On Tuesday, May 19th, 2015, I headed out to Anahuac NWR and visited the usual spots for birding in that area. Made a few additions to the life list and saw some very young birds as well. I caught the ferry by 6:30 and stopped by the Old Frenchtown Road at Bolivar’s western tip. The road winds a short ways through a salt marsh toward some houses on the bay side of the peninsula.


clapper-rail-chick-05-19-2015Clapper Rails

I saw some small dark birds on the roadside disappear into the brush and guessed they were babies of some sort so I pulled up and waited them out.

Sure enough, Mama Clapper and at least four chicks. They were shy and it took some time to get a decent pose out of one of them. Mom eventually stepped out into the road to have a look at me. The adults were clucking the whole time. They make a sharp guttural sound like a nail gun sneezing into a sheet of sandpaper. Plahktch, plahktch! It grows on you after a while.

Anahuac NWRAnahuac NWR

From Frenchtown Rd. I headed straight out to Anahuac NWR, a large wildlife reserve in Chambers County. There’s two entrances each leading to a different area of the park. Coming from High Island you reach the Skillern Tract first, then the main entrance a little further down. Skillern has a tree-lined waterway, the rest of the park is like this, long straight gravel roads through open prairie.

DeerflyI never did find the visitor’s center due to the confounding lack of signage but no matter. I drove the main road for miles to its end and saw quite a few species including Meadowlark, Killdeer (lots of them, I know well now how they look in flight), Cattle Egret, Common Nighthawk (lifer!), Loggerhead Shrike, Red-winged Blackbirds galore, Savannah Sparrow, Green Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Willet, Neotropic Cormorants, Eastern Kingbird, several gators, and some Deerflies who are there to remind us that being out in nature is not entirely a cakewalk.

Swainson’s Hawk

This Swainson’s Hawk was post perching on Whites Ranch Road on the way out. It’s a good ways east of its regular Summer range in the Western half of North America.

I found several of the Common Nighthawks literally sleeping by the side of the gravel road on the ground. The first one I saw I thought it was dead! This one was awake and just sat there as I pulled up along side of him to frame a photo. Look carefully at full size (click it) and you can see my new white Toyota reflected in his eye.

Common Nighthawk


common-nighthawk-perched-05-19-2015I had disturbed the one and it flew and circled around to a nearby post for another picture. This is an unprecedented level of wildlife cooperation. They feed on flying insects exclusively which seems odd considering most flycatchers are songbird size. Check out those intricate repeating patterns on the feathers. In flight, their dark primaries have one stylish white lateral streak near the tip of the wing.


eastern-kingbird-05-19-2015Neotropic Cormorant
Eastern Kingbird

The Cormorants were rail perching on a little bridge, a very common sight near waterways on the UTC. I thought this Kingbird was feeding on the ground (huh?) but on closer look it was gathering nest material.

The Smith Oaks Rookery at High Island is on the way home so I had to stop by again and see how all the nesting birds were doing. This is the place to catch egrets and Roseate Spoonbills in nesting activities and in flight.

Roseate Spoonbill

There were plenty of really young Great Egrets poking out of the many nests, though I did not see any young spoonbills. What’s up with that?

Great Egret

Look at these rascals! Where the heck is mom? We want our lunch! Look at the legs on these guys.


purple-gallinule-chick-05-19-2015Purple Gallinule

Mom and one of her chicks. They were poking around near the shore beneath the viewing platform right near an alligator. I was having a nervous breakdown! The gator moved nearer to them and then sank down into the water. I was ready to dial 911.

alligator-bI saw two alligators at Anahuac, and several at Smith Oaks as well. They have that primitive look that says, “screw evolution, I have everything I need right here Bubba.”

Returning from High Island you have to stop by Bolivar Flats, you’d be crazy not to plus I paid 10 bucks for the parking permit for the year. Kind of quiet out there around noon time. I found a tide puddle up the beach populated by a mess of peeps. Dunlins, Sanderlings, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Wilson’s Plover.


wilsons-plover-05-19-2015Semipalmated Sandpiper
Wilson’s Plover

You can see the color bands on the Wilson’s. The sandpipers have me hesitant to declare the ID. Smaller than the Sanderlings, they worked the muddy water pulsing their heads like a sewing machine needle. Everything seems to add up to Semipalmated, yet I still have doubts. Sandpipers!

Least Tern

And a couple of Least Terns, the haves and the have nots. Twas always thus.

All photos taken over a 6 hour period. Returning home I caught the ferry just right, last car on as they were finishing loading. I was eager to get home and shower off the sticky, stinky bug repellent from my skin and get a look at the day’s photos.