Swamp Thing

Thanks to the extra cycles in my schedule as of late, thought I would loop back into the spoils from the Texas Gulf Coast birding trips and see what’s left to tick that bird counter up. I’ve made it through most of the quality shots in preparation for the multiple talks I’ve given on the subject to local groups. I was shocked to still find a number of potential lifers in there. Sent some samples up to Ron who was able to confirm my initial IDs – score! Unfortunately, most of these encounters were momentary. I’d be intent on getting a target bird in the tin and then catch a brief glimpse of something moving in my periphery. Note to new birders – when you are away from the home base, if anything with feathers decides to crash your party – flip the shutter on it. If it turns out to be a common maybe you’ll get a better shot for your portfolio. You might just be surprised to find out its one that has been eluding you for years. Worse case, you tap that little key with the Del label on it and that moment in history never happened. I joke to myself that it was “Obelisked” in reference to the Egyptian structures that provided a historical accounting of the Pharaohs. Except that history was obliterated err deleted and a new manufactured history created in its place that put the new Pharaoh in better standing. Obscure, but I like to get some use out of all my non-core electives in college ha. Wow, drifted from the feature of tonight’s post.

Swamp Sparrow found at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge Texas December 2017

As eluded to earlier, when this shot was taken I was in the midst of tracking a Sora (link here). That bird is a pain in the ass to get in the tin as it darts in and out of the reeds along the water banks. Just spotting them is task number one. From there you are trying to keep a focus on it as the glass bounces back and forth with every reed that comes between the two. Sometime in that adventure, this little brown jobber darted in for a quick check on meal options. Assuming it was just a common Sparrow, slid the barrel of the glass over, snapped a few for the record and then went back to being frustrated. It wasn’t until the review a few days ago that something triggered renewed interested. Actually that was the second trigger – the first was “Wow, Bri you need some photography lessons”. Basically bled through some foreground stalks. Honestly, lucky the glass didn’t start searching and completely ruin the encounter. This Sparrow might have only been there for less than five seconds, but it’s now an official check on my list.

Hit the jump to find out what this darkly colored bird is!

Continue reading Swamp Thing

Sora Doubletake

Greetings everyone!. Been a fun day around here thanks to a spontaneous decision to celebrate our 27th anniversary by hunting down some birds and sunflower fields. We were not sure if the weather was going to hold out our not as some storm clouds were rolling through the area most of the day – thankfully we didn’t get hit with the tornado swarms that were doing significant damage to our Iowa neighbors. Looks like Linda’s relatives made it through without too much trouble. We ended up making a run down to Havana IL so I could get a nice bird in the tin (looking forward to getting that posted here) and Linda was definitely able to add to her flower portfolio form the two sunflower fields we successfully located. Those were both still in their bloom stages where the fields down the road from us have officially wilted. Tired from the long day, so opted to rest a bit and push out a post.

Sora at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge December 2017

For ease, going back to our recent trip to the Texas Gulf Coast for this post. A lot of those pictures were processed already and easy to simply pull them into a new post. I find the largest chunk of time in any of my posts is getting the pictures in a shape I’m willing to share, so having that part out the way is a huge benefit when you have a short time to get one of these out. Today’s featured post is our friend the Sora. Like the last post, the Sora is not a new bird to the blog. That previous posting (link here) featured a specimen found down at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge. We ended up swinging through there today on our way to Havana. Unfortunately, the dry summer has really impacted that place. For those familiar with it, the water has receded way beyond the observation decks at the back of the refuge.

Sora at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge December 2017

Hit the jump to read more about my encounters with the Sora.

Continue reading Sora Doubletake

One Goose, Two Goose, 10,000 Geese

I’m finally back! Been struggling to get time to feed the blog thanks to an incredibly busy schedule. When I am not trying to keep the acreage from getting too far out of control I’m out pounding the asphalt and now dirt trails to prepare for fast approaching races – in between that is honey-do’s about a mile long. Luckily was able to give my other blog a bit of love and posted some recollections of recent races and readings. More disappointing is how far I’ve fallen behind in reading the outputs of my fellow blogging friends. If there was only a way to write and read posts while out on training runs – ha. In an effort to try and right this ship, thought tonight’s post will focus on 10’s of thousands of these…

Snow Geese massing at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, Texas in January 2018

Well, admittedly, that shot doesn’t really give the full effect of the experience. It does give a better view of what made up this huge flock of birds we saw on our trip down to Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge along the Texas Gulf Coast over Christmas break 2017. If you recall, our first unique encounter this year at Anahuac was the Zebra (link here). Kind of hard to really top a creature more commonly seen at the Serengeti National Park than off the Gulf of Texas. However, a close second had to be witnessing one of the largest massing of birds I’ve ever encountered. Apparently those three Snow Geese above have a VERY large number of friends and relatives who flew in for the holidays.

Snow Geese massing at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, Texas in January 2018

Continue reading One Goose, Two Goose, 10,000 Geese

We Might Be Lost

So there are times when I’m out in the wild and something out of the ordinary happens. Maybe an unexpected bird decides to come out and pose for me or the light will hit a subject just right to reveal an awesome shot otherwise hidden in an overcast day. There are times when I’ve come face to face with a creature higher on the predator list than I was adequately prepared to deal with and wandered into areas where the daylight’s false sense of security relented to uncomfortable darkness. With all those experiences, I had really never experienced a “what the hell is that” followed quickly by the unsettling thought “where the hell am I !?!” .. that is until last December while on our birding trip down the Texas Gulf Coast. Linda had given me a Texas birding book that we were using to find places we had missed on our previous trips. One of the recommended places was at the end of Smith Point Road near Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. Since that was a planned stop anyway, we detoured slightly to check it out.

Plains Zebra found in Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge at end of Smith Point Road\

When we arrived, the road that followed shoreline was closed. That literally left us at the end of road right at the waterline. Linda turned the RV around and parked it off the road. I jumped out to see what I could fill the tin with. Not sure if it was the unseasonably cold weather they were having or the generally drab day, but there was very little moving about. Snapped a few shots of a Tern hunting quite a ways off the shore. Three Brown Pelicans then came flying by warranting some attention even though Brown Pelicans in Texas might as well be shooting Bison in Yellowstone – sure it’s exciting for the first 50 encounters, but soon after the thrill subsides. Eventually found myself trying to track a Sparrow through a nearby thicket. It is there I looked up and uttered those alarming words. There in front of me was a Zebra staring right at me. Somewhere Linda had apparently made a very wrong turn – last I checked those black and white beasts preferred the Serengeti, not a field on the Gulf of Texas. Even went over to tell Linda so she could check my sanity.. One thing for sure, this was a lot more interesting to shoot than a Sparrow.

Hit the jump to see a couple more shots of our mysterious friend.

Continue reading We Might Be Lost

When Red or Scarlet Isn’t Good Enough

If all goes well around here at Intrigued, the bird counter should pretty much be free spinning well into next month. Most of those additions will be coming from the Texas coastline. Pretty sure I already made posts from our first trip to Galveston Island back in November 2013. I recently completed processing all of the shots from our Christmas trip down to South Padre Island last year. Those shots will be featured for most of the posts over the next several weeks. I need to get through those by mid February in order to focus on all the new blog fodder put in the tin on our recent trip back to Padre and then over to the Mission region on the Rio Grande. Texas has become a biding nirvana for me – each trip has produced multitudes of +1’s. A surprising number of those being absolutely gorgeous birds.

Vermilion Flycatcher shot at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, Texas in January 2017

One thing for sure, the Peterson Field Guide I use for my field reference does not do this bird justice. At the time I had no idea what kind of bird it was. It was definitely smaller than a Cardinal although it did sport a spiky tuft of a crown. I did not boost the saturation of this bird, although the overcast feel of the day did give it more of a natural pop against the duller background. The Summer Tanager was the next option, but even that species is pretty much duller red all over and seemed stockier than this specimen- see my previous reference (link here). Hmmm – staying in that arena, it did have a feel of Scarlet Tanager which is definitely closer to the red hue along with the darker wing coloring. The definite robber mask set this one apart from that. My previous Scarlet reference is of a water logged specimen, but you can see that here (link here). (Note, I do have a better Scarlet in the queue, just need to find some time to get it posted).

Vermilion Flycatcher shot at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, Texas in January 2017

Hit the jump to see more images of this bird and, of course, learn what it is if you haven’t seen one before.

Continue reading When Red or Scarlet Isn’t Good Enough