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Reddish Egret Hunting & Catching a Fish,
& Other Birds with Their Own Subheds
Posted May 3 2016
What all the birds in today's journal entry have in common was that they were all photographed along the narrow surface of Eight-Mile Road stretching past farm and swampland, much of it fenced, so we just stop when we see a bird — often, if they are close, just photographing out The Slider's windows so we don't scare them away.
We usually drive west on Seawall Boulevard past the beaches, then after it becomes Termini-San Luis Pass Rd., we turn right on The 8-Mile Road up to the Bay that separates Galveston Island from the rest of Texas. If that corner edge is not mostly underwater like it was this time, we spend our sweet time photographing the sea- and shore-birds all around the fisher persons, only three of whom were present this trip.
Then we turn West onto Sportsman, Road past all the large Beach Homes on the right and swamp land on the left, keeping our eyes wide open for the amazing diversity of birds in, over or on either side of that road ,close and far, down to the end, turn around and go back and see what we missed going the other way.
It's a total of 3.57 miles up the 8-Mile Road, to the end, double back just a little to turn west to the end of Sportsman. And a total of 8.5 driving miles (about 18 minutes) from Galveston City Hall, wherever that is, to the 8-Mile. So depending upon how many birds you see or are interested in for awhile, it could take from 40 minutes to a couple hours to go up and back both roads — sometimes much longer. I have spent hours doing it with hardly ever a dull moment. And if you don't see any birds, wait a minute.
Over the years of my visits, the 8-Mile & Sportsman Roads tour has become my second-favorite birding outing on Galveston Island. Both tours are topographically varied with lots of different large and small bird species in plain sight near and far.
The Sportsman Road span is right about where a seemingly never-ending line of Brown Pelicans, having crossed Galveston Bay from the mainland, flies east to follow the southern edge of beach from there past all the tourists along the City of Galveston's Seawall, and I really don't know where they go from there, but I like the idea that they just keep circling the route.
The 8-mile is just a road, and I suspect almost any road on Galveston Island would do for finding birds, but this one does it spectacularly, and if I'm in Galveston, I always do the 8-Mile/Sportsman Roads trip. On the way back, we stopped when we saw a sign for a nature conservancy or some-such on the 8-Mile, but it wasn't open yet. Then we saw another.
I don't suppose promoting it here will help that much, but I'm afraid it's going to become too popular, but there were many many more fisher persons, and way most of my responses to Google searches for bird info thee got, instead, where to find birds to shoot or fish to catch.
Oh, and Reddish Egrets aren't exactly rare in and around Galveston, but I've probably never seen more than maybe a dozen overall, and I've been looking for them.
when I photographed these, I assumed they were female Hooded Mergansers, but they sure didn't look much like the images in the three Field Guides I have but rarely travel with, although I think there's been a Sibley's rattling around in The Slider since the first edition: Sibley's Guide to Birds, Second Edition; the Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America; and The Crossley ID Guide, none of which were particularly helpful in this case.
So I posted the above pic on Dallas Audubon's Bird Chat asking "Are these Mergansers?" and got a couple more guesses good enough to follow to eventually find a remarkably similar image [#2 of 4] under 'Similar Species' on the Common Mergansers page at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds site, where there's a spitting image of either of both of these.
They are Adult Female Red-breasted Mergansers. The two Bird Chatters who helped by providing hints and a link to Cornell, led me into the right direction, where I found the answer.
the sun was behind these birds on this dark stump when I first saw them. Took awhile to open the exposure enough to tell birds from stump, then they took off before I had a chance to figure out who they were …
… which I started guessing at while watching them fly — swooping sideways often enough to tell me a pair of middle to good-sized (23 inches long with a wingspan of 4 feet) raptors were flying beautifully showing off their body and wing patterns. But who exactly they were escaped me till I got these:
With that ungainly Moe Howard mop on top, down through that bold beak, thick neck, body, legs and feet, it could only be a caracara, which species name is either from the sounds they make or the word "face" repeated. I chose the former.
Also known as the Mexican Eagle, these handsome birds are members of the Falcon family. I found more info on Texas Escapes dot com's Caracara page, whose goofy narrative includes many salient facts about these remarkable birds, who since global warming, I know from my own experience are venturing farther and farther north. Used to be I had to drive down toward Alice or the Rio Grande Valley to see them, but in the last few years I've photographed them in East Texas, not that far from Dallas.
And Some Other Birds
My other favorite Galveston Birding trip is along Seawall Boulevard on the east end of the island, but we'll get into that and the birds that either live or visit there, later. So far, I'm posting these Galveston images about every two days.
But I went to White Rock Lake Monday May 2nd and shot way too many pix of birds flitting and flying and landing on tall flowers in one of my favorite places, so expect those here, soon, too.
head and shoulders portrait.
The whole thing. Lovely, huh?
So I searched the net and found Wikipedia's page on Guinea Fowl; Guinea Fowl: Your Overlooked Backyard Buddy; and Raising Guinea Fowl: A Low-Maintenance Flock. We saw them easily escaping out of then back into a farmer's yard, so though they are birds and thus eligible to be here, they are not wild.
Neither are these chickens.
I think this is the same chicken as the one on the left above.
but only in the middle of the road for a minute or two. According to my nearly new Lone Pine edition of Birds of Texas, White Ibises are "often found with herons or shorebirds." And they "congregate from April to November, rhythmically probing the mud for crabs or crawfish." But that does not explain what these two are doing there.
This is not the same bird as either of the above, but we had several sightings of them along the 8-Mile Road, and the are always a treat to see. Quoting again, that same book by Keith A. Arnold and Gregory Kennedy, that is my all-time favorite bird book, their status is: "common coastal residents; breeder inland in eastern Texas, postbreeding wanderer statewide."
along the fence line just that side of the 8-Mile Road shot from the driver's side window stopped with the 500mm.
not enough information to determine what exactly it was.
i like this image better, even if it's in fast-fleeing disarray. It is closer and more detailed, even if the white on its fanned tail feathers may be too bright. I like the action.
But this shot is probably better for identification. I'm assuming it's a more or less Typical Adult Breeding Western Meadowlark, but the differences between Eastern and Western are too subtle to verify.
More 8-Mile Road treasures on Thursday, and maybe by the weekend I'll have sorted the jillion and a half pix I shot in that favorite White Rock place.
Roseate Spoonbills Flying Over, Around and In
The Rookery on High Island and Galveston
posted May 1 2016
From under, they look red and/or pink. From other views, we get other colors. Most of my today's Roseate Spoonbills Flying photos are from the Rookery on High Island, which is not an island but is instead up a little from the edge of the mainland across the bay by ferry from Galveston, but a few are from around Galveston Island (which actually is an island), too.
I remember thinking days earlier than our visit to the rookery, "now, if I can just get a photo of one flying." Never realizing that once I was in just the right place, I could get dozens of them. Photographing Spoonbills at the rookery is like shooting fish in a barrel. There's lots of Spoonbills — and other birds, too. I just had to keep shooting, pay attention, and watch for stranger birds making the rounds — or maybe I should say oblongs, which is more or less, the shape of the small island the rookery inhabits.
Just for today's Bird Journal, I'm concentrating on Spoonbills flying. This pink is just one of the colors Roseate (pronounced rose ate) Spoonbills attain, depending upon the light and the darknesses. Bright sun dulls the colors; shadows, cloudy skies and rain intensify them.
With Roseate Spoonbills, however, I don't have to intensify the colors. They are already so intense they'd brighten a dark room, field, island or bay. On Galveston's East End, just before, after and during the rain, they seemed to be on fire with these warm hot colors.
Sometimes that tail skirt just over their feet appears muddy-brown, off-white, or pink and often it's a glowing orange. Sometimes the whole bird appears crimson. It's part of why many consider these birds Texas' most beautiful. I like the pink and red and orange parts, but those heads and bills are flat out ugly — not nearly enough beautiful about them.
There's lots of sunlight falling directly on this bird, so the pink may be a little subdued.
There's really no corners. This rookery comprises an elongated island with one big hill that by about the end of April becomes incredibly over-populated, although I assume its citizens think of it as populated just right. But not just with Roseate Spoonbills. There are many heron species involved, including Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, and I even think I remember seeing one Green Heron.
That rookery is an island surrounded by water first, then deeply sloping land with tall trees and on this one side, several wood-planked sun-sheltered places to put tripods and people with binoculars. The back side, where — we determined — the White Ibis nest — was all but invisible in our one-sided view. We sometimes watched them fly by fast, but we were rarely quick enough to catch them, so — since the spoonbills were on this side, I concentrated on the big pink birds.
Unlike the other rookery we attended the week before in San Antonio, there were no Little Blue Heron on the island, and as the weeks back in Dallas wear on, I'll be showing my photographs of several of those species and other life forms on the mainland rookery and many more species across the bay a ferry boat ride away.
I didn't really decide till I was back home and doing post-production on the one thousand, one hundred and seven bird images I made in the birding portion of our vacation, that I would show just the flying spoonbill ones first. I also shot 958 photographs of my Mother's 95th Birthday and family gathered round, but we won't get to those here. I shot most of the birds on a Nikon and most of the family with my Panasonic Lumix GX8.
Usually, I do stories or as-they-happened occurrences. Today, I thought a series of Spoonbills in flight would be more fun — for me, at least. So there's these — presented as usual — but not always — here in nearly strict chronological order. Some like this and the next shot down are very short series.
And yes, Roseate Spoonbills have been known to show up around Dallas sometimes. But usually only in ones and twos, that I know of. I've been told about them, but by the time I manage to get out to the 'burbs where they've been sighted, they're gone. No problem in Galveston, The Bay and High so-called "Island."
Usually, if I get one or two shots of each species standing, hunting and flying, I'm happy. With this many shots of Roseate Spoonbills flying, I'm almost ecstatic. And they are mostly in strong focus, too. Which is almost miraculous for me. I was ON.
Like I say, like shooting fish in a barrel, although my previous visits in previous years were not nearly this successful. I guess practice photographing other, less pink but also flying, birds helps. As does a decent tripod.
Through thick brambles at the edge of the island rookery.
Look at that vivid orange tail, ugly head and oddly-shaped, spoonbill beak.
So often, they look better going away.
And these two shots of one spoonbill flying away might have been just the thing to end this Roseates Flying page.
But I've still got a couple couple Spoonbills Flying photos left.
But it's just flying over. In this view, us humans think it might look awkward, but it probably thinks it looks its usual gorgeous.
We heard lots of deep bass bullfrogs. I saw one alligator — and heard two stories about it catching and swallowing whole one small bird; five, I think large turtles; those White Ibis; a bunch of Great and Snowy Egrets; and at least two varieties — Double-crested and Neotropic — of Cormorants nesting.
Not yet sure what birds I'll show next. I have a nice series of a Reddish Egret fishing and doing their drunken dance, then catching a big fish and flying away. We made several ferry crossings, so there's Laughing Gulls a-plenty and quite a few Brown Pelicans, to whom I am warming. I think I like them about as much as the White versions that partially inhabit White Rock Lake half the year if there's places for them to perch (and there wasn't this year). The brown ones aren't as gorgeous or elegant, but they have their charms.
And we kept visiting and revisiting beaches, so there's beach birds, various shorebirds, several Tricolored Herons, a little bit of Crested Caracara action, some field birds, a short bevy of farmer's birds, chickens, ducks and others. All coming soon. And there will be more pix of Roeate Spoonbills, but far fewer of them flying.
And I'm in the loop for some nests and settlings-in of other birds at White Rock, too. May will be a busy month, fear not.
Fo Mo Info Then when I finished this journal entry and finally got it online and working, I looked up Roseate Spoonbills Flying and netted this super slo-mo vid; a page of Roseate Spoonbill Info; this more replete one from a-z animals; and images of all their life-cycle phases from Arkive — click on the little ones to see bigger ones and on the arrow right to see more and more; more and more interesting data from The Saint Louis Zoo; and, of course, the Wikipedia page with even more.
Except as noted, all text and photographs Copyright 2016 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction in any medium without specific written permission from and payment to Writer and Photographer J R Compton. I am an amateur. I've only been birding since June 2006, and most of that is documented in this Journal, all the pages of which continue online. I've been photographing professionally and semi-professionally yet always amateurishly since 1964. 30