Friday, January 27, 2012

More Birding on the UTC, 21-22 January

Last Saturday I went on a Golden Triangle Audubon Society field trip that started at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge and ended at Cattail Marsh in Beaumont.  Due to road work, the Shoveler Pond loop and Skillern Tract were closed, so our access to the refuge was limited.  We spent most of our time near the new visitor center (still under construction).  Best bird there was an unexpected Grasshopper Sparrow.  Mosquitoes were thick, birds were thin.

If you visited the refuge before Hurricane Ike, you probably remember the patch of willows along the road to Shoveler Pond.  It was a nice little migrant trap.  The boardwalk has been reconstructed, but the willows are gone, killed by the storm surge.  Same goes for the row of tall willows that used to be between the Moist Soil Units.

From there we continued birding along FM 1985 and Pear Orchard Road.  Highlights included an immature Bald Eagle and Merlin along Pear Orchard Road, and I had a couple of Vesper Sparrows along FM 1985.  Mosquitoes were swarming at every stop.

We regrouped at Cattail Marsh.  While walking a wet gully near the Cattail Marsh parking area, Harlan Stewart and I saw a male Baltimore Oriole, and refound the recently reported Harris's Hawk.  Later, thanks to John Haynes, I got to see a Green-tailed Towhee hopping around at the edge of the parking area (at least two have been present in this area).

Cattail Marsh continues to hold large numbers of waterfowl, wading birds, and raptors (had 6 Red-tailed Hawks simultaneously in view!).  A Least Grebe was still on the pond right by the entrance gate (as many as 10 have been counted in the marsh since my initial report).  Also saw  a couple of Cinnamon Teal there, and a very distant Bald Eagle.  A Bald Eagle nest was recently discovered in a pine on the far side of the marsh, and we walked over there to have a look. Added Sharp-shinned Hawk and Little Blue Heron to my year list, and briefly glimpsed a Virginia Rail slinking through the reeds, but didn't see any activity at the eagle nest. 

Weather was warm and spring-like.  Strangely - and pleasantly - there were practically no mosquitoes.  But reptiles were active, and we saw alligators out basking in the sun.  Spooked a big one (and he in turn spooked us!) along a levee.  None of us noticed he was there until he suddenly dashed off the embankment only a few yards away from us.  That sucker was flying when he hit the water!

On Sunday I took Bryce and Lucy to Galveston.  At East Beach I scanned the loafing flocks of gulls, terns, and skimmers while the kids played in the sand.  Best find was this adult Lesser Black-backed Gull:
This was a new state bird for me - one I was overdue for.  Lesser Black-backed Gull is not such a rare bird in Texas anymore.  Multiples are found each winter.  In fact, on the same day, Stephen Lorenz reported to Texbirds an amazing 35-40 between Quintana and San Luis Pass!

We didn't have time to go to Lafitte's Cove, but on the drive home I took a short detour along Rettilon Road.  On the west side of the road there's a nest box up on a pole, and sometimes you can see a Barn Owl at the entrance. No luck this time, but a little further on I found this Peregrine Falcon (year bird #144) on a roadside fencepost.  It allowed me to park and take pictures within 20 feet of it's perch. That never happens with a Peregrine!
The kids had a good time, and, as usual, we got to see Bottlenosed Dolphins from the ferry.  Since I hardly ever post pictures of the kids, here are a couple more photos from our trip to Galveston:    
God made dirt and dirt don't hurt!


At 11:38 AM, Anonymous Royce said...

Loved seeing the kids. Pecious.


Post a Comment

<< Home