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.


Frank Boxell said...

Interesting to see three shorebirds I easily recognised although I don't see Whimbrel that often.

Marilyn Kircus said...

I was interested in you comment about thinking the numbers of whimbrels have increased. I checked eBird for the numbers of whimbrels reported Feb - May in 2000 and 2015. (or maybe I forgot and used 2014) There were only 2 checklists and the largest number of whimbrels was 30. In the last year, the largest number I noticed - in LOTS of checklists, was 150.

But Anahuac also has a roost for whimbrels and keeps a number of the roost survey. From one report it said 10% of the population roosts there and the numbers in April-May reach over 2,200. I got to help with that survey once - it is at the very bottom of the hunting area so off limits to the public - and we watched and counted as groups of 10 - 50 whimbrels came into the roost just before and up until late dusk.

Hopefully, the whimbrel will find enough summer, winter, and migratory habitat to rebuild its numbers.