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Part 17:  Quintana Bird Sanctuary & Brazoria NWR  (23-24 APR)

It was time to head to Quintana to scout it out for tomorrow, and I thought for sure I had gotten lost at first, but it’s really one of those places where you have to go around the block and then some (and you go through a heavily industrialized area to boot)!  But finally found the place, and a nice man from the GCBO greeted me and signed me in, pointing out a Swainson’s Hawk that was circling overhead, and letting me know a frigatebird had been soaring around!  We couldn’t refind it L, so I wiped myself down with more Off and took off for the trail, which wasn’t very long but had several benches and drips.  You could hear buntings all over, but stuff wasn’t coming out (except a grackle that attacked one of the oranges).  But while giving one of the drips a chance, what should come swinging by but the female frigatebird!!  I was thrilled!

Things are slow at Quintana when you shoot grackles at the oranges...


...but things pick up when a female Magnificent Frigatebird soars overhead!

Female Summer Tanager comes in for a look...


Friendly Lincoln's Sparrow

After showing me another "open air" nighthawk that had decided to snooze on the playground equipment, the GCBO guy told me how to get to the “other” bird sanctuary, but I wound up in the county park by mistake (they had a great warning sign about the mosquitoes J), but the nice lady told me how to get there and even let me use her bathroom!  (Her cat really wanted to get out, though…)  The entrance she pointed me to looked a little worse for wear, so I went around the block to the fence where the guy told me migrants often sit, and there was a Bobwhite down in the grass!  I found a better parking lot for the xerescape, but like the two guys already in there, I didn’t stay long due to the skeeters!

A gutsy Common Nighthawk chooses a piece of playground equipment as a bed!

They aren't kidding about the mosquitoes!

I wanted to check out Brazoria NWR with what time I had left, so I blasted up there, and that was a delightful place (although loaded with mossies as well); added Yellow-crowned Night Heron to the list, and in one little wetland had a nice selection of shorebirds including a pretty Avocet, Semipalmated Plover and Sandpiper, a Stilt Sandpiper, a Baird’s in with the Leasts, and a big flock of Pectorals that came wheeling in and calling!  I couldn’t help but wonder which part of the tour route had the Black-tailed Godwit years ago!

Nature Trail at Brazoria

Black-necked Stilt

"Proof shot" of a Baird's Sandpiper


Semipalmated Plover

It was time to head to Lake Jackson after that, but I really got lost trying to find the Best Western (and they were so new they weren’t even in the AAA book yet; thankfully the lady at the BW in Angleton had their number)!  I was afraid that Mira Pellerin, the Texbirder I was gonna meet the next morning, might get lost, too, especially at oh dark hundred!  Actually, she not only found the place fine, but knew where it was all along (apparently the GCBO offices are right behind it)!  We decided to drive to Quintana and Brazoria separately, as we’d be going different directions afterwards, and I was really afraid we were gonna be rained out at Quintana, as we drove through a pretty good rainstorm! 

It had actually quit by the time we got there, and it was at that time I discovered that I apparently left my walking stick somewhere!!  The only thing I can figure is that I left it leaning against the car at the Xerescape parking lot, and I was so anxious to get away from the mosquitoes that I forgot to throw it in the car!  Then we forgot to go back there and see if anyone parked it against a post or something; no one had turned it in to the office.

Mira had one of those great walkers that doubles as a seat, so we slowly made our way around the trail; things were very quiet (surprisingly, as I hoped the rain would have kept some stuff down), but Mira spotted a Northern Waterthrush, and at the drip with the swing (where I had the frigatebird yesterday) another guy was seated and waiting, so we chatted a little bit; all he had seen were flashes of blue (which we also got to see), but a female Blue Grosbeak did come in.  We continued around, where a very friendly Black-and-white Warbler came in to say hello!  Mira found a lens shade on the ground, so I went back to see if it belonged to the guy, but he was gone, so I caught up to Mira again where the only new bird we had was a male Yellowthroat and some Catbirds, along with the friendly Lincoln’s Sparrow who was now singing.  I left Mira at the observation deck while I circled around one more time to see if I could find the guy, and back at the swing I did see one of his Indigo Buntings on the ground, having a little scuffle with the Lincoln’s Sparrow!  But then a warbler flew into the tree over the trail, and she popped out long enough to show off her pretty bluish-greenish tint above – Cerulean!  I hurried back to tell Mira, not sure she’d want to go all the way around to the drip again (the British photographer was off in a flash, no pun intended), but she did, but we could never refind it (didn’t really expect to, as she had darted off).  But the other folks had spotted Black-throated Green and a Bay-breasted, so there was stuff moving!

Black-and-white Warbler in the shadows

The mosquitoes were just as bad (this little repellant clip-on doohickey that Mira bought didn’t work very well), so we decided to head on to Brazoria, but first she took me down this dirt road to the marshes (on your way out of Quintana, if you go straight instead of turning right onto the main highway, you’ll be on this dirt road), where a nice young Swainson’s Hawk posed, and we added a few things to the day list, including Sedge Wren, Eastern Meadowlark, Blue-winged Teal, Coot, Solitary Sandpiper, and I heard a Painted Bunting on the way out (and it was here it dawned on me that she was driving a Prius, because I noticed the car didn’t make any noise as she moved forward to turn around)!

Immature Swainson's Hawk

Once there at the Discovery Center, Mira joined me in Diggory and we did the BBS deal around the main drag.  My Off wipes had long since worn off (and I was down to one, so I didn’t want to apply the last one), so we put up with the blood donation…  But it was quite productive:  at first we were leap-frogging with a van with four excited little kids (we saw them board the thing before we took off), but there were tons of White Ibis out there, and the one good look at a suspicious dark ibis made me conclude it was a White-faced after all (at least I could see some pinkish on the photos).  At one stop I was listening while Mira was still in the car, and I froze and pointed, and she very calmly announced what was going through my head – Black Rail!  I couldn’t believe it!  But the only thing that surprised her was not the “what”, but the “when”; she thought it was a little late in the day for them to be calling!

White-faced Ibis

A subadult Yellow-crowned Night Heron posed nicely (at least until Mira got her camera out; she accidently turned on the delay button and it sounded like one of those 24 episodes where the bomb is about to go off…), and at the shorebird corner where I had the Baird’s yesterday, I couldn’t find that, but I did find lots and lots of Stilt Sandpipers, a couple of Semipalmated coming into breeding plumage, and two Semipalmated Plovers along with everything else.  A nice Pectoral Sandpiper allowed scope views as well, along with Dunlin.  At the turnaround point we had a great view of the marsh (the lighting was just right) and added knockout gorgeous Roseate Spoonbills, striking Avocets, four Reddish Egrets dancing away, and three Shovelers along with the other stuff that was too far away to ID.  We had both about had it with the skeeters, so we abandoned the BBS protocol and just headed out, adding a pair of Caracaras to the list and a couple of Eastern Kingbirds.


Subadult Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Alligator looking pleased with itself...


Crested Caracara

Kissed Mira goodbye, and as an update, I heard from my friend Pat that the Black-tailed Godwit was seen on that Farm Road that you continue north on to get to the main drag; that amazed me because a) the speed limit there is 55, and b) there’s no place to pull off!  I think she said that at the time the local law enforcement folks were helping to direct traffic through there, and making sure that people slowed down!

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