Friday, December 11, 2009

Coastal Bend Birds 12/1-12/11

Birding in the coastal bend this winter keeps getting better by the day. Most of our winter residents are back in good numbers and lots of "rare" birds have been seen. Huge numbers or sandhill cranes and geese are finally back, most are North of the Rockport area. The majority of the whooping cranes are back at their winter homes in the Aransas NWR. I saw 3 whooping cranes along hwy. 35 just North of Rockport last week as well. Here are some of the rarer birds that I've seen in the past 10 days.

A extremely rare RUDDY GROUND-DOVE was seen on CR360 near the town of Sandia on 12/10. This is one of the Northernmost records of the eastern subspecies.

LARK BUNTINGS (see photo) are in huge numbers this winter. I had 300+ birds near Sandia on 12/10. I have heard reports of 1000's of birds west of Corpus Christi in Duval county.

A rare YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD was on hwy. 35 between Rockport and Tivoli on 12/7. The bird was mixed in with thousands of Red-Winged Blackbirds, Brown-Headed Cowbirds, Great-Tailed Grackles, and Boat-Tailed Grackles.

The FERRUGINOUS HAWK near Sandia on CR360 continues this winter, I last saw the bird on 12/10. I also found another FERRUGINOUS HAWK on 43 near Chapman Ranch on 12/6.

A GREEN KINGFISHER continues at the Port Aransas Birding Center. I saw the bird last on 12/6.

An adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL has returned for the 6th winter in the town of Port O'Connor. I saw the bird on 12/3.

A single HORNED GREBE was seen at the Aransas NWR across from the picnic area on 12/3.

Up to 8 STILT SANDPIPERS have been seen at the Port Aransas Birding Center all winter. I also had a single bird at the pond in Hazel Bazemore Park in Corpus Christi on 12/10.

SPRAGUE'S PIPITS are present in good numbers in proper habitat throughout the coastal bend. My last sighting of one was 12/3.

Up to 4 BURROWING OWLS continue on private property in Refugio and Nueces counties.

RED KNOTS continue up and down the gulf beaches this winter. I had 5 near marker 27 on 12/6. They are more common further south on the National Seashore.

A single AMERICAN BITTERN was seen on the Rail Trail at the Aransas NWR on 12/3.

Jon McIntyre
(361) 549-5677

Monday, December 7, 2009

December 5, 2009-Birding Update

As reported by Billy Sandifer

Red Knots are present in numbers of over 100 per day on the Padre Island National Seashore beachfront.
Good numbers of Sandwich Terns remain along with the Forester's, Royal and Caspian but the other tern species have moved on for the winter. Good numbers of Dunlin are being observed and Franklin's Gulls are mixed in with the flocks of Laughing Gulls. Large numbers of Brown Pelicans are seen daily and Long-billed Curlew are in good supply with at least 30 seen daily.
N. Harrier and White-tailed Hawks are observed regularly as are one or two Peregrine Falcons and Caracara. We had a stray female hummingbird in the yard on the last day of November.
Picture is of Black-necked Stilts on the beach.

Good Birding,
Capt. Billy

Monday, November 30, 2009

Coastal Bend Birds 11/16-11/30

Birding in the coastal bend had picked up considerably in the past 2 weeks. Most of our winter residents are back in good numbers and many rare birds have been seen.

Some of the rarer birds I've seen in the past 2 weeks include a male Greater Scaup near the picnic area at the Aransas NWR.

Pomarine Jaegers have been common 30+ miles offshore of Port Aransas the past few weeks, up to 9 individuals have been seen in one day.

A single Franklin's Gull was seen at Pollywog Ponds on 11/21 and another at Indian Point Park on 11/18.

Red Knots continue up and down the coastal bend beaches. I had 8 Red Knots at marker 24 on 11/29 and multiple knots at scattered locations on 11/21.

Up to about 15 Mountain Plovers continue near Chapman Ranch on CR14A. They have been in this location for over a month. I last saw the birds on 11/19.

Up to 2 Ferruginous Hawks have been seen on CR360 near Sandia this month, this is the 6th year for the adult bird at this location.

A single Say's Phoebe has been present on CR360 near Sandia since 11/18.

Lark Buntings are in very good numbers this year. I had 20+ near Sandia on 11/19 and 11/18 and another person had 50+ a few days after.

Stilt Sandpipers are at multiple locations. The most reliable birds are at Hazel Bazemore Park, were 2 are usually seen. I also had 5 at the Port Aransas Birding Center on 11/27.

A very late Pectoral Sandpiper was seen near Sandia on 11/18.

Burrowing Owls continue at multiple private locations in Nueces and Refugio counties. I have had up to 4 individuals in a single day.

On 11/18, I had EIGHT Horned Grebes at the Aransas NWR, the highest count I've ever had in the coastal bend. I also had a single Horned Grebe at Goose Island State Park on 11/30.

Sprague's Pipits continue in good numbers in proper habitat throughout the coastal bend. My last sightings were 11/18 and 11/16.

A single Clay-Colored Sparrow was seen on 11/18 near the Aransas NWR.

Jon McIntyre

Friday, November 20, 2009

Audubon Texas Welcomes Delisting of Brown Pelican as Endangered Species

AUSTIN, TX – 13 November 2009 ---Audubon Texas welcomes the delisting of Brown Pelican from the Endangered Species List but say challenges continue. According to Audubon's annual Christmas Bird Count, Brown Pelican population trends have risen in Texas for the past 40-50 years. Hurricane Katrina took a toll on the Gulf Coast populations but prospects remain good provided coastal recovery stays on track. The health of local waters is an issue for birds as is it for humans; a young pelican consumes about 150 pounds of fish the first 9 weeks of its life.

The species once decimated by DDT and habitat loss has sufficiently recovered to be removed from the list of endangered species this week. However, additional federal laws, such as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Lacey Act, will continue to protect the brown pelican, its nests and its eggs.

“Thanks to years of collaboration with federal, state, and local entities, we can celebrate the hard work that has lead to this announcement,” said Bob Benson, executive director of Audubon Texas. He emphasized, “The Audubon Texas Coastal Stewardship Program relies on seasonal wardens to manage more than 13,000 acres on 80 islands for the benefit of our Texas coastal ecosystem and the birds and other wildlife that depend on it. Increasing the number of breeding birds from 12 to 12,000 since 1973 is a huge achievement, and was accomplished by a host of part-time wardens, volunteers, and conservation partners over several decades.”

“This is a real win for the Endangered Species Act,” said David Newstead, president of the Coastal Bend Audubon Chapter. “Now we just need to maintain this great momentum and continue our vigilance to ensure other species do not become endangered.”

Continued monitoring of Brown Pelicans is essential to detect any unexpected future population declines. Conservationists also caution that proper site selection, operational guidelines and vigilance will be needed to ensure that proposed wind power projects don’t threaten recovery in Texas and other areas. Other potential threats include increasing levels of human disturbance on rookery islands and climate change.

Audubon Texas’ director of conservation and education, Iliana Pena, said, “Audubon wardens are a big part of the success of this announcement. For generations these front line conservationists have patrolled and monitored by boat during nesting season. They also organize volunteers, educate citizens, and work with anglers. This community-based stewardship has sustained one of the most effective bird conservation programs in the country.”

Audubon Texas, the state program of the National Audubon Society, is working to restore over 3 million acres of grasslands, oversee 13,000 acres of critical coastal habitat, and educate 50,000 students on an annual basis.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Birding Report--November 16, 2009

As Reported by Billy Sandifer

165 Red Knots were observed on the Padre Island National Seashore beachfront on a trip to the Port Mansfield jetties on Sunday, November 15, 2009.

1 Peregrine was observed at the 32 mile beach. North Harriers, White-tailed Hawks and Caracara were also observed. Approximately 60 Long-billed Curlews were observed as well more than 300 Brown Pelicans and more than 100 Double-crested Cormorants. Ring-billed, Herring and Laughing Gulls were observed as were Caspian, Royal, Forester's and Sandwich Terns. Our typical winter shorebirds were all present.

A recent trip inland showed Pollywog Pond to be the most productive area with numerous Red-shouldered Hawks, 2 Anhingas, 8 Least Grebes, Pied-billed Grebes and a variety of duck species present. Farther West Cassin's Kingbirds were common as were Lark Sparrows and one Green Jay was observed along with an occasional Red-tailed Hawk and several Scissor Tailed Flycatchers that remain.

Pictures are the resident Tri-Colored Heron at the Birding Center in Port Aransas and 2 Least Grebes at Pollywog Pond.

Good Birding,

Capt. Billy

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Gulf Coast fishing guide pushes for more conservation

From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Capt. Billy Sandifer is probably the only fishing guide on the Texas Gulf Coast who’s as proud of his conservation efforts as he is of his fish stories.

He hosts a Web site that brags on his sightings of "Brown Boobies, Brown Noodies, Black-legged Kittawake and Aztec Thrush," to name a few rare birds, and he’s the driving force for an annual beach cleanup campaign.

He needs new customers to grow his guide business, but he’s aware of the dangers involved when hoards of people invade his beloved Padre Island National Seashore.

It’s a delicate dance; bring in new business, but don’t overrun nature’s bounty.

"The Hill Country has come to the beach," he said in a telephone interview this week. "There are a lot more people down here than ever before." And they don’t care about the old rules and courtesies that go along with fishing on the remote, open beaches.

"We used to say, if you could see the color of a man’s shirt, you were too close to him," Sandifer said. "You never pulled up between two men with bended rods. You went on down the beach. The fish would come to you eventually, any way."

But those subtle considerations seem to have blown away with the salt spray, he said. The more populated part of Padre Island National Seashore, or PINS as it’s referred to by the locals, covers the first 20 miles of the beach and Sandifer said it reminds him of "suburbia."

The kayak traffic on the back bays, he said, looks like a "shopping center parking lot." On weekends, the open bays are streaked with high-powered, shallow-water boats crisscrossing the sand and grass flats, and it seems that every other boat is piloted by a weekend guide.

Sandifer has a bay boat, and he offers guided trips on the bays, and on the open waters of the gulf.

But his reputation ties him to the surf on Padre Island and it’s there that most of his business takes place. It is his home in many ways, certainly his refuge.

At 62, he’s been fishing most of his life on the surf. He is a Vietnam veteran and when he returned from the war, he came back angry and full of hate, he said. He didn’t know what to make of his life, especially the cold, ungrateful reception he received in the United States.

"I bought a four-wheel drive vehicle and took off for the beach," he said. "It was a year and a half before I came out."

During that time, his face hardened to the sun and his fishing took on an almost Zen-like importance. He learned to catch sharks — all manner of sharks — and in the end, mostly big ones.

Over the years his reputation as a shark hunter grew. He began taking others with him and a business was built. He is a writer who contributes to a number of publications and he’s been the subject of innumerable stories himself.

Last month, he was honored as one of Field & Stream’s "Heroes of Conservation."

He explained in the magazine article what changed him from a shark hunter to a conservationist: "I’d catch sharks and kill many of them. But then I caught an 8 1/2 -foot, 340-pound pregnant bull shark. She was probably 30 years old. All I wanted to do was get her back into the water alive. That changed me."

He also began to look around at the seashore and he became angry at the piles and piles of debris that were piling. He organized a cleanup that continues to this day. The "Big Shell Cleanup" has removed an estimated 1.8 million pounds of trash from the 60-mile strip of coastline.

Now, he’s fighting another blight on the beach. For the past month, a red tide has scooted along the shoreline killing an incalculable number of fish.

Red tide is an algae bloom that creates toxins that attack the nervous system of some fish and paralyzes them and stops them from breathing. As they have piled along the beach, Sandifer’s business has come to a standstill.

"This is the time of year where we make our stash for the entire season," he said of the guide business. "We’ve had 37 days of the red tide and I’ve had to cancel all my trips. There are fish out there, in pockets, and we could catch them, but I don’t want to take my customers out in those conditions."

The red tide can create an "aerosol" condition that can cause eye and throat irritation in humans.

Sandifer has seen it all happen before, but he believes it comes with more regularity now. And no one knows when this tide will end. The water temperature is still in the low 70s and it needs to get to the high 50s for the tide to subside. "This could last until Christmas," he said.

But it will end, he promises. "I got $6,000 for the Field & Stream award," he said. "And if it wasn’t for that, I don’t know what I’d do. But when the red tide does disappear, the fish will be back within two hours. I don’t want anyone to think this is in any way Armageddon."

Somehow, with Sandifer’s help. The fishing will pick up, the beaches will get cleaned, the birds sighted, and Padre Island will absorb an increased number of admirers.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Coastal Bend Birds 10/22-11/1

Birding in the coastal bend has been very good this past week. Many of our winter residents are back in good numbers and there are still a few migrants around. Sandhill Cranes, geese, our winter ducks, and a few sparrows have been showing up in good numbers.

On 10/24 we saw an adult Bald Eagle building a nest at the Fennessey Ranch near Refugio. Several others have reported multiple eagles 2 weeks prior to my sighting.

On 10/25 I had about 40 Mountain Plovers near Chapman Ranch. They were at the intersection of CR67 and CR14A. Mel Cooksey found them the day before.

On 10/28 Craig and Connie McIntyre saw and photographed a rare Black-Tailed Gnatcatcher at their house in Rockport. Also at their house was a young male Rufous Hummingbird last seen on 10/30.

On 10/30 while birding the Aransas NWR I had a juv. Bald Eagle (see photo) fly over the picnic area. Also at the refuge was Pine Warblers, Carolina Chickadee, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Sandhill Cranes, and we had a single Sprague's Pipit on the way to the refuge. Also, the EXCELLENT birding area of oak trees next to the visitor's center is apparently off limits to the public now. We were told by the refuge law enforcement officer that nobody is allowed back there anymore. This is a great birding area, 2 years ago a Red-Headed Woodpecker stayed the winter there and one year I had a Tropical Parula there. Something must be done to keep this area open to the public.
On 11/1 I birded the Port Aransas Birding Center getting lots of ducks, several Marsh Wrens, Clapper Rails, Soras, Least Flycatcher, Blue-Headed Vireo, Peregrine Falcon, and all the other regulars.

Jon McIntyre

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Birding Update 10/12/09

As reported by Billy Sandifer

In this picture is a Lesser Black Backed Gull presumed to be of the intermediate or Fuscus race seen for several days in the 18 mile area of Padre Island National Seashore. Our typical Lesser Black Backed Gull is the lighter race; graellsii.

Up to 9 Peregrines are seen daily with an average of 4 individuals per day on the Padre Island National Seashore beachfront. 1,300 Brown Pelicans were present between the 54 and 59 mile markers on October 11, 2009. Red Knots are still present but numbers are down. Many Common Terns are being seen. Ospreys, White-tailed Hawks, Caracara, Long-billed Curlews and occasional wimbrels are seen daily. Few Black Terns remain and it appears Least Terns have migrated for the year.

Sandwich, Royal and Caspian Terns are in good numbers as are Ring-billed, Herring and Laughing Gulls and a variety of Plovers. We still have 20 plus hummingbirds in the yard and I have seen both Grey Catbirds and a female Scarlett Tanager this morning. As of October 11th, the aerosol effect of red tide was present along the beachfront although no dead fish were observed.

Good Birding.

Capt. Billy

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Port Aransas Birds 10/5-10/7

The last 3 days I birded Paradise Pond, the Port Aransas Birding Center, and the beach between Port Aransas and Corpus Christi. I tallied a total of 97 species in the last 3 days, all within the Port Aransas city limits. The biggest surprise was a female Black-Throated Blue Warbler at Paradise Pond on 10/5. The bird was found by Larry Jordan earlier in the day and I saw the bird twice between 4:30 and 5pm. The bird was seen again the next day by several others. Another rare bird for the fall was a Swainson's Warbler seen by Connie and Craig McIntyre at Paradise Pond on 10/6. Paradise Pond is still alive with migrants. In the last 3 days I had Nashville Warblers, Northern Parula, Yellow Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Black-and-White Warblers, American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Wilson's Warbler, Canada Warbler, Summer Tanager, Scarlet Tanager, Indigo Bunting, Swainson's Thrush, Empids, and Red-Eyed Vireo. Good numbers of Red Knots still remain on the beach, I counted 39 on a 2 mile stretch on 10/6. Piping Plovers are also present in good numbers and huge numbers of Common Terns are on the beach as well. A Green Kingfisher is still present at the Port Aransas Birding Center. Soras are also beginning to show up in good numbers and I had a Clapper Rail at the birding center on 10/7.

Jon McIntyre

Thursday, October 1, 2009

And Then – There Were Hawks
By: Nan Dietert

It was Friday, about 12 o’clock, noon, and we were at Indian Point Park on the edge of Corpus Christi Bay showing a few birds to a friend. We had already loaded up and we were driving out of the park. Our friend was “quite taken” with the Great Blue Herons, so we stopped to observe a young second year bird who was putting on quite a show. Realizing that he could “push” four White Ibis off of his hunting grounds by crouching, flaring out his wings, lofting all his feathers to become larger than life, and walking toward his unwelcome neighbors in a threatening manner, he managed to control an entire small peninsula of land. Full of pride, he suddenly came to a halt, craned his head over to one side – and turning an eye skyward – froze. “What is he looking at?” I exclaimed. I couldn’t see over the roof of the car, but finally I got my head out of the window far enough to see a large kettle of hawks above us. “Out of the car, out of the car, everyone get out of the car as fast as you can!” I hollered. Our friend was hopelessly trapped in her seat belt, but finally managed a fairly graceful exit. Directly above us, was a kettle of a hundred and twenty Broad-winged Hawks and about twenty-four Anhingas. They were kettling, as hawk watchers call it – swirling around in a thermal or a rising column of hot air – trying to gain height. They were too far to the south. They had ridden a slightly unfavorable current too long and now they were caught on the edge of the bay. There are no thermals over large bodies of water and most hawks avoid the water by seeking routes that steer them well clear of it. But these had misjudged. They were seeking altitude and an upper air stream with a more westerly or northwesterly course. When they got further inland, they would seek another thermal and find another stream of air heading south again. We were the recipients of their miscalculation. Usually you must travel farther inland yourself, to have a good chance of seeing migrating raptors and that’s precisely what was scheduled for the next day.
Saturday, September 26 was the annual Hawk Migration Trip on the Fennessey Ranch. Located just six miles south of Refugio and situated along the Mission River, it is on the main flyway for migrating raptors.
Saturday’s weather seemed favorable; we were still on the heels of a cold-front. We started the morning off in a wetland and quickly spotted an adult Bald Eagle only a few hundred feet away. It was the first one seen on the ranch since our successful breeding pair left in early April. It was a good beginning and I hoped a good omen. By 9 AM the thermals were beginning to rise and we headed towards the river. As we drove, we began to discover roosting Broad-winged Hawks. Just a few at first, and then swarms of them began to lift-off and rise. They formed kettles and began to stream-out as they found their train rides south. They were all around us. Which way to look was the question? To stop or to move to more open ground was the problem. “How to estimate…?” I asked myself. Less than a thousand – would be my gut feeling. That Saturday, somewhere between five to eight hundred Broad-winged Hawks had spent the night along the Mission River on the Fennessey Ranch and lifted-off on top of us! Folks, it doesn’t get much better than that! Go birding!

Hazel Bazemore Park Hawk Watch

On Friday, September 25: Broad-winged Hawks: 13,159 (GBHeron day)

On Sat. Sept. 26: Broad-winged Hawks: 57,102 (including one dark). (Fennessey day)

On Sunday, Sept. 27: Broad-winged Hawks: 35,373 (including 7 dark).

On Monday, September 28: Broad-winged Hawks: 92,572 (including 2 dark).

Season Totals of Broad-winged Hawks: 262,393 .....Broad-winged hawks passed over Hazel Bazemore Park -- since August 15th (this summer).

Monday, September 14, 2009

Suter Wildlife Refuge Report

As reported by Mary Mauel...

Location: Suter Wildlife Refuge
Observation date: 9/8/09
Notes: The weather was overcast from rains the night before. The sun did not come out until 10:30am. The trails were muddy from the good rain and there was water in the creek where the bridge one crosses before entering the board walk. That is where the Louisiana Waterthrushes were observed. More rain is expected here at this site during September 9-12, 2009. A possible female American Wigeon was spotted today. However someone else and I will have to verify it because I could not see it clear enough with my binoculars. It was mixed in with the Mottled Ducks on the shore line to the right of the end of the board walk. Good birding!
It was cooler on this morning and probably about 75 degress F. Butterfly species observed were 7 Western Pygmy Blue, and 1 male Pipevine Swallowtail. The butterflies were observed from entering the South Entrance to the park. The Western Pygmy Blue is only observed along the shore line by entering at the South Entrance to the park and walking down to the shore line and observing them on their larval host plant. There were some Sea Oxeye Daisy still blooming which they do like to nectar on also.
Number of species: 44

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck: 12— Flew over head while on the board walk.
Mottled Duck: 20
Pied-billed Grebe: 7— Swmimming and diving in the bay.
American White Pelican: 100
Brown Pelican: 6
Neotropic Cormorant: 8
Least Bittern: 1
Great Blue Heron: 25
Great Egret: 15
Snowy Egret: 5
Little Blue Heron: 1
Tricolored Heron: 3
Reddish Egret: 2—Observed 1 as the white morph feeding in the bay near the shore line and the
dark morph perched on top of a tree like shrub near the lagoon.
Green Heron: 2—Feeding for fish along the lagoon.
Black-crowned Night-Heron: 1— Observed the adult standing in the lagoon at 7 am.
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron: 2—Observed the adult in the bay and the immature in the lagoon.
White Ibis: 1—Feeding by the end of the board walk along the shore line.
Roseate Spoonbill: 7
Sora: 3—Juvenile was feeding on the dry land picking up washed up small fish and other items of interest right where the water meets the dirt. He was flicking up his beigy brown tail for about 10 minutes having a good time feeding after the good rains filled up the lagoon and the Oso Bay on Monday night, September 7, 2009. The waters in the bay were high along all the shores. The adults were feeding along the lagoon. Both adults were observed for about 3 hours. It was a good day for herons and rails.
Common Moorhen: 2
American Coot: 4
Black-necked Stilt: 19
American Avocet: 3
Willet: 1—Was in his winter plumage.
Sanderling: 5
Semipalmated Sandpiper: 1
Western Sandpiper: 1
Laughing Gull: 50
Caspian Tern: 2
Forster's Tern: 1
Mourning Dove: 5
Black-chinned Hummingbird: 1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker: 2
Eastern Wood-Pewee: 2
Eastern Phoebe: 1
Couch's Kingbird: 2
Loggerhead Shrike: 2
Nashville Warbler: 1
Yellow Warbler: 2
Louisiana Waterthrush: 3
Northern Cardinal: 2
Red-winged Blackbird: 6
Great-tailed Grackle: 10

Location: Suter Wildlife Refuge
Observation date: 9/3/09
Notes: Sunny, clear, skies; very humid, probably about 77 degrees F. This was the temperature at the beginning of the birding time at 8am and was probably around 87-90 degrees by the end because of the humidity factored in for the day time heating already. Good birding!
Number of species: 34

Mottled Duck: 10—Swimming in the lagoon.
American White Pelican: 75
Brown Pelican: 5
Neotropic Cormorant: 4—In the lagoon.
Least Bittern: 1—Fishing in the lagoon.
Great Blue Heron: 20
Great Egret: 4
Tricolored Heron: 1—Fishing in the lagoon.
Green Heron: 3—The immature and the 2 adults were fishing in the lagoon.
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron: 1—in the lagoon
White Ibis: 1—Only had the brown on the neck remaining as a juvenile.
Roseate Spoonbill: 25
Purple Gallinule: 3—Juveniles foraging with the adult in the lagoon.
Common Moorhen: 2—Foraging in the lagoon.
American Coot: 2—Swimming in the lagoon.
Wilson's Plover: 1—Full breeding plumage.
Black-necked Stilt :15
American Avocet: 1—in breeding plumage in the bay.
Willet: 5
Marbled Godwit: 4
Ruddy Turnstone: 2—Molting between breeding and winter plumage.
Sanderling: 10
Short-billed/Long-billed Dowitcher: 5
Laughing Gull: 50
Black Skimmer: 3
Black-chinned Hummingbird: 3—Nectaring and perching at times by the flowers and shrubs at the Butterfly Garden.
Loggerhead Shrike : 2
Tennessee Warbler: 2
Yellow-throated Warbler: 1—Observed him to be the Interior East with the white lores and had just caught a dragonfly and was working on eating it along the trail.
Northern Cardinal: 2—Coming the sprinkler along the beginning of the trail at the parking lot.
Red-winged Blackbird: 10
Great-tailed Grackle: 6

Friday, September 11, 2009

Join us for the Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony and Grand Opening of Blucher Park

Blucher Park Enhancements to be unveiled at September 17 Grand Opening

Blucher Park, a well-known park popular with birders, has undergone a transformation receiving about $86,000 worth of improvements, which will benefit both the birds and the birders who enjoy them.

The Corpus Christi Convention & Visitors Bureau and the City of Corpus Christi will host a Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony and Grand Opening of the Blucher Park Enhancement Project during a press conference at 11 a.m. September 17, 2009 at the park located at the corner of Carrizo and Blucher streets.

Blucher Park is one of the major "Fall Out" or resting stops along the migratory pathway. The park is known worldwide among the birding community. The goal of the project is to enhance the visitor experience in Blucher Park through a defined trail system and educational signage with the protection of bird habitat at the forefront.

The improvements include a trail system mulched with native wood chips, a pedestrian bridge, eight individual seating units, 12 way-finding markers, removal of invasive plants and the addition of two chimney swift towers within an interpretive kiosk. The Chimney Swift kiosks will serve as nesting and roosting sites for the birds. Improvements will be completed in time for fall migration.

Chimney Swifts are sleek birds with crescent-shaped wings and acrobatic flight patterns. They migrate to North America from the Amazon River Basin each spring to breed and raise their young. They can be seen arriving in Corpus Christi in March and usually make the city their home thru the summer months to roost and nest, leaving the area with the first major cold-front. Large flocks of Chimney Swifts will roost in a single chimney or tower, however only one nesting pair will nest in a chimney at a time. To help conserve the Chimney Swift the CVB partnered with local birders and architects to design the two chimneys.

The CVB spearheaded the Blucher Park Enhancement Project and challenged the public and private sector to fund the $86,000 project with matching funds provided by the CVB. Funding was secured by in-kind services, grants and sponsorships from: Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program, American Birding Association, AEP Texas and the City of Corpus Christi Parks & Recreation Department. The project was generated from the Coastal Bend Nature Tourism Initiative, a project of the CVB.

The Coastal Bend Nature Tourism Initiative fund-raising effort allows stakeholders the ability to improve several sites throughout the area that can draw significantly more visitors when improved, interpreted and packaged for marketing. Blucher Park is the first of three planned park improvements, which have been initiated and organized by the CVB.

It is the goal of the CVB to be a nationally recognized Nature Tourism Destination within five years and internationally renowned in 10 years.

The Coastal Bend alone has an impressive 153 nature & birding sites in the area available to birders and nature lovers year round. For more information on Blucher Park and other birding sites in the Coastal Bend, visit

Bird Sighting Update

As reported by Billy Sandifer

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I drove the entire length of the Padre Island National Seashore beachfront September 8, 2009. Approximately 20,000 Black Terns showed up in the first 15 miles late in the day…The most seen in some time. Anchovies must be nearshore in that area. A total of 28 Red Knots were observed in small scattered bunches. Lesser numbers of Little Blue Herons, Yellow-crowned Night Herons and Snowy Egrets were observed migrating. At 2:35 p.m. at the 59 mile beach I observed an adult Sabine's Gull steadily headed South about 100 yards offshore. No brown was visable in the wing which leads me to call this individual an adult. I tried in vain to get a picture but the distance was too far away by the time I could get to the camera. Mel Cooksey reports the 2 Brown Noddies are still on the bouy at the Port A. jetties and that a black backed type gull was reported from the 5 mile on the Padre Island National Seashore yesterday afternoon. I never saw the bird and no photo was taken by the observer. Keep your eyes open, it could be a Kelp Gull. Had a Mourning Warbler in the yard this morning and my wife is now tending 17 hummingbird feeders. Numbers seemed down today. One Allens/Rufous first year bird remained among the regulars.

Friday, September 11, 2009

72 Red Knots total, which is the highest count in some time. What is unusual is they are quite scattered instead of in the usual area—7 were at the 43 mile, 17 were at the 58 mile and 4 were at the 59 mile. This is unusual indeed.

Good Birding, Capt. Billy

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Old Friends and New Journeys

As reported by Nan Dietert

Old friends wear well and lately old friends have been responsible for my well-being, both physically and spiritually. These friends have come in two forms; both human and non-human.

Late in the summer I was in need of some knee repair. I needed two good knees for the fall migration and I needed some time for healing, but I was beginning to run out of time. My friends began to offer help on every level. Friends from Austin, where I wished to have the surgery done, took care of me and offered their homes, their support, and home delivery – if needed. And while I took care of our parrot, Lyndon, my friend and husband, took care of all my responsibilities at home, our remarkable Scottish-fold cat, and my beloved willow trees; increasing the amount of water carried to them, from 11 to 17 gallons each evening! My friends in Port Aransas offered anything and everything to speed my recovery. And the birds from Central Texas to the Coastal Bend – filled my inner reservoirs and brought me peace and strength. All of these friends make up my world. These things are my world.

A birder’s world expands though, with the coming of any migration and the fall migration has now begun in earnest. Like birders everywhere, I’ve been waiting for the fall migration since the spring migration ended. The birds are now coming through in numbers large enough that almost everyone is experiencing migrants in their backyards and our birding sites are teaming with birds from a large variety of species.

“Firsts”, of all kinds are showing up on everyone’s check list: the first Northern Harrier, first Peregrine Falcon, first large groups of Blue-winged Teal, first Mississippi Kites, first Sora rail and so on.

Many songbirds came in with last Saturday’s front. When the wind shifted, it was an easy “freight-train” for any migrants that were fattening up and staging to our north. Baltimore Orioles now joined their Orchard Oriole-cousins, and begged to compete in shear numbers for the most numerous beauties in the garden. Many vireos and too many flycatchers to mention came in along with warblers, buntings, tanagers, kingbirds, Dickcissals, and Lark Sparrows! What a sight for a birder’s eyes. There have been so many Yellow-breasted Chats, Mourning Warblers, and Canada Warblers in the Joan and Scott Holt Paradise Pond, that I am truly unable to estimate their numbers. They are at every turn and they are flying across your field of view as you count the birds in front of you!

A few days ago, our first Chuck-will’s-widow of the season came into Paradise Pond and began to hunt while we were watering the small willow trees. Their hunting techniques had been described to me but I’d never seen them before. Like all of birding, it was an experience to remember for a lifetime.

The shear numbers of Black Terns that have recently stacked-up in our area have been remarkable. Look up any time of the day and they are traversing our island – everyday – all day long, and they have been for months.

These birds, that we share our existence with, move into and through our area twice each year. They have sensed “the fall promise” – a promise of food, rest, and survival – if they will travel south across parts of the globe, unknown to them many of them, and led by instincts we are still studying and learning to appreciate. Follow them on their epic journey south and wait for their return in the spring. If you wish, make them a part of your world. Go birding.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Chitter Chatter...

Bird Sightings around town!

From Linda Lanoue on Hwy 188 west of bypass Hwy 35:

August 31, 2009

We went to the Corpus Christi Library today & when we were finished went for a walk in Blucher Park. It was teeming with hummingbirds; they were everywhere. Also warblers: Black-and-white, Yellow, Oven Birds, huge numbers of Mourning & quite a few Chats, along with Baltimore & Orchard Orioles, Great Crested Flycatchers & Empids. Hummers outnumbered everything else, though, by far.

At home we still have most of the birds from 2 days ago & they've been joined by Mourning & Black-and-white Warblers, an Eastern Wood Pewee & a Summer Tanager. As voracious as these birds are, I'm not sure there will be any berries left for the next group.

We have a mature male cardinal that is more orange than red. Not as bright as an Oriole, but orange enough that I do a double-take every time I get a glimpse of him.

From Lee Hutchins in Sinton:

This may be of some interest…Last Friday, August 28th, in San Diego, TX while watching the football game I looked up and saw this bird and thought it was a Nighthawk. On its second pass over the field I found that it was a Rock Dove. This Rock Dove was catching insects in the lights. This went on for half the game or longer. I've never seen anything like this before. That Rock Dove must have been mighty short on food.

Scott Holt in Port Aransas reports a 'yard full' of Orchard and Baltimore Orioles after he mowed and turned on the sprinklers. He also reports seeing three Chuck-Will's Widows, an Oven Bird, and a Bell's Vireo among others.

From Bron Rorex in Country Club:
September 1, 2009

Banding was insane Tuesday morning. I didn’t even get inside till almost 1:30pm. Think we banded about 60 ruby-throats, many great-crested Flycatchers & chats, a handful of empids, a Prothonatory warbler, a northern Waterthrush, & a hatch-year mocker. The first net run this morning had 39 ruby-throats plus assorted passerines; started the morning off with a bang. The self-capturing trap does grab some birds; I need to find time to make some more of them; mend my torn net & make more hummer bands

From Mary Mauel at the South Texas Botanical Gardens:

September 1, 2009

This is the beginning of the fall migration. It was overcast. It was thundering in the southwest away from the gardens. The temperature was probably 85 degrees Fahrenheit , and probably winds from the south. Butterfly species observed were 2 Cloudless Sulphur in the Butterfly House, 1 female Queen nectaring on Mistflower, 1 female Pipevine Swallowtail nectaring on Lantana, 2 male Fiery Skipper, 2 Little Yellow, and 1 Sachem. Good birding!

Great Egret:1—Fishing in Oso Creek.

Turkey Vulture:3—Flying over head.

Killdeer:1— Heard over head.

Laughing Gull:2

White-winged Dove:2

Mourning Dove:5

Inca Dove:3—Heard behind the Hummingbird Garden.

Chimney Swift:2

Ruby-throated Hummingbird:10—Observed at the hummingbird feeders.

Western Kingbird:1—Observed at the bird blind by the Tree…Demonstration Area in full breeding plumage.

White-eyed Vireo:1—Heard along the Bird and Butterfly Trail.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher:1—Observed in full breeding plumage.

Northern Mockingbird:2

Yellow-breasted Chat:1—Observed in the Sensory Garden on the Olive Tree.

Northern Cardinal:3—Observed the male juvenile feeding at the bird blind. The female adults were at the beginning of the Wetlands Trail.

Dickcissel:2—Observed 2 first winter females at the entrance to the Wetlands Trail. They were calling to one another.

Red-winged Blackbird:50—Observed and heard on the grounds of the gardens. Thirty three of them were flying over head.

Baltimore Oriole:2—Both were feeding on Root Beer Berries of the Root Beer Plant in the Sensory Garden. The female was a first year female and the male was in full adult breeding plumage.

House Sparrow:5—At the bird blind.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Successful Birding Weekend

As reported by Joan Holt in Port Aransas:

On Saturday morning, my yard was hopping with flycatchers, orioles and warblers so I called Ann Vaughan and headed to Paradise Pond. We were rewarded with many birds coming to the water drips and feeding in the willows and the chance to bird with Ron Weeks. The birds we saw and heard were Inca dove, upland sandpipers (h), least, yellow bellied and willow/alder flycatchers, eastern wood pewee, great-crested flycatcher, white- eyed vireo, Bell’s vireo (which was a first for me at Paradise Pond), warbling vireo, red-eyed vireo, Wilson’s, yellow, black and white, mourning, and Canada warblers, Common yellowthroat, yellow-breasted chat, Northern mockingbird, orchard and Baltimore orioles, and Northern cardinals. Later in my yard I added green heron, chuck-wills widow, ruby-throated hummingbirds, eastern kingbird, orange-crowned warbler, painted buntings and dickcissels to the list. A truly great day in Port Aransas even though we missed the brown noddy at the jetty. We will try again on Monday.

As reported by Ernie Edmundson at the Preserve off Hwy 1781

Have seen a Lesser Goldfinch two days in a row coming to the birdbath.

We had a pair of Baltimore Orioles and Yellow Breasted Chat competing with the Mockingbirds for American beautyberries. There aren’t many berries this year with the drought, but they managed to find the ones in my yard that have gotten enough water to bear fruit.

I've seen a Yellow Warbler along with many Ruby-throated hummers and our Buff Bellied hummers.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Update on Bird Sightings

As reported by Billy Sandifer, Tuesday, August 25, 2009

LOTS going on in the bird world for those willing to get out without A.C.

Mel Cooksey reports 2 Brown Noddies being seen at the end of the Port Aransas jetties at once. To my knowledge that is the first time 2 of this species have ever been seen in Texas at one time. Red-necked Phalarope has been seen at Port Aransas as well. The Curlew Sandpiper has been seen once again on the mud flats of the West side of the Oso, Yellow-breasted Chats are moving through in large numbers; especially at Pollywog Pond and will continue through early September. 100 Buff-bellied Sandpipers are being seen at the sod farm South of highway 664 across from Hazel Bazemore Park. This sod farm is going to be invaluable as a birding resource. It's the first habitat of it's kind in the Coastal Bend and as folks frequent it more and more there are going to be some really great sightings. The Ruby-throated and Black-chinned Hummingbirds are beginning their migration through our area in ever increasing numbers and I have a beautiful adult Rufous Male Humingbird in my yard the past 3 days as well as the resident Buff-bellied.

I've also had Orchard Orioles, Yellow-breasted Chat and female Canada Warbler here in the yard. I've been fishing offshore lately and large numbers of Black Terns are everywhere. I did see one lone Sooty Tern 6 miles offshore of the Padre Island National Seashore on Saturday, August 22nd.

Awful cool stuff. Get out and see some of it.

Capt. Billy Sandifer

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hawkwatch Celebrates Flight Nationwide

Birders descend on Hazel Bazemore Park for 3-month-long event

CORPUS CHRISTI - Birders are descending on Hazel Bazemore County Park in Calallen for Corpus Christi Hawkwatch, which began Saturday, August 15 and will run through November 15.

Hawkwatch is the largest and most diverse raptor migration count conducted in the United States and averages more than 730,000 raptors each fall.

A "Celebration of Flight", which is a three-day festival, will be held September 25 to 27. The celebration is scheduled during the peak of raptor migration over the Coastal Bend when daily raptor flights of more than 100,000 have been experienced.

During the festival, representatives with HawkWatch International will host morning bird walks and lectures about these majestic raptors.Also, at 10 a.m. each Saturday at Hazel Bazemore County Park during the three-month long event, there will be lectures given about raptors, their conservation and why it is so important that migration counts, such as in Corpus Christi, continue.

Last year, some 800 avid and beginning birders participated in Hawkwatch.

Hazel Bazemore Park is one of the parks operated by the Nueces County Parks and Recreation Department. The 77.6-acre park is located on the Nueces River in Calallen, just off of Farm Road 624 and County Road 6.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Curlew Sandpiper Spotted- RARE SIGHTING

As Reported by Mel Cooksey:

A post-breeding Curlew Sandpiper was spotted, apparently a female, in the flats at the mouth of the Cayo del Oso in Corpus Christi. Mel spotted the bird about 7:30 PM on Monday, August 17th, and worked frantically with the remaining light to get digiscope photos, but could not.

Directions: Go to the intersection of Ennis Joslin and Ocean Drive. Park in the parking lot of the closed restaurant on the north side of the intersection. Walk down into the flats about ¼ mile or so, to the edge of the water in the very center of the flats. The flats are dusty dry, maybe slightly damp in the morning. Walk to the waters edge, and scan the shallow pools, around the short vegetation and small mangroves. There are LOTS of shorebirds here, with hundreds of Western Sandpipers as the main species, so it may take awhile to find the bird if it is still there.

Description: You are looking for a Dunlin-sized bird, although not as "squat", a bit more delicate, and longer-legged, although not as long-legged as Stilt Sandpiper. The main feature is some remnant blotchy rufous feathers on the belly. These show up well. The bird is in pretty advanced molt, well on its way to full basic. The back feathers appear to be a combination of black/white/gray mostly old feathers. There are some cold gray new feathers mixed in, maybe mostly around the scapulars. The belly appears to be mainly whitish, with some black spotting. I noticed no rufous feathers around the head or throat; they were whitish gray and appeared to be very lightly streaked. If you are chasing this bird, just look for the rufous markings on the belly. If you have The Shorebird Guide by O'Brien et. al., check the molting female at photo 5 on page 297. This is very close to our Oso bird. I noticed a whitish area at the lower back, and don't know if this was feather wear, or the white rump exposed below primaries.

A key feature is the bill shape. It is all black, very thin and gradually decurved throughout its length, with a thin tip. Dunlin has a slightly heavier bill, with a more abrupt droop at the tip. Here is a photo of Dunlin and Curlew Sandiper together, to illustrate bill shape.

It is really too early for Dunlins, although I did see one in full basic plumage at this location on Saturday. There are numerous Stilt Sandpipers present. Be advised there is also a Red Knot present, which would likely be the only other bird with reddish blotches on the underparts. There are lots of dowitchers, mainly Short-billed.

I was able to see the bird fly for a short distance, and clearly observed the white rump with NO central line, and gray upper tail feathers. My total observation time was about 20 minutes, at about 70-80 feet. The bird probed and picked at the surface, and was quite active. There is lots of scattered short vegetation which makes photography rather difficult. Especially when you're a lousy photographer like me. Will try again on Tuesday, August 18th, in the morning for photos.

Mel Cooksey

Monday, August 17, 2009

Beach Birding Update

By Billy Sandifer

On August 17th, Mel Cooksey reported 700 Buff-bellied Sandpipers at the sod farm off Highway 664, a Zone-tailed hawk and Least Grebes being regular at Pollywog Pond and an unusually high number of shorebirds on the mud flats on the West side of Oso Bay. We saw our first Orchard Oriole of the season on July 22nd, and the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are beginning to move though in small numbers. This will increase dramatically in September. By the third week of September, we usually have over 70 Ruby-thoated and Black-chinned Hummingbirds in our yard here in Flour Bluff daily.

There are LOTS of birds on the beach. I observed 2 Hudsonian Gobwits on July 20th. These birds are typically not seen here this time of year. I'm seeing more than 20,000 Black Terns daily as well as good numbers of Tri-colored, Little Blue and Great White Herons, Snowy and Cattle Egrets, Yellow-crowned Night-Herons and occasional Reddish Egrets migrating daily. Some Red Knots are usually seen daily in the area between the 15 1/2 and 20 mile beach although numbers are small. Piping, Semi-palmated, Snowy and Wilson's Plover are seen daily as are RuddyTurnstones, Sanderlings, Willets, Long-billed Curlews, Ring-billed and Laughing Gulls, Brown Pelicans and all of the resident and migrating Tern species. Occasional "peep' and Spotted Sandpipers are seen as are Turkey Vultures, Caracaras and White-tailed hawks. September is THE month to see a Sabine's Gull in Texas, and the Padre Island National Seashore is the most reliable place to see this bird in TX. I have 1-3 sightings every September. The tremendous numbers of birds on the beaches of the Padre Island National Seashore this time of year is genuinely spectacular and one of the most overlooked wonders in the Natural World of Texas. Enjoy.

Capt. Billy