


While we were staying in Cedar City, we took a 15-mile drive to the Parowan Gay to see some Native American pictographs.

The pictographs included some simple representations of animal and human figures.

However, they also included some much more complex  illustrations.

While we admired the pictographs, a lizard sunned itself on a nearby rock.

There were quite a few birds in and 
above the Gap: Rock Wrens, Canyon Wrens, a Prairie Falcon and Common Ravens. The only photo I managed was of a Say's Phoebe.

On our way back to Cedar City via the town of Parowan, Dee and I stopped to watch a pair of Swainson's Hawks.

Beautiful birds!

Big Cottonwood Canyon

Every time we go to Utah, I take at least one drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon to Brighton and Silver Lake. On this trip I drove up there three times.

No matter what the time of year, the scenery alone is well worth the drive.

One one visit this year I arrived at Brighton to be told that I had just missed by minutes seeing a moose bathing in Silver Lake. I had to settle instead for a couple of beavers.

White-crowned and Lincoln's Sparrows were everywhere.

A Fox Sparrow was a new year bird.

I saw only one Steller's Jay and never got a photo if it. Brewer's Blackbirds were easier prey.

On my way down from Brighton, I always stop by a stream right at the entrance to the canyon. I do this to check - always unsuccessfully - for American Dippers. One time on this trip there actually was a Dipper.

On our final morning in Utah we went up the canyon to have coffee at the Silver Fork restaurant. The deck there had bird feeders and one feeder had a bird on it. I watched for a couple of minutes and the bird didn't move. I watched for a couple more minutes. The bird still didn't move. I guessed it was a stuffed specimen, perhaps put there for decoration or maybe in hopes of attracting other birds. As no other birds were around, I walked over to it. I was amazed to see it fly off when I got within a yard of its perch. 

A few minutes later I realized that it was just one of a dozen or more Pine Siskins that were coming to the feeders there. So that was another new bird for my 2015 list - and not a bad sighting with which to end our Utah trip.