Sunday's for the Birds: Rare Finds in Texas

Birding at Port Arnasas, TX

I live in the Pacific Northwest (mountains, evergreen, cool summers), but I can't stay away from the Texas coast. Sometimes I think I posses a migratory gene. At the first autumn chill, and as the daylight hours begin to dwindle, I get online and start looking for cheap flights to Houston. This fall and winter, I managed to fly south three different times. What draws me to the Lone Star state are, of course, my family and friends. I cherish the times I spend with them and when it's time to return, it's difficult to leave. But, there is a third reason, and here is where the migratory gene theory comes into play. I go because of the birds. If you're a birder, you'll understand. If you're not, you don't know what you're missing. Seeing my favorite birds (whooping cranes, little blue herons, tri-colored herons, oystercatchers, skimmers, avocets, stilts) never gets old. Being able to add a new bird to my life list is a thrill. Spotting an extremely rare bird is a reason to celebrate.
          While on a recent birding trip with my great birding friend and photographer, Wendy McSwain, we spotted one such bird. Wendy had seen it a few days before and promised me she'd find it again. She did. It perched on the same utility pole where it had been earlier in the week. A Krider hawk—a morph of a red-tail — sat statue-still as it fought the Gulf Coast wind. To say the bird is striking is an understatement. The head is white, the shoulders are white and the underbelly is unmarked. With dark rings around the eyes and black wingtips, it reminds me of a ghost bird. Some ornithologist believe it should be classified in a separate subspeices. Whatever classification it's given, it now exist on my list and is possibly the rarest bird I've seen. To read more about the Krider, here's a link to a great article on Krider hawks written by Jerry Liquori and Brian L. Sullivan and published in Birding in 2010.
          Wendy was able to get some shots, but not close enough to give you a true picture. She did, however, capture a few other rare birds on our last visit to a small birding mecca in Port Aransas, Texas. On any given day between October and April, at The Turnbull Birding Center, you'll see teals galore: blue-wing, green-wing, and cinnamon. They share the pond with American widgeons, coots, moorhens, black-crowned night herons, roseate spoonbills, pie-bill grebes, shovelers, ruddy ducks, pintails, buffleheads, canvasbacks, mergansers, whistling ducks avocets, stilts, scaups, and even alligators and nutria. During my last trip on the coast, we spent four days going back and forth to the center. The star attractions were an American bittern, a Wilson's snipe, and a green heron. Check out a few of Wendy's photos below, but also visit her website:
American bittern

green heron

 Wilson's snipe

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