Companions

While I record each species we see and use eBird to track birds as we travel, my birding partner is more interested in "slow birding" – taking time to "smell the flowers" – to mix metaphors. It’s got me seeing more and enjoying birding even more.

We came upon these gulls just after a lesson from a local bird walk leader. So we paused and sorted them out into Laughing Gulls, Ringed-billed Gulls, and Herring Gulls. Right now,those are the three species here so it is fun to sharpen ID skills by just going over groups – and when they line up on a pier it’s even more interesting.

Just up the road we saw these Black-bellied Whistling Ducks. Can you see what they were looking at?

Yes, it was an Anhinga, a relatively rare bird here. We watched it as it fished with snake-like movements and then strolled back up to the larger group of ducks, spreading its wings to dry out, and hanging out with the kids with bubble-gum legs.

In the next field we saw an odd couple – a young Crested Caracara and an adult Turkey Vultures. I know that they are both carrion eaters and sometime soar (kettle) together, this seemed almost like a foster mom situation.

A second juvenile joined the group as we watched entranced by what appeared to be flying lessons.

There were three juveniles, one of whom could barely fly, several Turkey Vultures, and everyone seemed at ease with the scene. No adult Caracara seemed present. We loved what we had seen but were a bit bewildered about what was going on. Anyone have any suggestions? Leave a comment if you do.

Posted in Bird Behavior, Goose Island, Goose Island State Park, SW trip 2017, Texas birding, Texas birds, Wildlife Watching | Leave a comment

Goose Island Birds – A Sampling

Goose Island State Park is one of my favorite birding spots. Our first few outings have been very rewarding. Here is a Black-capped Titmouse who showed himself just a few hundred yards from our campsite as we started out.

Walking down to the bay, we saw these two Northern Pintail’s and a Little Blue Heron.

We paused for a few photos of an interesting live oak in the campground.

A short drive away is the field where Whooping Cranes often congregate. There are three regulars including a youngster. Here’s one of the parents.

A number of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were also there and it was interesting to watch the cranes shoo them away from choice feeding spots. The ducks are quite the characters, making you smile with their actions and their voices.

We will be here about a week and while having to deal with scattered thunderstorms, are enjoying the birds and mild tropical conditions.

Posted in Airstream Interstate, Goose Island State Park, SW trip 2017, Texas birding, Texas birds, Texas state parks | 3 Comments

Biking For Birds

We had three days of foggy mornings at Galveston Beach State Park but every so often, the sun showed itself.

Saturday morning, we rode our bikes over to some of the bayside trails and in spite of wind and fog, saw some nice birds. We heard this Loggerhead Shrike calling as we rode in and he sat nicely for us.

A fresh water pond held a neat variety of waterbirds including several White Ibises, a Roseate Spoonbill,

Walking the Clapper Rail Trail, we came across this Great Blue Heron who seemed to think he was hidden from us.

Biking back to the little pond, we saw this Tri-colored Heron in alternate plumage.

Returning to the campsite, this Savannah Sparrow and his buddies welcomed us back.

Our trip to Goose Island State Park featured stiff Texas crosswinds and temperatures in the high 70’s. Off to look for Whooping Cranes in the next few days.

Remembering Martin Luther King and his dream as we move onward, with hope.

Posted in Airstream Interstate, biking, SW trip 2017, Texas birding, Texas birds | 2 Comments

Galveston Beach

"Galveston, oh, Galveston,
I still hear your seawaves crashin,…"

On the way to Galveston Beach State Park, we took the ferry across the Houston ship channel.

Halfway across, we downloaded Glen Campbell’s "Galveston" and listened to it the rest of the crossing – and thought of it as we walked the beach that afternoon.

Just after checking in, we saw this neat White-tailed Kite just outside the office. We hope to see others this weekend.

After setting up, we walked the beach barefoot (the water was refreshing but not swimmable) and saw this Willet, which got Penny’s attention.

These Sanderlings were fun to watch. The second photo shows them and the Willet.

It is time to bone up on shorebirds, again.

Posted in Airstream Interstate, SW trip 2017, Texas birds, Texas state parks | 1 Comment

Au Revoir Louisiana

After thawing ourselves and the rig out at Fontainbleau State Park where we took a long walk and saw this Bald Eagle along with a number of American Coots, some Common Gallinules, and numerous kinglets and warblers.

Here are a few other shots from our stay.

We headed westward on I-10 for a night at Sam Houston Jones State Park in Lake Charles, LA. It was dark as we set up and Penny had her first encounter, this trip, with an armadillo. They drive her nuts.

Before leaving Thursday, we took a long walk and paused by this young Long-Needle pine tree.

Off to the Lone Star State. Happy trails to you all.

Posted in Airstream Interstate, LA birds, Louisiana State Parks, SW trip 2017 | 3 Comments

Some Louisiana Birds

By Louisiana standards, it was a bit chilly as we headed out birding yesterday.

We took a leisurely walk yesterday and saw dozens of birds, including this shy Yellow-rumped Warbler who along with his cousins, was foraging with the underbrush. Not that easy to spot until he moved. Can you spot him?

Fontainebleau State Park is located on the northern end of Lake Ponchartrain and home to many shore and water birds like these cormorants, one of whom has a nice meal in its beak.

The Loggerhead Shrike often sits quite patiently for prey and photos.

And you never know who or what is hidden in the Spanish moss. Good birding my friends.

 

 

Posted in LA birds, Louisiana State Parks, SW trip 2017 | 1 Comment

A Cold and Windy Trip

January is always a dicey month, weather-wise and we took an extra day to better prepare and to give me a chance to check Grow Compost for the other rare gull that has been hanging out there. Sure enough, driving in for a quick check, I spotted the Glaucous Gull – a life bird among the chickens and Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls.

Thanks to our friend Terry with a last minute sanding job on the icy driveway, I positioned the Interstate in downtown Montpelier and early Wednesday morning, we launched for Pennsylvania. It was a long trip but uneventful although the tractor-trailers on I-81 were their usual challenge — many of them and all moving fast.

We visited Sally’s brother-in-law in Charlottesville, Virginia the next night and after a long drive and just beating a sleet event, we hunkered down during a tough storm that shutdown the region. Two days later, we are at Fontainebleau State Park in Louisiana still battling sub-freezing nights but the forecast is great. Yesterday, we took a cold walk and saw dozens of Eastern Bluebirds and other neat birds, including this Red-headed Woodpecker who was feeding with his buddies.

Today is a thawing-out day for the rig and for us. We intend to stay here for a few days after a long trip and wait for the 70 degree temperatures tomorrow.

Posted in Interstate, LA birds, life bird, Louisiana State Parks, SW trip 2017 | 2 Comments

A Rare Bird Next Door

My friends Lisa and Scott have a successful compost business in the neighboring town where they take organic scraps and waste from restaurants, breweries, and a host of other sources and create wonderful soil and conditioner that is treasured by organic gardeners and landscapers. They also host a great array of birds who flock to check out their rows of steaming goodies.

For several weeks a couple of rare gulls have been hanging out and attracting birders from all over Vermont and adjacent states. I’ve been pretty tied up and away from birding but yesterday, took the short jaunt over to check out the action. Scott waved to me from the big front end loader as I parked and scanned the piles of compost and the hundred gulls feeding, flying periodically, and returning to the large mounds of organic matter. A few Ring-billed gulls, more Great Black-backed gulls, and even more Herring Gulls. I was looking for a rarity and spotted it right away as it posed front and center in the group. An Iceland Gull: smaller than a Herring Gull, no black wingtips, with a black beak, pink legs and feet. Life bird!  They should all be so easy.

I was also looking for a Glaucous Gull which had been reported but which I didn’t see it. Perhaps I’ll head back before we head to Texas.

Posted in life bird, Vermont Birding | Leave a comment

A Week To Go

Next Tuesday, my friend Sally, my dog Penny, and I plan to launch for the Southwest. It will be nice to escape the winter ice and snow and hope for a better year ahead, after the tragic losses of 2016.

The trick will be to get down our icy driveway and out of the snowbelt.

This is the first SW trip with the Interstate van and I know I have a lot less storage space than the truck/trailer combination. We are trying to be smart about choices of clothing and gear but we may well be sending excess stuff back to Vermont or buying things that we left behind. It will be an adventure in becoming more efficient.

The plan is to stay in motels the first few nights since the rig is winterized and we are too old for cold icy Walmart overnights. Been there, done that. About day four we will be in Louisiana and can catch our breath, thaw out the rig, and get ready to head west.

We hope to spend time in Texas (Goose Island SP, Big Bend NP), Arizona, and California – hooking up with relatives and friends in the San Diego/LA area.

This morning, our driveway was glare ice – the worst I’ve seen in 15 years here. My friend Terry showed up mid-morning with a dump truck and a load of sand and right now, the way is clear for launch. I’ll watch the weather closely to try to get below the Mason-Dixon line without winter driving conditions. So stay tuned for some hopefully not too exciting trip reports — I’ll try to save the excitement for the bird species we see. Wishing you a good 2017 ahead and hopes that the new president will surprise us with some good judgement and decisions. Peace my friends.

Posted in Interstate, SW trip 2017 | 4 Comments

Snowing Geese

Yesterday, on a nice Fall day with no leaves, or leaf-peepers, Penny the Vizsla, my friend Sally, and I drove over to Addison County to check on the migrating Snow Geese — which had been reported for the last week. The hazy sun was prompting raptors to hunt and we stopped a number of times to see Red-tails and a Northern Harrier or two hunt. It was slow going as we stopped, turned around, and checked out about a dozen hawks – but it was fun.

Arriving at the Goose Viewing Area on Route 17 in Addison, there were a few cars and looker but no geese visible in the air or on the fields. Our disappointment died after only five or ten minutes when a large white flock rose into the southerly wind, honking like crazy. I’m not good at counting but it was likely a thousand or more.  Here’s what they looked like:

geese2

snowgeese

After watching them swirl and gather, we drove over to Dead Creek where there were hundreds of Mallards and a different look at the geese.

Brylea Access Area, Dead Creek WMA

Brylea Access Area, Dead Creek WMA. There are Snow Geese in the center of the sky but hardly visible.

Here is a short clip that I took of the geese flying. The wind noise tends to cancel out their calls but believe me, they were loud.

It was a nice trip and Sally’s first experience seeing Snow Geese. They are amazing birds and we wish them well on their journey south.

Posted in migration, Vermont Birding | 2 Comments