Back in September I took a Hawk Identification class from Glenn Olson. He is a superb teacher and I learned a lot about Hawks. And I definitely got to use that knowledge on this trip to Anahuac Wildlife Refuge.
This trip is really long for me. I think Siri said it was 87 miles from start to finish. She was helpful since I had not really looked at the map ahead of time and wasn't sure of the exit. Last time I was there I was a passenger and didn't pay that close attention. Besides, that time I was looking out the window for birds.
This side of Houston has the Ship Channel and numerous industries which contribute to the prosperity of the city and the country. This is where the refineries and fabrication yards are located and all the service industries that support them. And the Anheuser-Busch brewery. I would put a link but you just have to prove you are over 21 to even look at their sites.
It was an interesting drive. I came up on a convoy of white tractors (the front part of the 18-wheeler). There must have been two dozen of them, all evenly spaced in the center lane. The door sign said they were an oilfield services trucking company and I wondered about their mission.
I did stop near the entrance to the Refuge to make sure Siri hadn't gotten confused. If you remember Thanksgiving week I wrote about the heavy fog one morning as I headed out for Brazos Bend. The very next morning they had a 100-car pile up not 20 miles down the road from where I stood. Two people were killed and countless injured. Drive safe, ya'll.
The entrance to the refuge is about 25 miles south of the interstate and full of highway name changes, bear to the left at the fork in the road and 4-way stops. Get Siri or a good map.
This is the road leading to the Shoveler Pond loop. The pond is barely there, this drought is wrecking havoc on the wetlands. There weren't near as many birds around this time as back in September. Except hawks. Lots and lots of hawks.
Best I can tell this is a female Northern Harrier. I saw plenty of them flying and hovering and swooping around. You can identify them fairly easily in flight by the distinctive long tail and white rump patch. This one was sitting by the side of the road and I just barely had to stop the car, get out, take one blurry shot, 2 good ones, another blurry shot and then she was gone. The females are brownish and the males are more gray.
OK, this guy was across the canal and my camera was on zoom. It only looks like I am that close to him. Did not see any alligators in the water, or even moving. But he looks well fed.
This is a shot I made from my car. No, Texans aren't too lazy to walk, this particular part of the refuge is designed with a one-way drive around the pond. There are places to pull off, and the day I went there was NO traffic. I just stopped in the middle of the road, like for the Hawk shot, or if the bird was on my left, took pictures from the car.
Now, this Great Blue Heron might be a juvenile growing in his big boy feathers or molting or maybe just because he is wet. I can't imagine he is sick. But he does look quite odd. Not like the others I saw:
I found a nice boardwalk out over the dried up pond. While I was having my lunch I saw something way off on the horizon. It was a roiling, boiling... cloudy thing. I took some pictures but it was way beyond my camera's range. The Park ranger told me later it was ... Snow Geese that I saw. Wow.
Moving on around the pond I saw a lot of White Egrets and Snowy Egrets. A big white Pelican and then I spied this guy on a sign.
There are over 40 different species of Cormorants worldwide; here on the Texas coast we have this one and the Double-breasted Cormorant. They are very ancient birds with similar ancestors found during the time of dinosaurs. At least that is what Wikipedia tells me. Cormorants like to hang out on this sign; a fellow Instagramer found a juvenile here two weeks ago. The evidence is apparent; told you we haven't had any rain.
After I finished the pond, I stalked some sparrows and watched the Hawks. There was a Vermillion Flycatcher that refused to perch anywhere near camera range.
It is a wide open and welcoming land to the birds that are migrating from northern climes to their southern homes. There is another part called the Skillern tract just east of here that has more ducks and geese.
Another trip. Another report. Have you been to Anahuac? What seasons? Did you see different birds than I saw? What is it like when the ponds are full?