Sunday, May 11, 2014

Bulletin 197 - Migration #3 and Anahuac NWR book

It certainly was a strange year for migration. The best weekend was Easter weekend April 18-20. Generally,  the following two weekends are the peak of migration. However strong southerly breezes provided a good tail wind for the birds and they must have gone far inland before alighting. All the migrant traps on the coast were as quiet as any of us can ever remember. I hope it isn't an indication of a severe decline in bird numbers.

The Yellow-breasted Chat (Icteria virens) was formally considered a warbler, but now it is uncertain of its pedigree. It is larger (7.5") than the warblers. I usually only see 1 or 2 each spring. This one was at LaFitte's Cove in Galveston.

Yellow-breasted Chat
The Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) is a common spring migrant, but I only saw a couple of them this year.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

A late migrant that I was pleased to find was the Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus). This 7" member of the icterid or blackbird family usually comes through in early to mid May when most birders have stopped going to the coast. This was only the 3rd time in 25 years that I saw them in the spring. The beautiful male has a black breast, white on wings and back, and a prominent yellow patch on the back of his head and neck.The female is just streaked brown like a sparrow and I have yet to get a photo of her.
Bobolink - breeding male
Phalaropes are a group of 3 species of sandpipers that are unique in several ways. They often swim
and dab at the surface of the water to feed. There is one species we get here. Additional, unlike most birds, the female is the brightly colored bird and the males are duller. The one we have in spring is Wilson's Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor). The female has black stripe down neck with red on the wings.

Wilson's Phalarope - female breeding
The male is considerably plainer. He is IDed by the thin bill and a hint of color on his face and neck.

Wilson's Phalarope - male breeding
Anahuac NWR had a rare spring sandpiper visitor this year, a female Ruff (Philomachus pugnax). This Eurasian sandpiper is an occasional visitor to the lower 48 states. But it seems to have become rather regular as I have seen one 3 times since 2008 in the Houston area. This was my first female in breeding plumage and she is IDed by the bright orange legs.

Ruff - breeding female
Here is another photo which also shows the banding on the wing feathers just like in the Sibley guide.

Ruff - breeding female
Anahuac NWR has always been a favorite place to visit for me. 2013 was their 50th anniversary of the establishment of the refuge. The volunteer group Friends of Anahuac Refuge decided to publish a book about the refuge in their 50th year and invited photographers to submit photos for possible inclusion in the book. I was fortunate to have had 3 photos selected for the book.

The first was a full page photo of a wildflower I took way back in 2006. It is known a False Indigo.

False Indigo
The second was my photo of a Striped Skunk (without stripes) taken in 2010. It was only 1/4 page in the book.

Striped Skunk

And lastly, I had a bird photo! This pair of Crested Caracaras on top of a bare tree was taken 2 days before the close of submissions last December. It was also published as a full page in the book.

Crested Caracaras

If any of you are interested in buying a copy of the book, it is only $20 plus tax and shipping. It can be purchased at the visitor center at Anahuac NWR or can be ordered online here.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2014 David McDonald

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