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2011-07-29

South Africa (ZA)   Two and a half days in Texas - Part 1  -  Categories: USA  -  @ 09:41:19 pm

Anahuac National Wildlife Reserve, High Island, Bolivar Peninsula and Galveston - Houston, Texas - 02 July 2011

I was ready and waiting in the hotel lobby when Glen arrived just after sun up. Glen had planned a trip to the coast with a few stops on route. However, this was the 4th of July weekend which meant more people than usual at some of the coastal stops, so some species would be absent. Images by Mike Pope


On route to Anahuac, Glen made a stop at a backup site for a bird that I might miss the following day. It was a good site, with some forest and pines and gave us Blue Jay

Blue Jay

After Kuwait's desert birds it was great to have birds with colour and an Eastern Bluebird didnt disappoint in that department

Eastern Bluebird

We were lucky to see a pair of Inca Doves, a species that used to be much more abundant but has been displaced by the arrival of White-winged Doves

Inca Dove

Finally the bird we had made this stop for, showed itself and is the best looking Woodpecker I saw in Houston - the stunning Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker

Just before Anahuac, we stopped at a farm alongside the road where we had a Common Nighthawk overhead - very distinctive in flight with the white wing windows

Common Nighthawk

Good numbers of Red-winged Blackbird - males and females

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

An Eastern Kingbird on autumn passage

Eastern Kingbird

A displaying male Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

and a less impressive female Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Over the fields in the distance, a Fulvous Whistling Duck

Fulvous Whistling Duck

and a White-faced Ibis

White-faced Ibis

Finally we reached Anahuac where water levels were really low, as Texas was experiencing a really bad drought and this affected bird numbers. Driving slowly around this big wildlife refuge we added some new birds - Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Glen was thrilled with an unexpected and the more difficult to find King Rail along the dried out and exposed canal bank

King Rail

King Rail

At one stop, the Black-necked Stilts were very vocal flying around us, as they had some young nearby

Black-necked Stilt

Black-necked Stilt

Anahuac is the place to find Seaside Sparrow and we worked hard to find a bird that sat up long enough for a photograph

Seaside Sparrow

Seaside Sparrow

by now it was time to push on to the next location and on the way out we added a bird with a very strange name - Dickcissel

Dickcissel

and many more Common Nighthawks roosting on the fence

Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk

our next stop was the legendary migration site called High Island not very far from the Gulf of Mexico coastline. It has good habitat and since it is elevated is a natural stop for many passage migrants, which I had unfortunately missed by a few weeks. I donated my fair share of blood to the local mosquitoes before we could coat ourselves in insect repellant - not easy in the heat and high humidity. However High Islant is also a breeding area for Herons, Egrets and Spoonbills. We found Snowy Egret feeding a ravenous brood

Snowy Egret

and another trying to shelter it's young from the intense heat

Snowy Egret

a Neotropic Cormorant coming in to land

Neotropic Cormorant

Tricoloured Heron also had young that werent going to win any baby beauty contest just yet

Tricoloured Heron

Look at the colours on this Tricoloured Heron when it catches the light

Tricoloured Heron

However, the main attraction are the powdery pink Roseatte Spoonbills - not ideal light at noon, but not much I could do about that

Roseatte Spoonbill

A few pairs still had young birds

Roseatte Spoonbill

Roseatte Spoonbill

As we had yesterday, another Wood Stork came drifting in

Wood Stork

Walking to another pan, we flushed a Black Vulture

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

Leaving High Island we stopped for a flock of Purple Martins on the overhead lines

Purple Martin

We then headed to Bolivar Peninsula on the Gulf of Mexico, stopping at a few sites. However, the numbers of beach visitors did restrict bird numbers to some degree. We found a Horned Lark perched atop a fence.

Horned Lark

Glen found a site, that although was very busy the birds seemed pretty tolerant and we added many coastal species to the days list. Laughing Gulls were the most numerous

Laughing Gull

A Forsters Tern roosting in the shallows

Forsters Tern

A few larger Royal Terns flew by

Royal Tern

A Magnificent Frigatebird was an unexpected bonus for me, even though it never quite came close enough

Magnificent Frigatebird

Many Brown Pelicans

Brown Pelican

A few Willet flying by and feeding in the shallows

Willet

Willet

And a small flock of Marbled Godwits came in to feed

Marbled Godwit

The Black Skimmers never did come close, but I caught this flying past a Wilsons Plover

Black Skimmer and Wilsons Plover

We found the white morph Reddish Egret

White morph Reddish Egret

as well as the proper Reddish Egret - also a good looking Egret

Reddish Egret

We left this beach site to explore another pond that had some cover and short reeds. We stopped to look at another Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

and got a bonus in the form a Clapper Rail, the bird we had expected to see at Anahuac

Clapper Rail

Clapper Rail

and another Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit

after a quick bite to eat, we headed to the ferry for the crossing to Galveston, finding a Mottled Duck. The heat haze and humidity playing havoc with my camera's autofocus

Mottled Duck

waiting for the ferry to depart, gave the opportunity for closer views of Laughing Gull

Laughing Gull

as well as roosting and preening Brown Pelicans

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

once underway, a few birds flew alongside the ferry for most of the crossing - another Royal Tern

Royal Tern

a Sandwich Tern

Sandwich Tern

coming in to dock, a few of the smaller Black Terns

Black Tern

and more Laughing Gulls dwarfed against a giant containership leaving Galveston

Laughing Gull

We explored some coastal dunes on the Galveston side and found a Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier

and finally a flock of Short-billed Dowitchers before we called it a day and headed back to my hotel in Houston

Short-billed Dowitcher

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