Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Migrating North

 Seeking target birds brings us to a new habitat - the Pine Forests of Eastern Texas in the Angelina National Forest.  The challenge to finding the endangered Red-cocaded Woodpecker in mature pine stands was made easier by locating nesting trees conveniently marked with white rings and yellow signs.  (Pictured)  We enjoyed several sightings of this small woodpecker along with Brown-headed Nuthatches, Bachman's Sparrows plus 40 other species.

 Another great find was this Box Turtle - finally a slow moving photo opportunity.

We then headed north - last stop in Texas - Atlanta State Park where we finally found Fish Crows along a large reservoir.  We were interviewed by a local newspaper reporter for the "Cass County Life" about what we enjoyed about the park and area.  He was amazed at all the birds that were around him.  We left Texas with 343 species for the state and 367 for 2012 and 575 for our trip list.
 We spent three days slowly moving through Arkansas and its beautiful Ozark Mountains.  We added Chuck-will's-widow and Whip-poor-wills that were calling at the National Forest Campground.  We went through a corner of Missouri, Tennessee, and into Kentucky staying at a Confederate Historical Fort at Columbia-Belmont State Park on the Mississippi.

Into Southern Illinois and the Cache River Wildlife Area with the most northern Cypress swamps in the U.S. (Pictured to left).  We walked several boardwalks and found many Prothonotary, Yellow-throated, Nashville, & Black-throated Green Warblers, Louisiana Waterthrush and a new trip bird - the Prairie Warbler.  We also saw three Championship trees - Tupelo, Bald Cypress, and Cherry-bark Oak.
We traveled through the Shawnee National Forest camping at "Garden of the Gods" park named for the beautiful rock formations along the trails. (Pictured to the right).

We stopped at Horseshoe Lake in East St. Louis to find the Eurasian Tree Sparrow and found 8.

We are now following the Mississippi north into Wisconsin completing our year long journey.

Ty & Ida

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Texas Barrier Islands

 Northward bound, our first stop was Mustang Island where we camped at the State Park.  The beaches produced numerous beautiful but dangerous Man of War jellyfish washing up in the rough surf. (Pictured to the left)  The high winds shook the RV all night and tornados were reported inland.

Cross Aransas Pass on the ferry to the Rockport area.  Spent a day birding with Jerry & Karen Smith and had our highest one day count with 117 species including 4 Buff-breasted Sandpipers and 5 Whooping Cranes.  Later at Goose Island (where these Blue Bonnets covered the open areas as pictured below to the right) we found a life bird - a Blue Bunting.  Hooded Warblers foraged in and around our campsite.
 Spent time driving through the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge seeing more Whooping Cranes, Egrets, Herons and Shorebirds.

At Matagorda Jetty we found thousands of birds: highlights were Wilson's, Snowy & Piping Plovers, Least Terns and flocks of Am. Avocets.

San Bernard NWR had more mosquitos than birds but we witnesses a first for us - a very large bull Alligator roaring - sounding over the marshland.

At Brazos Bend State Park we walked miles of nature trails encountering a good diversity of birds and once again numerous alligators.  Each night we were serenaded by several Barred Owls, and small-mouthed toads, (that bleat like sheep) and a myriad of other amphibians and insects.

We returned to the beach at Galveston Island State Park where we saw 7 N. Gannets feeding with the Brown Pelicans, gulls and cormorants.  Another ferry took us to Bolivar Flats and the Shorebird Sanctuary.  More great looks at Am. Golden Plovers and Whimbrels.

Next stop - High Island and the Houston Audubon's numerous sanctuaries.  Spring passerine migration is just beginning with warblers arriving daily over the gulf.  This Spoonbill/Great Egret/ Neotropic Cormorant Rookery is part of the Smith Oaks acreage.  The elevated photography blinds provide excellent close views and the cacophony of grunts, squawks and chatter.
Anahuac (pronounced An-a-whack) NWR had lots of shorebirds including a Ruff.  Early in the morning we encountered 4 Barn Owls on the drive to the refuge for the Rail Walk.  Pictured to the right, Ty (on left) and the walk leader are dragging gravel filled milk jugs on a rope through the Spartina grass in water with fanned out participants, in an attempt to flush rails.  This exercise was repeated later that afternoon with Yellow Rails, Sora, Seaside Sparrows and Sedge Wrens observed.

One last trip out to the Texas Coast at Sabine Pass and a visit to Sea Rim State Park that has been destroyed by 2 Hurricanes (Rita & Ike). Spent the day at Sabine Woods where we enjoyed a nice fallout of 12 species of warblers (including Worm-eating, Swainson's, Hooded & Yellow-br. Chat), Rose-breasted & Blue Grosbeaks, Baltimore & Orchard Orioles.

Looking forward to migrating north with the birds.  Ty & Ida