Friday, November 25, 2016

Goose Island Birds

Don't forget that you can click on pictures for a better view!!

Teri and I go out birding every day. Whether we're leading one of the park walks (4 days a week) or exploring the area on a day off, we're always on the lookout for birds.
Brown Pelican
We feel like many of the "winter" birds have not arrived yet, as weather continues to be warm in much of the country. We are still waiting on many of the ducks to show up, and birds like sparrows are tardy as well.
Anhinga
We have enjoyed watching and photographing many of the resident birds that call this part of the Texas coast home.
White-tailed Hawk
Some birds, like the White-tailed Hawk and Least Grebe are thought of as South Texas specialties, but we are close enough to have them up this way. This Least Grebe is getting ready to enjoy a delicious red wasp. 
Least Grebe
It is hard to believe that we've only got another month here. The time is going by so quickly!
White-faced Ibis
Mark

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Local Celebrities

The most commonly asked question on our bird walks is "Have you seen any Whooping Cranes?".

Well, now we can answer "Yes". While they aren't being seen in the area where we hold our walks, a group of three has been using a large field a couple of miles away near the park's Big Tree site.
Whooping Cranes
This is a huge fenced area that is probably a half-mile square. This picture was taken from 1000 feet away, so isn't great. But we're thrilled to have this trio of Whooping Cranes feeding within a couple of miles of the park. We do have some good marsh habitat inside the park, so hopefully they'll come a little closer!

Mark

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Bird Host

We have been at Goose Island State Park on the Texas Coast for almost two weeks now. We have the position of "Bird Host".

If you can't read the sign, here is a close-up.

While it sounds like we may be here to cater to the needs of the birds, that is only part of our job. We do maintain feeders at our site and in the "Bird Sanctuary" in the park. There are resident Buff-bellied Hummingbirds here, so the hummingbird feeders are up year-round. We also put out sunflower seed and peanut butter/cornmeal mix. 
Goose Island State Park Bird Sanctuary
Our main job is leading bird walks four mornings a week. We do three walks out on the island and one in the woods. So far the shorebirds walks have been very successful. Birding in the woods is slower with fewer birds. But we're having a good time and our participants have enjoyed the walks.

The park has a nice viewing deck overlooking a marsh, and this is a great spot for us to bring folks and show them pelicans, gulls, waders, and shorebirds.

We will also be running a couple of junior ranger type programs on Saturday afternoons. This is a short stay for us, as we are leaving at the end of December. Our time will be up before we know it!

Mark

Friday, November 4, 2016

Feeling Crabby

While staying at Matagorda Bay and exploring the sand beaches, we saw a lot of crabs scurrying around. The gulls and shorebirds saw them too, as they seemed to be a favorite food!

Most common were Ghost Crabs. The smallest were less than an inch across, but we'd occasionally see large ones like the crab in the picture. This one was about 4" wide.
Ghost Crab
We did see a much larger crab, but are not sure what kind it is. It may be a Stone Crab, but if anyone knows for sure we'd like to know. This one was over 6" across.
Stone (?) Crab
We've seen plenty of crab pots for sale in this area, so folks must enjoy catching and eating them.

Mark

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Bittern and Rails

Some marsh birds are secretive and well camouflaged, so are a real treat when you get a look at them. American Bitterns have bold vertical stripes that allow them to blend with marsh grasses, and a habit of standing perfectly still with their heads thrust up into the air.

We spotted this one while exploring Big Boggy National Wildlife Refuge. I don't think he was as well hidden as he thought! (Click on pictures for a larger version).
American Bittern
Unfortunately he got nervous and took to the air soon after being discovered.
American Bittern
On our way to the refuge we were on a road with wet ditches on each side. I'd no sooner said "This would be a good spot for a rail" than this Clapper Rail revealed itself.
Clapper Rail
Clapper Rails are secretive birds that slide off into the grass as soon as they are spotted, and getting a decent picture can be tough! This one disappeared after just a few seconds. 

On our way back from the refuge, we saw another (or the same) Clapper Rail. This one posed facing us for a moment before stalking off.
Clapper Rail
A morning of birding with both an American Bittern and a Clapper Rail is a good morning!

Mark

Monday, October 31, 2016

PLUH-VER or PLO-VER??

We have been on the Texas coast for a few days and are enjoying getting re-acquainted with the many shorebirds. Since we will be leading bird walks at Goose Island State Park for the next couple of months, we're making sure that we know all of their names.
Black-bellied Plover
One of the things we've run into when leading walks is different pronunciations of common bird names. We've had more than one participant insist that we're using an incorrect pronunciation when we understand that there is no single accepted way to say the name.

"Plover" is one example. There are several species of these plump little shorebirds that we'll see during our walks. Pronunciation seems about split between "Pluh-ver" and "Plo-ver".
Semipalmated Plover
We expect to see four different plover species on a regular basis. We'll identify them based on size (Black-bellied is much larger than the others), leg color (yellow/orange for Semipalmated and Piping, gray for Snowy), and back color (light gray for Snowy and Piping, darker brown for Semipalmated).
Piping Plover
But how to pronounce the names?? We've decided to go with "pluh-ver", and expect to hear about it!
Snowy Plover
So how about it birders? How do you pronounce "plover"??

Mark

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Leave Me Alone!!!

Teri and I have spent a few days at Inks Lake State Park. Not volunteering here this year, but it makes a nice stop to visit with family and friends.

We spent a couple of hours at Inks Lake National Fish Hatchery looking for birds. The winter birds haven't really arrived yet so birding was slow, but we did witness an American Kestrel harassing a young Red-shouldered Hawk.

The poor hawk was perched in a tree minding its own business when a male Kestrel decided to start dive-bombing. It made about a dozen high-speed passes at the hawk while screaming and carrying on.
Where is it??
Incoming

It's hard to bend my head back this far...
 
The Kestrel will be back!
After about a minute of this, the hawk decided to find another place to rest. Mission Accomplished for the Kestrel.
Goodbye.
We're heading to the Texas Coast for a couple of months of volunteering. Stay tuned for plenty of Pelican and Duck pictures!

Mark