Sept 8, 2017 ~ Harvey has put so much water on Southeast Texas we may have to hunt hard to find birds. Our parks and wildlife preserves are still closed and busy cleaning up. The current cool and sunny days are a welcome relief for us after storm, but not our ideal photography weather. But, I do have an adventure I wrote up at the end of summer to share with you today.
In early August our weather started to change. Instead of Blinding Sunstorms™ we experienced sunny days with afternoon thunderstorms. Sometimes we had clouds before and after, but hey... anything was an improvement! It was still hot and humid, but even the possibility of clouds made us happy. One promising day we planned on going to Anahuac but reports from FB friends shifted our attention to the Bolivar Flats. Of course, the day we didn't go to Anahuac was the day the rare Jabiru Stork was sighted with some Wood Storks, but hey. You do the best your can.
The free ferry between Galveston East Beach and the Bolivar Peninsula is a great bargain. One of our favorite things is taking turns feeding the gulls that follow the ferry. This time we had stale bread and it works great! Just enough heft to toss and of course the Grackles will eat any the gulls miss. Try it with a wide angle lens for a different effect.
So, now I have about 400 images of Laughing Gulls floating over head. And there are lots of things you can do with the photos.
Invasions are one thing that comes to mind. No telling where they will show up next.
We set up on the shoulder of Frenchtown Road and watched the Clapper Rails. There seemed to be dozens; lots of adults, a few almost grown juveniles, but no babies. There were Green Herons (too far away) and a Least Bittern (too shy).
It was noisy and active; there were juvenile Yellow Crowned Night Herons all out in the fields.
During a shower we drove on down to Rollover Pass. The lagoon where we found all the waders earlier this year was empty of fishermen and campers, so we had it all to ourselves. There were so many terns flying in and out the noise was deafening.
Young Royal Terns were begging from anyone that flew near them. There were some Tricolored Herons and a Snowy but they soon left.
Then three American Oystercatchers flew in. I quickly checked for tags, but they were all unbanded. We focused in on them, hoping they would look for food or even take a bath.
But two of the Oystercatchers started walking side by side... with their heads down, chest feathers fluffed up and obviously calling. I couldn't hear a thing for all the danged terns squawking.
I KNOW the Oystercatchers are nesting and raising chicks this time of year. Was this mating behavior? So late in the year? If you look carefully at their eyes, one has an extra dark dot next to the pupil. This is indicative of a female, so this is a pair. I was so puzzled about this I sent a photo and the particulars to Dr. Susan Heath of the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory. She replied:
This is territorial behavior but not necessarily mating behavior. In Texas, Oystercatchers are resident year round and they defend their territory and their mate all year so this pair was either defending their territory or trying to get the other bird from making any actions towards pairing with either of them. Thanks for the observation! Oystercatchers love to feed at Rollover Pass so keep your eye open for bands up there. I’m always interested to know where the birds are moving around to during the non-breeding season.
After two passes to let the third bird know they had no interest in fooling around, they all joined the terns on the sand bar and tucked in for a nap. Soon the sprinkles changed to rain and we had to give it up.
Coming back down the peninsula we discussed our next step. It was raining so hard during the ferry ride we had to stay in the truck. We could head home, it was getting late and darker but that would put us hitting Houston during the afternoon traffic. So, we crossed the island and made our way to 8 1/2 Mile Road. Just as we turned off, the rain stopped. Not much happening on 8 1/2 Mile Road and Sportsman. Well, there were some birds but they wern't on MY side of the truck.
But we found a wet and bedraggled Peacock on Ostermeyer Road.
He was on top of a Fence and working hard to dry his feathers from the recent rain. Usually they are on the ground and you can't get a good angle, but this guy had very little interest in us. I shot this one hand-held over Bill's shoulder, but soon got out and braced the big lens on the back of the truck.
I was almost too close. Big lens has a minimum focus distance of around 13 feet.
All that detail just begs for some processing. I guess they use their tongue to help dry the feathers; he would pull up a big mouth full and eventually he was looking better. Hard work, being a bird.
So, it was a GOOD day. We did find some Curlews along the beach behind Bolivar Flats, but that gets its own adventure next week. Have you taken the Ferry to Bolivar lately? I think it is running again post-Harvey but check to be sure if you head that way. Are you starting to venture out looking for birds again? Let me know in the comments below.