Date: 3/30/17 5:00 pm
From: Joseph Kennedy <josephkennedy36...>
Subject: [texbirds] Bolivar, High Island, Anahuac and rice fields today. Great shorebirds, black rail, hawks etc
Got going a little too early this morning but the drive down to Galveston
was highlighted by the cloud wall from yesterdays storm offshore and lit up
by lightning. There was very little or no rain where I stopped until I got
way up towards I-10. Normal wet spots in port bolivar etc were bone dry.
Port bolivar had both yellowlegs and short-billed dowitchers looking for
wet. I did get my regular whimbrel at the spot where he has been for
several years having both summered and wintered in different years. Sits on
the identical spot and acts the same.

A run through fort travis had zero shorebirds but great habitat for

Stopped at my regular spot on Retillon Road to check the sandflats and had
several feeding horned larks, 2 hunting crested caracara and a calling
black rail across the road in the sanctuary area. They seem to be almost
everywhere this spring or at least are noisier than in many years. Maybe
the floods last year helped them by creating better habitat.

The caracara showed up out near the beach down past the bollards and
flushed many of the beach birds. A peregrine that I could not see but heard
it whoosh overhead really disturbed the birds.

Least terns are in and there were 50+ in a group and also several paired
pairs of gull-billed terns. One of the least was bringing fish to a second

I would guess that there were well over 3,000 shorebirds out there. Driving
in as the first driver of the day and walking way down and back without
seeing any other people made it easier to count.

The storm yesterday had water pushed up to the edge of the grass near the
bollards and well back into the grass further down. When I arrived lots of
the birds were resting and sheltering from the wind behind clumps of the
beach debris. And much of the debris was fresh gulfweed for my first
sighting of the spring after two seasons with none. Of course the beach
people may no be real happy that it could be a great season for the weed on
the beach but the shorebirds will really be happy.

I counted more than 200 piping plovers until I gave up after the peregrine
moved all the resting birds down past me where they joined the feeding
birds. Very few snowy plovers. Many of the Wilson's plovers were paired but
if they had been thinking of nesting they got washed out yesterday. But it
was good to get chattered at again.

Commonest shorebird were western sandpipers and sanderling. Good mix of
dowitchers, turnstones, black-bellied plovers and western willets some of
whom are getting breeding plumage. Several female lesser scaup were sitting
on the sand with the shorebirds and basically ignored me.

A few golden and upland plovers were scattered around but no groups of

Leaving Retillon, a younger white-tailed hawk was heading east along the
highway. He appeared to be migrating and I followed him most of the way to
Magnolia Road. Not much on the beach up toward Crystal Beach other than
more gull-billed terns and the usual wintering gulls and terns. Yacht basin
road not birdy.

Stopped at High Island to get my patch and heard it was rather dull. Did a
loop in boy scout woods and had 3 common grackles go over. Smith Oaks was
much busier with many common and great tailed grackles plus a singing
cardinal and ruby-crowned kinglet. Did hear 2 warbler type noises but saw
nothing. One eastern kingbird on the wires going into the smith oaks

Up on 1985 had another odd looking white-tailed hawk. Had 1 red-tail, 1
kestrel, 1 merlin and 0 harriers for the day.

Anahuac had lots of people including a group in several cars who jumped out
each time they saw a bird. Not many birds near the road. The dark ibis are
already setting up housekeeping in the center of shoveler pond. Did have an
orchard oriole on the ground and some FOS scissor-tailed flycatchers on the
entrance road.

Several of the rice fields along 1985 are smoothed and diked and ready for
rice but were bone dry. One without ditches had dust blowing. Further west
past Anahuac, it was a little wetter and going up 521 to Fairview etc it
looked like it had rained but no nice wet fields.

Starting up 521 past double bayou a broad-winged hawk was harassing 2
turkey vultures in an area where the hawks have nested. The wintering
merlin on Fairview road went by carrying a blackbird. A merlin has used
that short section of road for maybe 10 plus years. No sign of kites where
some were seen earlier.

Do not understand zero migrant land birds for the day but I did have 3
savannah sparrows which was a good count for any sparrows this winter. But
warblers will come and the weekend storm looks promising but we really want
want from Canada rather than the west coast.

Joseph C. Kennedy
on Buffalo Bayou in West Houston

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