Friday, May 3, 2013

Southeastern Texas 2013 Springbreak Birding Trip Report

A Ferruginous Hawk watching me watching him. My first Lifer of the trip. Anahuac NWR, TX, 4/13/2013.
This winter when I was planning a birding trip during my Spring break from teaching school, I was looking at several places, but ultimately decided that Southeastern Texas would give me the most opportunities to find birds that I would not find anywhere else in the U.S.  So I made a vague plan of some of the areas that I would visit and see what luck may bring.

Disclaimer:  I am a Hiker turned Birder, so I tend to want to put on hiking miles. My birding efficiency is most probably lacking from what true serious birders may do. What I mean is that I find a place that sounds interesting or where a bird I am searching for may exist. Then I find a hike that "might" lead me to that bird. Regardless of finding the bird or not, I will finish the hike no matter the length. Of the 14 places I visited only at one (Sabal Palms Sanctuary, near Brownsville) I did not hike. I just stood on the Visitor's Center deck until the bird I was hoping to see, showed up (it did - Crimson Grosbeak). Then I left. But this is not my usual way of birding. Also I tend to be a bit impatient. While stalking a bird that I hear or see fleetingly in my peripheral vision, I do not stalk for hours waiting for the bird in question to show itself. I am more likely to spend at max 5- 10 minutes, and if the bird doesn't show itself in a reasonable position for a photograph opportunity, I move on.
Trip Results:
7 = Total days of trip (4/13 - 4/19/2013)
14 = Total # of places I visited (not including stopping along the road to take photos)
201 = Total # of species identified
           (probably could've been a lot more if I was less impatient or more competent).
32 = Total # of new species added to my Life List (probably could've been more if...blah, blah, blah)
6 = Total # of species added to my list of birds seen in the U.S. (not including Lifers above)
40 = Approximate total of miles hiked while stalking birds.
13  = Birds that I was hoping to find and/or thought I had a good chance but struck out: American Oystercatcher, Cave Swallow, Clay-colored Thrush, Green Kingfisher, Groove-billed Ani, Hook-billed Kite, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Purple Gallinule, Red-billed Pigeon, Swainson's Warbler, Tamaulipas Crow, White-tailed Kite.
DAY 1 REPORT (4/13/2013)

Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge was my first stop; however it was an unscheduled stop. I didn't even plan on visiting here. I was on my way to High Island (the place to be in April) when I saw the sign for the exit to Anahuac and I decided to make a stop to check it out - I needed to stop and stretch my legs and do some hiking. I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by both its Visitor's Center and its 34,000 acre refuge. My two visits here produced my highest yield of 76 different bird species  with 11 Lifers.

Black-necked Stilt, Anahuac NWR, TX, 4/13/2013.
Lifers: Ferruginous Hawk (Top of page), White-tailed Hawk, White-faced Ibis (Below - bottom), Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Fulvous Whistling Ducks, Boat-tailed Grackles (below-top).
A Boat-tailed Grackle fly by, I determined this was a Boat-tailed. not a Great-tailed, because its iris was very dark compared to the bright white iris of the Great-tails in this area. These Boat-tails became my 2nd Lifer of the trip, Anahuac NWR, TX, 4-13-13.

A White-faced Ibis, my 3rd Lifer of the trip, Anahuac NWR, TX, 4/13/13.
Other Sightings: American Coots, American white Pelican, Anhingas, Bank Swallows, Barn Swallows, Belted Kingfisher, Black Vulture, Black-crowned Night Heron, Black-necked Stilt (3rd pic from top), Blue Jay, Blue-winged Teals, Brown Pelicans, Cattle Egrets, Cedar Waxwing, Cliff Swallows, Common Moorhens (below bottom), Common Yellowthroat, Double-crested Cormorants, Dunlin, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Field Sparrows, Forster's terns, Glossy Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Greater Yellowlegs, Great-tailed Grackles, Green Heron (Below - top), Killdeer,  Laughing Gulls, Least Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, Loggerheaded Shrike, Mallard Duck, Mourning Doves, Neotropic Cormorants, Northern Cardinals, Northern Harrier, Northern Mockingbirds, Northern Rough-winged Swallows, Northern Shovelers, Osprey, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-winged Blackbirds, Savannah Sparrows, Snowy Egret, Tree Swallows, Turkey Vultures, Vesper Sparrows, White Ibis, White-crowned Sparrow, Willets, Wood Duck, and Yellow-crowned Night Heron.
Green Heron, Anahuac NWR, TX, 4/13/2013.

Common Moorhen, Anahuac NWR, TX, 4/13/2013.

Pipevine Swallowtail, Anahuac NWR, TX, 4/13/2013.
More pics from Anahuac (below):
Savannah Sparrow, Anahuac NWR, TX, 4/13/13.

A pair of Blue-winged Teals,Anahuac NWR, TX, 4/13/13.
Snowy Egret, Anahuac NWR, TX, 4/13/13.
Laughing Gull, Anahuac NWR, TX, 4/13/2013.

Seven baby Alligators, Anahuac NWR, TX, 4/13/13.
I saw one baby alligator in a low marsh on one of my hikes. As I was focusing on it I noticed more movement in the water. Within seconds there were seven babies (Above) all within a couple square feet of each other.

SMITH-OAKS BIRD SANCTUARY, HIGH ISLAND [20 birds (12 not from Anahuac)]

0 Lifers; Other Sightings: American Crow,  Anhingas, Black Vultures, Blue-winged Teals, Brown Creeper, Common Grackle, Common Moorhen, Double-crested Cormorants, Downey Woodpecker, Eastern Kingbirds, Eastern Towhee, Great Egrets, Loggerheaded Shrike, Red-breasted Nuthatches (a surprise to find them this far south), Red-winged Blackbirds, Roseate Spoonbills, Scarlet Tanagers, Swamp Sparrow, Turkey Vultures, Warbling Vireo.
Special Note: This Sanctuary boasts a very large rookery with nesting Roseate Spoonbills, Great Egrets, and Double-crested and Neotropic Cormorants.

Nesting Cormorants in the Rookery, Smith-Oaks Sanctuary, TX, 4/13/13.

nesting Egrets and Spoonbills,  Smith-Oaks Sanctuary, TX, 4/13/13.
Roseate spoonbill at the Rookery,  Smith-Oaks Sanctuary, TX, 4/13/13.
Scarlet Tanager,  Smith-Oaks Sanctuary, TX, 4/13/13.

BOLIVAR FLATS [32 Species (21 diff from Anahuac &  Smith Oaks), 2 Lifers]

Least Tern,  Bolivar Flats, TX; 4/13/13.
Lifers: Piping Plover (Below), Least Tern (Above)
Piping Plovers were checking out the surf for a meal, Bolivar Flats, TX; 4/13/13.
Other Sightings: American Avocet (Below), American Golden Plover, Black Skimmers, Black Tern, Black-bellied Plover, Black-necked Stilts, Blue-winged Teals, Brown Pelicans, Caspian Terns, Cattle Egret, Common Terns, Forster's Terns, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Herring Gulls, Laughing Gulls, Least Sandpiper,  Marbled Godwits, Reddish Egret, Ring-billed Gulls, Royal Terns, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderlings, Sandwich Terns, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Tri-colored Heron, Western Sandpiper,  Willets, Wilson's Plovers.

An American Avocet in full breeding plumage, Bolivar Flats, TX; 4/13/13.
Bolivar Flats is a wonderful coastal area along the Gulf of Mexico south of High Island just a couple of miles before you reach the end of Bolivar Peninsula where the ferry crosses Galveston Bay to Galveston.

More pics from Bolivar Flats (Below):
Black Skimmers cruising the Gulf, Bolivar Flats, TX; 4/13/13.

Colorful Brown Pelicans, Bolivar Flats, TX; 4/13/13.

Common Terns, Bolivar Flats, TX; 4/13/13.

Marbled Godwit, Bolivar Flats, TX; 4/13/13.

Royal Tern, Bolivar Flats, TX; 4/13/13.

Ruddy Turnstone, Bolivar Flats, TX; 4/13/13.

Willet, Bolivar Flats, TX; 4/13/13.

Wilson's Plover, Bolivar Flats, TX; 4/13/13.
Semipalmated Sandpiper, Bolivar Flats, TX; 4/13/13.
Reddish Egret, Bolivar Flats, TX; 4/13/13.
I would have stayed longer to scout out Bolivar Flats, but it was already late in the day and it was starting to lose daylight. But this is a great area to find shorebirds along the coast and wetland birds in the grassy and marshy area inland.

All in all  my first day birding in Texas yielded almost 90 different species and 8 new species added to my Life List.

My next post will cover Day#2 when I revisited Anahuac NWR, Skillern Tract, Eubanks Bird Sanctuary, Boy Scouts Woods Bird Sanctuary, and Smith-Oaks again.


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