Tuesday, April 7, 2009

San Bernard Revisited

It's been three weeks now since I returned to San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge with three separate memory cards full of photos. I've simply got to work on getting a better turnaround for getting pics downloaded and posted!

(Note: You can click on any of the images in this post to see the full-sized, detailed versions on Flickr.)

The morning sun rose unseen behind a dense fog that had settled in from the coast to well north of Houston, but the weathermen swore it would clear out by mid-day. As luck would have it, the skies had just about cleared by the time I made it to the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory in Lake Jackson, just a couple of miles from the refuge. Stopping over briefly at the GCBO, I started the morning watching cardinals, chickadees and titmice taking turns at the feeders and a tree full of roosting night-herons.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron - 3/16/2009
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (Nyctanassa violacea)

By the time I turned down the gravel and dirt road leading into San Bernard, the fog had finally burned off, revealing a beautiful expanse of crisp blue Texas sky chocked full of life.

Northern Harrier - 3/16/2009
Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)

I started with the drive around Moccasin Pond, which was not quite as crowded as on my previous visit but still had plenty of waterfowl enjoying the spring weather. There were Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shovelers and American Coots aplenty.

Ducks on Moccasin Pond - 3/16/2009

While I saw fewer Red-winged Blackbirds than expected, there was an abundance of Boat-tailed Grackles on hand. Males and females alike perched briefly on branches, reeds and roadside posts all along the drive.

Boat-tailed Grackles - 3/16/2009
Boat-tailed Grackles (Quiscalus major)

I also saw plenty of ibises, with both adults and a few juvenile White Ibis present. The White-faced Ibises were even more numerous than on my last visit, and they seemed especially active and vocal this day.

White-faced Ibis - 3/16/2009
White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi)

The egret family was well-represented...

Great Egrets - 3/16/2009
Great Egrets (Ardea alba)

Snowy Egret - 3/16/2009
Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)

... as were the herons.

Great Blue Heron - 3/16/2009
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

Little Blue Heron - 3/16/2009
Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea)

Tricolored Heron - 3/16/2009
Tricolored Heron (Egretta tricolor)

There were also a handful of Black-crowned Night-Herons, both adult and juvenile birds that had not yet lost their youthful plumage. The glowing orange of these night-herons' eyes were absolutely stunning.

Black-crowned Night-Heron - 3/16/2009
Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)

I have already posted several pictures of the kingfisher, grebes and bitterns that I saw, all of which were especially exciting finds.

American Bittern - 3/16/2009
American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus)

A trio of cormorants rounded out the highlights of the trip. One perched gracefully within fifty feet of my truck, its clear aqua blue eyes keeping a close watch as I crawled slowly by.

Neotropic Cormorant - 3/16/2009

There were at least a dozen or so more birds on hand, including gulls, several shorebirds, Tree Swallows, sparrows, kinglets, mockingbirds and cardinals. Plenty of Red Slider turtles, a sleeping snake and a pair of alligators also made appearances. All in all, this was one fantastic outing.

I've uploaded more photos from the trip to my Flickr photostream, in case you haven't had enough. (The first six in that set are from my previous visit to San Bernard, all others are from the more recent trip.)


Anonymous said...

Hi Kyle - those pictures are great - especially the Yellow Crowned Night Heron and the American Bittern! Bravo!
And to answer your question, yes my shots are from Florida, though the Green Heron can be found almost everywhere in the continental USA.
Like the Least Bittern he's just a little more secretive. Good spots to get them are branches hanging over the water - the like to hang out on those to fish.

Cheers, Klaus

Kathi said...


Your bird photos (and ID's) are really improving! You have some great shots there, and some awesome birds. Love the iridescence in the male Boat-tailed Grackle and the head of the male Northern Shoveler.

Do you have any tips for catching a soaring bird, like the Northern Harrier? I was trying for some bird-in-flight shots this weekend, and failed miserably.


Kelly said...

...the Bittern with the snake is incredible! The Boat-tailed Grackle is very cool. I've never seen one before.

Unknown said...

Love the American Bittern with the snake, amazing capture.

Kyle said...

Thanks, guys! It was an amazing day, with perfect weather and an overabundance of subjects just waiting for someone with a camera to come along.

Dave said...

Great pictures. I really like San Bernard. It is my second favorite place behind High Island. I like it more than Brazos Bend or Brazoria. I have posted a couple of entries about San Bernar. Thanks for sharing.