Saturday, December 31, 2016

Stick A Fork In Us...

We're Done!!  We led our final bird walk at Goose Island State Park on New Year's Eve. We had a great group of ten people and located 53 different species of birds which is the most we've seen in our two months here.

Yesterday we led our final "Woods Walk". The feeding station that we've been maintaining is starting to see more action, and I finally got a picture of the resident Buff-bellied Hummingbird that feeds there.
Buff-bellied Hummingbird
The rarest bird that we found during our walks was a Black Scoter. This sea duck isn't expected in Texas, but we had one (and briefly two) that stayed at the park for two weeks. Not a really fancy looking bird, but it sure got some folks excited!
Black Scoter
We get a lot of new birders on our walks, and by far the most popular birds are the big and/or colorful ones. Getting a Roseate Spoonbill in the scope can turn a "maybe" bird watcher into an excited birder.
Roseate Spoonbill
A cooperative White Ibis standing on the observation platform hand-rail is also a popular sight.
White Ibis
We've given our "Bird Host" sign to the couple who will begin bird walks next week, and we're getting packed up to roll out of here on New Year's Day.

We plan to return next year and look forward to picking up where we left off.

Happy New Year!!


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Little Something for the Tree

Our time here at Goose Island State Park is winding down quickly.  In addition to four bird walks a week, we also offered two Jr. Ranger programs on Saturdays.  Although most of the Jr. Ranger programs were not very well attended, our December “Make a Christmas Ornament” program tended to bring in a pretty good crowd.

Several of the parents would make their own special ornament too.
First you start with a clear, plastic ornament.  Then you add sand.  This is native sand that Mark and I picked up at Rockport beach.  Next you add little shells and sea glass (non-native, these where in a box for our use).  Then you replace the top plug and write whatever you want on the outside with our gold or silver paint pens.

That’s all it takes to make a beautiful Goose Island State Park Christmas ornament!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Time for a Christmas Bath...

We visited the park bird feeding station on Christmas morning to see what the birds were up to. In addition to feeders there are a couple of water features that the birds seem to love.
Ready, Set...
Once the Northern Cardinals got going, a little Orange-crowned Warbler got in line. 
I'll just let you finish. 
When the last Cardinal hopped out, the Warbler jumped in.
Orange-crowned Warbler
For such a tiny bird, an Orange-crowned Warbler can make quite a fuss!
Splish - Splash
In addition to the water features, we have seed feeders and peanut butter mix. Our first Pine Warbler of the season took a liking to the peanut butter log. 
Pine Warbler
While we didn't see it at the water or on a feeder, a sneaky White-eyed Vireo popped out just long enough to give us a quick look. 
White-eyed Vireo
Merry Christmas from Teri and Mark, and the birds at Goose Island State Park!!


Monday, December 12, 2016

Did You Bite Off More Than You Can Chew??

We have seen quite a few Great Blue Herons here on the coast. Occasionally we're lucky enough to see one catch a fish. They have to swallow their meals whole, and yesterday we saw one that had speared a really nice fish, but wasn't able to enjoy it.
Great Blue Heron with Fish
The heron worked and worked to position the fish different ways, but it was just too wide to swallow. Too bad, because it looks like it would have been quite a meal. 

Great Blue Heron with Fish
Earlier in our stay we saw a different Great Blue Heron catch a large fish. This fish was more streamlined than the first. It didn't take long for the heron to flip the fish into the correct orientation and swallow it right on down!  You can see the lump in its throat in the next picture.
So are you hungry now for a nice fish dinner??


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Charlie's Pasture

As we've been exploring the area around Goose Island State Park, we've come across a (relatively) new birding site in Aransas Pass named Charlie's Pasture. This large wetland has been improved with over a mile of trails and boardwalks as well as a viewing tower.

Remember to click on the pictures for a larger view!
Roseate Spoonbill
Our first visit was on a windy and overcast day that didn't lend itself to picture taking, but we returned on a beautiful morning and found conditions perfect for bird viewing and photography.
Snowy Egret
Several larger birds were flying over the boardwalk and allowed us great looks. On bird walks we refer to the Snowy Egret as wearing "Golden Slippers" and they show up well in this shot.
White Ibis
Probably the strangest bird at this site is a wayward flamingo. While many folks see Roseate Spoonbills and think that they are flamingos, this one really IS a flamingo. The story goes that this Greater Flamingo escaped from a Kansas zoo and has been around the Texas coast for about 10 years. Kind of sad, but interesting!
Greater Flamingo
For shorebird fans, this is a good place to see Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs side-by-side.
Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs
Other less colorful shorebirds abound as well. We got great looks at Dunlins and Dowtichers.
In winter plumage they aren't very colorful. We look forward to seeing them this summer when they'll be much brighter!
Dowitcher species

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Whoop It Up!!

We had friends visit from South Texas, and we took the opportunity to go out on the Skimmer tour boat to see Whooping Cranes up close. While it is possible to see cranes from the observation towers at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, or even in the fields around Goose Island State Park, taking a boat out to the shores of the Wildlife Refuge is the best way to get close-up views of dozens of these wonderful birds.
Whooping Crane
We saw single birds, pairs, and family groups. 
Whooping Crane pair
In a family group you can tell the juvenile bird by the rusty markings that they carry for the first year. 
Whooping Crane family
This particular family group decided to take flight while we were watching, and their synchronized landing made for this interesting image.
Whooping Crane family landing
Many of the cranes were carrying impressive leg hardware. This individual had a plastic band on its right leg and a radio transmitter on its left. Fancy!
Banded Whooping Crane
In 1938 the total population of Whooping Cranes had fallen to just 15 birds. Today the population is thought to be around 600, with 450 in the wild and the remainder in captivity. Hopefully they'll be around for centuries to come.