My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Birds du Jour

After being in stasis on the bird migration front for a couple of weeks, migration began again in mid-July.   More and more shore birds are being seen.  A few weeks ago, I went out with an intern to catch, band, and put radios on baby black-necked stilts and found spotted, solitary, and stilt sandpipers, as well as greater and  lesser yellow-legs. These birds will be hard to spot in the public places at Anahuac because areas that hold  water are way back from the road or in closed areas,  Shoveler Pond  area is closed to pave the road. (All of the refuge roads are getting paved which will make it much less costly and time-consuming to maintain them.) Other birds are on the move as well.  Wood storks are still being reported all over, including here at Anahuac.  I wrote an early  blog on them.  I was blessed with a flyover of three wood storks yesterday morning. Other birds that are found in growing numbers are eastern willets and several kinds of terns, including black and sandwich terns.  And we are seeing some warblers move through the area.  I've seen several yellow-throated warblers at the main refuge and a black-and-white-warbler behind the new headquarters/visitor center.  And I often see a Swainson's hawk traveling to and from the main refuge or in the fields near my trailer.

A young Swainson's hawk

We still have a few least bitterns

Sandwich Terns were at the bay a few weeks ago

Many other birds are leaving. Our Martins disappeared in mid-June - and are probably in one of the huge roosts that have built up in several places in Texas. I haven't seen or heard an orchid oriole in weeks except for some migrating through.  There are almost no eastern kingbirds around. Most of our least bitterns are no longer evident around Shoveler Pond. I.  The barn swallows and their progeny are no longer around the visitor center but can still be found on the refuge. Our own orchid orioles are long gone and we have seen migratory ones come through. Our yellow-billed cuckoos are gone.  We still have the common nighthawks and should have them until October as well as the scissor-tailed flycatchers, although the later also seem to  be diminishing in numbers.

Our yard nighhawk with its version of wire sitting

I remember two times when I lived in Shreveport, Louisiana when I got to see gatherings of both species. I was walking in a park along the Red River early one October morning and found an entire field covered with scissor-tailed flycatchers. They were on the tips of every tiny shrub, in the branches of larger shrubs and trees and glowing like jewels in the early morning sun.  Another time, I was walking on a bridge between two buildings and saw the sky full of common nighthawks. Both were created pictures I still remember after more than twenty years.

This immature male orchid oriole claimed the butterfly garden as his territory

One of many eastern kingbirds who breed here

So every day is a new experience here at the refuge as we watch migration for most of the year. And I haven't even had time to drive another thirty miles to the Smith Point Hawk Watch where numbers of kites and hawks are starting to build. The time to visit us  is early in the mornings or late in the evenings when the heat index is under one-hundred degrees and the birds are active. Migrating birds are here in the mornings and then often leave in the early evenings.