Journal archives for December 2016

18 December, 2016

Guadalupe Delta Christmas Bird Count 2016-2017

I was fortunate again this winter to be able to participate in the Guadalupe River Delta Christmas Bird Count on December 15. Like last year I covered a stretch of the Guadalupe River by boat, generously provided by the Womack Ranch and expertly piloted by Joshua McIntyre. In the morning we covered about 8 miles of river upstream (north), frequently stopping for me to get out and find birds. In the afternoon we were only able to go about 2 miles downstream (south) before encountering a log jam we couldn't get past. Here are a few shots from the boat.

Glassy lake water first thing in the morning:
Glassy Water on the way to the river

The Guadalupe River:
River view from boat

Dense woods along the banks:
Palmettos on River Bank - 2

My goal was to find lingering neotropical migrant songbirds in the dense riparian woods. The ones I found were expected species: Wilson's Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Least Flycatcher, and Ovenbird. Here's the Ovenbird:


I ended up finding 61 species of birds. A notable miss for me this year was Green Kingfisher. We think higher-than-normal and more turbid water made this stretch of the river less appealing to them this season.

Here are my eBird lists:

Here are a few more photos on Flicker.

And attached are my iNaturalist observations.

Posted on 18 December, 2016 22:56 by mikaelb mikaelb | 24 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

20 December, 2016

Corpus Christi Christmas Bird Count 2016-12-17

This year I was again fortunate to be able to participate in the Corpus Christi Christmas Bird Count, and covered a section of the Nueces River Delta Preserve. I was not alone this time but got to bird with state-wide CBC compiler Brent Ortego. We covered a different section of the preserve than I covered last year, and a wetter year meant lots of walking. I could not keep up with Brent, physically across the marsh or with bird identification. My only contribution was keeping the list!

But it was a beautiful morning and I learned a lot from Brent. Highlights included Sandhill Cranes flying across a pre-dawn orange sky, a beautiful sunrise, Eastern Meadowlarks singing all morning, and hiking across a railroad track bridge hoping the train wouldn't come!

Sandhill Cranes in Pre-dawn Light

Sunrise over Nueces River Delta Preserve

American White Pelicans and Windmills

Brent Ortego Scoping Mud Flats - 2

Here are a few more photos on Flickr.

Here's our complete bird list.

And attached are a few iNaturalist observations.

Posted on 20 December, 2016 22:25 by mikaelb mikaelb | 6 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

23 December, 2016

Port Aransas Christmas Bird Count 2016-12-19

On Monday I participated in the Christmas Bird Count of my original home town, Port Aransas, TX. As usual, Warren Pulich and I covered the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture and the south jetty. (Warren is a long-time Texas birder and one of the originators of the Port Aransas CBC back in the 1970s.) Most years we have a few more people on our team but this year it was just the two of us. Temperatures in the 30s and north winds over 20 mph made the morning challenging, both to find birds and stay warm.

Bird highlights included a flyover of about 50 Snow Geese heading northeast. They were low enough to get these photos of a few of them:

Snow Goose Flock - 2

Snow Goose Flock - 3

Songbirds were hard to come by in the cold wind, but we found a few. At the end of the morning we were most excited to find a group of three Palm Warblers foraging together in the recently burned area of the preserve along Port Avenue. These birds are expected winter residents, but are never common. Here are a couple:

Palm Warbler - 3

Palm Warbler - 4

An interesting plant observation was this high concentration of Black Mangrove seeds at the edge of many mud flats:

Black Mangrove Seeds - 1

A big surprise find for me was the remains of a sea turtle at the edge of one of the mottes. My guess is that this turtle washed up on the nearby shore and a coyote or other similar-sized animal carried it up into the dunes to eat it. Here's a poor photo of part of it, and see the attached observation.

Sea Turtle Shell - 3

Here are a few more photos on Flickr.

Here are our bird lists for the day on eBird:

Here's Warren on the left and me on the right, trying to stay warm in the morning:

Warren Pulich in Dunes - 2 Cold Selfie

Posted on 23 December, 2016 00:15 by mikaelb mikaelb | 13 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

25 December, 2016

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge CBC 2016-12-21

On Wednesday December 21 I was fortunate to be able to again participate in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Christmas Bird Count. One neat thing about this count is that some teams get to see areas of the refuge that are normal off limits to the public. Our team was one of those lucky teams. We covered Area 5 which included Burgentine Lake, part of Saint Charles Bay, and some area south and inland of both. After a cold start to the week, the day of the count we had wonderfully mild weather in the 50s and 60s with light wind and cloudy with a little bit of sun in the morning.

In the morning we did most of our birding on the south shore of the lake and then on the levy that creates the lake on its west edge. At the south shore as we counted waterfowl on the lake, waves of Yellow-rumped Warblers kept flying over us headed east in groups of 40 to 70. We ended up counting over 500 Yellow-rumped Warblers (all Myrtles that I could see) which might be the most I've ever counted. We were treated to some great views of birds on the lake in the morning light including this group of Neotropical Cormorants:

Neotropical Cormorants

The biggest surprise of the morning was at about 8:00 when I saw a flamingo fly in and land on the water at the lake's far shore. It was too distant to tell for sure, but I assumed this is the Greater Flamingo that escaped from a zoo in Kansas several years ago and has been living on the gulf coast ever since. Most recently it had been in the Port Aransas area (originally found there in late September -- see my journal post). And two day's previously during the Port Aransas CBC this bird was seen by Joan and Scott Holt at Big Slough in Harbor Island. What a lucky coincidence to see it again up here! Here's the distant photo I got:

Greater Flamingo

About mid-morning on the levy we were lucky enough to see a family group of Whooping Cranes fly in from the north. It's always a privilege to see these giant birds that this refuge exists to protect on their wintering grounds. They were too distant for photos.

Late in the morning on the levy a flock of about 60 Snow Geese flew over us and I was able to get a few photos. I think this one came out best:

Snow Goose Flock - 3

Another big surprise was finding a small bobcat on the levy, walking away from us and not seeming to be very bothered by our presence. This was only the third time I've ever seen one in the wild. I got this bad photo when it briefly turned to look at us:

Bobcat - 2

We recorded several birds of prey, including many American Kestrels, several Merlins, and just a couple White-tailed Kites and White-tailed Hawks (both Texas coast specialties). Here's one of the White-tailed Hawks that flew right over us early in the afternoon:

White-tailed Hawk - 2

We got two great looks at Le Conte's Sparrows, a small grassland sparrow that is very tricky to find and observe. The first was in the morning when we arrived at the levy and the second was mid-afternoon on the south shore of St. Charles Bay. The second took some stalking before it finally flew into a nearby live oak and enabled us to get some photos:

Le Conte's Sparrow - 1

Our Area 5 team ended up finding 85 species of birds. Big thanks to team members Amy Silver, Kathy Van Dam, and Anita Brunsting. And big thanks to the Aransas NWR CBC organizer Paul Swacina.

Here are our eBird checklists:

Here are a few more photos on Flickr.

And attached are a few iNaturalist observations.

Posted on 25 December, 2016 17:27 by mikaelb mikaelb | 9 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

30 December, 2016

Winter Birding and the Mixed-species Foraging Flock

I wrote this short post for Hill Country Conservancy a couple weeks ago. I'd love to hear what I got right and what I got wrong from folks here!

@greglasley @cullen @gcwarbler @sambiology @cliftonladd @romeyswanson

Posted on 30 December, 2016 18:34 by mikaelb mikaelb | 0 comments | Leave a comment