Monday, October 26, 2015

You Mean Their Habitat isn't Trailer Parks?

Ponds and Swales at San Luis Pass
I've been tormented by reports in eBird for the last month of Red-necked Phalarope. I've been looking in the usual places you expect to find red-necks; trailer parks, ice houses, NASCAR tracks, etc. I looked for the field marks; mullet haircuts, dually trucks with mudflaps that say "Back Off!". No luck.

Today about 1 pm Howard Smith called and said he had one at San Luis Pass at the west end of Galveston Island. I wrapped up my day at work a few minutes after 3 pm and headed home to gear up. I was on the way to Galveston by 3:45 pm. The GPS showed my ETA to be 5:15 pm. I was able to shave a few minutes off and got there by 5:05 pm.

Howard was more than generous to meet me and show me where he has found it. He told me he and Dennis Shepler had looked for it that afternoon with no luck. I thought it likely was there and I had a chance to find it. Positive vibes you know.

The edge of the dunes and the low area behind them had ponds all the way to the pass itself. We started hiking. No luck. At about 6 pm Howard had to call it a day and I continues on. Positive vibes. I made it to the pass with nice wet shoes from flooding them getting to some good looking ponds with only a half dozen coots to show for my effort. I started back but continued to recheck the ponds. That bird was here somewhere. Boy it was a long trip back to the car, close to 2 miles according to Howard. The sun was setting and so where my chances at finding this bird.

Red-necked Phalarope, San Luis Pass, Galveston Island
Howard has told me when he found the bird he new it was a phalarope right away because it was by itself. As I was approaching the beach access. I saw a bird in the original pond that Howard had found it in wading in belly deep. What this it? Damn it was dark and hard to see. I worked by way up to it and it was amazingly unperturbed. Yes! Red-necked Phalarope was Year Bird 470! Of course my camera battery was almost dead, so close to dead it wouldn't auto focus. I wanted a photo though. Manual focus, aperture priority at F4, ISO 1600 and I could get the exposure. Oh and hand hold a 300 mm lens. I took deep breaths and held them as I took as many shots as possible. A couple even turned out ok. This bird was a camera hog, it even walked out of the water a few time about 50 feet in front of me. After about 200 shots of the bird I turned to a blazing sunset and headed home with one of the most satisfying chases yet.


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