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.
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

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!


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!


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.


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!