Sunday, September 14, 2014

Attwater Prairie-Chicken NWR

I've passed this site before and didn't have time to stop.  I took a different route home from Rockport so I could finally visit.  The Attwater Prairie-Chicken NWR is home to the very endangered bird for which it is named.  One of my field guides lists it as a smaller, darker race of Greater Prairie-Chicken that is nearly extinct.  They are always here, but you may or may not see them.  Even though I didn't catch a glimpse of the prairie chicken, I did add two birds to my life list.  

I found the first at the very beginning of the auto loop.  A Bobwhite stepped in front of my car.  I took a few photos through the windshield to make sure I didn't frighten him, then waited.  He showed no sign of moving on so I opened the door, stood up behind it, and took more photos.  Still, he didn't budge.  I probably photographed him for 10 minutes before he finally joined his friends in the grass beside the trail.  I couldn't see his buddies, but heard them calling, "Bob-white...bob-white..."

This one looks like the Florida subspecies.  What's he doing in Texas?

This leads to a question one of the more experienced birders reading might be able to answer:  If I see the other subspecies, do I count each one on my life list?

I saw the other new one soon after.  Some other birders and I were trying to figure out what he was.  "Maybe some kind of warbler, but I don't know the name."

"I'll call him George," said one of the guys.

"George" was everywhere.  Not in large groups, but one here and one there throughout the entire reserve.  I must have seen at least 100.  I saw so many, I stopped looking at the birds singing from their perches atop the tall grass.  It's just George again, I thought to myself.

"George" turned out to be a Dickcissel, one of our summer birds who breeds here and flies south to Mexico and Central America for the winter.    

After the auto trail, I took a short stroll along the Pipit Trail.  Most of the reserve looks like this, similar to what you would expect to see in the Great Plains.  For those who might not know, Texas contains beaches, swamps, prairies, forests, canyons, caverns, mountains, valleys and deserts.  I'm not sure there is another state with such diversity.

We do have lakes as well, but only one is natural.      

Along the Pipit Trail, I found another butterfly to photograph - the Buckeye.  

I also found his caterpillar.

mid-late afternoon
80's, overcast, windy
Species Identified (13):  Little Blue Heron, Turkey Vulture, Crested Caracara, Red-winged Blackbird, Dickcissel, Northern Bobwhite, Anhinga, Northern Mockingbird, Common Moorhen, Barn Swallow, Great Egret, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Northern Cardinal

I'm linking up with I'd Rather B Birdin'.  Another Texas birder hosts a linkup for birders around the world.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Newbury Park Hummingbird Garden

My last stop before heading home was a small city park in Lamont.  There weren't many birds, but it was the perfect spot for a sandwich and a potty break.   

April was not the month for the tens of thousands of Hummingbirds that migrate through the area each year.  I did find some migrants, though.

There were several Monarch Butterflies in the garden.

They are "capable of flying 2,000 miles from Canada to Mexico and back again to the Southern US" per my field guide.  Wow.    

So many shades of orange are in these flowers and butterflies, I think I have the perfect post to link up with Orange You Glad It's Friday.

Even the Variegated Fritillary is sort of an orange color.  I did not find him in my field guide.  I had to search the internet when I got home.  I think I may need a new one devoted specifically to butterflies and moths.  I'm working on a library, apparently.

Great-tailed Grackle, Monarch Butterfly, Variegated Fritillary

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Connie Hagar Cottage Sanctuary

I'm still catching up on posts from April.  This is as much a personal scrapbook / photo album documenting my journey along the Texas wildlife trails as anything else, so I want to include each and every site I've visited so far.  I'm thinking of having it turned into one of those books I see advertised at the end of each year.  Has anyone done that?  

The first photos were taken at the Connie Hagar Wildlife Sanctuary, which the map suggests visiting on the way to site 51.   

From the tiny parking lot , I observed a Willet, Laughing Gulls, Brown Pelicans, and a Mottled Duck.

Even now I keep checking my books to make sure he's a Laughing Gull.  He's missing the large white wingtip spots of a Franklin's Gull, though.  I never knew there were so many types of gulls.

These last two photos were taken on the grounds of the Connie Hagar Cottage Sanctuary.  Connie Hagar seems to be well known to the birders in this area.  She and her husband owned and operated a motel here, the Rockport Cottages, in the 1930's and she was responsible for putting this area on the map.  Apparently, before she alerted the birding world, no one knew about the migratory flyways on the Texas Gulf Coast.


I found no kiosk or daily bird list, even though the map mentions them.  I did identify several species, including a new one for me - the Magnolia Warbler.  I didn't get any good photos of the birds, but the trails and flowers are pretty enough.

The  guide map also mentions that Rockport is the base for boats that visit the feeding grounds of Whooping Cranes and nesting islands for colonial waterbirds.  I did not have the time or the funds for such a tour on this trip, but I will be back.

4/27/2014, early morning
Species Identified: Willet, Laughing Gull, Brown Pelican, Mottled Duck, Eurasian Collared-dove, Northern Cardinal, Tufted Titmouse, Magnolia Warbler, Great-tailed Grackle, European Starling, Great Egret, Roseated Spoonbill, Northern Mockingbird  

I'm linking with Our World Tuesday this week.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Rockport Demo Bird Garden and Wetlands Pond

After finding the Brown Booby in Corpus Christi, I headed to Rockport to visit a few more sites along The Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail.  Rockport is famous for Whooping Cranes in winter and Hummingbirds in migration.  

The nature trail and boardwalk are very nice, but I was hoping for more migrants.  

The Baltimore Oriole is a winter bird, according to my field guide.  It seems the birds don't use the same calendar that I do.

I returned the next morning to see if I could find any more birds.  I captured a Northern Mockingbird with his breakfast.

I was very excited to see the Golden-fronted Woodpecker tapping on a pole.  My first!

This is my Macro Monday shot.  I should probably buy a field guide for all the beautiful and often strange flora I've seen.  I don't know what it is, but it's my favorite color.

4/26 - 4/27/2014
Late evening and early morning.
Identified:  Great Egret, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Mockingbird, Mourning Dove, Baltimore Oriole, Northern Cardinal, Great Blue Heron, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Laughing Gull

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Corpus Christi Seawall

After a few months break, I'm back to my project and getting caught up posting old pics before I start posting new ones. 

I've officially crossed the line between "birdwatcher" (one who watches birds) to "birder" (one who chases birds).  I heard there was a special bird hanging out in Corpus Christi, hopped in my car, and drove 3 and 1/2 hours to find him.  The seawall is not a site on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, but a rare bird made it worth a visit and it's own post.     

I took this picture from the top of a small wall that juts out into the bay.  There weren't any signs warning to keep off.  In fact, a gap in the barricade actually invited a stroll, so out I went to get closer to the birds along the breakwater and to get pics of the seawall from a more interesting angle.

There are benches facing both ways, gazebos spaced at regular intervals which are nice and shady, and steps leading all the way down to the water.  This is not a bad place to spend a sunny afternoon.

When I first arrived, a fellow birder informed me the Brown Boobies were gone.  "Maybe they'll come back," I replied.  "In the meantime, I'll photograph the other birds hanging around."      

A Great Blue Heron was standing beside the wall I mentioned.

Further out, on top of another wall, were Brown Pelicans in their beautiful breeding plumage, and Royal Terns.  

Along the bottom of the stairs, I found Ruddy Turnstones also in breeding plumage.  These are supposed to be winter birds, but I've seen them here in Texas as late as June.

I searched each of the breakwaters with my binoculars, hoping to find a Brown Booby.  I finally noticed a bird on top of the #2 sign between them.  One of them did return!  These birds spend most of their life at sea and a view from shore is rare.

This is the best photo I could get since he was quite a distance away and it was very windy.

One of the birders from the convention came out and set up a tripod in the gazebo and asked if I would like to view him through a scope.  Of course I would.  The image bounced around a bit, but it was nice to get a better look.  

Date of visit:  4/26/2014
2 pm
Windy, overcast
85 deg F
Species identified (8):  Laughing Gull, Brown Pelican, Herring Gull, Great Blue Heron, Royal Tern, Willet, Ruddy Turnstone, Brown Booby

I'm linking up with I'd Rather B' Birdin'.