Port Aransas Christmas Bird Count 2015

Yesterday I participated in the Port Aransas, Texas Christmas Bird Count, a CBC I've done for many years now. I covered my usual section, the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture with Warren Pulich Jr, who founded this count back in the 1970s. We spent most of the day on the preserve and then spent about an hour at the end of the day on the South Jetty. Warren and I found 94 species of birds and here are some highlights.

On the Nature Preserve in the morning the most interesting bird was a Cassin's Sparrow, a species that used to be much more common in the area but is now rarely observed. Warren and I both got the impression of a Field Sparrow without a pink bill. Unfortunately it was a brief view and I wasn't able to photograph it. Another exciting observation was two Peregrine Falcons fighting in the sky over the mud flats. We could hear them vocalize as they dove at each other, but they were too distant for my camera.

It's a good year for Pyrrhuloxia! We counted at least 5 in the Nature Preserve and several other groups on the count observed this species as well. Here's one of the five:

Pyrrhuloxia
http://www.inaturalist.org/observations/2479932

Despite its name, this Common Ground-Dove is an increasingly unusual bird for Port Aransas, and we were excited to get a pretty good look at this one:

Common Ground Dove
http://www.inaturalist.org/observations/2479943

It's always a treat to see the thousands of ducks, mostly Redheads and Northern Pintails, that winter in this area. Here's a shot of a few hundred in the sky on the other side of the ship channel. You have to look closely in the sky to see the flocks:

Duck Flocks

In the early afternoon we saw a single small wild pig trotting across the flats. Warren remarked that it was dangerous for this small pig to be by itself out in the open, and we wondered what it was doing out there:

http://www.inaturalist.org/observations/2479946
Feral Pig

A few minutes later Warren spotted a coyote casually following the pig, and even nipping at it a couple times. I guess the pig was just a little too big for a single coyote to take on, and the pig eventually disappeared into the brush and the coyote didn't follow. Here's the only photo I got of the two animals interacting, a distant shot with my iPhone through my spotting scope:

Coyote and Feral Pig - 1

The hour we spent on the South Jetty in the afternoon was uneventful, but we enjoyed seeing the common birds in the beautiful late afternoon light. I was happy to get this photo of a flying Brown Pelican:

Brown Pelican
http://www.inaturalist.org/observations/2479956

It was a fun day in just about perfect clear weather. The temperature ranged from the upper 40s to the low 70s, and wind was light. What a great day to be outdoors counting birds! When we met with the other groups our unofficial total for the whole count was 174 species.

UPDATE: Co-compiler Joan Holt posted that the official total for the Port Aransas CBC is 182 species!

Posted by mikaelb mikaelb, December 16, 2015 01:40

Observations

Photos / Sounds

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What

Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 14, 2015 07:05 AM CST

Description

Taken during the 2015 Port Aransas Christmas Bird Count.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Northern Sedge Wren Cistothorus platensis ssp. stellaris

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 14, 2015 08:45 AM CST

Description

Taken during the 2015 Port Aransas Christmas Bird Count.

Photos / Sounds

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What

Pyrrhuloxia Cardinalis sinuatus

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 14, 2015 09:04 AM CST

Description

Taken during the 2015 Port Aransas Christmas Bird Count.

Photos / Sounds

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What

Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 14, 2015 09:04 AM CST

Photos / Sounds

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What

Pyrrhuloxia Cardinalis sinuatus

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 14, 2015 09:07 AM CST

Description

Taken during the 2015 Port Aransas Christmas Bird Count.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Loggerhead Shrike Lanius ludovicianus

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 14, 2015 09:40 AM CST

Description

Taken during the 2015 Port Aransas Christmas Bird Count.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Long-billed Curlew Numenius americanus

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 14, 2015 09:41 AM CST

Description

Taken during the 2015 Port Aransas Christmas Bird Count.

Photos / Sounds

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What

Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 14, 2015 09:43 AM CST

Description

Taken during the 2015 Port Aransas Christmas Bird Count.

Turning its head quite far around -- not just owls can do this.

This photo also shows how different the red on a cardinal's back is from the bright red on the breast and face. It can be quite dull and indistinct if it needs to be!

Photos / Sounds

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What

Ducks, Geese, and Swans Family Anatidae

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 14, 2015 10:06 AM CST

Description

Taken during the 2015 Port Aransas Christmas Bird Count.

Look closely to see the flocks of ducks in the sky.

Photos / Sounds

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What

Common Ground Dove Columbina passerina

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 14, 2015 10:55 AM CST

Description

Taken during the 2015 Port Aransas Christmas Bird Count.

Photos / Sounds

What

Boar Sus scrofa

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 14, 2015 01:26 PM CST

Description

Taken during the 2015 Port Aransas Christmas Bird Count.

This small feral pig was walking across the flats all by itself in the middle of the afternoon. Later we saw a coyote tentatively try to hunt it, without success.

Photos / Sounds

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What

American White Pelican Pelecanus erythrorhynchos

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 14, 2015 01:29 PM CST

Description

Taken during the 2015 Port Aransas Christmas Bird Count.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 14, 2015 01:39 PM CST

Description

Taken during the 2015 Port Aransas Christmas Bird Count.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Forster's Tern Sterna forsteri

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 14, 2015 04:42 PM CST

Description

Taken during the 2015 Port Aransas Christmas Bird Count.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Royal Tern Thalasseus maximus

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 14, 2015 04:47 PM CST

Description

Taken during the 2015 Port Aransas Christmas Bird Count.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Brown Pelican Pelecanus occidentalis

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 14, 2015 04:48 PM CST

Description

Taken during the 2015 Port Aransas Christmas Bird Count.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Boar Sus scrofa

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 14, 2015 10:05 AM CST

Photos / Sounds

What

Coyote Canis latrans

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 14, 2015 01:38 PM CST

Description

A coyote found the small feral pig we'd been watching and made some casual-seeming advances towards it, including nipping at the pig once. The pig disappeared into the brush before the coyote harmed it.

Comments

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174?!? Wow. I don't think I've seen that many species...ever.

Posted by cosmiccat almost 5 years ago (Flag)
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Great stuff -- thanks for photodocumenting these too. :)

Posted by sambiology almost 5 years ago (Flag)
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@cosmiccat , CBC's on the Texas coast are pretty remarkable for species counts. The Mad Island Marsh count is held on the same day not too far away on Matagorda Island. It usually has the highest species count in the nation and their compiler (Brent Ortego) just reported a total of 240!

Posted by mikaelb almost 5 years ago (Flag)

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