Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge
Today we visited Anahuac. This is usually better in winter when the ducks and geese spend time here but we were still hopeful of some good birds. En route we saw five Great Egrets, a Roseate Spoonbill, 300+ White Ibis, 200+ Cattle Egrets, five Snowy Egrets and one Great Egret.
At Anahuac it was very exposed and very windy. We had 30 White Ibis fly overhead at the Visitor's Centre as well as Purple Martins, two Loggerhead Shrikes, a Northern Mockingbird and some security guards (more of them later). We drove round to a place called The Willows, a group of willow trees acting as a sort of micro-High Island in the reserve.
At The Willows we had a Downy Woodpecker and an Alligator. The bushes by the stream across the road held a nice singing Common Yellowthroat and a Green Heron flew in to show well. Eastern Meadowlark could be heard singing and two Black-necked Stilts flew over. Tree Swallows sat chattering on the telegraph wires and two American Kestrels and two Northern Harriers flew over the nearby fields. Other flyovers included Roseate Spoonbill, Killdeer, 10+ Lesser Yellowlegs, 40+ Hudsonian Whimbrel and five Greater Yellowlegs. Two Scissor-tailed Flycatchers danced on the wind over some bushes.
We had agreed to put in an appearance back at the Visitor's Center which was being opened by a Congressman, hence the security people. We where there to show the 'important' people that foreign birders come to this spot and that it should be preserved and not turned into a shooting range or oilfield.
We then drove around Shoveler Pond, not getting out due to the presence of lots of very large Alligators! Various stops gave us a Sora, Boat-tailed Grackle, three Green Heron, two Little Bitterns (and a nearby Common Moorhen which was larger than the Least Bitterns!), Tricolored Heron, American Coot, Willet, Neotropic Cormorant and a female Orchard Oriole.
Later that day, at about 4.30pm we arrived at Yellow Rail Prairie at Anahuac. One needs permission to 'walk' this area which we had and we intended to form a long line of people to quickly walk through the grass in an effort to encourage some activity from any hiding Yellow Rails. We did have some problems: the grass was much deeper than in previous years making walking through it very difficult and the ground was drier than usual which is not good for the rails. We started with about 15 people which soon declined to 7 or 8 as the going got too tough. Soon there were just five of us left and we were determined to give it our best. At one stop I saw two duck flying in the distance and shouted 'Black Duck'. Alas, they were a bit far away and disappearing fast. Tramping through the grass felt like walking miles through terrain that didn't want to be walked through. And we didn't get any rails - they were no doubt faster than us running along the ground ahead of us! We did see a few sparrows, mostly Seaside Sparrow, which aren't supposed to be found in away from saltwater, plus a single Le Conte's Sparrow. Later we added two Sedge Wrens. Both the latter birds were lifers for me. Finally, as we drove along the track my earlier identification was vindicated when two Black Duck flew from the road, around the van and landed behind us, again on the road.