As I’ve mentioned, Patrick, the staff biologist, showed me the twelve waterbird survey areas on Tuesday. I thought I’d start surveying them yesterday, but it was a dull dismal day that would make identifications difficult. This morning the sun was actually shining, so I headed out to do seven of the sites. Five of the sights aren’t worth doing right now since there’s no water in them, hence, no waterbirds.
As I made my way to a couple of the sites, this vulture was busy doing his job in life. That’s the remains of a cow carcass. It’s pretty well picked clean.
Some of the protocols for this survey are very regimented, and others are not. For example, observations must be made each week from the exact same spot, but the amount of time allowed for each stop is unlimited. The surveys should be done on the same day of each week if possible, but the time of day is up to the observer. Since it can be difficult to identify species while staring directly into the sun, I have the option to do some sites in the morning, and some in the afternoon to allow for best viewing. I like that.
Here’s an example of the terrain I’m doing my observations in. This site is a marsh, while others are moist soil units that don’t have the tall grasses and reeds. Can you find the 24 great egrets in this pic? I would use my binoculars to count these birds, but a spotting scope to check the open waters beyond.
This is a moist soil unit that is literally covered with snow geese. This is only a small part of this 5000 bird flock! At times, just about the whole large flock will burst into the skies and circle around. It is an unforgettable sight, and the cacophony of their honking is almost deafening.
Every year I’ve been at Anahuac NWR, the bird surveys have had different parameters. With this year’s requirements, I have two challenges to work on. First, I need to bone up on my winter shorebird plumages and identification. Those little dudes often take off in a flurry and are gone before you know it. I haven’t been around many shorebirds in a couple of years, so I have some studying to do.
Secondly, I’m not very good yet at estimating how far 300 meters is. When I get to one of the survey sites, I’m to count all birds within a radius of 300 meters. That’s a little less than three football fields, but I just don’t have a feel for how far that is. Along with that is the fact that when using a spotting scope, everything appears much closer of course. Patrick said he’d put out some boundary stakes with an airboat, but that hasn’t happened yet.
I stopped at the VIS when I was done with my seven survey stops, and this vermillion flycatcher presented himself. He’s been hanging around the area for a couple of months. I’m glad he didn’t head elsewhere during the very cold weather we’ve been having.
And then when I was driving home, my eye was caught by something along the side of the road. I had to turn around and go back to be sure it was what I thought it was. Yep, a black-crowned night heron along the ditch. They do most of their feeding at night like owls. It was hunkered down and resting, but don’t you just find that bright red eye fascinating?
So my first bird survey of the season was done. I enjoyed it like I knew I would, but now it’s time to do some homework.
Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later, Judy