Charlie's Pasture North 2017-05-27

Saturday morning starting at around 8:30 I spent about 3.5 hours birding the north section of the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture. I started at the pavilion and walked the trail and boardwalk south, down to Salt Island and back. This time of year there are still some birds migrating north, and the Texas coast is famous for the number of north-bound migrating birds that can be seen here in May. But now, late in May, our year-round and summer resident birds have started nesting. And the change in behavior and sometimes appearance I got to observe in these birds this morning was dramatic!

Many of the birds that use this preserve for breeding desperately need its protection because they nest on the ground. Nesting on the ground has become harder and harder for these birds as human development and recreational land use continues to expand into new areas. Even just walking off-trail here negatively affects their nesting success.

A few of our year-round resident Black-necked Stilts and Willets must have selected nest sites close to the northern part of the boardwalk, because as I walked through this area they made constant alarm calls and flights. The Black-necked Stilts were even flying up to chase and scold other birds that flew by too closely, including the huge Magnificent Frigatebirds! Here are a couple shots I got:

Black-necked Stilt chasing Magnificent Frigatebird - 2

Above, you can see the frigatebird looking to its left at the approaching stilt. And below you can see them closer together.

Black-necked Stilt chasing Magnificent Frigatebird - 1

I've seen Black-necked Stilts nest by the boardwalk at the Turnbull Birding Center, and they didn't mind people nearby at all. Maybe the number of people at Charlie's Pasture is low enough that the stilts over here haven't gotten used to them yet.

After having reached the observation tower on Salt Island and starting to head back, a pair of summer-resident Least Terns scolded me and made a few close fly-bys, including diving at me a couple times. Here's the only photo I got:

Least Tern

Later I saw a different pair of Least Terns in their courtship phase on the ground. Surrounded by dried out algal mats, the male offers a fish to the female:

Least Terns

A little further up the boardwalk I got to see an interaction between two of our year-round resident small plovers. I started to hear the low purring calls of a Snowy Plover and looked off to the right to see two small birds chasing each other. A Snowy Plover was charging and chasing a substantially bigger Wilson's Plover, which showed no signs of fighting back. Here are some shots of the action:

Snowy Plover Chasing Wilson's Plover - 2

Snowy Plover Chasing Wilson's Plover - 5

Snowy Plover Chasing Wilson's Plover - 6

Snowy Plover Chasing Wilson's Plover - 1

Snowy Plovers seem so quiet and meek when I see them wintering on the beach. It was so interesting to see this aggressive behavior from one.

Back near the north end of the boardwalk, the Black-necked Stilts were quiet, but the pair of Willets was even louder and more aggressive than before. They repeatedly called and approached me on the ground and in the air! I am used to seeing these birds in their dull gray and white winter plumage, so it was a treat to see them covered in the warm brown streaks and speckles of their breeding plumage:

Willet Scolding - 1

Willet Scolding - 1

Some of the north-bound migrants still coming through included Wilson's Phalarope, White-rumped Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Stilt Sandpiper, and Ruddy Turnstone. It was nice to hear and then see a singing Painted Bunting, a species usually associated with spring migration that also breeds here on the preserve.

Some cool insect observations included many Seaside Dragonlets, a small species of dragonfly that can breed in brackish water. The females are dramatically patterned with black and orange:

Seaside Dragonlet

And I found two species of Tiger Beetles, a fast moving predatory beetle that likes bare sandy areas. Here's a White-cloaked Tiger Beetle:

White-cloaked Tiger Beetle (Cicindela togata) - 3

And I don't know what this one is yet:

Tiger Beetle

Here's my complete eBird list:
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S37211475

And a few more photos on Flickr:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikael_behrens/albums/72157680080116984/

Posted by mikaelb mikaelb, May 28, 2017 20:26

Observations

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Wilson's Phalarope Phalaropus tricolor

Observer

mikaelb

Date

May 27, 2017 11:40 AM CDT

Description

Taken on the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture North.

Photos / Sounds

What

Willet Tringa semipalmata

Observer

mikaelb

Date

May 27, 2017 11:44 AM CDT

Description

Taken on the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture North.

An example of nesting-related aggression I observed this morning was a pair of Willets that must have a nest near part of the boardwalk. When I walked by they scolded me and even made short flights and dove at me!

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Least Tern Sternula antillarum

Observer

mikaelb

Date

May 27, 2017 11:36 AM CDT

Description

Taken on the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture North.

Presumably these birds are on a nest.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Painted Bunting Passerina ciris

Observer

mikaelb

Date

May 27, 2017 11:52 AM CDT

Description

Taken on the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture North.

Photos / Sounds

What

White-cloaked Tiger Beetle Eunota togata

Observer

mikaelb

Date

May 27, 2017 11:34 AM CDT

Description

Taken on the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture North.

Photos / Sounds

What

Snowy Plover Charadrius nivosus

Observer

mikaelb

Date

May 27, 2017 11:30 AM CDT

Place

Texas, US (Google, OSM)

Description

Taken on the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture North.

An example of nesting-related aggression I observed this morning was a Snowy Plover chasing a larger Wilson's Plover.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris

Observer

mikaelb

Date

May 27, 2017 11:27 AM CDT

Description

Taken on the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture North.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Least Tern Sternula antillarum

Observer

mikaelb

Date

May 27, 2017 11:25 AM CDT

Description

Taken on the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture North.

One example of nesting-related aggression I observed today was being scolded and dived at by Least Terns who had nested close to the boardwalk.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Gulf Shore Tiger Beetle Habroscelimorpha pamphila

Observer

mikaelb

Date

May 27, 2017 11:23 AM CDT

Description

Taken on the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture North.

Photos / Sounds

What

American Avocet Recurvirostra americana

Observer

mikaelb

Date

May 27, 2017 10:45 AM CDT

Description

Taken on the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture North.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Snowy Plover Charadrius nivosus

Observer

mikaelb

Date

May 27, 2017 10:18 AM CDT

Place

Texas, US (Google, OSM)

Description

Taken on the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture North.

This shot shows the dried up algal mats that are an important food source to many shorebirds.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Stilt Sandpiper Calidris himantopus

Observer

mikaelb

Date

May 27, 2017 10:09 AM CDT

Description

Taken on the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture North.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Wilson's Plover Charadrius wilsonia

Observer

mikaelb

Date

May 27, 2017 10:01 AM CDT

Description

Taken on the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture North.

Photos / Sounds

What

White-rumped Sandpiper Calidris fuscicollis

Observer

mikaelb

Date

May 27, 2017 09:54 AM CDT

Description

Taken on the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture North.

Photos / Sounds

What

White-cloaked Tiger Beetle Eunota togata

Observer

mikaelb

Date

May 27, 2017 09:49 AM CDT

Description

Taken on the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture North.

Photos / Sounds

What

Snowy Plover Charadrius nivosus

Observer

mikaelb

Date

May 27, 2017 09:45 AM CDT

Place

Texas, US (Google, OSM)

Description

Taken on the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture North.

Notice, the far plover is banded.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Wilson's Phalarope Phalaropus tricolor

Observer

mikaelb

Date

May 27, 2017 09:21 AM CDT

Description

Taken on the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture North.

Photos / Sounds

What

Magnificent Frigatebird Fregata magnificens

Observer

mikaelb

Date

May 27, 2017 09:19 AM CDT

Description

Taken on the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture North.

One of several examples of nesting-based aggression I observed this morning was Black-necked Stilts chasing other birds, including the much larger Magnificent Frigatebirds!

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Seaside Dragonlet Erythrodiplax berenice

Observer

mikaelb

Date

May 27, 2017 08:55 AM CDT

Description

Taken on the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture North.

Female

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Crested Caracara Caracara cheriway

Observer

mikaelb

Date

May 27, 2017 08:57 AM CDT

Description

Taken on the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture North.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Magnificent Frigatebird Fregata magnificens

Observer

mikaelb

Date

May 27, 2017 08:51 AM CDT

Description

Taken on the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture North.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Seaside Dragonlet Erythrodiplax berenice

Observer

mikaelb

Date

May 27, 2017 08:47 AM CDT

Description

Taken on the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture North.

Male

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