The toll bridge at San Luis Pass marks the western tip of Galveston Island and that’s where I headed first thing Monday morning, April 6th, 2015. I hear it’s good birding out there come Springtime. And so it is! I saw a good variety of bird life, including some migrant American Avocets.
My experience with Great Blues is that they fly off cursing if I get within a quarter mile, so this guy pretty much amazed me. I approached shooting distance with no disturbance, and it proceeded to move closer to me as it worked the tide puddle for snacks. Eventually the bird was too close to fit in the frame at 400mm! Occasionally a zoom lens would come in handy.
There were a great many puddles in the flood plain that stretches from the bridge’s toll gate to the shore. This is an area of sand and dunes with dense vegetation criss-crossed with car tracks, as this is a hot spot for fishing. Willets and Lesser Yellowlegs were fairly plentiful. This pair of Yellowlegs were evading me as I walked past one of the water filled ruts that cut under the bridge. Note that the bird on the left is all up in its breeding plumage while the other looks transitional.
The Little Blue Heron has been evading me since I got into birding. They are simply not seen on the East end where I most often go afield. This guy is an immature, 1st Spring specimen, white with the mature blue-gray adult plumage just starting to blotch in. Very pleased to see this bird.
Once I reached the shore, the American Avocets were the main attraction. There were maybe 50 in the area. I was approaching a small group at the seaward side of the tide pool when another group flew in. My birds-in-flight record is abysmal so always happy to catch a clean one.
Let’s face it: every time I see one of the smaller sandpiper-style birds I draw a blank. I have to photograph and go home and study. Of these 3 I did guess the Dowitcher, and I’m pretty sure it’s the short-billed. The Dunlin and Black-bellied Plover are new birds for me (both non-breeding). The Dunlin summers in the Northern-most parts of Canada and Alaska. All seen in the same tide pool as the Avocets.
On the walk back to the car were this pair of Willets, who let me get awfully close before they moved. Protective of a nearby nest? Like at Bolivar Flats last week, I heard them the whole time I was there. Their calls sound like, “a WEE will-ET! a WEE will-ET!”
On the return drive I stopped briefly at Galveston Island State Park. Here I spied a White-tailed Kite, Meadowlark, Loggerhead Shrike and a Savannah Sparrow. Continuing East, Lafitte’s Cove is the next stop. This is a sweet little nature preserve smack in the middle of a semi-ritzy housing development off of Stewart Road near 11 mile road. The entrance is a boardwalk through a marshy pond. Not 3 steps in I looked down and saw these rails feeding at the water’s edge. I knew they were rails, but not which kind, until a group of birders came by and IDed them for me.
Much smaller than the Clappers I am used to seeing now, and very cute! They were relatively unperturbed by the small swarm of photographers and gawkers a few yards away on the boardwalk.
In bird names, the word “pied” means “black and white.” These guys are divers and spend a lot of time under water.
Very odd seeing this egret strolling the paved trail in the wooded part of the park. He looked like he was birding!
Final stop on Stewart Road near 8 Mile Road. This White Ibis let me get quite near as it perched on a fence post. Shortly after this Tricolored Heron flew in and landed on the post right in front of me. “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. Demille.” Intense high breeding color in these birds faces.
Decades ago, the Tricolored was known as the Louisiana Heron, a name I like better because it sounds nicer and has more character. Why drag dry sounding descriptive terms into a creature’s name? With that system I’d wind up being called the Dorky-looking Forgetful Man.