Feathering the Nest

The human bird shall take his first flight, filling the world with amazement, all writings with his fame, and bringing eternal glory to the nest whence he sprang.

~ Leonardo DaVinci

Garden chores and house chores done for the weekend, we treated the kids to another day trip at the High Island Bird Sanctuary.  If you’ll remember, we went out there for the first time during the winter, and again during spring break “Cousin Camp,” both of which were a bit early for the birds, better for reconnaissance.

We stopped first at the Smith Oaks Rookery — the most awe-inspiring visual for one spot.  Though already on our list for the year (they are regulars in our yard) these Egrets, Spoonbills, and Cormorants were busy building nests and attracting mates — by the score.  The sanctuary was hit hard by Hurricane Ike in 2008, but still these birds have come back every year since, roosting in the bushes below instead.

As the habitat restores itself slowly over time, nature and its species persevere.

Smith Oaks Rookery
Smith Oaks Rookery
Egrets Display, Roseates Nesting
Egrets Display, Roseates Nesting

With lots of hiking (and whining) logged, we tried to hit several spots this time where the kids could run amok.  Several species were added to our Big Year List, placing us at 129 so far.  We continue keeping regular tabs with Bob (Texas) and Judy (Atlantic), who are also doing their own Big Years.  Be sure to check out their pages!  They are much better photographers than I am.

Here’s what we added on the drive, at the sanctuary, and at the 300-acre Skillern Tract in Anahuac NWR, no new ones at the beach:

  • Eastern Kingbird
  • Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
  • White-faced Ibis
  • White-tailed Kite
  • Sora
  • Wood Stork Finally!!
  • Bell’s Vireo
  • Barn Swallow
  • Green Heron

Additionally, Angie correctly described a bird she saw (Cerulean Warbler) and John, the Prothonotary Warbler — both migrants — but since there was no confirmed 2nd sighting, neither one made the list.  We heard the Blue Grosbeak singing his song loud and clear, and others in the area got to see him, but we were unable to get him into our field lenses.  He too didn’t make the list.  Another, a nesting Screech Owl, wouldn’t cooperate by sticking her head out of the box.  We like to call them The Ones That Got Away.

Bird Journal
Bird Journal

We were also lucky to see several snakes, two of which were rather large boa varieties sunning in the tree limbs, and large alligators and turtles were also milling about.  The kids were able to catch one small grass snake who didn’t seem to mind too much being monkey-pawed.  They let him go back into the woods, ’cause that’s what we do.

And of course, being so close, we went back to the beach, so the kids could get the wiggles out and go combing for shells.

Back to the Beach
Back to the Beach
Willet
Willet
Pelican Flyover
Pelican Flyover
Getting Ready to Dive
Getting Ready to Dive

And lastly, when John and I went to the local hardware store, John stumbled upon a dead Ruby-throated Hummingbird, most likely from entrapment by his surroundings. Their super-high metabolism requires regular refueling throughout the day, resting in a state of torpor at night to conserve that energy, lest they die in their sleep.

We brought him home and buried him proper, after taking a picture of that beautiful throat sheen, of course.  It’s rare we get to see one so up close and personal.  RIP, and thanks, Little Buddy.

Poor Little Guy
Poor Little Guy

Such a fabulous little bird.  We are adding bird and insect habitat plants (natives, of course) to our yard slowly this year, and we look forward to seeing more of them at our nectar porch feeders on the spring migration back to the north.  The real fun is in September when they return by the hundreds.  Check it out for yourself!

7 thoughts on “Feathering the Nest

  1. Fantastic post — took me on a wonderful outdoor adventure! 🙂 You had me at your first line. All the home and garden chores done for the weekend? How do you do it? I am so behind right now it’s crazy. Granted we’ve been sick, and had to visit the ER over the weekend for my daughter (she’s fine now!) but I’m anxious to get things running smoothly now that spring is here. So many lines made me admire (from afar) your family’s sense of spirit — “lucky” to see snakes? Congratulations on your amazing Big Year totals! Can’t wait to read more updates!

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    1. Such a nice comment! How do I do it? Uh, I’m behind too! But there’s only so many chores we can do (there’s always more down the pike) before we treat ourselves as a family unit. When the weather’s nice here, we must take advantage of it. You know what? Those other chores will still be around when we get back. 😀

      I do hope all’s well with your daughter. I don’t like seeing the letters ER in any comment, unless it’s followed by an UH. All our best from here. Thanks for stopping by. More outdoor adventures are sure to come!

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  2. Love your post this morning. Sounds like a lovely trip, even with the requisite ‘whining’ that comes with such trips! 😉 I would have loved to accompany you on this trip. Though I couldn’t count the birds on my 2014 Big Year List (because of my own self-imposed limitations – mine is a Mid-Atlantic Big Year), I sure could have added a whole pack full of lifers!! Plus, the rookery sounds amazing. Sounds like you and your husband have wonderful trips with your kids. You are creating memories of a lifetime for them. Enjoy every moment!!

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    1. Aw, thanks, Judy. It is a wonderful way to connect with our world! With everything “human” around us every day, it’s easy to forget about the trillions of others who share our space. Keeps us on the level, so to speak. Being only an hour’s drive from the coast makes day trips for birding more likely on the weekends; it’s the only way we can keep up with you and Bob!

      He’s in one of my favorite places at the moment: Big Bend Country. We hope to get out there with the kids later this year. Cheers, Judy.

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