Friday, May 20, 2011

Birding in and around Aransas Pass

Recently the Texas Ramblin’ Roses (the TX chapter of RVing Women) had a rally in Aransas Pass, TX. A group of us went birding one morning and we were rewarded with about the most perfect birding day one could hope for. The winds were calm, the weather was cool, mosquitoes were rare, and birds were in abundance. I’ve never had a bad birding trip to the Texas Coast and this trip netted me 13 life birds! I should mention that I’m still a novice, having just recently returned to birding after a decades-long absence from the field.

Commen Moorhen

We started out near the RV Park where we saw, among other birds, Roseate Spoonbills, Tri-Colored Egrets, Snowy Egrets, and Great Egrets. We then drove to Port Aransas (saw dolphins from the ferry) to see what we could find at the Birding Center.

We saw two alligators!

Upon entering, we immediately identified a variety of warblers, vireos, and Empidonax flycatchers in the brush right by the trail to the boardwalk. We eventually tore ourselves away to go to the boardwalk for waterfowl watching. We were incredibly lucky to see a Least Bittern and a mother Pied Billed Grebe feeding her two babies. This inspired us to have some seafood of our own and we headed over to Fin’s for a meal and brewskis.

The next day several of the group headed back to Port Aransas to check out Paradise Pond, which had been recommended by a birder we met at the Birding Center. There we saw more warblers, including an abundance of American Redstarts, along with water thrushes. We think we saw both the Louisiana and the Northern Waterthrush but only the northern was listed on the chalk board at the entrance.

On the third day – this is beginning to sound biblical – we drove to Rockport to see the nesting black skimmers. By then the wind had really picked up and the birds were hunkered down out of sight. We did find a rookery in Rockport where we watched herons and egrets moving around in the treetops.

My last two birding trips have rekindled the excitement I had when I first began birding back in the 80s. It feels new and fresh to me and I’m astounded at the variety of birds in Texas, especially along the coast. I’m cementing what I’ve learned by reading, searching the web, and using iBird Pro, the cool app on my Droid.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The spring that blew away

Here are photos of our brief spring. Yes, I know it’s May and spring is still officially ON, but the heat, drought, and winds seem to have baked, sucked, and blown away spring. Yet we still have some cool mornings out here in the country and, regardless of the vicissitudes of nature, rural life is a source of new found wonder for this long time city slicker. At dusk and dawn the cottontails taunt the dogs by grazing just outside the small fenced in yard. The bird feeders offer a dazzling assortment, including Painted Buntings in full breeding plumage. Hummers fight over their feeders and the Carolina Wrens have already had one brood in a hanging paint bucket – moved to hanging position after they began their nest. We didn’t want some critter to get them.
Emerald moth
Living in a rural area, it figures that vultures would be in abundance. But I didn’t count on the pair of black vultures who have nested right along the dog-walking route. I managed to get a picture of their babies.
Baby Black Vultures
All these birds and bugs have rekindled the lens envy I’ve had for awhile. I would like better closeups of the insects and I want to be able to capture the birds from a safe distance. What I really wish I had a picture of are the Texas Spiny Lizards in the tree where the hummingbird feeders hang. One afternoon two of them tried their best to capture hummers as they buzzed about and roosted briefly in the same tree. Of course, the things that stand still are the easiest to capture and nothing says spring in Texas better than blooming prickly pears.