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Attwater Prairie Chicken - Anahuac NWRs

Day 2 Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR

            Since it was only a 15 minute drive to the refuge, I got there well before dawn the next morning, but that was okay as you got to listen to the geese waking up (and the hunters going after them L)!  At sunrise I started the BBS protocol, and even before I could see them I knew the place was inundated with Savannah Sparrows!  Once on the main tour road, one stop produced a veritable “string of lights” as they lined the fenceline after a bit of pishing, but the star was a Nelson’s Sparrow that also popped up and showed off nicely in the morning sun! 

            Sedge Wrens were also out the yin yang, and at one corner one actually popped out in the open fairly close for pictures!  I hiked the trail to the blind in its entirety this time (it goes beyond the blind a bit), and this time the pond had a big group of Ring-necked Ducks along with the coots and grebes!  Swamp and Field Sparrows also appeared along this trail, and a Downy Woodpecker called in the distance.  Another woodpecker that apparently isn’t supposed to be this far west, the big Pileated, called from across the pond!  Eastern Bluebirds and American Robins were calling from the trees near the creek.

Eastern Phoebe on the trail marker

"M" of Snow Geese

   

Very cooperative Sedge Wren  (scolds--listen carefully for the Sprague's Pipit calling near the end of the recording)

            Nothing else out of the ordinary showed itself along the tour route, but the lines of geese flying overhead were impressive, and some came close enough to pick out a few Ross’ in with the larger Snows.  As planned, I poked down the two roads I scouted last night, and picked up some Shovelers, Avocets, Stilts, and a Long-billed Dowitcher along Spalinger, and the impoundments along Beal Road were filled with Gadwall!  Flocks of dowitchers zipped past at this spot, and I heard the harsh keeeek! of what I would have called a Dunlin anywhere else, but they are also supposedly very rare here.  Red-tailed Hawks and Harriers were everywhere.

   

Northern Harrier

Greater White-fronted Geese

Young Crested Caracara powers by...

   

House Wren mouthing off

            I had read on the Wildlife Viewing Map that Bald Eagles were possible at the actual Eagle Lake, so I headed over there to check it out, only after getting lost several times trying to find an access point (the road with the Brown Bin Sign had a locked gate across it), I was told by some guys at a hunting lodge that there really is no public access, so I wandered back towards Attwater and explored McDonald Road et al before having to head to Winnie.  Finally added White-tailed Hawk to the day list here (I was afraid I was gonna break the streak—Whitetail was always a given whenever I would visit here on cross-country trips), and at one stop the sky was full of cranes and geese!  What a show!  The road curved around quite a bit (picked up both pipit species along here) and finally dumped out on FM 102; that, with the refuge drive and the Spalinger/Beal loop, would make a very nice road-birding route.  It also warmed up enough for a Gulf Fritillary to go bouncing by—that definitely got the “Tough Butter Award”!

   

Snow Geese

Greater White-fronted Geese

            Headed to Winnie after that, and I couldn’t believe it:  for the first time in my life, there were no parking lots going through Houston—not even a slowdown!  I was so impressed that I didn’t even take the Sam Houston Parkway as per usual; I just zipped straight through on I-10 (there were a couple of dicey spots where I wasn’t sure I was in the correct lane) and came out the other side unscathed—a miracle indeed! J

            The sign for Anahuac NWR threw me off, though, because I was prepared to take SR 61 down to the refuge, but they had you getting off on FM 563 instead!  Turns out they have a brand new Visitor’s Center there with a terrific little boardwalk into the pineywoods and bald cypress swamp!  Another couple had found a feeding flock consisting mostly of Pine Warblers, but a couple of Orange-crowned also came in, along with both species of kinglets (and the Golden-crowneds actually let us see them—that’s a first!!)  A Blue-headed Vireo came tearing in after they left, along with a Myrtle Warbler and both Red-bellied and Downy Woodpeckers.

The new Anahuac Visitor's Center gives you a great view of Turtle Bayou!

   

Golden-crowned Kinglets

Blue-headed Vireo

"Myrtle" Warbler

Variegated Meadowhawk

            I was really running late, but I really wanted to scout the refuge and figure out a BBS-style birding plan, so I blasted down there, checked in, and enjoyed the show:  more geese “V”ed overhead, but Shoveler Pond (which had been paved over since I was there last and had all sorts of observation decks and trails) was literally stuffed!  White Pelicans, both species of cormorants, and egrets and herons galore lined the dikes!  A Fulvous Whistling Duck flew over, and added Blue-winged Teal to the duck list as well.  I really didn’t have time to check things carefully, but along the road to the ramp had a large group of both White and “Glossy-type” ibis; I couldn’t get a bead on their faces enough to tell the color (they were moving too fast), but what pictures I got seemed to indicate White-faced.

   

Snow Geese (including the darker blue morph)

   

Neotropic Cormorants   

Great Blue Heron

            I really had to get to Winnie after that, so headed up, gassed up, got some chicken for tomorrow, and checked in (and I’m really impressed with these Holiday Inns)! 

Click here to continue to Anahuac NWR (the next day), here to go back to the drive up.

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