Many birds, and one bummer.

This week I headed to the Gulf Coast of Texas in search of birds. Doray met me at High Island a day before a cold front was expected, which is a good thing if your goal is to see some colorful birds during Spring migration. On an ordinary day, the migrants just keep flying north once they cross the Gulf of Mexico – they’re on a mission. In the face of strong northerly winds and inclement weather, they will stop for a bit on the first land they come across to rest, which, for many migrants, are the woods on High Island.

Over the course of 3 days, I logged nearly 100 unique species of birds; a real treat for this birder. Doray and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. On Wednesday, Doray was heading home, and I was staying an extra day. We decided to stop in together at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge to see what we could see, and then go our separate ways. As I got into my car to head back to High Island, I was greeted by a flat tire. In the middle of pretty much nowhere.

The red star is where I ended up with a flat.

Changing a tire is not daunting. My dad showed me how to change a flat when I bought my first used vehicle way back when, and I’ve changed many a tire since then. However, this flat was a teensy bit more challenging due to a jammed lug nut, which didn’t want to come off. Eventually, the lug nut and bolt broke off. Which was not great. BUT if it hadn’t broken off, I would not have been able to change the tire at all. Silver linings! 🙂 So, I changed the tire. Doray stayed with me till I figured out my next move, which was to drive back to my hotel on the emergency spare and then get the tire fixed. Driving on the emergency spare is slow going. Driving with 4 of 5 lug nuts was a little concerning. But, in the end, everything worked out great. The repaired tire and one missing lug nut were enough to get me back home safely the next day, and the dealer is fixing the broken bits as I type this.

My 3rd day of birding was cut short, but it was a great trip, seeing many, many colorful warblers and other migrating birds. I didn’t get many bird photos to share here, but they are forever in my mind’s eye.

Thanks, Dad!

CBC 2021.

This year was my fifth year participating in the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count. Doray and I joined a bunch of other birders to count birdies in the Westcave area. Over 8 hours we logged 7+ miles and ~40 species over 3 different properties. I haven’t birded much this year. Other things have crammed their way in to fill my free hours. But I do enjoy walking around with my eyes on the treetops.

The temperatures started out in the mid-60s this year, instead of the 30s, for a change. No rain. Just a perfect day to tramp around the hill country trying to tell one Sparrow species from another.

Nice. Very nice.

Reflections on the Pedernales River near Westcave Preserve.

Bye bye, sweet Keeto.

A day or two after I left for Charleston, in one of our phone calls, Monte gave me the sad news that our sweet Keeto bird had died. We had been keeping an eye on him for the last year or so, as he seemed to tire out quite a bit after flying around, and sleep more and more. We took him to the vet for a checkup, and he was given a clean bill of health. But last Monday he went down to the bottom of the cage, laid down, and flew his spirit away. That little bird had the biggest personality. We are both so terribly sad.

Days 4 through 8.

We left Winyah Bay Wednesday morning with E to ESE winds predicted which would make for a great sail around Frying Pan Shoals. But… while you can buy weather guidance, you can’t buy good weather. Turns out the wind was not as predicted at all, it was out of the NNE, exactly the direction we wanted to go. And the seas were big enough to slow us down if we tried to motor directly into them. So, we sailed some big tacks to make more headway than motoring. FINALLY after rounding Frying Pan Shoals the winds did eventually turn out of the east, about 1 or 2 AM, so we were able to sail nicely after that. While the wind has not always been cooperative, the weather has been beautiful.

We made it to Cape Lookout by about 4PM Thursday afternoon, and anchored in a beautiful spot in the bight in front of the Cape Lookout Lighthouse. We grilled up some salmon for dinner and got a good night’s rest.

Cape Lookout Light, North Carolina.

Friday we motored into Beaufort Inlet and stayed at a marina for the night. We were able to do some laundry, take a nice land shower, and restock some provisions.

Wild horses on Shackleford Banks, entering Beaufort, North Carolina (they’re there, trust me)

Saturday morning we biked to the local farmer’s market and scored some basil, which will be good for a pizza night on the boat. Then we left the marina and headed up the Intracoastal Waterway for the remainder of the trip. Neither one of us fancies going around Cape Hatteras with a crew of two. Going from Charleston to Beaufort on the outside allowed us to miss all the shallow, shifting shoal areas of the Crystal Coast of North Carolina. So we’ve got that going for us. 🙂

Mmmm, Basil.

Saturday we crossed the Neuse River and anchored overnight in the Bay River.

Pretty sky leaving the Bay River.

Today, Sunday, we cross the Pamlico Sound, and head up the Pungo and Alligator Rivers, and will anchor overnight on the south side of Albemarle Sound. We should be in Chesapeake, Virgina by tomorrow night.

A pair of bald eagles watching us watching them.

On top of the world.

Most days, Keeto likes to leave his cage and fly around the house. I think he enjoys the exercise and the freedom. He has a couple of favorite perch locations that he flits between. Sometimes he likes to play hide and seek with us, though, and will land somewhere different and sit still as we look around for him. This morning I spied him sitting on a globe that I have placed atop an armoire in a far corner of the gameroom. I had to sneak a photo with my telephoto lens from across the house. 🙂 You’re IT, Keeto.

CBC 2020.

‘Tis the season of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count! I met up with Doray and a team of birders at Reimer Ranch yesterday. We hiked all day and saw so many birds. The first half of the day was cold, but by 4:30pm I had shed 3 layers. The former ranch, now a park, overlooks the Pedernales River. It’s a beautiful place to spend the day.

Pretty hill country cold-weather view

Ducks in a row.

I went birding at Hornsby Bend Bird Observatory in southeast Austin yesterday with Doray. We walked around for over 5 hours and saw more than 30 species of birds. It was nice to be out and about. I didn’t get many photos, though. Most of the water birds fly away when you get close. And the fog was persistent most of the morning. About the only cooperative birds were this family of mom, dad, and nine baby Black Bellied Whistling Ducks – making for a classic “ducks in a row” shot. 🙂

It was a lovely day to take the family out for a swim.

Wild thing.

After a hard afternoon of yard work on Friday, Monte and I were sitting on the back patio enjoying a brewski. Keeto was out there with us in his cage (sans brewski). I caught a flash of blue at the bird feeder. It was a budgie! And a blue one at that.

It appears to be a young male. I didn’t see a band, and the wings don’t appear to be clipped, so I don’t know if it is wild or escaped. He didn’t stay long, but I saw him again Friday, several times on Saturday, and again this morning. I have named him Niño. 🙂 I will put a cage out to see if he wants to take shelter.

What a sweet treat!

A real treat.

I ventured out to get my first real birding of the year in.   Oh, I’m always looking for birds, but “real birding” means that I bring my binoculars and my camera.   The Golden-cheeked warbler nests exclusively in Central Texas, and there are preserves that are closed to the general public during their breeding season of Feb-July, during which they are only accessible to those with permits.  Welllllll.  I have had a permit for several years and took advantage of it today to get away from people and find me some birdies.

I was treated to my first of season golden-cheeked warbler:

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A very vocal, but elusive white-eyed vireo.  I caught him here mid-song:

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And one of many blue-grey gnatcatchers.  They are so tiny, vocal, and always moving!  This one stopped long enough for me to get a blurry picture:

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Nice.  Very nice.  🙂

Redbud.

My favorite flowering tree is the Texas Redbud (Cercis canadensis var. texensis).  Their blooms are fleeting but gorgeous, some of the first of the year.  This bee likes them, too.

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