Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Birding at Galveston Island, Texas

This weekend since the weather forecast was good, I decided to take my family to Houston to see NASA and Meenakshi temple. Also decided to visit the Galveston Island to visit some of the beaches and do some birding too. Read these Texas coast boasts good number of shore birds and some of these birds cannot be seen elsewhere in US.

Thanks to Kala and Susan from Audobon Dallas forum for providing pointers to birding spots in Galveston Island. And JR Compton's portal about birding in Galveston Island was really helpful. Thanks Kala for sharing this link.

We started from Richardson at around 7 in the morning. The plan was to reach NASA by 2 and then visit the temple in the evening. As planned we did reach NASA by 2:30. Weather was overcast with cold breeze. Visit to NASA was really good. It helps us appreciate the work being done by all these space explorers, scientists and the engineers. It is a very good informative tour and can be enjoyed by everyone.

One can easily spend 7-8hrs in NASA. But since we still had to visit Meenakshi temple we started from NASA around 6:30. The temple is not too far from NASA. After reaching temple we saw that the temple was under renovation. The temple is really good but since it was under renovation we were not allowed into the main temple. Probably need to visit this temple again before I head back to India. Another good thing about this temple is the canteen. The food provided here is very good and lot of variety too :-)

I had booked hotel for overnight stay at Galveston Island by the beach. The drive from temple to the hotel was about an hour. There wasn't much traffic and reached hotel without any delays.

I had made plans to do some birding in the morning. I had about 3-4hrs for birding. So based on information from JRcomptons website I felt visiting 8 mile road and Galveston State park would be good enough. Firs,t I visited the 8 mile road. The drive through this road was very good for birding. After crossing the first lake on this road I saw one Osprey flying over. This was my first sight of this bird. Thankfully, after a while he decided to come down and take some rest on the ground.In the lake I could only see some Pied-Billed Grebes, Mottled ducks and some Coots. I went ahead on the same road and enroute saw couple of American Kestrels and a Northern Harrrier doing their morning rounds trying to find some breakfast. Also saw couple of Loggerhead Shrikes on this road.


American Kestrel

Loggerhead Shrike

At the end of this road, there is a small rocky beach which was really good spot to see some shore birds. Here I saw 3 Willets, 2 American Oyster-Catchers, 1 Whimbrel/Curlew, 2 White Ibis flyover, 1 Rudy Turnstone and about 10 Semipalmated plovers. And there was another shore bird which I'm yet to id. It's not a big beach but really good place to see lot these shore birds. While returning, the marsh on the right had lots of ducks and few White Ibises feeding, I also saw a lone Belted kingfisher who caught a fish and was enjoying his breakfast. Also saw my first Little Blue Heron, Roseate Spoonbill and Tricolored heron in this marsh.

Roseate Spoonbill and Tricolored Heron


Great Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

White Ibis

Savannah Sparrow


Semipalmated Plover


American Oystercatcher


Rudy Turnstone

Another highlight was sighting of Sand hill cranes on the same road. I saw 2 adults cranes along with a Juvenile. My first sighting of any crane species in the wild :-) I guess 8 mile road is the best bet to see so many of these birds.

Sandhill Crane
From 8 mile I headed towards Galveston State park. Here I could not spot many birds, probably it looked like this park needs some walking to see birds. Since the weather was very cold and windy I could not walk much. Also taking handheld pictures with my camera was a big challenge with this wind. But still in this park I saw my first white-tailed kite, few loggerhead shrikes and a northern Harrier. I also saw some Royal Terns fishing in the lagoon. In another lagoon I saw couple of Roseate Spoonbills, Mottled ducks and Northern Shovelers. Also saw a group of Snow Geese flying over the area.

Northern Shovellers

Roseate Spoonbill

Greater-white Fronted Goose and Ross's Goose

Royal Tern

Mottled Ducks
It was almost 11 and I had to come back to the hotel. From here we went to take the ferry ride. Thankfully there was not big Queue here for the cars. We took our car onto the ferry and decided to drive around the bay a little. The ferry ride was thoroughly enjoyed. We saw lot of Brown pelicans, Laughing Gulls, Terns and also ever present were the dolphins :-)

Laughing Gull

Brown Pelican

Tricolored Heron

After the ferry ride visited the East beach. And here i got to see my first reddish egret. and on our way back stopped at another beach by the seawall to go for a walk. And here I got to see my first Sanderling and Marbled Godwit.

Snowy Plover?

Sandwich Tern on extreme left

Marbled Godwit




Ebird :
  East Beach :
  Galveston Island SP :
  8 Mile Road :

List of birds :

1 American Coot
2 American Kestrel
3 American Oystercatcher
4 American Wigeon
5 Belted Kingfisher
6 Brown Pelican
7 Brown Pelican    
8 Cattle Egret
9 European Starling
10 Great Blue Heron
11 Great Egret
12 Great-tailed Grackle
13 Killdeer
14 Laughing Gull
15 Little Blue Heron
16 Loggerhead Shrike
17 Marbled Godwit
18 Mottled Duck
19 Neotropic Cormorant
20 Northern Harrier
21 Northern Mockingbird
22 Northern Shoveler
23 Osprey
24 Pied-billed Grebe
25 Reddish Egret
26 Ring-billed Gull
27 Roseate Spoonbill
28 Royal Tern
29 Ruddy Turnstone
30 Sanderling
31 Sandhill Crane
32 Sandwich Tern
33 Semipalmated Plover
34 Snow Goose  
35 Snow Goose    
36 Tricolored Heron
37 Western/Eastern Meadowlark
38 Whimbrel
39 White Ibis
40 White-tailed Kite
41 Willet
42 Winter Wren  

Monday, November 16, 2015

Lake Tawakoni and White Rock Lake

Winter has started and with it we see lot of ducks coming in as part of their winter migration. There are few lake around Dallas which I planned on visiting before I head back to India. One was Lake Hagerman which I visited few's back and another was Lake Tawakoni which does seem to boast good number of winter fowl and infact best known for warbler migration during spring. There are atleast 3 more lakes which I would like to visit before heading back.

Directions and birding spots around the lake were shared in audobon forums. Thanks to Betsy and Richard Kinney for providing detailed directions to each birding spot around the lake.

Reached the park around 6:30AM. There is a 5$ entrance fee into the state park. The trees around the parking area itself is very productive birding spot. Did some birding around the parking area before heading walked through the Nature Trail area. Got to see good number of birds around the area. There were lot of American Pipits and lot of Sparrows feeding actively. On the lake there were few ring billed gulls along few Forster's Terns. There were few Egrets, Pied Billed Grebes and few Coots. Could not see any other ducks in the lake. While walking through the trail saw some of the Wood Ducks. Saw some Double Crested Cormorants flying over. And after a while saw couple of Hooded Merganasers flying over the lake. Also saw a Belted kingfisher flying over the lake.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

American Pippit

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Forster's Terns

Belted Kingfisher

Ring-billed Gull


Hooded Merganser

Northern Mockingbird

Wood duck

Field Sparrow

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Pied-billed Grebe

Pine Warbler
After this I headed to see sparrows in the fields close to the park. In one of the roads 3808 got to see lot of sparrows and the best was seeing lot Meadowlarks and hearing them sing. It was beautiful. Also saw couple of Red-Tailed Hawks flying over the fields probably looks for breakfast. There was one American Kestrel doing some rounds too.

White-Crowned sparrow

Red-Tailed Hawk

After this took road 3708 and on this road I saw a Northern Harrier flying over the fields. After this headed towards Holiday Marina. And here all I saw was a lone Spotted sandpiper, lot of Coots, Ring Billed Gulls and Forster Terns. Also saw a lone Franklins Gull among lot of Ring Billed Gulls and Terns.

After this headed towards the over-spill or the dam area to see if I can spot any other winter fowls. On the way saw lot of American Kestrels and couple of Hawks along the way. Near the dam I only saw few coots, again a lone pied billed grebe and near the woods saw some Woodpeckers but nothing much. Probably I should have gone much earlier for better sightings.

On the way back saw a lone Crested Caracara in the fields and strangely did see couple of Scissor-tailed flycatchers. I thought they would have moved south by this time of the year.

Franklin's gull among Forster's terns

Spotted sandpiper

Loggerhead Shrike

Eurasian Collared Dove

Crested Caracara

On the way back thought of doing a quick visit to my favorite lake here, White Rock Lake. Near the sunset bay I saw there were lots of coots, along with our regular Geese. There were lot of Cormorants along with few Gulls doing  rounds.At a distance did see few Ruddy rucks. And Horned Grebe decided to give us a Visit. What a beautiful Grebe, had seen this bird earlier in Hagerman but it was way too far. Here this one was a little adventurous and was not worried to get little close. Also some pelicans decided to visit us but they left soon because of some disturbance from few folks who tired fishing.

American White Pelican

Horned Grebe

Ruddy ducks
After this headed towards the Spill-way and near the bridgeI saw lot of Pelicans busy feeding. Had see JRcomptons photos of these same birds fishing and thought I will give it a try and got lucky to get this photo where we can see these small fishes in their mouth. Also saw them bullying the Cormorants to give up their catch so many times. Also present were lot of egrets waiting to fish. Also a long great blue heron came and joined these Egrets. And near the spill-way saw lot few Gadwalls. My first sighting of these beautiful ducks. Hope to see many more before the winter ends.

Herring Gull

List of birds seen during the day.

Tawakoni :

  1. Wood Duck  
  2. Mallard  
  3. Hooded Merganser  
  4. Pied-billed Grebe  
  5. Double-crested Cormorant  
  6. American White Pelican  
  7. Great Blue Heron  
  8. Great Egret  
  9. Black Vulture  
  10. Northern Harrier  
  11. Red-tailed Hawk  
  12. American Coot  
  13. Killdeer  
  14. Spotted Sandpiper  
  15. Franklin's Gull  
  16. Ring-billed Gull  
  17. Forster's Tern  
  18. Eurasian Collared-Dove  
  19. Mourning Dove  
  20. Belted Kingfisher  
  21. Red-bellied Woodpecker  
  22. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  
  23. Crested Caracara  
  24. American Kestrel  
  25. Eastern Phoebe  
  26. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher  
  27. Loggerhead Shrike  
  28. American Crow  
  29. Carolina Chickadee  
  30. Tufted Titmouse  
  31. House Wren  
  32. Golden-crowned Kinglet  
  33. Eastern Bluebird  
  34. Northern Mockingbird  
  35. American Pipit  
  36. Pine Warbler  
  37. Dark-eyed Junco  
  38. Northern Cardinal  
  39. Western/Eastern Meadowlark  
  40. Great-tailed Grackle  

  1. Gadwall  
  2. Mallard  
  3. Pied-billed Grebe  
  4. Neotropic Cormorant  
  5. American White Pelican  
  6. Great Blue Heron  
  7. Great Egret  
  8. Spotted Sandpiper  
  9. Carolina Chickadee  
  10. Tufted Titmouse  
  11. Ruddy Duck  
  12. Pied-billed Grebe  
  13. Horned Grebe  
  14. Double-crested Cormorant  
  15. American White Pelican  
  16. Great Blue Heron  
  17. Great Egret  
  18. Black Vulture  
  19. American Coot  
  20. Ring-billed Gull  
  21. Forster's Tern  
  22. Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  
  23. Red-bellied Woodpecker