Sunday, March 13, 2011

If It's Not Winter, and It's Not Spring, It Must Be March

As a birder, I've always found March to be a strange, awkward, in-between time, sort of like 8th grade. It's not quite winter anymore, and yet it's not quite spring. The winter birds are leaving or have already left, while most neotropical migrants are still down in the neotropics. Whatever birds I'm looking for, in March it always seems to be either too late or too early.

Case in point: today I did the Anahuac N.W.R./High Island/Bolivar Peninsula circuit. Searched for the Harris' Sparrows reported to be wintering near the refuge headquarters at Anahuac, but only found a flock of White-crowned Sparrows (and soon they'll be gone too). There were far fewer raptors than I had seen in January, and no geese. Barn Swallows and Purple Martins were back, but passerines were generally scarce. Shorebird migration, on the other hand, was definitely on the upswing, with lots of Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs prowling the flooded fields.

Next stop was Rollover Pass, where the flats were crowded with waders, shorebirds, gulls, and terns. Scanning the flocks I saw 3-4 Reddish Egrets, a couple of American Ostercatchers, and 5 species of plovers. By carefully sifting through the Forster's Terns I was able to find a lone Common Tern among them.

First bird I saw as I walked into the Boy Scout Woods at High Island was this Lousiana Waterthrush that was courteous enough to venture out into the sunlight and pose for pictures.
The rest of the birds there were standard winter fare. This Eastern Towhee was the best of the lot, and came out in the open to bathe near the drip.
Also saw this Snapping Turtle amble toward the drip. Check out the cool pattern of spots on its eyes!
On Saturday I took the kids to Claiborne West Park in Vidor. A Yellow-throated Warbler singing near the pond seemed early. While walking around the the pond looking for alligators (not that I've ever actually seen one there) we came upon a group of people that had stopped to watch a large Diamond-backed Watersnake struggling to devour a rather plump catfish. Awesome! Wish I'd had my camera with me (went back to get it, but by the time I returned the snake, catfish, and onlookers were all gone).

After leaving the park I took the kids to the Stark Museum in Orange, which has an outstanding collection of western and cowboy art. The bear sculpture in the background was Lucy's favorite piece. I wanted both kids together in the picture, but Bryce was too busy examining the contents of that giant ceramic vase.


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