Posts Tagged ‘yellow-crowned night heron’

One of Lewis' and my favorite bird-watching places is the Quintana Jetty that juts out into the Gulf of Mexico. On this day we both added a purple sandpiper to our life lists. -- Photo by Pat Bean

“Be grateful for luck. Pay the thunder no mind – listen to the birds. And don’t hate nobody.” — Eubie Blake

Travels With Maggie

When I visit my son, Lewis, he and I usually sneak off for a day of birding. While I’ve gotten other family members a bit interested, Lewis, like me, is passionately hooked on identifying every bird that crosses his path.

He and I have spent many an hour enduring heat, rain, cold, wind and mosquitoes, indulging our birding addiction. Our most successful outing was a dawn to dark adventure in which we reached our goal of identifying 100 different bird species. We had 82 different species by noon, but it took right up until dusk to get the final one, a common ground dove that crossed the road in front of our vehicle when we were almost ready to give up and head back home.

Lewis blames me for his bird-watching addiction. All I did, however, was to throw my field guide at him when he asked me the name of that bird over by the pond. It was our first bird outing together, and it was taking place at the Brazoria National Wildlife just 15 minutes from my son’s home in Lake Jackson, Texas.

White ibis and two snowy egrets at Brazos Bend State Park, which is located less than an hour's drive from my son's home in Lake Jackson, Texas. -- Photo by Pat Bean

“See if you can find out.” I told him. I was busy watching my own bird at the time, a yellow-crowned night heron that, back then, was a new life species for me.

A few minutes later, Lewis called out that it was a neotropic cormorant, which immediately grabbed my attention away from the heron. Lewis was correct in his identification, and I had another life bird. All my other birding at this point had been done in Utah, where normally only double-crested cormorants can be found

Every bird, which was about 42, that we saw at the refuge that day were firsts for Lewis newly started life list. I added eight new ones to my personal tally before flying out later this day back to Utah. Before long, Lewis’ list of birds exceeded mine. It was an easy accomplishment for him because the Texas Gulf Coast is one of the best bird-watching areas in the country.

I caught up with again when my dog, Maggie, and I became full-time RV-ers. We now claim the entire country as our birding territory.

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A northern mockingbird was my first bird of the new year. -- Photo by Pat Bean

 “Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.” — Henry Van Dyke

Travels With Maggie

I’m a passionate birdwatcher, who keeps a list of birds I’ve seen. My life list now totals 696 bird species. It’s a respectable number for this late-blooming birder, but far from spectacular.

If you want to know more about the birding numbers game you should read “The Big Year” by Mark Obmascik. It’s a great read even if you aren’t a birder. It’s about three guys who spend a year chasing birds all across North America. At the whisper of a rare bird alert, they would fly thousands of miles on a minute’s notice.

Although I did once drive 400 miles to see one particular bird, these days I usually just bird where my travels take me. I check out bird festivals going on while I’m in the vicinity, and hook up with local Audubon chapters for birding field trips. This past year these efforts, including one day when I hired a guide to help me find the golden-cheeked warbler that I had been trying to find for three years, earned me 12 new life birds. And yes, the warbler was one of them.

I spotted this yellow-crowned night heron at the Sea Center in Lake Jackson, Texas. -- Photo by Pat Bean

This year’s birding efforts, meanwhile, have begun slower than normal. I’ve been parked in my son’s driveway here in Harker Heights all this week and a cold front moving through the area seems to have kept the birds tucked away.

At least they’re not falling out of the sky dead, as red-winged blackbirds and starlings have been doing in Arkansas the past couple of days. That’s a scary thing because birds, like the canaries coal miners carried into the tunnels with them as their bad air detectors, are indicators of an environment’s health.

My first bird of this new year was a northern mockingbird, appropriate since it’s Texas’ state bird. It was a brilliant gray and white fellow with yellow eyes that landed on a fence about eight feet from my RV window. As I watched, it flashed its long tail in the air – then pooped.

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