Sunday, January 29, 2017

In the West Texas Town if El Paso

We started the day at Sunland Race Park just over the New Mexico border in El Paso hoping to locate the Mew Gull and the California Gull that had been reported there and catch them flying into Texas. There were lots of gulls there when we got there. We say a far number flying into Texas so we decided to go see if we could find a vantage point on the Texas side of the border and maybe get one on the wing.

Just as we crossed the line into Texas we noticed a large number of gulls heading into an enclosure behind a new looking Walmart. We pulled up inside the enclosure we could see about 500 gulls on a retention pond and more circulating in and out from the race track. Looking at Google Maps the northern 2/3 of the pond is in Texas too.

We did find one interesting bird, it seemed good for a Mew Gull too. Joe got some photos but we have not had internet access enough to compare them and see if we snagged this treasure.

We headed next to the bird blind at the Tom Mays Unit of the Franklin Mountains State Park. Just a Canyon Towhee when we got there, but soon a Black-throated Sparrow put in an appearance for Year Bird 291. We didn’t have to wait long before a Green-tailed Towhee appeared for Year Bird 292. Waiting a bit more and a pair of Gambel’s Quail strutted in for Year Bird 293.

We headed next over to McKelligon Park. Right away on the trail we hear a “seep” call I’m sure is a Black-chinned Sparrow. I get a brief glimpse of a brown backed, grey headed bird to confirm Black-chinned Sparrow as Year Bird 294.

We hit Ascarate Park hoping for something interesting. Lots of Buffleheads and Ruddy Duck. There are some Canada Geese here but I don’t know their status as wild birds and decide not to count them.

We head East to Tornillo Reservoir looking for a California Gull that’s being seen there. Luck is with us and we do locate it swimming in the middle of the lake by itself. California Gull is Year Bird 295.

We head further east to McNary Reservoir. While scanning we hear something like a rocket behind us. We look and in the field we see a large brown bird with a snow goose in its talons. Golden Eagle is Year Bird 296.

Our plan is camp to at Hueco Tanks State Park. We have a line on a Long-eared Owl. We get there, check in, go through Orientation, and get to our campsite. We search unit dark with no luck on the owl, maybe in the morning.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Bushels of Sagebrush Sparrows

This morning we headed for Guadalupe Mountains National Park and planned to hike Devil's Hall. It snowed late in the date yesterday and while it was bright and sunny this morning it was also 24 degrees when we set out on the trail. There was about an inch of snow on the ground making the park look like a powdered sugar donut.

Almost first thing on the trail we ran into a Rufous-crowned Sparrow for Year Bird 283. A bit further down the trail we had a pair of Phainopepla for Year Bird 284. When the sun started to hit the upper canyon walls Canyon Wren called for Year Bird 285.

We continued and made the Devil's Hall itself, a narrow canyon of layers. There was enough ice on the rock to make us be very careful as we went.

Above the hall is the area where Spotted Owl is known have breed in the past. We searched all of it with no luck, just a few nuthatches and a Red-napped Sapsucker.

We head back down. The snow is melting and its getting really slick though, slow going.

We find a flock Western Bluebirds. With them we find a Townsend's Solitaire for Year Bird 286. While trying to relocate the solitaire we find a flock of Mountain Chickadees for Year Bird 287.

Sagebrush Sparrow
We have lunch and head for the sand dunes section of the park outside of Dell City. Not far down the road we find a flock of Sagebrush Sparrows for Year Bird 288. In the same spot we find a Crissal Thrasher for Year Bird 289. We push on to the park entrance outside of Dell City. All along this road we see small flocks of Sagebrush Sparrow, especially after the end of the agricultural area. From Dell City to the park entrance it is actually the only species we encounter. Once at the park entrance we see a smaller thrasher on a bush. We have to get the scope out to id it, but Sage Thrasher is Year Bird 290.

Sage Thrasher
On the one mile of road from the park entrance to the parking area for the sand dunes we had 8 Sage Thrashers, 1 Crissal Thrasher, and 29 Sagebrush Sparrows. We had a total of 48 Sagebrush Sparrows for the day! The sparrows were easily seen from the car and getting out and pishing when a couple were seen usually produced a half dozen.

The road to the sand dunes is not as well known as the Balmorhea Cemetery, but for my birding time its much better Sagebrush Sparrow. There are just a lot more there on that road. Plus you have Sage Thrasher and Crissal Thrasher here!

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Amazing Pink Bellied Woodpecker

I teamed up with Joe Fischer for a grand tour of West Texas and the Panhandle hoping to sweep through all the hard to get birds there. We flew into Midland to start late Wednesday and started birding at Sunrise.

The first stop was Hogan Park in Midland to look for the Lewis's Woodpecker that was first reported I think back in November. Unfortunately there had been no affirmative reports of this bird for almost a month.

Lewis's Woodpecker shows off a prize
We got there before sunrise and started our search. Hogan Park does not have a lot of trees so the search area wasn't enormous. The usual city park birds made appearances, but a pair of Ladder-backed Woodpeckers were all the woodpeckers we found.

After about 45 minutes we hard a woodpecker that wasn't a Ladder-backed or a Golden-fronted Woodpecker. Then we found it flying to a telephone pole that was almost in the sun. Lewis's Woodpecker relocated for Year Bird 265! Lewis's Woodpecker is one of the "near review species" Its not a review species for Texas but there are darn few of them, its a load off my mind to get it off the need list.

On the road to Imperial Reservoir in Pecos County hoping for something very cool like a Red-throated Loon. We arrived about 10 am and had to scan from the gate. Loads and loads of birds, no Red-throated Loon though. A Scaled Quail called for year bird 266. We moved down the road and scanned from a high point and found a flock of Common Mergansers for Year Bird 267. That leaves only Surf Scoter for non review ducks in Texas for the year.

 We headed next to the Sandia Wetlands outside Balmorhea, TX. Only one cell had water in it and it looked like they had been flooding it only for a couple of hours. Wilson's Snipe was the only water bird. We did have lots of sparrows. Brewer's Sparrow was found for Year Bird 268. After a bit we found flock of Lark Buntings for Year Bird 269.

We decided to pass through the Balmorhea Cemetary looking for Sagebrush Sparrow. Its supposed to be a sure thing here but I've never found it here. I found a Black-tailed Gnatcatcher for Year Bird 270. A short time later a Rock Wren popped up for Year Bird 271.

On to Lake Balmorhea. Lots of the large grebe present, We found Western Grebe for Year Bird 272 almost right away. Around the far side of the lake we found lots of Clark's Grebe for Year Bird 273. As we were leaving Pyrrhuloxia hopped onto the fence for Year Bird 274.

On to Davis Mountain's State Park. Lots of Year Birds here. The usual suspects except for the quail who's name I won't mention. I finished the day with 279 species.

We made camp and crawled into out sleeping bags. The volunteer at check asked us if we were sure we wanted to camp, it was going to be 24 in the morning she said. We assured here we were ready for it.

I had a new tent and a good sleeping bag, I was comfortable all night. When I woke I bumped the tent getting up. It snowed in my tent. Actually the condensation from my breathing froze as frost on the inside of the tent. We broke camp pretty fast and got into the car to head for the days birding. How disappointing it was only 25 degrees, not the promised 24.

Be very quit! we are hunting sparrows
For today we met up with a student working on a Baird's Sparrow study at the Mimms Unit of the Dixon Water Foundation. This unit is open to the public, You can access a 2 mile dirt road from a gate at the end of N Austin Street in Marfa Texas. Trouble is for a Baird's Sparrow hunt you can't leave the road. We've heard rumors of folks going off trail for sparrows here. Hopefully this won't become common place and ruin access to an amazing grassland for all of us.

We head way out into the grassland and set up nets and started the sparrow drive. We caught several Savannah Sparrows first. Then a Grasshopper Sparrow for Year Bird 280. More Savannah's. Then the tech runs to snatch a bird I didn't see from the net. Dang it! Baird's Sparrow in the hand, doesn't count. We keep working, finally getting another Grasshopper. 

Baird's left, Grasshopper Right
We move the nets and try a different area. Lots of sparrows present. Then a small sparrow is flushed, it flies towards me, I throw a frisbee to turn it, it turns back in front of the net and another tech throws a frisbee and it turns and is captured in the net. It's a Baird's Sparrow for Year Bird 281 (and a life bird too!).

After the Sparrow Banding we head for the Lawrence E Woods Picnic Area in the Davis Mountains. A Red-napped Sapsucker was there the day before. First bird out of the car, Red-napped Sapsucker for Year Bird 282. Not much else moving though.

We head north to the Guadalupe Mountains. Our intent is to camp. On the way we see forecasts of 30 MPH wind, not good. Then it starts to snow. double not good, Looks like a nice warm bed and shower for us tonight in White's City NM. Tomorrow  - The Guads!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Week Two

Hermit Thrush at
Cedar Hill Park
Headed out on week two starting on my home turf in Chamber's County. My first stop was Cedar Hill Park on Lake Charlotte. Almost immediately I located three new Year Birds; Brown Thrasher, Gray Catbird, and White-eyed Vireo bringing me to 193. 

After making the loop on the trail a group of Tree Swallows passed over for Year Bird 194. 

I headed down to Anahuac NWR hoping for the Burrowing Owls that's been there all winter. Unfortunately it was sleeping I guess and not visible. Seaside Sparrow eluded me too. 

Onward to the Bolivar Peninsula. Rollover Pass was full of birds, but no new ones. I headed over to Yatch Basin Road. I did find Clapper Rail for Year Bird 195. Seaside Sparrow eluded me again. I checked Tuna Road and Bob's Road. Seaside Sparrow eluded me again.

Anna's Hummingbird
The next day I headed over to John O'Brien's and picked up his Anna's Hummingbird for Year Bird 196.  I decided to head over to Bear Creek Park for another try at the Greater Pewee. On the way I had a Peregrine Falcon fly over the West Loop in the Gallareia for Year Bird 197. I dipped again on the pewee though.

Wednesday I headed back down to the Quintana Jetty since the wind has shifted to the south.

Common Tern Year Bird 200
Conditions were good and I managed Northern Gannet for Year Bird 198 and Black Scoter for Year Bird 199. On the way in I scanned the gull flock and spotted a rare for season Common Tern for Year Bird 200.

On to San Bernard NWR and Bobcat Woods. Immediately I flushed a Barred Owl for Year Bird 201. The Couch's Kingbird that has been there all winter was Year Bird 202. In the woods I found Spotted Towhee, Black-and-white Warbler, Palm Warbler, and Wilson's Warbler for Year Birds.

Bonaparte's Gull
I was on a roll and walked one of the nearby field and walked up a Le Conte's Sparrow for Year Bird 206. On the Moccasin Pond loop a Sora called for Year Bird 207. Then the surprise of the day a Sprague's Pipit flushed from the road for Year Bird 208!

Tomorrow I head for the Rio Grande Valley for the TOS winter meeting, many more good birds await me there!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Return of Mr. X

Allen's Hummingbird
Some may remember Mr. X from the Silver-backed Whop-de-do in 2015. Mr X reached out to me Sunday and told me to meet him Sunday at 4 pm if I wanted to get an Allen's Hummingbird. When Mr. X makes you an offer you can't say no.

I was at the rendezvous point right on time. He lead me to a more private location and motioned me to a chair.

Almost immediately a Buff-bellied Hummingbird came in for Year Bird 186. A few minutes more and a Black-chinned Hummingbird made an appearance for Year Bird 187. Rufous Hummingbird made Year Bird 188. Then we debated the identification of one bird when the sun caught it gorget and showed it to be a young make Ruby-throated Hummingbird for Year Bird 189.

Then a flash of orange I thought was a male Rufous. Mr. X then said there was no male Rufous here. The bird turned, the green back showed it to be the Allen's Hummingbird for Year Bird 190.

I made sure not to over stay my welcome with Mr. X and left 5 hummingbirds richer!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

As I walked out on the streets of Laredo

As I walked out on the streets of Laredo.
As I walked out on Laredo one day,
I spied a poor birder wrapped in khaki,
Wrapped in dun khaki as dull as the clay.

"I can see by your outfit that you are a birder."
These words he did say as I boldly walked by.

Rail Road Bridge in Laredo at the current Amazon
Kingfisher site.
Early Saturday morning Tony Frank and I headed to Laredo to chase the Amazon Kingfisher that's been there since October. Oh at 2:30 am when we left my house it was 28 degrees. It will get warmer as we head south I say.

Every 75 miles it dropped a degree though, so about 20 miles outside of Laredo at dawn the temperature on my dash read 24 degrees. It warmed a bit as the sun came up, so by the time we got to the kingfisher site it was back up to 28 degrees. As we pulled up a pair of Great Kiskadees fussed with each other for Year Bird 168.

We got out of the car and it took Tony all of 30 seconds to find the Kingfisher, perched in Mexico! I do think we set the record for the lowest temperature that an Amazon Kingfisher had been observed at though.

While waiting for the Kingfisher to fly into US airspace a White-collared Seedeater made a brief appearance for Year Bird 169. A Ringed Kingfisher appeared for Year Bird 170.

Still waiting on the Amazon. A Least Grebe maded a break for the US side when ICE wasn't around for Year Bird 171. Finally the Amazon Kingfisher flew into the US for Year bird 172.

Time was wasting we headed to Alice, TX to look for a White-winged Scoter that had been reported the week before at Lake Findley. On the way I picked up Chihuahuan Raven for Year Bird 173, White-tailed Hawk for Year Bird 174, Harris Hawk for Year Bird 175, and Common Ground-Dove for Year Bird 176.

Brown Pelican Lake Findley
As we get out of the car at Lake Findley Green Jays fly over my head for Year Bird 177. While scanning the lake for the scoter I pick up Ladder-backed Woodpecker for Year Bird 178. Then we find a couple of Cinnamon Teal for Year Bird 179. As we are leaving the a Greater Roadrunner was sunning for Year Bird 180. No scotor to be found, but we found a first for Jim Wells County in eBird Brown Pelican.

We head for Corpus Christi to look for a Surf Scoter. Oodles of Redheads but no Surf Scoter. A Port of Corpus Christi Police Officer rolls up and asks us what we are doing, "Looking at birds" we say. He's not wearing a jacket and its still just 35 degrees. He heads back to his SUV then turns and returns and asks "What kind of birds?" I reply "Just a bunch of Redheads today" I reply. He turns back to the truck, then comes back again and points at our scopes "Are those cameras?" "No they are telescopes I answer" He tells us to stay warm and jumps back in and leaves. I turn to Tony and say "Good thing he didn't look in the car at the cameras on the back seat"

Ok its getting late, but we squeeze in a stop by the Big Tree outside of Rockport and find three Whooping Cranes for Year Bird 181. A couple we had seen also cruising around obviously looking for cranes pulls up and asked if we have found some Whooping Cranes. We answer yes and invite them to look through the scopes. "No that ok" they reply and drive off. Mystifying behavior.

Brewer's Blackbird
Ok peddle to the metal heading home. A flock of blackbirds in the scrub catch our attention. I do a quick U-turn, those have got to be Brewers I say. Sure enough Brewer's Blackbird for Year Bird 182.

We make it back to my house by 7:10 pm. Sixteen and a half hours and 12 new birds. Its been a good day.

Friday, January 6, 2017


Common Look at Offat's Bayou
Galveston, TX
Tony Frank messaged me about 10:45 am today asking if I had seen the report of Red-throated Loon at Offatt's Bayou in Galveston. I hadn't but went looking for it and the pictures looked good. I headed over to pick up Tony and we made it to Offat's Bayou by 12:15 pm. At first we didn't see much in the way of loons, just two Common Loons.

We saw a few more to the south and moved over to the south parking lot and almost immediately found the Red-throated Loon for Year Bird 166. The flock of loons was better than 20 birds and we picked out a Pacific Loon for Year Birds 167.

It was cold, windy and rainy and when it became clear we weren't going to get pictures of the rare loons we got out of the weather and headed for the Texas City Dike. A photo hand been posted yesterday that Tony thought was checking out as a California Gull,

The dike was deserted except for a half dozen even crazier than we were fishermen. We searched the length of the dike with no rare gulls making an appearance.

We headed home to get ready to chase the Amazon Kingfisher Saturday in Laredo!

Correcting Past Mistakes

In my 2015 Big Year I considered missing Purple Finch one of my biggest mistakes. They were being seen at the Lone Star College Campus in Kingwood. They were there for the taking and I told myself I'd get them in the fall. Then time ran out on me. I've already picked up one miss from 2015, Great Black-backed Gull, time to take care of another.

I did a few chores around the house and caught up on somethings before heading out. I was on the trail just before 10 am. Immediately I hear a Winter Wren for Year Bird 161. 

Not far down the trail I was able to get a big flock going with pishing and owl calls, Bingo! three Purple Finches landed above my head for Year Bird 162. In the same flock I found a Brown Creeper for Year Bird 163 and a group of American Goldfinches made Year Bird 164.

Cypress Grove Boardwalk in the Lone Star College Lowlands
The BirdsEye app on my phone indicated that Wood Duck was also found here so I pressed one. Way down the trail I spooked a group of six Wood Ducks for Year Bird 165.

All of this habitat looked great for Rusty Blackbird so I spent time on the way back to the car looking for them. At the end of the Cypress Grove boardwalk a Winter Wren bounced around for some good looks at a secretive species. No luck on the Rusties though.

This was my first visit to this site and I was very impressed. I can see why this site is turning up such good birds. I had 29 species on a late start in dreary wet weather in about an hour.

I had some time left and decided to head over to Bear Creek Park and look for the Greater Pewee. The weather didn't get any better. I spent about an hour there looking with just not much moving except all the guys parked outside the rest rooms. Funny how when I walked by with my big camera over my shoulder all the cars would start up and drive over to another rest room. Bear Creek Park is getting positively creepy.

I've since learned that a Greater Pewee was found on January 2 in the cemetery across I10 from the park and some speculate that this is the same bird. I'm skeptical about that. I think its likely a different bird. Its 3.3 miles as the Pewee flies straight line distance to that cemetery across hundreds of acres of good habitat and a 400 foot wide interstate highway. I think interstate highways are a big barrier to the local movement of small birds. Bigger birds that fly long distances daily not so much, but I bet cardinals, phoebes, and yes Greater Pewees don't cross them much.

I digress. I dipped on Greater Pewee, I hope it doesn't haunt me this year! Saturday I'm chasing the Amazon Kingfisher, hope the cold doesn't chase it off.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

It Takes a Village

Long-tailed Duck, Lake Baunig
It is impossible no matter how hard I try to monitor every outlet for bird reports in Texas these days, so I rely on people telling me about good birds that pop up around the state. Tuesday I got a message from Sandi Wheeler about the Long-tailed Duck at Braunig Lake on the south side of San Antonio. Bonus that there is a Greater Scaup there too.

Greater Scaup
So up at 4:30 am, out of the house by 5 am and headed west from Houston. I made the lake by 8:30 and the weather wasn't as dark and gloomy as I expected. I started working the north shore looking for my target. The Greater Scaup was just about the first duck I saw. There was quite show of Bonaparte's Gulls and Cormorants feeding on something together. Worked the area scanning every few minutes the whole of the cove. I even managed to pick up a Green Kingfisher. No Long-tailed duck yet.

After about 2 hours I decided to check the south side of the lake. Lots of waterfowl, but no Long-tailed duck. I headed back and there was another couple there just starting to look for the duck. I was kinda ready to give up but decided to join then and scan for a few minutes. Suddenly there it was across the lake! Not great looks but I'll take it. I was chit chatting about the Big Year and I looked back at the lake and the Long-tailed Duck was not 30 feet from us. Never saw it come across the lake. It posed for dozens of pictures.

Broad-billed Hummingbird
It was still pretty early so I decided to head south and try for the White-winged Scoter in Alice, TX. I was driving out the exit of the park when Derek Muschalek called to tell me about a Broad-billed Hummingbird in San Antonio. I pulled over and got contact info and make the arrangements and was on the way. 

Ruben Ayala greeted me in the driveway and took me around back where the bird had been seen. We saw it perched in its favorite bush immediately. Another good one in the bag for the year!

I waited a while longer to see of any other hummers would make an appearance but no luck. I headed home after a very good day. I added 12 species and finished the day with 160. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Great Black-backed Gull

Great Black-backed Gull at the Texas City Dike
My original plan was to take a day off and rest today, I'd been birding hard 3 days in a row counting the New Braunfels CBC on December 31. Good birds keep popping up though. There was a report of a Tundra Swan and a Great Black-backed Gull, one in Sugar Land, one at the Texas City Dike.

I left the house early and made it to Sugar Land about 7:30. I could see the swan from the road before I turned in the park. I thought, that didn't look good. Problem was I didn't look too critically at the report via eBird alerts the night before. Getting glass on the bird confirmed my fears. This was a Mute Swan and not countable. Swing and a miss.

Headed to the Texas City Dike and made it by 9:15 even stopping for a breakfast taco. As soon as I pulled up I ran into Tim Perkins. I made sure we had each other number and we split up. I made it to the end of dike when Tim text that he had located the bird. Its a long drive back to the start from the far end at 25 miles per hour. The bird was still there though and posed for pictures. I picked up a couple other birds there and it was still pretty early so I decided to knock off the small plovers at the Bolivar Flats.

At first things looked empty at the flats, but walking a little further out I first spotted a Snowy Plover, even wearing some bling! It didn't take much more effort to find Piping and Wilson's Plover.

Heading home I found well overdue White-winged Doves. I drove around some side streets and while I found Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, and European Starlings, not their English cousin, House Sparrow.

I did find one at my feeders when I got home though, so I finished the day with a year total of 148. Feels like I should be a bit higher, but I have mostly been on the coast. Tomorrow should add a bunch of birds though.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Racing the Storm

The storm over Sea Rim SP
Day 2 I left the house just before 4 am and headed east to look for owls in Chamber's County. I was crossing the San Jacinto River as the first EAS alert went off. Severe thunderstorms were rolling into northwest Harris County. I was almost to the opposite county line and the stars were still out. I decided to stay with the plan.

I pulled into Cedar Hill Park at Lake Charlotte in Chambers County about 4:45 am. It only took a few minutes to get an Eastern Screech-Owl to call. I tried a few barks and hoots of Barred Owl with not luck. The storm was coming and I was racing the rising sun so I didn't stay very long.

Next I stopped at the entrance road to Anahuac NWR and it only took a couple of minutes to locate a Barn Owl. I left and headed right for East Bay Bayou and the FM1985 bridge where we had a couple calling Great Horned Owls on the CBC a few weeks before. I got out of the car and listened for a few minutes. At first another Barn Owl screamed then a pair of Great Horned Owls started a duet.

By the time I made it to Winnie the rain had caught up with me. I had to skip my Barred Owl stop and headed for Port Arthur on my quest for Brown Booby.

White-tailed Kite
I made it to Pleasure Island right at sunrise. Couldn't tell from the fog though but no rain for the moment. I drove the length of the north levee to the end. I picked up some new things like Red-breasted Merganser and Common Loon but no boobies. As I was retracing my route five birds flew out of the fog, Dark brown backs, pointed wings and tails, and pale conical bills. Bingo! Brown Booby! I followed them down the levee but never relocated them for a picture.

I had a list of needs from the Sea Rim  CBC the week before and headed to Sea Rim State Park. It was getting pretty ugly looking though. On the way a White-tailed Kite posed for me. I picked up a few things waiting out the storm at Sea Rim but looking at the radar I decided to head back west to Anahuac NWR and get behind the storm. On the way back I was treated to one of the brightest rainbows I've ever seen.

Say's Phoebe
On the way to Anahuac a bird on the fence caught my eye. When it flew up to catch a fly the dark tail identified it as a Say's Phoebe, A really good bird for this county.

At Anahuac NWR I headed right down to Burrowing Owl stakeout. No luck, crabbers were trespassing behind the fence in the close area with the owl. They had likely spooked it down into its hole or flushed it. I took a few picture of the woman trespassing. It amused me to see her trying to get her shoe out of a nice wet cow flop. My pretty quick loop of Shoveler Pond netted me eight new ones.

A quick pass by a my newly discovered Red-headed Woodpecker stakeout ticked that bird off. A quick pass through Double Bayou Park also added three more woodpeckers, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Northern Flicker, and Downy Woodpecker.

Blue-winged Teal
My final stop of the day was White Memorial Park. This was the best woodland I had hit yet and I ticked 11 new birds for the year there. The highlight was a Dark-eyed Junco, only the third one I've ever had in Chambers County.

I picked up 37 new ones for the year, had a 104 bird day bringing my total for the year to 132 species. Tomorrow I'm off to chase a Great Black-backed Gull!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Off and Running

I wasn't able to get an early start today. I spent the New Years Eve with friends in Alvin, TX and spent the night. I wasn't able to start birding until about 10 am today. First bird of the New Year was Northern Cardinal at my friend's feeder. Thankfully not a House Sparrow!

Cooper's Hawk at Brazoria NWR
Started at Brazoria NWR at about 10:30. Raining most of the the time I was there I managed only 29 species. Not much moving around.  There was a Lesser Black-backed Gull at Roger's Pond. A Cooper's Hawk seemed to be glad the rain was stopping as I was leaving the tour loop.
Nelson's Sparrow in Surfside, TX

Headed down to Surfside to check out Crab Road for Nelson's Sparrow. As I was pulling up I spotted a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. Not a bird I was worried about, but a nice bird for January on the Upper Texas Coast. Pished a bit and then I heard the tiny "seet" calls of two birds. One moved out in the open and I was able to get a picture.

Sanderlings at the Quintana Jetty
On to Quintana Jetty. By now the sun was out. Beachcombers had swept beach clean of most of the gull flock. Must have been 100 fishermen on the jetty itself and not many birds other than the usual suspects.
Sandhill Cranes

I headed over the San Bernard NWR hoping to snag a few land birds at Bobcat Woods. I did manage a few but nothing remarkable. Ran the Moccasin Pond Loop and exited via Rail Pond. Rail Pond as Sandhill Cranes as close as I ever get them and I was able to get a few pictures. I love listening to the call of Sandhill Cranes.

Headed for home via the John Hargrove Environmental Center in Pearland looking for a Bald Eagle. It had been at least a year since I had been there. The Bald Eagle was in the tree I last saw it in, making a nice finish for the day.

In all I managed about 7 hours of birding today and found 95 species. Not a bad "base coat" for the year. Sparrows were few and even waterfowl seemed kind of slim. Tomorrow I'm heading out early targeting the Brown Boobies at Pleasure Island in Jefferson County.