Monday, January 26, 2015

Gulls, Gulls, Gulls...

When I wrote the title of this post for some reason the 1962 Elvis Presley movie "Girls, Girls, Girls" flashed into my head. Oh well Saturday morning I decided to test my gull sex appeal and see what I could "pick up" at Thompson's Bait Camp and Ash Lake in far east Harris County.

Thayer's Gull, Thompson's Bait Camp, Harris County, Texas.
When I pulled up to Thompson's I could hear some hushed excited voices from the dock on the other side of the building. A small group had a Thayer's Gull just sitting a few feet out on the dock. Was nice to get to study a gull like this for a while and really soak up it "Thayer-ness". Thayer's Gull was Year Bird 229.

I had not been watching and did not know that the area Iceland Gull was seen at this site the day before. I stuck around for a while chatting and scanning, only yielding some Lesser Black-backed Gulls. After about an hour of that I exchanged phone numbers with all and extracted promises that they would call if the Iceland showed up and headed over to Ash Lake where I hoped there would be a good number of gulls.

Ash Lake is best viewed from the end of FM 2354 (Tri City Beach Road). If you go, park well back from the end of the road, preferably back from the driveways because someone is spreading nails and screws on the road. I wasn't disappointed; there were thousands of gulls on the water but many were quite distant. The landfill across the channel was active and gulls circulated from the dump to the lake so there was a lot of turn over. I stayed a couple of hours hoping for Glaucous, Iceland, or Great Black-backed Gulls. At noon I had just the usual suspects including a few more Lesser Black-backed Gulls. I decided to head out and go look for sparrows at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.

No sooner than when I crested the Trinity River bridge on I10 than I got a call that a Glaucous Gull has just made an appearance. I exited and turned back and made it as fast as I could. It took about 25 minutes to back track. Unfortunately as I was pulling up I was greeted by flapping arms, a signal that the Glaucous Gull had flown just 2 minutes before I got there. Such is the luck of the game. I hung out for another hour but no gull joy.

I made my way to Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge and checked the sighting board. Slim pickings. I started at Jackson Prairie Woodlot and immediately flushed a covey of about 10 Northern Bobwhite for Year Bird 230. They must have been wearing floaties because the whole area was ankle deep from the rains the past week. I worked some areas that had been good for Le Conte's Sparrow on the Christmas Bird Count with not luck. Everything was super wet, Anahuac NWR is going to be lush this spring.

I still need one freshwater duck, Fulvous Whistling-Duck so I checked the Deep Marsh Unit and while it was packed with waterfowl, no luck on Fulvous. A Gull-billed Tern did a flyby for Year Bird 231.

Peregrine Falcon, Anahuac NWR
On the entrance road on the way out. I spotted a bird perched that wasn't a Red-tailed Hawk. Close examination showed it was actually a young Peregrine Falcon for Year Bird 232.

Not a lot to show for the day, but that's to be expected. I need to plan a mop up operation to get the last of the Upper Texas Coast easy ones out of the way so I can make better use of the eBird alerts. I might have 20 species I could find in a day to go yet A few local sparrows are starting to haunt me. As I figured, gulls are going to be a grind. I fear until migration starts up its going to be gulls, gulls, gulls!

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