Aransas National Wildlife Refuge CBC 2015-2016

On December 22 I participated in my fourth and probably last Christmas Bird Count of the season, the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge count. I was part of a large team of 8-10 people. We piled into a refuge van and for most of the day a refuge staff member drove us down truck trails through the grasslands and oak mottes of the Black Jack Peninsula. We did most of our birding on foot, stopping at all the crossroads and splitting up into usually four groups for about an hour.

The morning was active, with the dense oak mottes full of bird sounds. But the birds rarely showed themselves and most of the morning birding was by ear. The mottes were full of Hermit Thrushes, Northern Cardinals, House Wrens, Gray Catbirds, and Northern Mockingbirds. The mockingbird was the most visible and seemed to be the dominant species. There was one perched on top of most oak mottes, and it would chase away any other bird that popped up. The grasslands were full of American Kestrels, Loggerhead Shrikes, Sedge Wrens, Savannah Sparrows, Lincoln's Sparrows, and a few Grasshopper Sparrows and Le Conte's Sparrows. Here's one of the Grasshopper Sparrows my group found:

Grasshopper Sparrow - 1

This refuge is famous for hosting the remaining wild Whooping Crane flock in the winter, and the morning was also full of Whooping Crane song! Every few minutes we would hear a family group vocalizing, sometimes followed by a response from another group nearby. I did not get to see any, but it sure was fun hearing them.

The most exciting bird for me was a beautiful male Pyrrhuloxia. We were standing in a truck trail and I was pishing and counting Lincoln's Sparrows that responded on one side of the trail. Then I turned around and saw this Pyrrhuloxia which had also responded:

Pyrrhuloxia

This species has been common on the coast and in central Texas this winter, and many were found on this count. But it's a bird I don't get to see very often, so I was happy to find it.

Besides the kestrels, we did not see many birds of prey. We missed some of the specialty species for this area like White-tailed Kite and Aplomado Falcon. But in the afternoon we finally got a couple good looks at Merlins and White-tailed Hawks. Here are a couple photos:

Merlin - 2

White-tailed Hawk

I don't have our team's complete bird list, but here are the separate eBird lists I kept each time we split up from the main group. They're a good reflection of my experience in the morning and early afternoon:

http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26419972
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26420067
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26420391
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26420459
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26420542

Here are the photos I took, which include a few more than I embedded above:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikael_behrens/albums/72157662142277430

Attached are the iNaturalist observations I made.

Posted by mikaelb mikaelb, December 27, 2015 18:28

Observations

Photos / Sounds

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What

Killdeer Charadrius vociferus

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 22, 2015 12:27 PM CST

Photos / Sounds

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What

Greater Roadrunner Geococcyx californianus

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 22, 2015 01:03 PM CST

Photos / Sounds

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What

Grasshopper Sparrow Ammodramus savannarum

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 22, 2015 08:41 AM CST

Description

Taken during the 2015-2016 Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Christmas Bird Count. I was on David Grise's team, covering area 4 on the Black Jack Peninsula.

Photos / Sounds

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What

Grasshopper Sparrow Ammodramus savannarum

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 22, 2015 08:59 AM CST

Description

Taken during the 2015-2016 Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Christmas Bird Count. I was on David Grise's team, covering area 4 on the Black Jack Peninsula.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Pyrrhuloxia Cardinalis sinuatus

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 22, 2015 10:46 AM CST

Description

Taken during the 2015-2016 Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Christmas Bird Count. I was on David Grise's team, covering area 4 on the Black Jack Peninsula.

Photos / Sounds

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What

Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 22, 2015 11:10 AM CST

Description

Taken during the 2015-2016 Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Christmas Bird Count. I was on David Grise's team, covering area 4 on the Black Jack Peninsula.

Photos / Sounds

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What

Common Buckeye Junonia coenia

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 22, 2015 01:22 PM CST

Description

Taken during the 2015-2016 Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Christmas Bird Count. I was on David Grise's team, covering area 4 on the Black Jack Peninsula.

There were many buckeye butterflies around, and I don't know if they were Common Buckeyes or Tropical Buckeyes. Some were distninctly darker than others. This is one of the lighter ones.

Photos / Sounds

What

Dark Buckeye Junonia nigrosuffusa

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 22, 2015 01:23 PM CST

Description

Taken during the 2015-2016 Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Christmas Bird Count. I was on David Grise's team, covering area 4 on the Black Jack Peninsula.

There were many buckeye butterflies around, and I don't know if they were Common Buckeyes or Tropical Buckeyes. Some were distninctly darker than others. This is one of the darker ones. The first photo is much lighter due to my camera's auto-exposure setting. But the second photo is much closer to how these looked to our eyes.

Photos / Sounds

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What

Merlin Falco columbarius

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 22, 2015 02:14 PM CST

Description

Taken during the 2015-2016 Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Christmas Bird Count. I was on David Grise's team, covering area 4 on the Black Jack Peninsula.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Merlin Falco columbarius

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 22, 2015 03:44 PM CST

Description

Taken during the 2015-2016 Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Christmas Bird Count. I was on David Grise's team, covering area 4 on the Black Jack Peninsula.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

White-tailed Hawk Geranoaetus albicaudatus

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 22, 2015 04:28 PM CST

Description

Taken during the 2015-2016 Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Christmas Bird Count. I was on David Grise's team, covering area 4 on the Black Jack Peninsula.

Comments

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Another magnificent entry. :)

Posted by sambiology over 4 years ago (Flag)

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