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 grasspipers.
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 bird.
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 either.
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 parking.
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 <Josephkennedy36...>