Sunday, February 1, 2015

Wrapping Up January

One day left in January and couldn't see a way to reach 300 that day. I decided to wrap up some low hanging fruit and run the Bolivar Peninsula and pick up some "beach birds" I would also have a chance at Northern Gannet and Surf Scoter there too.

Sunrise had me on the Bolivar Ferry from Galveston. Lots of dolphins including a pair very close to the ferry with a small calf between then. Scan as I might I found nothing interesting on the ride across to the Bolivar Peninsula.

My first stop was Frenchtown Road, a traditional spot for Nelson's Sparrow. Things were pretty dead and while I saw some distant sparrows flitting about, none were identified as a Nelson's Sparrow. Strike 1 and off to the Bolivar Flats.

The Bolivar Flats are one of those places that possesses magic. By the time I worked my way out to the end of the point there I was all alone. I realized I was hearing some strange almost musical noise. I finally figured out what I was hearing. The ground had a lot of bottles washed up and the wind was blowing over them creating many different tones. There were all kinds of harmonies and as the wind varied so did the "tune". It was like some avant garde music recital.

One of the first birds I found at the flats was Long-billed Curlew. Not a bird I was worried about, but Long-billed Curlew became year bird 254. After setting out on foot I found a small group of 9 Red Knots for year bird 255.

I spent a lot of time looking for small ringed plovers. I found more than a dozen piping plovers but no Snowy Plover. Strike 2.

American Avocets put on the real show at the Bolivar Flats. I put the number at 4500 but it would take a lot work to figure out an accurate number for them. There are just so many and they move around in dense groups.

Suddenly the magic happened. First large numbers of Forster's Terns moved towards me and then other species join the feeding frenzy. Large numbers of Avocets moved in close. There were gulls, terns, a good size group of White Ibis, a Reddish Egret. Suddenly more than a dozen Bonoparte's Gulls where feeding just in front of me. I felt invisible and totally in the middle of it at the same time as I stood there on the hard packed sand.

I made my way down the peninsula and checked out Bob's Road. Bob Road is usually good, but today it was dead too. My next stop was Yatch Basin Road in Gilchrist. 

The tides were in my favor and I located a few more target birds quickly. Short-billed Dowitchers became year bird 256. A bit of scanning with the scope and I found American Oystercatcher for year bird 257. I pished and scanned but no luck again on Nelson's Sparrow.

Like the wizard of the same name, a Merlin appeared out of nowhere for year bird 258. This Merlin ignored me and let me take a couple of good shots. 
So January ends with 258 species on the books. Its lower than I hoped but I don't think I missed too much. Only Varied Thrush and Common Crane seem out of reach now. I managed 17 days in the field out of 31 and traveled 4100 miles. I took over the #1 spot on eBird for Texas for the year. It's going to take work to stay there. I'm only going to be able to manage 7 days in the field for February, I've got to make them count.

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