Monday, January 30, 2012

Port Mansfield - Part 2

Any idea who this fabulous hairdo belongs to?

Here are some more photos from Port Mansfield:

White Ibis

Snowy Egret and Tricolored Heron

Lesser Scaup

Double-crested Cormorant

American Avocet

Black-necked Stilts

After Port Mansfield we headed down to Fred Stone County Park and Pier. It’s about five minutes from Port Mansfield.

The Texas Coastal Birding Trail has this to say:

“The algal flats south of this cut host the world’s largest wintering population of Piping Plovers.”

Hummm ... I think they need to update the Birding Trail. We didn’t see any Piping Plovers. There is a very nice fishing pier where we were able to see, up close and personal, lots of Brown Pelicans.

By the way, the Brown Pelican was also the proud owner of the fancy hairdo!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Long Way From Home

We drove out to Port Mansfield today. There had been reports of a Purple Sandpiper being seen. Since that would be a life bird for us, and we had a day off, we headed on out.

This Sandpiper breeds in arctic and subarctic regions of Canada and central Siberia. It has a more northerly distribution in winter than any other shorebird. It’s considered a rare but regular visitor to the Gulf Coast.

Port Mansfield is located on the Laguna Madre. We had directions to go to the tidal pools.

Port Mansfield

We found the Sandpiper feeding along the edges of the tidal pools. We watched for quite a while as it moved around the edges.

Purple Sandpiper and Willet

More pictures from Port Mansfield and Fred Stone County Park, next time!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Fun work day

On one of our work days the biologist had some ‘manly’ work for Mark so I stayed in the office complex all day and worked on their library. They had a wall of book cases that had books shoved in willy-nilly. On the other side of the room they had built beautiful bookcases. My job was to move all the books from the old bookcases to the new bookcases and put them in some kind of order.

Old bookcases

New bookcases

There were also two banker boxes full of videos, that no one will ever watch. But, I got them organized too!

Sorting video tapes

I really enjoyed my day. I was able to interact with some of the staff here, which I haven’t been able to do before. The job took all day but the books are now in order.

Newly organized bookcases

A couple of hydrologist from New Mexico came to the refuge to set up water monitoring stations. Mark’s job was to set the legs for four wooden platforms to elevate the water gauging stations. I think he enjoyed his day out.

A few days later we put posts around the concrete benchmarks to make them visible to anyone mowing in the area.

Painting with reflective paint for visibility.

Mark pounding posts.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

White-tailed Hawk

White-tailed Hawk (Buteo albicaudatus)

The White-tailed Hawk is fairly common in places on the coastal prairie of Texas. We see them quite often while we’re out on our waterfowl count. We were able to watch this one for quite a while before we had to move on.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A visitor from India

There are many "Exotic Game Ranches" in Texas that import animals from around the world to be hunted. One of the more prolific imports into south Texas is an antelope from India and Pakistan called Nilgai. Nilgai are the largest species of Asian antelope, with mature males reaching 600 pounds. As has happened with so many of the imports, Nilgai escaped captivity and became feral animals in surrounding lands. Many National Wildlife Refuge tracts in south Texas now sport herds of Nilgai, and Teri and I have seen over 100 in less than two weeks of survey work.

While Nilgai do not seem to be as destructive as the feral hogs that also occupy the refuge, there is a concern that hundreds of these large animals are consuming vast amounts of grass, and may be displacing or competing with native species. At this time, the only control measures are a few public hunts held on refuge property, but success rates are low as the Nilgai are pretty wary. Most of our looks have been at animals retreating quickly in the distance, they are fast!!

We have seen many mature males, which are call Blue Bulls in India. The males get dark as they mature, becoming almost black, or dark blue. Young males, females and calves are brown. We enjoy seeing them, and have been assured that we'll see dozens each time we visit Bahia Grande to do our point count there. So far we've seen 70 the first week and 54 the second. So stay tuned for more pictures as our surveys continue!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Prescribed Burn

On a couple of our Wednesday waterfowl count days we have had to work quickly through a certain area of the refuge because a prescribed burn was scheduled.

Prescribed fire is used on the Refuge as a land management tool. The goal of burning is to enhance wildlife habitat while reducing the possibility of damaging wildfires.

We were well away from the area by the time they started burning.

We were told the hotter the fire the darker the smoke.

Prescribed burning reduces the accumulation of hazardous fuels near resources of value and promotes the growth of native species that have evolved in an area with natural fire occurrence.

The next week we drove by the burned area. It looks like they got the results they were hoping for. With a little rain this area will be fresh and green in no time!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sabal Palm Audubon Sanctuary

It took us a little over an hour to drive out to Sabal Palm Audubon Sanctuary.

We hung around the visitor center for a while and got some great looks at this female Anna’s Hummingbird.

Sabal Palm Sanctuary is over 500 acres with more than 3 miles of nature trails with wildlife viewing areas.

It is at the southernmost tip of Texas with over 210 species of butterflies and over 380 species of birds being recorded. Many native species of plants and animals reach the northernmost limit of their Mexican range, here, and do not occur anywhere else in the U.S.

Lesser Scaup

Ruddy Duck

Least Grebe


The Sabal Palm is the only native species of palm tree that occurs in Texas.
Sabal Palms-Sabal mexicana are nesting sites for bats, owls, and many birds. Sabal blooms attract many species of butterflies, particularly various Hairstreaks.

The Sanctuary sits directly on the banks of the Rio Grande River with Mexico just across the river.

Looking at Mexico

There is also a very nice butterfly garden where we spent quite a bit of time.

Blue Metalmark


Mexican Yellow

Although the birding was a little slow the day we were there, it’s a beautiful sanctuary and we enjoyed walking the trails. Sabal Palm is open seven days a week. The entry fee is only $5 per person. If you're ever in the area, go by for a visit!