Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Looking for Migrants (3)

Saturday morning we got to Boy Scout Woods in time for the morning birdwalk. Unfortunately, it was extremely quiet for birds. This Rose-breasted Grosbeak near the guides' house was the only migrant that we spotted.

We decided to check out the Smith Oaks rookery before heading home via Galveston.

The rookery was crowded with nesting Great Egrets. Most were standing guard over chicks.

A few were taking advantage of a quiet spell to do some preening.

One seemed to be having a difficult time with three boisterous chicks and had to administer a little discipline.

Elsewhere, some chicks were already large enough to be left unattended while their parents were off foraging.

A few Great Egrets appeared to be running late with this year's breeding and were still collecting nesting material.

The number of Roseate Spoonbills had grown since our previous visit and there were now many sitting on nests.

The number of Snowy Egrets had also increased a lot and most of those present were displaying in their beautiful breeding plumage.

The water between the observation decks and the rookery had a handful of American Coots, Blue-winged Teal and Common Gallinules (below).

Then just as we were leaving, Dee noticed a Purple Gallinule wandering along the water's edge. It was our first Purple Gallinule of the year and a good bird with which to say goodbye to High Island.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Looking for Migrants (2)

I got back to High Island a few minutes early for the 4:00 pm guided walk through Smith Oaks and I saw several birds before the walk began.

A Baltimore Oriole was in the trees near the assembly point.

A Blackburnian Warbler and a Magnolia Warbler popped up in the same area but were too fidgety for me to get photos. A Black-and-White Warbler was less difficult to photograph.

I joined the guided walk for an hour and a busy hour it was. There were several Scarlet Tanagers and Summer Tanagers (below).

Both Black-billed and Yellow-billed Cuckoo appeared, as did Eastren Wood-Pewee, Wood Thrush and a range of Warblers: Cerulean, Bluie-winged, Kentucky, Blackburnian, Tennessee and Hooded. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get photos of any of these birds. 

When I left the group and started walking back to the car, I was luckier. A Prothonotary Warbler decided to explore a branch just a couple of feet above my head.

So while the day's birding had not been spectacular, it had certainly been good enough to justify our trip and we had seen a very nice selection of migrating warblers, shorebirds and other species.

Our plan for the next day was to do a quick walk around Boy Scout Woods, pay a short visit to the Smith Oaks Rookery and then to take the ferry to Galveston, where we hoped to see more migrants at Lafitte's Cove.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Looking for Migrants (1)

We arrived at Boy Scout Woods only to be told by several people who were leaving that there were no birds around. Luckily, this turned out not to be true and I had my first bird - a Wood Thrush - within two minutes of entering the site.

We spent an hours walking the trails and compiled a nice if fairly small list of birds. Prothonotary Pond had a couple of Prothonotary Warblers and a Black-and-White Warbler as well as two more Wood Thrushes. The main drip had Hooded Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, Swainson's Thrush, Summer Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and several Gray Catbirds. The latter were the most numerous species overall and we soon lost count of how many individuals we came across.

The best bird was a Kentucky Warbler which strolled about on the trail  right in front of us.

We crossed the road to check out the garden of the guides' house and immediately added an Inca Dove to our list.

The trees there had a score of Cedar Waxwings while a bottlebush plant was hosting a Nashville Warbler.

An open patch nearby had not one, not two but seven Indigo Buntings.

By the time we had finished watching the Buntings, it was noon and so we set off on the guided trip to Bolivar.

We got to Rollover Pass before the rest of the group and parked as close to the far end of the beach as possible. Although there were plenty of birds in the air - including many Brown Pelicans - the water seemed to be largely empty except for a group of maybe 150 American Avocets in the far distance.  

Then a couple of Laughing Gulls landed near us.

They were followed by a Ring-billed Gull.

I pulled the car forward a little and we realized there were a lot birds gathered on a parch of beach that hadn't been visible. We quickly IDed five Tern species: Royal, Forster's, Sandwich, Black and Least.

We were delighted to see that the group also included several dozen Black Skimmers.

Unfortunately, as we and our fellow birders were scanning the beach for other birds, we spotted this Royal Tern with a broken wing.

The water now had a couple of Snowy Egrets (below) and a Great Blue Heron.

A Tricolored Heron was fishing further away, along with some Black-necked Stilts.

A Black-belllied Plover posed by the water's edge while a Semipalmated Plover explored the sand.

Three Ruddy Turnstones were living up to their name and turning over most stones that they came across.

A group of Short-billed Dowitchers marched past.

A single Sanderling pottered about nearby.

Two Western Sandpipers also appeared.

Willets patrolled the shallow water in numerous places.

However, the best sighting of all was of a Clapper Rail that walked across the beach right in front of our car, in clear view of the whole group of birders. 

From Rollover the group went to Yacht Basin Road, which had a nice selection of birds including Whimbrel, American Golden Plover, Wilson's Plover and Gull-billed Tern.
We left the grup there and headed up to Winnie to check into our motel, the excellent Winnie Inn & Suites. Dee wanted to rest while I was planning to drive back to High Island to take part in the afternoon birdwalk at Smith Oaks. I was hopeful that more migrants would appear - and they did!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Early Morning Birding

Sunday I was up and out of the house by 5:30 a.m., heading for the Attwater NWR. I'd been meaning to do another visit there for a while but what made me choose this day was that this weekend was the one weekend of the year when you can be sure of seeing Greater Prairie Chickens.

I got to the refuge in time to ride in  one of the tour vans out to one of the areas where the male birds display and boom in hopes of attracting females. Unfortunately, as it was a little foggy and the birds were several hundred yards away, it was impossible to get a good look at them. After 20 minutes I decided I'd had enough of watching birds I could hardly see and so I took a van back to the visitor center. Good decision! Halfway back the driver stopped to let us admire a solitary male Greater Prairie Chicken that was displaying and booming on a small mound.

Back at the visitor center, the Purple Martin house seemed to be fully occupied.

I got in my car and drove up to the bridge that gives (on foot) access to the refuge's lake.

It was quiet. The only waterbirds I could see were Common Gallinules and American Coots (below).

A Great Blue Heron momentarily brightened up the scene by perching for a minute on a nearby treetop.

Next I drove the auto loop, hoping for Northern Bobwhites among other birds.

Northern Harriers were busy quartering the area in search of prey.

Eastern Meadowlarks were perching on bushes and fences everywhere and singing their hearts out.

Killdeer were busy patrolling the edges of the road and exploring some of the muddy areas.

One of those muddy areas also had a Wilson's Snipe, a bird I see fairly often but rarely get to photograph.

Another wet area had five Least Sandpipers, distinguishable from other small sandpipers by their yellow legs.

Finally a pair of Northern Bobwhite showed by the roadside but disappeared into the vegetation before I could get a photo or even just admire them. I hate how they do that! As luck would have it, though, it wasn't long before another popped up some distance away from the road.

I left the refuge and headed home, pausing on the way only to grab a quick photo of my first Swainson's Hawk of the year.

As we'll be leaving the States in a couple of months, I don't suppose I'll ever get out to Attwater again. Still, previous visits have given me many happy memories of the refuge and this trip added a few more.