Aransas National Wildlife Refuge CBC 2016-12-21

On Wednesday December 21 I was fortunate to be able to again participate in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Christmas Bird Count. One neat thing about this count is that some teams get to see areas of the refuge that are normal off limits to the public. Our team was one of those lucky teams. We covered Area 5 which included Burgentine Lake, part of Saint Charles Bay, and some area south and inland of both. After a cold start to the week, the day of the count we had wonderfully mild weather in the 50s and 60s with light wind and cloudy with a little bit of sun in the morning.

In the morning we did most of our birding on the south shore of the lake and then on the levy that creates the lake on its west edge. At the south shore as we counted waterfowl on the lake, waves of Yellow-rumped Warblers kept flying over us headed east in groups of 40 to 70. We ended up counting over 500 Yellow-rumped Warblers (all Myrtles that I could see) which might be the most I've ever counted. We were treated to some great views of birds on the lake in the morning light including this group of Neotropical Cormorants:

Neotropical Cormorants

The biggest surprise of the morning was at about 8:00 when I saw a flamingo fly in and land on the water at the lake's far shore. It was too distant to tell for sure, but I assumed this is the Greater Flamingo that escaped from a zoo in Kansas several years ago and has been living on the gulf coast ever since. Most recently it had been in the Port Aransas area (originally found there in late September -- see my journal post). And two day's previously during the Port Aransas CBC this bird was seen by Joan and Scott Holt at Big Slough in Harbor Island. What a lucky coincidence to see it again up here! Here's the distant photo I got:

Greater Flamingo

About mid-morning on the levy we were lucky enough to see a family group of Whooping Cranes fly in from the north. It's always a privilege to see these giant birds that this refuge exists to protect on their wintering grounds. They were too distant for photos.

Late in the morning on the levy a flock of about 60 Snow Geese flew over us and I was able to get a few photos. I think this one came out best:

Snow Goose Flock - 3

Another big surprise was finding a small bobcat on the levy, walking away from us and not seeming to be very bothered by our presence. This was only the third time I've ever seen one in the wild. I got this bad photo when it briefly turned to look at us:

Bobcat - 2

We recorded several birds of prey, including many American Kestrels, several Merlins, and just a couple White-tailed Kites and White-tailed Hawks (both Texas coast specialties). Here's one of the White-tailed Hawks that flew right over us early in the afternoon:

White-tailed Hawk - 2

We got two great looks at Le Conte's Sparrows, a small grassland sparrow that is very tricky to find and observe. The first was in the morning when we arrived at the levy and the second was mid-afternoon on the south shore of St. Charles Bay. The second took some stalking before it finally flew into a nearby live oak and enabled us to get some photos:

Le Conte's Sparrow - 1

Our Area 5 team ended up finding 85 species of birds. Big thanks to team members Amy Silver, Kathy Van Dam, and Anita Brunsting. And big thanks to the Aransas NWR CBC organizer Paul Swacina.

Here are our eBird checklists:
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S33164452
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S33164479

Here are a few more photos on Flickr.

And attached are a few iNaturalist observations.

Posted by mikaelb mikaelb, December 25, 2016 17:27

Observations

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

American Kestrel Falco sparverius

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 21, 2016 04:46 PM CST

Description

Taken on the 2016 Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Christmas Bird Count.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 21, 2016 08:03 AM CST

Description

Taken on the 2016 Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Christmas Bird Count.

A Greater Flamingo made a surprise showing on Burgentine Lake in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the day of the Christmas Bird Count! I couldn't confirm it because the bird was too far away, but I assume this is the same bird that escaped from a zoo in Kansas several years ago, and that has been in the Port Aransas area since September of this year. It had a band on the same place on its right leg but was too distant to read anything on it. Unfortunately this is not on a publicly accessible area of the refuge.

Photos / Sounds

What

Bobcat Lynx rufus

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 21, 2016 10:54 AM CST

Description

Taken on the 2016 Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Christmas Bird Count.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Cottontail Rabbits Genus Sylvilagus

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 21, 2016 08:50 AM CST

Description

Taken on the 2016 Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Christmas Bird Count.

Photos / Sounds

What

Leconte's Sparrow Ammospiza leconteii

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 21, 2016 03:35 PM CST

Description

Taken on the 2016 Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Christmas Bird Count.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Merlin Falco columbarius

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 21, 2016 03:12 PM CST

Place

Texas, US (Google, OSM)

Description

Taken on the 2016 Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Christmas Bird Count.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Neotropic Cormorant Phalacrocorax brasilianus

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 21, 2016 08:10 AM CST

Description

Taken on the 2016 Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Christmas Bird Count.

Photos / Sounds

What

Snow Goose Anser caerulescens

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 21, 2016 10:40 AM CST

Description

Taken on the 2016 Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Christmas Bird Count.

Photos / Sounds

What

White-tailed Hawk Geranoaetus albicaudatus

Observer

mikaelb

Date

December 21, 2016 01:47 PM CST

Description

Taken on the 2016 Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Christmas Bird Count.

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