Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Weekend Birding on the UTC

Spring migration is at its peak, so there are bound to be a few birds worth mentioning. On Saturday I had a Red-headed Woodpecker fly over our yard and become bird #177 for the year list. More surprising (at least to me) was a Red-breasted Nuthatch by the pond that same day. Hadn't seen or heard one here since January, and I figured they'd already headed north. Does seem a bit late. Of course it's quite possible that this bird was just a transient and didn't winter in our neighborhood. If it had been here undetected since January I must either be totally oblivious or busy parenting twins.

I have noticed more breeding activity. On Saturday a Gray Catbird was spotted carrying nesting material, and Eastern Bluebirds had a brood of newly fledged bluebirdlings down by the pond (some of our neighbors have put up nestboxes, and they didn't use ours this time). Carolina Wrens recently built a nest in a little wagon we have parked on our front porch, but abandoned it after depositing a few eggs. My guess is they changed their mind about the location because of all the human and dog traffic around the nest.

On Sunday I got to go to High Island and Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. En route, somewhere between Beaumont and Winnie, I finally got Scissor-tailed Flycatcher for the year list (bird #178).

The birding wasn't great at High Island but didn't suck either. It's sad to see the Boy Scout Woods reduced to a patch of shrubs, and with the loss of so many trees the number of birds has greatly declined there. It will be many years (and only if we get a reprieve from hurricanes) before the woods there return to some semblance of their former glory. In the meantime we still have Smith Oaks, which also lost many trees but had more to spare.

At Boy Scout Woods I did get a few year birds (Gray-cheeked Thrush, Scarlet Tanager, Painted Bunting). All the warbler action was at Smith Oaks, where I added Golden-winged, Nashville, Chestnut-sided, Yellow-throated, and Blackpoll Warblers to the year list. Also saw 2 Cerulean Warblers, and as uncommon as they are I seem to see more of them than of some of the more "common" species (for example, I've yet to see even one Yellow Warbler this spring). Here's my embarrassingly bad photo of a camera-shy Chestnut-sided Warbler. At least you can see the actual chestnut bit.Arrived at Anahuac NWR late in the day. Missed the Hudsonian Godwits seen earlier by Cin-Ty Lee and his group, but had many Fulvous Whistling-Ducks and a good mix of shorebirds near the entrance station. A King Rail along the Shoveler Pond loop was nice. Ended the day with a lone Black-bellied Whistling-Duck flying over FM 1985 (bird #194 for the year).

At home we've reached another milestone. On Monday Lucy crawled for the first time. She's also started developing a hairstyle based on the Long-eared Owl look, as you can see in this recent photo.


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