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Attwater Prairie Chicken - Anahuac NWRs

Day 3 Anahuac NWR and the Drive Home

            Headed out the next morning and got to the entrance road about five minutes before dawn, and once again was treated to lots of herons leaving their roosts (including the only Cattle Egrets of the day); the highlight along here was a Merlin that shot past!  The little office was closed when I got there so I headed onto the Shoveler Loop, and the heron mob was still there; even Donna (the volunteer I talked to on the way out) had never seen so many herons!  Some Boat-tailed Grackles were making chests at each other at one stop; one by one they all flew off until only the dominant male (I guess) was left, singing away!  A lovely spoonbill flying by was new for the trip, and a young Brown Pelican (listed as only “occasional” on the checklist) had joined the cormorants and White Pelicans in trying to nab breakfast!  An Anhinga had also hung around, and taking the little boardwalk into the marsh yielded a scolding Least Bittern and a Black-crowned Night Heron that made a sudden appearance.  Looping around on the road an American Bittern flushed, and was surprised to find a mob of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks that had joined the handful of Fulvous WDs!

Boat-tailed Grackles on the Shoveler Pond Loop (listen carefully as the bird on the right flies past about halfway through the recording!)

The Egret Mob (with token Great Blue Heron)

Boardwalk into the marsh

   

Brown Pelican

   

Black-crowned Night Heron

Adult (right) and young Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

Fulvous Whistling Ducks with a Double-crested Cormorant in the background

            The geese were wheeling overhead of course, but I kept hearing this cacophony in the distance, so after the loop I headed down the road to the boat ramp, and man alive, that’s where the goose mob was!  What a sight!  But try as I might, I just couldn’t pick out a Ross’ from among them (and they were pretty close to the road, too).  Both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs fed in the wet grass between them and the road.

Goose mob:  the majority are Snow Geese (including a few blue morphs) with a couple of Greater White-fronted Geese in the foreground. 

Landing gear down...

A typical "Blue Goose" is on the right, but they can be any mixture of "blue" and "snow"!

            Heading on, the habitat was pretty much “Yellow Rail Prairie”, but the Sedge Wrens were out the yin yang, giving every conceivable call note (including that funny little burr that sounds like an extended Lark Sparrow snort), and Swamp Sparrows were all over as well.  At a couple of stops a Marsh Wren called, and actually showed itself for once!  Pickin’s were slim down at the boat ramp, but did pick up Willet for the trip, and an Osprey tried unsuccessfully to nab a fish.  As I was turning to leave I heard another splash and then some strident complaints from the Osprey, and I thought, “Oh, good!  The Bald Eagle showed up!”  (As they like to bully Ospreys to get their fish…)  But this time the would-be thief was a Brown Pelican hot on the Osprey’s tail—that was a first!  And he had a whopper of a fish, too!  Maybe he stole it from the pelican… J  On the way out had some “glossy-type” ibis close to the road, but what I could see of their faces looked too pinkish to call them Glossies to me (although the one I photographed had kind of a lavender-colored face; maybe he was one of those dreaded hybrids...)

Road to the boat ramp showing "Yellow Rail" prairie habitat.

Yet another cooperative Sedge Wren (burry scolds)

Eastern Meadowlark singing next to the road

   

Osprey looking for, then diving for, lunch...

He missed, but check out those claws!

Probable White-faced Ibis, as the face looks too pinkish for a Glossy.

            Backtracked and “surveyed” the road down to Frozen Point, and at the second stop hit the jackpot:  the immature Bald Eagle chose that moment to power across the road!  (Found out later someone had an adult the day before—now where was he?!)  Down at road’s end almost all the parking spots were filled with fishermen or families having a good ol’ time (including a lady who wanted to compare cameras), but the highlight here was a very cooperative young Krider’s Hawk! 

   

Loggerhead Shrike

       

Immature Bald Eagle

Swamp Sparrow

"Krider's" Hawk, a pale morph of the Red-tailed Hawk

   

The Krider's Hawk takes flight at left; a more normal Redtail was also in the area.

            It was getting close to quitting time and I wanted to try those trails I had to pass up (never did make it to the Skillern Tract, and I’m glad I got to see the pineywoods yesterday); didn’t pick up anything of note at the observation deck near Teal Slough except for a tiny little snake that may have been a Patch-nosed (it looked like the one my co-worker Joe had in his pocket, anyway), but the Willows Trail near Shoveler Pond was pretty productive, with the reported female Vermilion Flycatcher making a show!  It was after that I chatted with Donna and her hubby, and had I realized how rare Great-tailed Grackles were there, I would have photographed the female hanging around outside the restroom! 

   

Turkey Vulture at the overlook

Probable baby Ribbon Snake (the picture you're looking at, if on a computer, is close to life size!)

 

Detail of head

Willow Trail

Female Vermilion Flycatcher, rather unusual up here.

            Started home after that, deciding to just head on back up to I-10 and take the Sam Houston Tollway around, which was a breeze (too bad they haven’t set up those “Pay By Mail” things along there; it would be even faster!  Oh, well—it gives someone a job…)!  Got as far as Refugio before calling it a day.

            Took my time the next morning and got out of there around eight, I think, and was surprised that it was only a three hour drive home from there!  Decided to take 77 down to Raymondville, as that would grant the opportunity for an exercise walk at La Sal rather than the Ranch (and to add a few more birds to the trip list J).  I mistakenly took Business 77 into town, but also noticed an additional “Wildlife Refuge” sign way out there—will have to check that one out later!

            Unfortunately by doing that I missed the gas stations (and therefore the potty stop; the Sarita Rest Area would have been the potty stop but a sign said all the restrooms were closed), so headed straight to Rio Beef Road and just drove the circuit, enjoying a small flock of Sandhill Cranes at the junction with GI Road, and a pretty White-tailed Hawk going east.  Hiked the trail from Brushline and got a good walk in, with a providential flock of White-fronted Geese going overhead at the overlook!  Added three or four species to the trip list by doing that…

            Made it home without incident and got everything unpacked; the final tally for the trip was 118 species!

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