April 27 – Things Are Ducky

There are three reasons (at least) why things are ducky here.

First, it’s actual ducks. The huge flock of Mallards that had been coming to our yard had dwindled to a pair before we went to Texas. That pair was still around when we returned on Sunday, but yesterday, only a female arrived and then today we’ve only seen a male. Does that mean they are nesting somewhere and taking turns or are we just getting the unpaired birds now? In any case, it’s been fun to have them around because most of the wintering passerines are gone or greatly diminished in numbers in our yard. When the ducks are here they seem to make themselves at home, eating, drinking, resting, hanging out, sometimes for hours, and other times just for 15-20 minutes. The first picture shows the pair as seen from our porch.

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Second, things are ducky because tonight I get to fly to Ketchikan, and tomorrow night will give a talk there on my Alaska big year. I gave a talk yesterday afternoon and another this morning in Anchorage to non-birding groups about it. I just can’t get enough of talking about bird-stuff.

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Third, this morning I emailed my manuscript to Texas A&M University Press for my third book, which I’m currently calling “Big Years, Biggest States: Birding in Texas and Alaska”. I’ve really enjoyed writing it, but I’m glad it’s on to the review and revise stage and I can concentrate on figuring out which photos to use and can do some more bird painting.

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April 25 – Spring Lakes in Anchorage

I visited Cuddy Lake this morning searching for the Emperor Goose that arrived there while I was in Texas. Canada Geese, gulls (Glaucous-winged and hybrid gulls), Greater Yellowlegs, and Ring-necked Ducks (in cattail pond) were there, plus the pussy willows of spring.

David Sonneborn arrived and told me that yesterday’s eBird post had said the goose was at Tina Lake, where I had never been, so I went there. The Emperor Goose was still there with a few Canada Geese and at least 13 pairs of Mew Gulls.

Although there is still some ice on the local lakes, the birds look like they are about ready for spring, as am I.

April 24 – From Texas to Alaska

To end my Texas trip, I birded in the Rockport (Texas) area April 21-22. Unfortunately, warblers were mostly missing as apparently they were in much of coastal Texas. The forecast was to bring more in after our scheduled departure the morning of April 23rd.

One of the most productive birdy places was the rapidly diminishing pond in the Shell Ridge Rd. area. Shorebirds there at the various times I went there included dowitchers (mostly Long-billed), a couple of Wilson’s Phalaropes (photo), Stilt Sandpiper (photo), Killdeer, Black-bellied, Wilson’s, Semipalmated and Piping Plovers, Baird’s and White-rumped Sandpipers, Black-necked Stilts, Dunlins, Marbled Godwits, plus there were Least Terns (photo; nest there), Tricolored Herons, Great and Snowy Egrets, and White Ibises.

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At the Rockport Demo Garden I finally saw one of the Fulvous Whistling-Ducks that have been around.

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We arrived back in Alaska near midnight last night. Almost all of the snow has melted around our house in Anchorage, and the exposed brown grass is beginning to change to green. There are even a few lilac buds. Possibly spring will happen.

April 21 – Sabine Sampler

Yesterday afternoon before my talk at Golden Triangle Audubon last night, and this morning, I birded one of my very favorite spots, Sabine Woods (Texas) and nearby areas.

Special birds seen but no photographs taken include Black-throated Blue Warbler (male), Cape May Warbler, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and Blue Grosbeak. Bird photographs shown below are of a Boat-tailed Grackle (additional photo shown with Texas longhorns), a Dickcissel launching itself from a wire, a perched Common Nighthawk, Loggerhead Shrikes, a Swainson’s Warbler scratching in the leaves and very hard to see, a roadside Seaside Sparrow, a couple of the 20 or so Tree Swallows on the road (shot through front windshield), and a Least Bittern at McFaddin NWR.

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Tomorrow Debra and I plan to bird the Rockport area, our last full day in Texas for this trip.

April 19 – Port Aransas Birding

Debra Corpora and I birded in Port Aransas (Texas) today, including at the Birding Center, Paradise Pond, the 361 Wetlands, the Willows south of Port A, and Charlie’s Pasture.

The first highlight was the continuing Purple Gallinule at the Birding Center that appears to have zero fear of or even any awareness of humans. It approaches and walks by, grazing on the seeds of the guinea grass, sometimes climbing the branches of a mulberry so it is at grass-seed level and can munch the tops of the 2-3 foot high grass stalks.

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Other highlights, as usual, included the multiple Least Bitterns and the Common Gallinule (Moorhen) nest also at the Birding Center.

At Paradise Pond a very close Roseate Spoonbill feeding in the shallow water was one of the highlights, as well as all the other close-up birds such as a Reddish Egret. At the end of this post is a video I took of the Spoonbill.

There was an American Redstart at Paradise Pond and another at the Willows.

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At the big covered area at Charlie’s Pasture, Barn Swallows were building a nest.

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Back at the Birding Center there was at least one Rose-breasted Grosbeak (not as brightly colored as some).

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And back at Paradise Pond, the Spoonbill was still feeding.

A great day! Tomorrow I drive to Beaumont/Port Arthur to give my Alaska big year talk at Golden Triangle Audubon, and to bird of course!

April 19 – Texas Warbler Sampler

Finally more than a handful of warbler were around yesterday. In the afternoon at Goose Island State Park, Debra Corpora and I (and the other gathered birders) saw Nashville, Black-throated Green, Yellow-throated, Tennessee, Blue-winged (we saw after Debra and I left the group) and Blackburnian (photos), all high above us in the live oaks. We also had Red-eyed, White-throated, Warbling and Blue-headed Vireos (photo) and some folks saw a Philadelphia Vireo. We also saw the most orange Baltimore Oriole anyone had ever seen (photo).

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The day before I saw a Cerulean Warbler in Port Aransas, as well as other great birds, but no time to post more than that. Debra and I are going birding shortly.

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April 15 – Texas Coastal Bend Birding

I wish to thank Ann Hoover who hosted me for the Fort Worth Audubon meeting and Debra Corpora my Rockport host.

I birded in Port Aransas and Rockport (Texas) today, and saw about 60 species, which is more than I’ve seen all year so far in Alaska. I was going share some of my videos of skulking and feeding birds but they took too long to load. Maybe when I’m back home I’ll try that again.

There was not much migrant activity today but since I had not been to Texas earlier this year, everything was new for my state year list. Highlights for me were numerous Sora rails and multiple Least Bitterns at the Birding Center, a continuing Magnificent Frigatebird at the pond across from the Post office and a Summer Tanager male at Paradise Pond.

In Rockport I went to see one of the Sooty Terns that was reported among the Laughing Gulls and Black Skimmers.

Tomorrow I plan to bird north of Rockport a bit.

April 13 – Back in the land of Cardinals and Mockingbirds and Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks

I’m back in Texas to give my talk on my Alaska big year tonight in Fort Worth. I arrived late yesterday after a full day of flying and airports. This morning I went to one of my favorite Metroplex birding areas, Village Creek Drying Beds and the adjacent River Legacy Park. Most of the common birds here are birds not seen ever or very much in Alaska. The weather of course was mild for here (maybe 65) but really warm compared to Alaska’s 25 degrees when we left yesterday.

 

April 11 – The Last of the Redpolls…

 

The redpolls are about gone. We’ve had two at most lately in our yard, although I did see eight at Government Hill yesterday. Presumably most of them are on their way to somewhere else in Alaska where they will breed.

Our still very snowy yard has now become a regular stopping place for a 1-7 or sometimes more Mallards at what seem to be random times, anywhere from predawn to after dark and anywhere between.

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At Spenard Crossing, the water is flowing but there still is much ice.

I only saw one Trumpeter Swan there, but there were ten Northern Pintails, as well as the numerous Mallards and Common Goldeneyes.

At Government Hill a mama moose and yearling walked straight at my car and then past it. If I had been sitting in the passenger seat I could have reached out the window and touched the two of them as they walked by intent on wherever they were going.