Saturday, April 11, 2015

Showing off an Old Friend

Saturday I was leading the Featherfest trip to Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge is my patch, I have been birding it hard for 20 years. For 19 years I lead the Yellow Rail walks there. My personal list for the refuge is 276 species. I love showing off the refuge to new people, its like introducing and old friend to new friends.

We arrived at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge at about 9 am. Right as we turned in a Crested Caracara gave most of the bus good looks. Northern Harrier also gave us looks on the entrance road. We started on the Willows Trail and were greeted on the trail by a little flock of late White-crowned Sparrows.

A fruiting mulberry tree put on the show with a bunch of Orchard Orioles. A group of them flew to the weeds and helped us to notice a dark blue bird, Blue Grosbeak became Year Bird 337.

The Willows are one of the old time migrant traps that everyone used to check, but most of the trees were killed by Hurricane Ike. For several years the little pond there was so saline that not much was growing. It has finally dropped and the willows themselves are regenerating, some of the cypress are growing and new hackberry and mulberry trees are coming up. If things keep going the way they are I think we can looks forward to many migrants in The Willows in coming years. New for me for Anahuac Wildlife Refuge was am Audubon's subspecies of Yellow-rumped Warbler.

We next made the three mile loop around Shoveler Pond, getting great looks for all of Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Roseate Spoonbill, and Solitary Sandpiper. The fields on the east side of the loop were absolutely packed with shorebirds, mostly large numbers of Long-billed Dowitchers.

Still one of the birds the loop is famous for had not been seen. Then finally a pair of Purple Gallinules popped out for Year Bird 338.

On to the Jackson Prairie Woodlot the primary migrant trap on the refuge. It wasn't shaping up to be a big migrant day but there were a few things. We found Black-and-white Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, and Northern Parula. Orchard Orioles put on a show. A White-eyed Vireo popped up and gave me his best fierce look. Suddenly there was a flash of bright orange and then it sat in the top of the tree and give good looks, Baltimore Oriole Year Bird 339.

Too soon we had to leave but we tallied 60 species in just 3.5 hours. Our final good bird was a Bronzed Cowbird with the Brown-headed Cowbirds at the feeders.

We saved some time to stop at Rollover Pass. This is just a spectacular spot sometimes and today was good. We tallied 29 species in about 30 minutes. Highlights of our time where are Marbled Godwits, American Oystercatcher, dancing Reddish Egrets and lots of Common Terns.

We rolled into the Featherfest Headquarters right on time and had a great trip with about 90 species.

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