Tastes like Chicken?

Tastes like Chicken?

I know I mentioned before I have been participating in these Meetups. We met at Brazos Bend once and because of that outing, I bought my camera. The trip to Galveston State Park was postponed so I did that one by myself. Recently, we planned a trip to Attwater Prairie Chicken Refuge. This poor Prairie Chicken is almost extinct and this is a working endeavor to increase the population.

Straight out the Katy Freeway, angle off at Sealy and pick up FM 3013 for 10 miles. Can't miss it.

Straight out the Katy Freeway, angle off at Sealy and pick up FM 3013 for 10 miles. Can't miss it.

And I didn't get lost or anything! We had planned to meet at 7:15 AM so, I had to leave my house about 6am. Did you know that in Sealy there is what has to be the largest Wal Mart distribution center in the world? It is so large I suspect it is visible from space.

You turn off the FM road onto some country roads and then gravel. It was not quite daylight and I was relieved to find the car following me out in the boonies was the couple I had met at the last meetup. At the last turn before the visitor center I stopped and got this shot:

Crested Caracara

Crested Caracara

Isn't that just the coolest bird? The focus is not great, but remember, it was still dark. I think my camera did pretty good.  Caracaras are part of the falcon family; they are sometimes called the Mexican Eagle, but often hang around with Vultures. An adaptable bird, for sure.

We got organized and set off on the walking trail. It was just getting daylight and I got fixated on the grasses and hazy horizons. Thinking about pioneer women being brought out in this wide open prairie to make a home.

Attwater Prairie Chicken Refuge - those are just trees in the distance. Not mountains, Carolyn.

Attwater Prairie Chicken Refuge - those are just trees in the distance. Not mountains, Carolyn.

Remember I told you last time on the Katy Prairie the Savannah Sparrows were just every where? Same here. We would walk 5 feet and sparrows would fly up from the grasses. It took a lot of doing but I finally got a nice picture to show you.

Le Conte's Sparrow... maybe

Le Conte's Sparrow... maybe

There are so many different kinds of sparrows that winter here; plus the males and females look different and then of course, the juveniles look different, too. I will have to take Glenn's Sparrow course next year. But what ever the label, they are a real challenge to photograph.

Since I was having so much trouble focusing on the flitting birds, I turned to other things.

Drop...

Drop...

Creepy crawler

Creepy crawler

We hiked the foot trail and met back at the Visitor Center to do the Auto Tour. Since the poor little Prairie Chicken is so endangered, parts of the refuge are off limits. And the main part is only accessible for visitors by car. Can't be disturbing the chickens.

I am not kidding. This was posted at the Visitor Center:

Attwater Prairie Chicken statistics

Attwater Prairie Chicken statistics

There is a captive breeding program where they return the chicks capable of independent survival fitted with radio transmitters. There are controlled burns yearly and a program to replant native grasses. The website mentions the lack of Buffalo on this new prairie. They were part of the original coastal prairie, but might be hard to bring them back in any number.

We took our auto tour and we found this on one of the posted No Access roads.

No entry and no perching allowed

No entry and no perching allowed

Do you see that metal sticker on the top? All of the posts around this road had these ... appurtenances. It would keep birds from perching on the posts, but why? If anyone knows what these are or thinks I have misinterpreted the purpose of these stickers...let me know in the Comments. Please.

Note: Our loyal reader S Rapp has informed us in the comments this is a "Bird Roost Inhibitor". Being a world traveler, she has observed these in Europe. The purpose in this park is still not understood. 

We found an old iron bridge over a creek that feeds into the San Bernard River. It is low and weedy, the only birds we saw were a lonely Grebe and an unidentified flycatcher.

San Bernard River or tributary

San Bernard River or tributary

Along our auto tour we saw a lot of hawks and harriers, and several more of the Caracaras like I told you about. In flight they are really impressive, all black and white. We also found a flock of little noisy wrens, probably Carolina Wrens, but my pix didn't come out well enough to show you.

After the auto tour and a picnic lunch under the leafless trees at the Visitor Center I made one more walk around the Sycamore Trail. Lots of grassy photos, some bugs and butterflies and the ubiquitous Black Vulture.

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

It is a great area. I love the wide open grass vistas and it will be nice to revisit at a different season. Not sure I will ever see the Prairie Chicken, but it is well worth the trip.

Postscript: As noted in the comments, the Roost Inhibitors are well known. I ran across an advert for the product at Lowe's website. I checked the comments and found this:

bird_roost.JPG

Have you ever been to Attwater Prairie Chicken Refuge? Would you like to go sometime? Do you think the Wal Mart Distribution Center can be seen from space? Do you have Roost Inhibitors installed at your home?

Bees and blossoms instead of birds

Bees and blossoms instead of birds

Away to Anahuac