My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Wild Bird Wednesday: In Search of Migrants

Last Saturday we got to see the sun for the first time in many days.  (I think it was more days than I have fingers.) When I heard of it's imminent appearance, I decided to go to Anahuac NWR and near by High Island, one of the top ten birding destinations in the country during spring migration.

I think I remember you, Sun.  At Anahuac NWR

I got up, made a quick breakfast and packed coffee to go, grabbed my gear and my already packed lunch and water and took off.  A ferry was loading as I arrived at the ferry launch and I only had to wait about 5 minutes for it to start its journey.  I thought it would be fun to find somewhere along the coast to take a sunrise picture, but I was so early, that I got all the way into Anahuac before the sky colored up.  I went on down towards Frozen Point and then stopped at a canal where the main string crabbing is done, to watch the sun come up and the birds begin to fly from their roosting to feeding areas. Then I spent a lot of time driving around Shoveler Pond and walking through the butterfly garden and then taking the boardwalk all the way to the Willows.

This osprey let me get very close while he wrestled with the wind, fish and thin perch. 

View of ponds to right of Shoveler at start

Common gallinule - think it was catching bugs

Since only common birds were around, I checked out some of the grackles to see if they were boat-tailed or great-tailed. Here is a boat-tailed male - with a brown eye and a more rounded head. The blue iridescence doesn't show up in this picture.

A male boat-tailed grackle singing

I saw no warblers, except for one yellow-rumped, but was happy to visit "my" trees. As part of the 1000 hours I worked during the first 11 months of my volunteer life, I worked in many different ways to get trees replanted and then watered through the worst drought we had had in Texas. I'll add the blogs that tell that story if you haven't read it.  (Check out the links at the end of this blog/) These trees now feel like my children. Many of the trees didn't make it but maybe half of them did, and some of them are now getting pretty big.

Mulberry trees - 5' when planted 4 years ago

The catbirds will be excited to find mulberry fruit here in late April

A line of new willows along the pond in The Willows

One tree we really wanted to reinstate on the refuge was Hercules Club, AKA Devil's Walking Stick.  Only this tree and live oaks grow on the refuge naturally. All these trees were completely eradicated by Hurricane Ike and the Friends of Anahuac could find no sources to buy new ones.

Imagine my delight when I found little foot-high seedlings popping up.  On another tour, I'd like to spread these around down the Hackberry trail, where they used to grow.  But it will take great care to avoid personal injury.  These trees are great for wildlife providing food, and most importantly, shelter, because snakes don't climb into these trees and eat eggs and baby birds from their nests.

Wonder how they got that name, Devil's Walking Stick

The Devil's Walking Sticks are Leafing out

I made a quick stop at Boy Scout Woods at High Island to find several people finishing up the cleaning of the buildings and getting everything ready to officially open next Friday.  A western tanager, a black and white warbler and a yellow-throated warbler were the only migrants around and I didn't spot any of them.  But a visit to the rookery in Smith Woods was more productive.  The rookery is starting up and currently has great egrets, roseate spoonbills, and neotropic cormorants hanging out and starting to breed. 

Lots of roseate spoonbills seemed to be saving real estate (note header for longer view)

Neotropical cormorants were already sitting on nests

The egret on left seemed to be building a nest  - maybe didn't want a neighbor this close

This bird has at least two eggs 

It was a good day and I came home tired and happy.

Past Tree Posts

What the Refuge looked like two years after Ike and what the Friends and I did about it. 

We got snowed out and then rained out of two work days when we expected to plant around 400 plants. So I was planting them through May.  The YCC guys helped me get many of them planted. 

We thought we could plant willows in shallow ponds and forget about them.  But the drought dried up the ponds and the baccaris over grew the willows. We had to rescue them.  And I started more willows rooting. 

I negotiated to get button bush cuttings to start in the shade shelter. 

Then got the lagniappe of cypress trees - ending up with over 100 live ones when I left.

Check out more bird blogs here