Friday, March 14, 2014

Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge

Friday morning I got up at 3:30 AM and drove to Kleb Woods Nature Center to catch a bus with other birders to go to the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge.
The Attwater Prairie Chicken is on the endangered list because of a decrease in population.
Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge (APCNWR), located approximately 60 miles west of Houston, Texas, is one of the largest remnants of coastal prairie habitat remaining in southeast Texas and home to one of the last populations of the critically endangered Attwater’s prairie chicken.  The refuge is one of a handful of national wildlife refuges managed specifically for an endangered species.

There were about 30 of us on the bus and we got to the refuge at 7:00 AM.

The ground fog was lying low and the sunrise had turned everything this lovely pink hue.

Attwater Prarie Chicken Preserve

We saw a hen not too long after entering the refuge.

Atwater Prarie Chicken

Our guide let us get off the bus so we could view the males displaying.  They inflate their yellow air sacs and emit a strange, booming sound across the plain, a sound that has a haunting quality that is hard to forget.
I could see the males great through the birding scope, but I couldn’t get a good shot of them with my camera.

Atwater Prarie Chickens

Amidst all the beauty was some sadness. This Jack Rabbit had gotten tangled in the barbed wire fencing.


He was pretty beat up, but after the Fish and Wildlife fellow got him untangled, he sat him down over the fence and that Jack Rabbit took off!

I took this photo of Fred. Andy titled it “Dance of the Sweeping Savannah”

Dance of the Sweeping Savannah Fred Collins

When Fred wants to flush a bird, say a Savannah Sparrow, he gets everyone to line up and walk in a straight line across the field.

Fred and his minions.

The trip to Attwater was amazing.  A lot of people on the bus trip got the Prairie Chicken as a life bird, including me.

We left Attwater and did some birding by bus, which was fun. I think every other hawk we saw Andy said was a Northern Harrier.

We went to Palacios for lunch.  Most of the bus went to a seafood restaurant but the rest of us went Mexican.  I am so glad we did, because I got to see my first Great Horned Owl.
There was a city park right next to the restaurant.  After lunch we went looking around, and Fred spotted the owl.  It flew off before any of us, except Fred, got a good look at it, but we saw where it landed and we took off after it.
It landed in this palm tree, can you see it?

Look to the right and up.

The owl sat in the palm tree for awhile, until the Blue Jays and Grackles ran him off.
He flew back to the original tree and we followed him, where I got this terrific picture of him.
Great Horned Owl  Palacios Texas

While we were looking at the owl, Fred had found a Western Scrub Jay flying in amidst some Blue Jays.  Western Scrub Jays are not common for this area, so it caused lots of excitement.
Now try and picture this….
A group of about 30 people all with cameras, binoculars and birding scopes, standing on the sidewalk looking at a tree beside a house.
I have to wonder, if those people were home, what could they have been thinking?
I didn't get a photo of the Western Scrub Jay, but I did get a look at it through some binoculars someone loaned me.
This photo was taken by Bea Ann, you can see the differences in the Western Scrub Jay and the Blue Jay

I also got the American White Pelican for a life bird.

White Pelican Palacios TX

Also, for my life list, I got the American Pipit,  the Sprague’s Pipit, and the Spotted Sandpiper, but no photos.

All in all it was a great trip!

Books I’ve been reading