Monday, March 28, 2016

Getting Busy at the Rookery

Our friends were late arriving on Sunday and so we didn't reach High Island until noon. The Smith Oaks rookery was very busy - with both birds and people.

There weren't only birds and people either, because a large alligator was lurking across from the first observation platform

Nearby there were a couple of Common Moorhens and Blue-winged Teal.


As usual, the first area with nests was largely occupied by Neotropic Cormorants.

Several Snowy Egrets were prowling near the water's edge.

Since our previous visit the number of Roseate Spoonbills had increased significantly.


For me, as I'm sure for many other people, one of the most enjoyable aspects of the rookery is to watch Roseate Spoonbills as they fly into and out of the nesting areas.


By far the most numerous of the nesting birds on this visit were again Great Egrets, most looking splendid in their breeding plumage.  



It is always great fun watching these magnificent birds as they fly back to the rookery with nesting materials.


Some of the materials the Egrets bring in are impressively large.


 Others are, well, much less impressive.

Whatever the size of the contributions, each bird's partner is waiting at the chosen site to take charge of the materials and add them carefully to the growing nest.



The Great Egrets and Spoonbills made a nice contrast with the numerous Black Vultures that kept passing overhead.

After an hour at the rookery we left High Island to fit in another visit to Anahuac NWR before we headed for home.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Dawn on Bolivar

Sunday morning I was up early and arrived at Rollover Pass on the Bolivar peninsula before dawn.

As on our February visit, there were plenty of birds but almost all of them were far from the beach. An additional problem was that there was such a strong wind that it was impossible to hold binoculars or camera still. So after taking a blurry photo of a group of American Avocets, I headed further along the peninsula in hopes of finding a more sheltered spot and more birds.

I ended up at the end of Yacht Basin Road, where several Willets were looking unhappy as they stood facing into the wind.

A solitary Red-breasted Merganser was bobbing around nearby.

By now the light was much better and the wind seemed to be decreasing somewhat, so I headed back to Rollover Pass. Although most birds were still well out of reach, there were a few on the beach. This Black-bellied Plover was one.

 This Willet was another.

Occasionally a Brown Pelican would glide majestically by, only feet above the water.

Disappointed by the comparative lack of birds, I started driving out through the parking area but had to stop when I noticed a Snowy Egret fishing in a small pool next to the rusted siding of the main water channel. I can never resist the chance to watch and photograph Snowies!



The Egret was sharing the pool with a Willet.

I was so busy watching the Snowy Egret and the Willet that I almost missed noticing a Great Blue Heron that was standing motionless only a few yards away.



After thanking the Heron for being such a cooperative photo subject, I headed back to Winnie to collect Dee. Our plan after that was to hang out at High Island until our friends showed up.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Another Coastal Trip

We finally got enough free time to fit in a weekend birding trip. Although the weather was wild and windy, we decided to visit Anahuac NWR on Saturday and then High Island on Sunday.

We started our visit by driving down the road to Frozen Point. Most birds were keeping hunkered down out of the wind but lots of Red-winged Blackbirds were congregating in the fields or displaying on fence posts. I just love the male Blackbirds' call and the way they fluff up their red epaulets.

The first parking area on the bay gave us good looks at a Whimbrel, one of my favorite shorebirds.

In our first ten years in Texas we rarely saw Whimbrels but we have seen plenty of them the past couple of years. I don't wknow whether they have become increasingly common or whether we've just gotten better at noticing them.

A Black-bellied Plover was nearby. It won't be long now until they turn up in their spectacular black and white breeding plumage.

At the third parking area we looked unsuccessfully for the Burrowing Owl. However, the bay there had several birds.

A Ruddy Turnstone, always a pleasure to see, wandered along the rocks.

A Willet and a Greater Yellowlegs were competing for prey in the same patch of shallow water.

The Willet soon tired of the competition and drove away the Yellowlegs.

Laughing Gulls were flying low over the waves and I noticed they kept dipping their feet into the water as they did so. I'm not sure if they were fishing or just playing.

When a sparrow popped up on one of the rocks, I thought for a moment I was looking at a Seaside Sparrow. Then I realized it was just a Savannah Sparrow. A pretty bird all the same!

We headed up to do the Shovelers' Pond loop, stopping on the way to do a quick and unsuccessful search for the male Vermilion Flycatcher that winters near the Visitor Center.

While the wind was still keeping most birds hunkered down out of sight, the landscape was as beautiful as usual.

Shovelers' Pond  had mainly American Coots.

Some of the Coots were clustered in large rafts.

There were quite a few Common Gallinules also, although these were hanging out in pairs or small groups.

Numerous dark Ibis and several Forster's Terns were flying about but none came near enough for photos. So I had to make do with one of the Savannah Sparrows that common among the spring flowers along the edges of the road.

As the weather was not really conducive to productive birdwatching, we decided to cut short our day and drive up to Winnie, where we had booked a room for the night at the excellent Winnie Inn & Suites.
Our plan for the following day was for me to do a little dawn birding on Bolivar and then for us to go to High Island to meet up with some friends and their children who had never seen the Smith Oaks rookery.