Sunday, January 13, 2013

Winter Birding Down South

Before the semester fully revs up and things got too busy, Ben and I decided to take a short half-day trip down to Quintana and Surfside, hoping to see a Nelson's sharp-tailed sparrow, which neither of had seen yet.  Since they winter in saltmarsh down on the Texas coast, we had a good chance.  And indeed we did see not one, but several!  We stopped along Crab Road in Surfside, where they had been reported.  While looking at reddish egrets, tricolored herons, a bubblegum-colored spoonbill, and great egrets, we kept hearing this one-note metallic clink-chip.  We didn't even think it was a bird at first, because it sounded kind of weird.  The sounds were everywhere around us.  Then all of a sudden we looked into the marsh and there was a Nelson's sparrow sitting in the reeds staring straight at us!  Encounters with Ammodrammus sparrows tend to be of this startling, "whoa moment" nature.  I think it's because the birds have such striking faces, yet they remain so still and quiet and hidden.
Can you find the sparrows here?

Surfside town viewed from Crab Road

Winter colors at the Quintana bird sanctuary

Great egret in winter saltmarsh.  A year ago, I took a very similar picture 

Forster's tern.  Around this time last year I also photographed one at Lynchburg Ferry.

Mist shrouds the empty, palm-lined street.
Some leaves holding onto their summer colors

Milkweed in various states (buds, flowers).

An Eastern phoebe.

Orchard oriole nest.

Reddish egret.
Turnstones on the Quintana jetty.


When you look up close, even the great-tailed grackle, one of the most common birds around here, looks striking.