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Houston Regional Group - News
Migration! You Never Know What You Will See!!!
Brandt Mannchen

Jane, David, and I were determined to see birds no matter what! We did, but as any Sierran knows, you never can tell what you will find. We started our journey down in Galveston on the ferry to Bolivar Peninsula. Laughing Gulls were, what else, laughing at us as we peacefully watched the green water from the deck of the boat and enjoyed the cooling wind and the whimsical splashes of dolphins. I never tire of seeing these playful pranksters of the sea!

As soon as our car left the ferry we began to see shorebirds and ducks. We hightailed it to Bolivar Flats and were delighted to see blooming red and yellow Fire-wheels and canary yellow Beach Evening Primroses on the way. We also saw a Northern Harrier flaying erratically over the grasses of the Houston Audubon Society's (HAS) Bolivar Sanctuary while Scissor-tail Flycatchers and Eastern Meadow Larks sang or glided through the prairie.

When we got to Bolivar Flats, not only were the waves rolling in on the calm Gulf but the beach sand was dry and easy to drive on. We saw dozens of birds including Royal Tern, Willet, Long-billed Dowitcher, Reddish Egret, Sanderling, Rudy Turnstone, Least Tern, and many other shorebirds. Perhaps the most exciting event was the brazen perching of a Caracara (Mexican Eagle) on a fencepost only a few feet from our car. What a regal bird! Took my breath away.

Then we lit out for the HAS's High Island Sanctuaries. It was a Friday and a hint of change in wind direction was in the air. We first visited the Texas Ornithological Society's (TOS) bird sanctuary and saw what was for me the highlight of the day! A nesting pair of Great Horned Owls flew out of the trees and landed on a power-line and a large Live Oak Tree. They were magnificent and we quickly backed off because we did not want to further disturb them.

Things were slow and the migrants were playing coy at the HAS High Island Sanctuaries. We did see a Palm Warbler, Baltimore and Orchard Oreos, and an Indigo Bunting. But other than a few locals, like Northern Cardinals, Mockingbirds, and Great-tailed Grackles, things were slow in the oak mottes. However, the wading bird nesting rookery was fabulous! Rosette Spoonbills, Tricolored Herons, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Cattle Egrets, and Little Blue Herons all pushed for nest space. American Alligators patiently waited at the shoreline for any birds that did not heed the call for caution. Soft-shelled turtles and Red-eared Sliders poked their heads up to see "What's happening?"

We then pealed out, after a leisurely lunch (catfish for me and a nice strawberry popsicle), and headed toward Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. This wildlife haven has recovered greatly since Hurricane Ike hit it about three years ago. We saw many more American Alligators as well as Common Moorhen, Black-necked Stilt, Glossy Ibis, Barn Swallow, Blue-winged Teal, Killdeer, Mottled Duck, Little Green Heron, Pied-billed Grebe, and American Coot. The view of East Bay always makes me feel tranquil. To put it mildly we were happy about our birding trip and anxious to do more in the future. Breathing the sea air makes me feel fulfilled and rested. Money really isn't everything!

June 2011

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Last updated:  07/24/2011.   Content 1999-2011 by the Sierra Club.