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Friday, January 11, 2013

Anahuac - finally!

The cacophony of  thousands of Snow Geese greeted us as we arrived at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge yesterday morning for our twice-postponed January visit. We have a tradition of visiting the big refuge on Texas' upper coast on New Year's Day, but this year the weather was not cooperative and it had not been cooperative since then. Yesterday, there was a temporary break in the rainy weather and we decided to take advantage of it.

We arrived at the refuge on the tail of the day's last heavy downpour. The birds had certainly had their baths for the day. We saw evidence of that sitting on the entry gate.

This big hawk was waiting for the sun to come out and dry his feathers. He was so bedraggled, I wasn't sure of his identity, although I suspected he was a Red-tailed.

Nearby on a utility wire, an equally bedraggled American Kestrel was also hoping the sun would come out.

In the butterfly garden near the refuge entrance, I found my first real treasure of the day, a male Vermilion Flycatcher, who was happy to pose for me.

A little farther along the path, I found his pretty mate, too.

This White-crowned Sparrow apparently didn't get enough of a dousing in the rain. He plunged into a puddle and splashed around, then flew up into a tree to preen and dry off.

There were lots of White-crowned Sparrows about and among them were some like these. At first, I thought it was a different species, but upon more research, I decided that it was a first year bird that simply hadn't developed its white crown yet.

There were plenty of Eastern Phoebes around. They were doing their best to make a dent in the mosquito population, but they were badly outnumbered.

We stood and watched as skein after skein of Snow Geese passed overhead. It was impossible to count them, but my numbers man made his best estimate - 5,000. I'm sure there were at least that many. It seemed more like a million!

There were both white and blue phase geese present but the whites were more numerous.

What would a day on the coast be without a Great Egret or ten? This one was taking a stroll on the boardwalk.

There were big hawks everywhere in the refuge this day - Northern Harriers, Red-shouldered, Red-tailed. I was unsure of the identity of many of them, but I believe this one was a Red-tailed.

There were not too many shorebirds active in the areas that we visited. There was water everywhere - I've never seen so much water there - and that might have inhibited them. I did find a few Killdeer.

Both Brown and White Pelicans were present today. These Brown Pelican youngsters had found one of the few dry places to stand - the road.

The Neotropic Cormorants were loving all the water.  I found a large group of them splashing around, seemingly having a wonderful time, and managed to get three of them to pose for me.

A bit farther along, we saw one of their Double-crested cousins, standing in the middle of the road.

A Snowy Egret posed on a rock near the bay.

This magnificent hawk had gotten lucky. You can't see it because of the weeds, but he is clutching a snake in his talons. Lunch!

A Willet walked across the rocks searching for his lunch.

Of course, a day at Anahuac wouldn't be complete without seeing at least one alligator, and that's what we saw - one alligator. Also, a number of turtles, all of whom seemed intent on crossing the road.

We spent four hours birding at the refuge and came out with 47 species on our list. As always, I lamented the fact that the list could have been much longer but for the "ones that got away." But, also as always at Anahuac, it was a great day.


  1. Sounds like a productive birding day. The Vermilion Flycatcher is a beauty!

    1. Vermilion Flycatchers are, for me, one of the most beautiful of our native birds. And one of the nice things about them is that they are usually happy to pose!