Thursday, October 26, 2017

Harris's Hawk at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge

It's been 6 long months since I went for birding. Birding as such this year has been very less. I hope to get more time next year and visit other places as well.

I got some free time during the last weekend. I decided to head towards the Hagerman NWR to see if there were any early migrants(waterfowl). This is my favorite birding place in Dallas area. Its about 60 miles from where I live but the drive isn't very bad considering the beauty you get to see once you reach the place. It has good stretch of woodlands, marshes and the lake itself to see all kinds of birds.

I reached very early at around 6:30AM. It was still dark when I reached the place. I parked my car near the visitor center and tried to walk around. I could hear owls calling out in the dark. Waited at the center till about 7:15 and then headed towards the Meadow Pond Trail. Since it was early morning I thought of trying my luck with woodland birds. Here I could see Chipping, Lincoln and White-throated Sparrows. Also there were lot of Red-Winged Blackbirds, Northern Flickers, Yellow-bellied sapsuckers and Downy Woodpeckers. Ruby-crowned Kinglets were busy hopping from tree to tree. Tufted Titmouses and Chickadees were busy foraging for food. I could see lot of Carolina Wrens and some of them singing their heart out. Mornings best sighting was to see a flock of Pine Siskin's. Last year I had seen a Pine Siskin among the Goldfinches but never saw them in a flock like this. In the Meadow pond all I could see were some Mallards and Grebe. Belted Kingfisher visited the pond for a brief time before flying away. After couple of hours of walking the trail I headed back towards the lake to look for the waterfowl.

Northern Cardinal

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Carolina Wren

Downy Woodpecker

Chipping Sparrow

Pine Siskin

Eastern Bluebird

White-throated Sparrow

Checked the big dead tree near the bridge to see if I can find Red-headed woodpecker but could not find any. I did see a bird fly away from this tree earlier but did not get good look to id the bird. This tree always had Red-headed woodpeckers. After this I returned to check the pads on the lake. I could see Northern Harrier was canvasing the lake. It kept flying over the lake and over the fields. In the lake I could see Coots, Mallards, Shovellers, Egrets and Herons. There were a few American white pelicans and some tern which I could not ID. Apart from these I could not see any other waterfowl.

American White Pelicans

Great Blue Heron

I had another interesting sighting for the morning, American Bittern. I would have missed it very easily if not for some movement nearby. This was my first sighting of this Bittern and after this sighting I could understand why it is difficult to find this bird. The way it stood tall motionless in between the grasses, it was difficult to find it. After this I decided to head towards the Crow Hill trail. Again here the most I saw was Sparrows, lone Red-bellied Woodpecker and a group of Ruby-crowned Kinglets. After walking this trail it was time for me to head back home. On returning to the lake I could see a good sized raptor sitting on a tree. After approaching the bird I saw it was a Harris's Hawk. I was ecstatic to see this bird. I had seen a rescued Harris's Hawk in one of the rescue centers during last Christmas but I had never seen this bird out in the wild. This was out of its range. This bird is usually seen in south Texas. I thanked my luck. Ended the day on a high note.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

American Bittern

Harris's Hawk

Planning to head back again during Christmas by then the lake should be brimming with waterfowl.

ebird :

Birds seen during the day :

1 Northern Shoveler  
2 Mallard  
3 Pied-billed Grebe  
4 cormorant sp.  
5 American White Pelican  
6 American Bittern  
7 Great Blue Heron  
8 Cattle Egret  
9 Black Vulture  
10 Turkey Vulture  
11 Northern Harrier  
12 Sharp-shinned/Cooper's Hawk  
13 Harris's Hawk    
14 American Coot  
15 Killdeer  
16 White-winged Dove  
17 Belted Kingfisher  
18 Red-bellied Woodpecker  
19 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  
20 Downy Woodpecker  
21 Northern Flicker  
22 American Kestrel  
23 Eastern Phoebe  
24 Loggerhead Shrike  
25 Blue Jay  
26 American Crow  
27 Carolina Chickadee  
28 Tufted Titmouse  
29 Carolina Wren  
30 Ruby-crowned Kinglet  
31 Eastern Bluebird  
32 Northern Mockingbird  
33 White-throated Sparrow  
34 Savannah Sparrow  
35 Lincoln's Sparrow  
36 Northern Cardinal  
37 Western/Eastern Meadowlark  
38 Red-winged Blackbird  
39 Pine Siskin  

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Returning to Bird Spring migration at High Island - Day 2

After an eventful first day where I ended the day on a high with the sighting of a Sora, I was anxious to return to Anuhuac National WLR to see if I could find more of these skulking birds. In the morning I headed straight to the refuge.

Here I took the drive which circles around the lake. It's a great place to look for Egrets, Ibis and Ducks. There were Blue-winged teals, Mottled Ducks, Coots, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks and my first sighting of Fulvous Whistling-Ducks. There were Pied-billed Grebes diving around and we could see Common Gallinule and Purple Gallinules walking along the edges of the reeds. Another interesting sighting was of a Least Bittern. Another first for me. I did get to brief look at Sora again before it went into the reeds. And at the visitor center I walked around the small garden patch where I could find Orchard Orioles.

Blue-winged Teal

Black-bellied Whistling Duck

Black-necked Stilt

Fulvous Whistling-duck

Common Gallinule

Neotropic Cormorant

Mottled Duck

White Ibis

Pied-billed Grebe

Purple Gallinule

Least Bittern

Orchard Oriole

Black-bellied Whistling-duck

After this I headed towards the Boy-scouts sanctuary to see if there were any new overnight migrants. But unfortunately the place still seemed quite with very few birds being reported from within the park. Last year I did see most of the thrushes here apart from Grey-cheeked and Louisiana Thrushes. This time got lucky and saw the Grey-cheeked. We would see Brown Thrasher, Grey-cheeked, Wood and Swainson's thrush visiting the fountain inside the sanctuary. We also had Kentucky warbler along with Ovenbird visiting this fountain. It was one of the productive places to see birds in the park. Another interesting bird that I got see was Philadelphia Vireo which I missed in my last visit here as well.

Western Kingbird

Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager

Grey-cheeked Thrush

Red-eyed Vireo

Summer Tanager

Hooded Warbler

Hermit Thrush

Wood Thrush


Tennessee Warbler

Gray Catbird

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Grey-cheeked Thrush

Rose-breasted Bunting

Philadelphia Vireo

It was another good visit to High Island. Can't wait for next spring to visit this place again. I hope Hurricane Harvey has not caused lot of damage to this place.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Returning to Bird Spring migration at High Island

Last year I went to  High Island to experience the Spring Migration first hand. It was an a amazing experience to see the density and variety of the birds. Birds get exhausted travelling over Gulf Of Mexico and they rest on the first piece of land they see to refuel to continue their northward journey.

This year before I started my trip I read ebird report to see the bird activity was unusually low at High Island for this time of the year.  Probably because of the rains or probably the weather conditions was not right for birds to start their migration. Since I had the rooms booked I decided to go ahead with my planned trip.

First day morning I started birding at Boy Woods Sanctuary where I saw the bird activity was quiet. There were Summer Tanagers, Hummingbird, Thrushes and few Warblers. The main attraction though was a Cape-May Warbler. People have been reporting this bird for the last few days. Apart from this we saw Eastern-wood Pewee, Red Eyed Vireo, Yellow-billed cuckoo and few other birds. But as a whole the bird activity was low.

Cape-May Warbler

Black-chinned/Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

For the afternoon we went to Bolivar flats sanctuary to bird shorebirds, Gulls and Terns. The birding at Bolivar has been very good. We saw good flock of birds here. We saw Long-tailed Duck which has been lingering here. We saw Sandpipers, Sanderlings, Rudy Turnstone, Dunlins, Dowitchers and Yellow legs. The interesting sighting for me was a Red Knot. Among Terns, we saw Royal, Caspian, Sandwich and Least Terns. We also saw Piping , Semipalmated and Wilson's plover. We also had a flyby of Swainson's Hawk.

Red Knot

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Black Skimmer

American white pelican

Western Sandpiper

American Avocet

Laughing Gull

Wilson's Plover

Rudy Turnstone

Piping Plover



Semipalmated Plover

Long Tailed Duck

Swainson's Hawk

In the evening we headed towards Smith Oaks Sanctuary. The migratory birds activity was minimal. But we did have lot of activity near the Rookery. Most of the chicks were stretching their wings and some of the adults were busy squabbling each other. There were Little Blue Herons, Tri-colored Herons, Egrets and Gallinules everywhere. But the majority were the Roseatte Spoonbills.

Roseaate Spoonbill

Great Egret

Common Gallinule

Snowy Egret

Purple Gallinule

Cattle Egret

Tricolored Heron

At the end of the day instead of heading to the room directly I thought of doing a quick stop at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. Last year I could not visit it but I wanted to try my luck here before ending the day. There were some Shorebirds but for me the interesting sighting was couple of Gull-billed Terns. And then driving around the refuge I got my first sighting of a Sora :-) Amazing way to finish an interesting day at High Island.

Black-billed Gulls