Friday, January 4, 2019

What Is The Most Beautiful Bird In The World?

Do you have a favorite?

Male, Resplendent Quetzal

Some people say the Resplendent Quetzal takes the number one spot as the most beautiful bird in the world.

[Across time and cultures, the Resplendent Quetzal has been heralded for its great beauty. With an iridescent green sheen and uppertail covert feathers longer than its entire body, the bird has attracted much attention from pre-Columbian peoples, ornithologists, collectors, market hunters, and birders. Skutch (1944) described the male Resplendent Quetzal as "a supremely lovely bird; the most beautiful, all things considered, that I have ever seen.”]

On our first trip to Costa Rica, in 2008, we saw the Resplendent Quetzel along with many more beautiful birds.

On Saturday we’ll be flying down to Costa Rica for our fourth trip to this amazing country.  We’ll be in an area we have never been to before as well as re-visiting two places from past trips.

Do I think there is one “most beautiful” bird in the world? 

I have two answers to that question.  The first answer is absolutely not - I have seen many beautiful birds and there is no way to pick just one.

My second answer is:  Yes, there is one “most beautiful” bird in the world and I have yet to see it.  That is why I keep looking.

Here are a few bird pictures from our past trips.  In a couple of weeks, we’ll have many more - stay tuned.

Green Violetear

Yellow-throated Toucan 
Violet Sabrewing

Crimson-collared Tanager

Montezuma Oropendola

Collared Aracari 

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Finishing Up

Teri and I are down to just three more bird walks here at Goose Island and then we'll pack up and head back to Medina.

We really enjoy the area, as there are extensive marshes and wetlands which attract quite a number of large, showy wading birds. Just minutes from our campsite we are able to check out a few areas, often finding groups of feeding birds. A sampling from Christmas Eve and Christmas Day:

 Great Egret

Snowy Egrets

Clapper Rail

Roseate Spoonbills and White Ibis

While Adult White Ibis are bright white, for their first year of life they are mottled brown. 

Immature White Ibis
Though they can sometimes be confused with young White Ibis, the all-brown White-faced Ibis is a different species altogether. 
White-faced Ibis
We are surrounded by shallow bays, and often see wintering Common Loons. This one had caught a little snack. 

Common Loon
Wishing every one a Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 8, 2018

This 'n That

Teri and I are continuing to enjoy our time at Goose Island State Park. It is hard to believe that we're over halfway through our two months here and will be leaving in just three weeks.

A pair of Great Horned Owls often come into the camping area in the evening and give their "hoots".  This one paused long enough for a picture.

Great Horned Owl
Our friends Rick and Sharon paid us a visit, and we made our first trip of the season to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

We spotted a beautiful pair of Whooping Cranes not far from the tour loop road.

Whooping Crane pair
We didn't see any alligators this trip, but a Green Tree Frog enjoyed sunning itself on a warning sign.

A bit closer...
Green Tree Frog
Back at our park, we had a visit from a Rufous Hummingbird, but only saw it for one day.

Rufous Hummingbird
With continuing rains many of the fields in our area are flooded. Wilson's Snipe really like wet fields and we got some good pictures.

Wilson's Snipe
Greater Yellowlegs also enjoy these areas.

Greater Yellowleg
This time of year most of the birds are shades of brown and gray, making for some challenging identifications. We enjoy showing guests on our birdwalks some of these more difficult to find birds.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Fungus Among Us!

Teri and I decided to hike the short Turks Cap Trail in the park to see how it had weathered the hurricane. Overall it was in pretty good shape, but a couple of areas were flooded from recent rains and we couldn't walk it all.

Column Stinkhorn
We did come across a group of interesting fungi that had an unpleasant smell. There were about a dozen of these growing up out of the some wood chips, some as long as six inches.

Column Stinkhorn
Once we returned to the trailer we identified the fungi as Column Stinkhorn. These apparently start out as separate columns that eventually fuse at the top. And like other Stinkhorn Fungi, they stink!! The inside of the columns are covered with a smelly brown slime which contains spores. The smell attract insects that then carry the spores off to different locations. 

During our walk we heard lots of Gray Catbirds. They get their name from the "mewing" sounds that they make. We hear them constantly, but don't see them very often. This one perched long enough for some pictures. 
Gray Catbird
We were also treated to a flyover by two Whooping Cranes. They were pretty far away but I did get a picture of one with it's "landing gear" down. Those are some long legs!


Saturday, November 10, 2018

Whoop It Up!!

We led four bird walks this past week, and had weather ranging from hot and humid to cold, windy and rainy. A bird that many folks want to see is the Whooping Crane. We hadn't seen any until our final walk on Saturday, when Teri spotted a family group in a nearby marsh.

Whooping Crane Family
The folks on our walk were thrilled to see them. We were able to get even closer by using a new(ish) bird viewing platform installed in the park a couple of years ago.

Adult Whooping Cranes are nearly five feet tall, and white with a red crown.

Whooping Crane Adult
Juvenile Whooping Cranes, called "Colts" have a lot of rusty-brown plumage that they lose during their first year.
Whooping Crane Juvenile
Hopefully these guys hang around for future walks.


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Walkin' and Talkin' about Birds

Teri and I are the "Bird Hosts" at Goose Island State Park for the months of November and December. This means that we'll lead bird walks 4 days each week. 
Our Wednesday and Saturday walks are Shorebird Walks, where we concentrate on beach and marsh areas. Thursday is the Woodland Walk, which stays in the campground area among the Live Oaks (and mosquitoes!).

Friday is the Big Tree Natural Area Walk, which explores a remote area of the park behind the famous "Big Tree". We didn't lead this walk when we were here two years ago, as the tract was newly acquired and not open to any activities. As it is, our bird walk is the only opportunity for the public to see this part of the park.

Our very first walk was a Big Tree Natural Area Walk, and we had three enthusiastic participants. Since our November walks are the first walks of the season in the park, it takes a week or two for many folks to find out about them. We expect larger turnouts as the season progresses.

We started in the Big Tree parking area, and learned a little about the folks on the walk. We often get folks who have never been on a bird walk before, and don't have binoculars. So we sometimes spend that first 15 minutes or so getting them acquainted with how to use binoculars (we have loaners), a spotting scope, field guides, etc. These are often the best groups as everything is new for them. This group had some experience with bird walks so didn't need the basics, and we started birding right away.

There are often good birds visible from the parking area, including the much (most?) sought after Whooping Cranes. It turns out that the Whooping Cranes have not arrived in our area yet, but the Sandhill Cranes have.
Sandhill Cranes
As they fly over making their distinctive call, we are always asked "Are those Whooping Cranes?". We have to break the news that they are not, but folks seem to appreciate seeing any cranes. 

Once we move into the Big Tree Natural Area we find several different types of habitat. The area was formerly a ranch, complete with several homes, an airstrip, and a hanger. The homes are rapidly deteriorating and are slated to be removed, so we avoid them on our walks. We do have access to some fantastic marsh areas, which should have Whooping Cranes on them in the next couple of weeks. 

In addition to birds we also like to show off the dragonflies and butterflies of the area. There are a lot of flowering plants still blooming, and plenty of mosquitoes for the dragonflies to eat!

Giant Swallowtail
Roseate Skimmer
After birding the marsh, we walk down the length of the old concrete runway, to the beach. Here we can find gulls, terns, and other shorebirds. 

While at the beach, we were treated to a flyover of a Roseate Spoonbill. 

Roseate Spoonbill
We've already done a special Saturday evening walk for a outdoor group from Texas A&M Corpus Christi, so in addition to our scheduled walks we are available for special requests as well. 

We love this area and are looking forward to exploring it with visitors over the next two months. 


Monday, October 29, 2018

We Have Arrived

We have arrived at Goose Island State Park in Rockport, Texas.  We will be leading bird walks here for two months. We led bird walks in 2016 and were scheduled to return last year, but Hurricane Harvey made landfall directly on the Lamar Peninsula and the park was closed for several months.

Copano Bay Causeway

Entering the Lamar Peninsula

We'd hoped to get the same site we had last time, but it was already occupied so they gave us one just around the corner. We like this one just fine, and there is plenty of room behind the trailer for bird feeders!

Our site

We have been coming to Goose Island State Park for over twenty years, and one of the things that keeps us coming back are the birds. This is a great spot for waterfowl, shorebirds, gulls, terns, and (in the spring) warblers and other migrants.

We set out on a walk shortly after we arrived. The first birds spotted were Vultures. Both Black and Turkey Vultures are common in the area.

Black Vulture and Turkey Vulture

The Turkey Vulture has a face only a mother could love!

A little farther down the trail we came across a pair of Couch's Kingbirds. These members of the flycatcher family feed on insects that they catch while on the wing. 

Couch's Kingbirds

The stars of the show at Goose Island are the waders and other shorebirds. We didn't see too many, and got pictures of only a few, but two of the largest wading birds are the Great Blue Heron and the Great Egret. 
Great Blue Heron

Great Egret

These large, showy birds are favorites on our bird walks as they are easy to see and will usually stay put while folks study them through binoculars and scopes. We get a lot of new birders on our walks and we appreciate the cooperative birds!