“Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
San Bernard NWR was our first scheduled NWR field trip this weekend, because it is home to the oldest oak tree in Texas. Anything “trees” just appeals to my soul, and everything we read told us we would see many migratory water birds here. What we didn’t expect is that we would be the only people there.
Hitting the Bobcat Woods Trail, Angie and I immediately logged a new species (Philadelphia Vireo) while the rest of the pack foraged ahead to find the bird making the cat noise across the creek. We never did see him, but added the Gray Catbird to our list nevertheless — its call was exactly like iBird Pro, a cinch since they are common to the area. We rounded the bend to the marshy area lookout and the kids bolted off way ahead of us. Scott and I held hands, enjoying the relative quiet of our abandonment, and was immediately graced with a Common Yellowthroat flitting by. The kids missed him.
It wasn’t until we were all on deck with our field lenses up that we realized what a treasure this place really is for birders. There were numerous species water birds, all in once place, each doing its thing. We added several quickly to our growing list:
- Black-necked Stilt
- Northern Pintail
- Lesser Scaup
- Northern Shoveler
Back in the car along the canal, Scottie quickly ID’d a White-tailed Hawk circling right above us. As we stopped again to get the car wiggles out, Dad and I noticed a huge flock of birds coming straight for us. They were Snow Geese…and there were hundreds of them. Looking up and gaping while a flock of geese fly low right overhead is probably not a very good idea, now that I think about it.
At about the same time, a decent sized group of feral hogs and their progeny startled us (and we them) as they crossed the path in front of us — the sows were the size of my husband! — yet this guy just a few feet away seemed unfazed by our presence. A 180mm zoom lens is my equipment limitation.
Yes, he let us get that close.
Perhaps he was more intent on watching for a meal to fall out of the sky. Lord knows out here, it’s nature that rules, and the bird predators are king.
The following weekend, we expected another day perfect for being outdoors — 70’s and low humidty. We decided to check out Anahuac NWR. This being our fourth trip out for the year, loading up four kids with backpacks full of binoculars, field guides, snack cups, water bottles, and an extra set of clothing (always good to have!) is getting decidedly more efficient. It’s nice to only have to worry about my own stuff for once. The kids are all geeked to get out there and log some new species to our list; Mom and Dad just look forward to getting outdoors again after many months of being cooped up and doing what seems like endless projects for school.
They (we?) are really into birds and to the cause which is our Big Year. Angie and Scottie made their salt dough balls into a Northern Pintail and Wood Duck, and Scottie won the 2nd place ribbon for his science fair project, also on birds.
The trip to Anahuac is a bit of a hike as we first must drive through Houston (ugh), along a very ugly I-10 toward Louisiana, then south to the coast several miles. It’s very near High Island — the warbler mecca of the Gulf Coast — where you’ll recall we went birding last month. It is well worth the drive.
When we arrived to the Visitor’s Center, the girls and I were immediately impressed by the pristine restrooms. Once inside, we were mesmerized by all the books on birding alone and the friendly staff chock full of local birding information: we were definitely in the right place.
One of the field reps as we arrived to the grounds informed us that some Bald Eagles had just settled down to a meal just a few hundred yards away, so we went to have a look — there was not one but three eaglets, so the rest of our family were able to see them (John and I had just added the eagle to our list two days before).
In the car driving through the NWR on the one-way road, we spotted the standard variety water birds: herons, ducks, coots, grebes. We got out and did a bit of walking, which turned out to be good for the soul.
The bonus sightings for the day were the male Vermillion Flycatcher and a flock of White-crowned Sparrows, both of which Scottie and Angie spotted first up on the path. We are looking forward to coming back in spring to see the tenants of these homes when they come back.
And hike through a bit more of this. Ahhh.
It was a great birding day, bringing our total to 108 species so far. Here is what else we saw while we were there:
- Great-tailed Grackle
- Tri-colored Heron
- Least Sandpiper
- Least Grebe
- Double-crested Cormorant