Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Texas: Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge
Day 3 and this time I had decided to visit Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge which is located a bit west of Highway 124 that connects Winnie and High Island. Then also head south to the Bolivar Penisula and the Bolivar Flats Bird Sanctuary. This is a huge area with a lot of marshy areas full of reeds, cattails and grasses but also with open areas of water. One of the nicest assets to this area is the Shoveler Pond Loop; a paved one-way road that is about 2½ miles long around it and there are places to pull over to view and even a boardwalk or two going out into the marsh. I fell in love with this place and was so glad I took the advice of another Texas birder, Sheridan Coffey, to pay a visit. I liked it so well that I came back the next day as well and found some more special birds and creatures. But for day number 3, this is a brief synopsis of my findings and most of the photos were taken driving on the Shoveler Pond Loop.
One of my key life birds that I wanted to find on this trip was the Boat-tailed Grackle. Now that I look back on this idea, I find it was a little absurd. Not only did I find it, but I got to know it so well that I really became a bit annoyed with it; very common and very obnoxious! Very similar to the Great-tailed Grackles so common in Arizona in appearance and behavior. Some other birds provided some decent photo opportunities along the way.
While driving very slowly along the road, at one point I glanced in my rear view mirror and noticed a strange looking bird cross the road behind me. I immediately stopped the car and headed back to where I last saw it disappear, which was a small area of grass and shrubs on the edge of the water. Then it showed itself for a brief moment, (where I tried for photos and failed on the focus part) and when it called, I knew it was a King Rail. This family of birds can be difficult to see as they tend to be very secretive so it was a great feeling to actually see one even if the photos left a lot to be desired. This was a life bird I had not expected to see.
Yellow-crowned Night Heron was another new addition to my list and I was able to see both adults and juveniles.
Yellow-crowned Night Heron - adult
Yellow-crowned Night Heron- juvenile
Taking the road south from the visitor's center, I veered off from the paved road to take the road to the boating landing, and along the way, I discovered some more new found 'Common' birds; the Common Nighthawk which has been featured in just about every post from this trip, so here is one more. This one appears to be sleeping on a post.
Nearby were a pair of Forster's Terns taking a rest on posts.
Just as I reached the parking area of the boat dock I happened to see another strange looking bird walking in the grass. This was my first view of a Clapper Rail and I was stunned to find one in full view and allowing me to take photos. A bit like the King Rail, they are most generally a secretive and elusive bird.
My last photo is one of a Laughing Gull. This was the most frequently encountered gull during my visit to Texas and are actually probably one of the most smartly dressed gulls there are.
After having such a successful visit to Anahuac NWR, I now turned my attention to the Bolivar Penisula and the Bolivar Flats Bird Sanctuary. This will be covered in the next blog post which will probably be delayed due to assisting in the North America Migratory Bird Count this coming weekend.