Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Coastal Trip: Part 1

We took the opportunity of having a free weekend to do our favorite birding loop: Anahuac NWR, High Island, Bolivar and Galveston. To give ourselves plenty of birding time, we arranged to spend a night in Winnie after visiting High Island.

Shoveler Pond at Anahuac looked as beautiful as ever.

Surprisingly, though, there were many fewer species of birds around the pond and elsewhere on the refuge than usual. Probably at least 80% of all the birds we saw were American Coots.

Pied-billed Grebes provided a little variety.

Geese were totally absent and the only ducks we spotted were a few Northern Shovelers and a handful of Ring-necked Ducks (below).

This Snowy Egret was a welcome sight.

So, too, was this Double-crested Cormorant, which we spotted when we were unsuccessfully looking for the Groove-billed Anis that had been reported earlier in the week.

On this trip we only saw one alligator on the Shoveler Pond loop.

However, we did also see what looked like a very handsome cottonmouth.

I looked for the male Vermilion Flycatcher that spends each winter near the Visitor Center but he was nowhere to be seen. So we headed down towards Frozen Point. On the drive we saw plenty of Red-winged Blackbirds along with Boat-tailed and Great-tailed Grackles (below)

When we reached the bay, we were disappointed to find no shorebirds and just a solitary Ring-billed Gull.

The main reason for driving down to Frozen Point was to see the Burrowing Owl which has been delighting local birders recently. Unfortunately, although we found the owl's burrow, the bird itself never appeared and so we headed for High Island, to check out the Smith Oaks rookery.

I'll blog about High Island another day but let me finish here by saying how I started the following day.

Sunday Owling

Sunday morning I was at Anahuac well before dawn, in hopes of finding owls along the entrance road. However, three drives along this road in thick fog didn't produce anything at all! So I headed down to Frozen Point in search of the Burrowing Owl.

Several other birders were already waiting for the owl to show. I waited with them and it wasn't long before the bird started to peep out.

Ten minutes later it began to move further out.

And finally it came completely out into the open and wandered around near the entrance to its burrow.

I had seen several Burrowing Owls when we lived in California but this was my first look at one in Texas. It was certainly made getting up at 5:30 a.m. and driving around in thick fog worthwhile!


Frank said...

I had a similar experience on Sunday with quite a few species failing to appear ... all down to the extremely windy UK weather.

Super views of the Burrowing Owl which obviously made your early morning foray very worthwhile.

Dave said...

An alternative to the early bird catches the worm......

Glad you got onto the Owl Jeff. Its a fantastic bird, and you got great views and images.

Look forward to part 2