Monday, January 03, 2011

Weekend Birding

Over the weekend, for the first time in months, I got to do some real birding (as opposed to casual feeder watching).  I even have a few bad photos to prove it, such as this ventral view of a female Vermilion Flycatcher:

My first bird of 2011 was a Blue Jay at our feeders on the morning of New Year's Day.  That afternoon I drove to Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge and Smith Point, ostensibly in search of Henslow's Sparrow, a rare bird that I have never seen and had only the slightest hope of actually finding - a hope substantially lessened by the fact that I didn't even know where to begin looking.  I did see a few interesting birds at Anahuac N.W.R., including an immature Bald Eagle, a King Rail, and the above pictured Vermilion Flycatcher.  A trio of Hooded Mergansers on a pond near Smith Point gave me a long overdue addition to my Texas list - only took me eight years of living in Southeast Texas to catch up with that one.

Red-tailed Hawks were conspicuously abundant, probably indicating a boom in the local rodent population.  Most were of the common eastern type, but a Krider's with entirely white head (and I mean WHITE!), mostly white tail, and large white upperwing patches was seen along the road past the visitor center at Anahuac N.W.R.

A couple of sources suggested that Henslow's Sparrow might be found in the vicinity of Boykin Springs, so on Sunday afternoon I drove up there to give it a try.  Not only did I not find the sparrow, I couldn't even find proper habitat for it.  Wasted some time driving around looking for wet fields that allowed public access, but only saw pine woodland and shrubby thickets.  I did get out and do some walking around, but the woods were very quiet and I saw very few birds.

On my way home I detoured to check out the Sandy Creek Recreation Area.  The road ended at a parking area with an overlook on Sam Rayburn Reservoir.  There I saw a Common Loon, 2 Horned Grebes (another addition to my Texas list), a few Forster's Terns, and an immature Bald Eagle.  Heard the loon yodel once, which is something they seldom do in winter.  In forest near the reservoir I also had a good assortment of wintering passerines, including House and Winter Wrens (perched next to each other for a rare side-by-side comparison!), Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Brown CreeperHermit Thrush, and both Chipping and White-throated Sparrows.

This morning our neighbor's trial commenced.  Michelle and I spent much of the day waiting through the jury selection process, only to be asked to return tomorrow morning.  Typical.  Hopefully we will be called to testify in the morning so we can get this whole thing wrapped up early.


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