DAY 2, APRIL 14, 2013
On day 2 (April 14. 2013) of my Texas Spring break Birding Trip I visited a total of 5 locations, 3 Bird Sanctuaries in High Island and 2 more in the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.
Day's Totals: Total Species: 71, Lifers: 8
When I planned out my Texas trip, I thought that High Island would be one of the "highlights" of my trip, with all the hype it receives about its heavy migration traffic in the Spring. I was very disappointed with my time spent here. I saw a total of only 31 different bird species in the three locations altogether, and none of the pictures that I am featuring in this blog are from my High Island photographs, because none of them were very interesting or striking. The most interesting of the birds I saw came from the Smith-Oaks Rookery - of nesting Spoonbills, Cormorants and Egrets - all of which can be seen in my last post:( http://northernillinoisbirder.blogspot.com/2013/05/southeastern-texas-2013-springbreak.html ).
The breakdown of the birds seen within each of the Bird Sanctuaries is listed below:
BOY SCOUT WOODS BIRD SANCTUARY
Total Species: 15
Birds Seen: Baltimore Orioles, Blue Jay, Brown-headed Cowbird, Gray Catbird, Great-tailed Grackles, Mourning Doves, Northern Cardinals, Northern Mockingbirds, Orchard Orioles, Red-eyed Vireo, Red-winged Blackbirds, Warbling Vireo, White-eyed Vireo, White-throated Sparrow, White-winged Doves
EUBANKS BIRD SANCTUARY
Total Species: 7
Birds Seen: Blue Jay, Gray Catbird, Great-tailed Grackles, Green Heron, Northern Cardinal, Northern Yellow-shafted Flicker, Ruby-crowned Kinglet
SMITH-OAKS BIRD SANCTUARY
Total Species: 18
Birds Seen: American Coots, Anhingas, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Black Vultures, Blue-winged Teals, Common Moorhen, Double-crested Cormorants, Gray Catbird, Great Egrets, Great-tailed Grackles, Green Heron, Mourning Doves, Neotropic Cormorants, Northern Cardinals, Northern Mockingbirds, Palm Warblers, Roseate Spoonbills, Turkey Vultures
|A Crested Caracara, became my first Lifer of the day when I was driving between High Island and Skillern Tract, TX; 4/14/2013.|
Total Species: 12
Lifers: 1 (Crested Caracara)
Birds Seen: Belted Kingfishers, Black Vultures, Cattle Egrets, Crested Caracara, Glossy Ibis, Great Egrets, Great-tailed Grackles, Killdeer, Northern Mockingbirds, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-winged Blackbirds, White-faced Ibis.
|The same photograph as the top of the page with the alligator highlighted, Skillern Tract, Anahuac NWR, TX; 4/14/2013.|
|The gator looks awfully close to the Ruff and Dowitcher to me. It also has a smug smirk on its face as if he knows within seconds he has a delicious meal in his jaws, Skillern Tract, Anahuac NWR, TX; 4/14/2013.|
Also several yards further out past to where the Ruff was feeding was a flock of Hudsonian Godwits (about 8-10) mixed in with other wading birds. They were pretty far out. My 150-500mm Sigma lens was able to get pictures enough to identify the Godwits, but the photos themselves were of worse quality than my Ruff pics, and did not deserve to be featured in this post.
SKILLERN TRACT (ANAHUAC NWR)
Total Species: 5
Lifers: 3 [Ruff (Rare sighting), Hudsonian Godwits, Stilt Sandpiper]
Other Birds Seen: Black-necked Stilts, Long-billed Dowitchers,
In a matter of a half hour I was able to add 4 new species to my Life List (starting with the Crested Caracara and ending with the Hudsonian Godwits). Not a bad half hour in my trip. After my brief stop at Skillern Tract, I continued on to revisit the Anahuac NWR. My bird list from that visit is below, which includes another 4 Lifers for me...
ANAHUAC NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
Total Species: 47
Lifers: 4 (Seaside Sparrow, Sedge Wren, Wilson's Phalarope, Yellow Rail)
Birds Seen: American Coots, Barn Swallows, Black-necked Stilts, Black Vulture, Blue-winged Teals, Cattle Egrets, Common Moorhen, Common Yellowthroat, Double-crested Cormorants, Dunlin, Eastern Kingbirds, Eastern Meadowlark, Forster's Terns, Glossy Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Great Egrets, Greater Yellowlegs, Great-tailed Grackles, Killdeer, Laughing Gulls, Least Sandpipers, Lesser Goldfinch, Lesser Yellowlegs, Long-billed Dowitchers, Northern Cardinals, Northern Harrier, Northern Mockingbirds, Northern Shovelers, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-winged Blackbirds, Roseate Spoonbills, Savannah Sparrows, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Seaside Sparrows, Sedge Wrens, Snowy Egrets, Sora Rail, Stilt Sandpipers, Tree Swallows, Turkey Vultures, Vesper Sparrow, White-faced Ibis, White Ibis, Willets, Wilson's Phalarope, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Yellow Rail.
|White-face Ibis either stretching or drying their wing feathers in the sun, in a field near Skillern Tract, Anahuac NWR, TX; 4/14/2013.|
|A Common Moorhen in the reeds, Anahuac NWR, TX; 4/14/2013.|
|A Killdeer sitting on its stone nest along the roadside, Anahuac NWR, TX; 4/14/2013.|
|Its eggs are visible under the Killdeer as it rose to confront me when I came too close for comfort, Anahuac NWR, TX; 4/14/2013.|
|A Seaside Sparrow, during the "Yellow rail Walk," Anahuac NWR, TX; 4/14/2013.|
The Yellow Rail WalkAs I was leaving the Refuge, I decided to pull into the little building and report to the managers on duty about the Killdeer nest, just in case they didn't know about it - it was only a couple hundred yards from their kiosk. As I was there, we got to conversing about the sightings of the day (mine and others) and they asked if I was going on the "Yellow Rail Walk" which was happening in just 15 minutes. I didn't know about it, but I didn't need to be anywhere, so I asked about what it was about. As it was explained to me - a group of people walk out into the marshy sedge grass pulling a rope (Approx. 50' in length) with old gallon milk jugs attached with 5-10 feet of space between them. The jugs have some stones in them to weigh them down a bit but not to make them too heavy to pull. This rope is pulled through the marsh, the habitat of the Yellow Rail, in hopes of causing the Rail to try to get out of the way. When the Yellow Rail is spotted by one of the group everyone makes a tight circle around the Rail keeping our feet close together so the Rail can't escape between our legs. Rails are noted for their "iron will" by holding their place and not moving as people or animals walk right past them. If we are able to keep the Rail inside the circle long enough for everyone in the group to see it, the leader of the "Rail Walk" reaches down in attempt to pick it up to show everyone. Usually the Rail will then fly up high enough to clear the circle of people and escape back into the sedge. During our 30-40 minute walk, we were able to scare up one Yellow Rail, but along with the Rail, we saw many Seaside Sparrows and Sedge Wrens flying out of our path. Both were also Lifers for me. 3 more Lifers in a half an hour. Because the "Rail Walk" had difficult footing and we needed to always be looking at the ground to keep ourselves from tripping in the sedge or over clumps of mud and fire-ant hills, there wasn't much time to focus on birds, which were flying quickly out of the marsh and landing in the tall grass usually out of sight. I didn't get a chance to photograph a Sedge Wren, but I did manage to focus on a Seaside Sparrow (Above) before it hid in the tall grass. It's not a great photograph, but I was surprised that I was able to get it in my viewfinder and take a picture, while I was high-steppin' it through the marsh, before it hid itself again.
More photos from the afternoon at Anahuac NWR below:
|Eastern Meadowlark, Anahuac NWR, TX; 4/14/2013.|
|Lesser Yellowlegs, Anahuac NWR, TX; 4/14/2013.|
|Snowy Egret, Anahuac NWR, TX; 4/14/2013.|
|A Vesper Sparrow, Anahuac NWR, TX; 4/14/2013.|
|A juvenile White Ibis, Anahuac NWR, TX; 4/14/2013.|
|The always beautiful Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Anahuac NWR, TX; 4/14/2013.|
My next post will cover Day 3 of my Texas trip at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.