Saturday, July 19, 2014

More from Anauac

Between our two loops around Shoveler Pond at Anahuac on Saturday, we drove down to Frozen Point, stopping along the way to check out the roadside ditches and fences.

On our last visit to the refuge we hadn't seen any Common Nighthawks. This time we saw seven. As usual, most were sitting quietly on fence posts.

However, a few were being a little more active.

One was even sitting up, revealing its barred underside.

Halfway down the road, we came upon two King Rails. Although one immediately disappeared, the other crept through the grass on the verge for a couple of minutes while we drove slowly along beside it.

We stopped for a quick picnic lunch at Frozen Point, where we were surrounded by thousands of golden-bodied dragonflies. Neither of us had ever seen so many dragonflies in one place before.

The shoreline was empty of birds except for a solitary Willet.

Willets are very drab birds - until they fly!

I was hoping for Seaside Sparrows and, sure enough, one appeared right where the road is blocked by a gate.

Two other Seaside Sparrows were pottering around in the rocks nearby and then we saw four more as we started our drive back to the Visitor Center. One of them treated us to a beautiful serenade that seemed to last for ages but was probably only 2-3 minutes long.

A few yards up the road we were serenaded by a different bid, this time a Dickcissel. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a photo before it flew off. (We had seen several other Dickcissels on the entrance road to the refuge but I hadn't managed to get photos of any of them either.) 

At the place where we had seen the King Rails, we stopped again when Dee spotted a bird in a bush. It was our only Least Bittern of the day.

The same area had an adult male Black-necked Stilt.

Further away from the road, another adult Black-necked Stilt was wading in very shallow water. Judging by the brown on this bird's back, it was a female. It was accompanied by what I at first took to be a small shorebird. However, when I looked carefully through binoculars, I realized the small bird was actually a baby Black-necked Stilt.

It was a nice sighting with which to end what had been a very productive and enjoyable visit to our favorite local wildlife site.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Great Morning at Anahuac

Deanne and I were back at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday morning. It was a beautiful if very hot day and the refuge was looking at its best. 

We started and ended our visit with slow drives around Shoveler Pond, where even the alligators seemed to be trying to escape the heat.

The usual Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets were outnumbered by Cattle Egrets. The latter were collecting sticks, presumably for nesting, and they were looking very good in their breeding plumage.

Although we again missed seeing a Black-crowned Night Heron, we did see several Yellow-crowned Night Herons, including this juvenile.

There were also several Green (below), Tricolored (below) and Little Blue Herons.

Eastern Kingbirds and Orchard Orioles were present but absolutely refused to be photographed. Male Red-winged Blackbirds were much less shy.

Way out in the middle of the pond, a dozen or more Roseate Spoonbills were hanging out with as many Wood Storks. As these were out first Wood Storks of 2014, I really wanted to get photos of them. However, they were so far away from the road that my Canon SX50 struggled to produce a picture that was even recognizable.

Luckily, most of the other birds were not so far away.

As on our last trip, Laughing Gulls and Neotropic Cormorants were making good use of roadside signs.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were dividing their time between the water and the road itself.

Surprisingly, Fulvous Whistling Ducks outnumbered their Black-bellied cousins on this trip. They looked particularly beautiful as the paddled about among the water-lilies.

Adult and juvenile Pied-billed Grebes were also feeding among the water lilies. The young Grebes have very distinctive face markings.

Everywhere we looked there were Common Gallinules. Some adults and juveniles were foraging or preening on their own.

But most were in family groups.

Equally common but much more difficult to photograph were Purple Gallinules. They would wander along right by the road or even cross it but would disappear into the vegetation as soon as I stopped the car. 

Then, just as were were finishing our second tour of the pond, we came across one that was more interested in preening than in our presence.

After our first loop of Shoveler Pond we decided to take the 5-mile drive down to Frozen Point, something we rarely do on our visits to the refuge. As it turned out, this was a very good decision.  

Monday, July 14, 2014

Scissor-tailed Flycatchers

If you drive along country roads anywhere in our area at present, you are virtually guaranteed to see Scissor-tailed Flycatchers. During the summer they hang out in very considerable numbers on roadside utility wires.

The males are stunningly beautiful, with spectacular tails. (The females' tails average about 30% shorter.)

Juvenile birds lack the long tail and have a yellowish wash on their belly. They look rather like Western Kingbirds.

Some individuals are skittish and will fly off as soon as you stop near them. Others will ignore you, allowing you to watch as they do their preening. It's something that I never tire of watching.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Summer on the Katy Prairie

The Katy Prairie isn't as busy with birds at this time of year as it is, for example, in winter but even a short drive will usually turn up a nice selection of species.

You're sure to see lots of Northern Mockingbirds, and many of them will be juveniles.

You'll certainly see Mourning Doves also.

Eurasian Collared Doves are an increasingly common sight. Although an invasive species, they don't seem to be adversely affecting our native birds, or at least not yet.

Where this water you are almost certain to see Great Egrets and you may also see Black-necked Stilts (below).

Many open grassy areas will have Killdeer but you may also see Common Nighthawks (below) sitting in the grass, soaring overhead or perching in nearby trees.

Where there is roadkill, you are more or less guaranteed to see Black Vultures.

Utility poles are a good place to look for Crested Caracaras.

Utility wires may be providing perches for Tree Swallows.

However, even more common on utility wires are Scissor-tailed Flycatchers. But let me look at them in my next post.