Saturday, March 7, 2015

Looking for Needles in the Haystacks

Decided my best move today would be to chase the Ruff located at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge on Thursday even though it wasn't located yesterday. Since the landfill that overlooks Ash Lake in Baytown would be active today I should have a good chance at some gulls I need there also.

Is this just a Herring Gull?
(digiscoped without any cropping)
I started out at Thompson's Bait Camp. This boat ramp and bate camp for some reason has been quit the gull hot spot. Even though there were a good number of gulls to looks through, there was nothing unusual. I did get perhaps my best ever digiscope image though using just my scope and phone of a gull I don't much know what to call, although the odds are it is just a Herring Gull. With some practice and a cooperative bird I'm starting to get pretty results with my iPhone and Bushnell Elite spotting scope.

On to main concentration of gulls. When I got to Ash Lake I could see thousand of gulls up in the landfill, but not much on the water. I was scanning the few gulls I could see up close and heard a call that didn't sound at all familiar, "ktlr-teee", and saw two black birds flying over. It occurred to me that I should check the call against a hunch. Yes! Rusty Blackbird when I least expect it for Year Bird 284.

Even though the dump is a quarter of mile away (.26 by Google Earth actually) with the air as still and clear as it was today I realized I was able to easily make out even Laughing Gulls over on the landfill hill. I started scanning and while looking at a group of Herring Gulls all together I see a big white gull land!
Digiscope Glaucous Gull from .26 miles away!
Glaucous Gull for Year Bird 285. I tried a digiscope photo, but at a quarter of a mile away it tough to make out!.

Was considering leaving but a group of birders showed up and misery love company. I had been thinking add no Lesser Black-backed Gulls, then they group immediately finds one. Also a good look at a Thayer's Gull also.

On to Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. On the entrance road I stopped and walked a good looking patch of Bushy Bluestem Grass. I love it when a plan comes together and I was able to walk up a Le Conte's Sparrow for Year Bird 286.

While chatting up the volunteers at the Visitor Information Station I realized I was listening to  Barn Swallows flying around for Year Birds 287.

No reports of the rough but I'm hear. I head over to the site and I have to say to myself, wow, there are a lot of shore birds here. I start picking through them. Lots of Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs keeps it promising. Lots of Pectoral Sandpipers too. I pretty quickly find some Stilt Sandpipers for Year Birds 288.

After about 90 minutes of looking I spy a shorebird mixed in with the Pectoral Sandpipers. It has a potbelly look.  Its gray compared to the Pec's. It has the proper large scale pattern. Its scapulars are standing up when it feeds unlike the Pectorals and Lesser Yelllowlegs so I know its not the wind. With some study I can see legs are a much darker shade of yellow than the yellowlegs. Ruff becomes Year Bird 289!

I think I made a pretty solid day of it and ticked a few birds that have been bugging me. Weather looks bad tomorrow but will try a few hours in the morning before it gets really back. Wish me luck!

Catbird at Anahuac NWR?

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