Date: February 28, 2015
Weather: a little sun, windy
Temperature: start 40º
Wildlife count: Muskrat
Year List: 160
Birds: White-tailed Kite, Eastern Meadowlark, Eastern Phoebe, Northern Harrier, American Coot, Green-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, Blue-winged Teal, Great-tailed Grackle, Common Gallinule, Savannah Sparrow, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Mottled Duck, Turkey Vulture, White & Brown Pelicans, Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Merganser, Horned Grebe, Eared Grebe, Lesser Scaup, Forster’s Tern, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Wilson’s Snipe, Great Blue Heron, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Double-crested Cormorant, Loggerhead Shrike, Northern Mockingbird, Mourning Dove, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Killdeer, American Kestrel, Purple Martin
Today was the Friends of Anahuac Refuge volunteer workday. Most all of the RV volunteers were on hand to help, along with about a dozen folks who belong to the Friends organization.
Several tasks were accomplished, and much of the work needed is due to residual effects of Hurricane Ike, 2008. Most all of the trees were destroyed on the refuge, which is where wading birds like Egrets as well as Cormorants build their rookeries. One group of volunteers built stands, which will be covered with small twigs and erected on islands in deep ponds – rookeries are always located in areas as safe from predators as possible – predators like coyotes and raccoons.
A huge body of research has shown that the populations of Monarch Butterflies are declining precipitously, mostly due to the destruction of their main source of food – milkweed. The decline is almost as severe as the rapid extinction of the Passenger Pigeon. When the salt water from the hurricane covered the land, reaching many miles inland, it destroyed most all of the forbes as well as milkweed. If seeds are simply scattered, they are overshadowed by the salt-tolerant plants which survived and grasses that have returned. Therefore, our job was to fill potting containers with specially prepared potting soil, to be ready for planting with seeds that have been gathered from areas that were not damaged. Other volunteers sorted seeds. Once germinated, seedlings will be moved outdoors to a shade house, where they will be watered throughout the summer until ready for planting. The volunteer in charge of this project has immense knowledge of how to restore the native salt grass prairie.
Another group worked to restore the butterfly garden – to remove noxious weeds and make room for those that naturally attract butterflies to the area. It was a great morning of work – some of our muscles are talking to us tonight. Lunch was provided by the Friends group, who also provided some of the funding for the projects.
When all had been cleaned up, we drove out to Galveston Bay through the refuge to an area called Frozen Point. This is located several miles up the Bay from Bolivar Peninsula, where we traveled Thursday. Several people were surf fishing in waders, in water up to their chest, but with the brisk wind, that would have been quite cold! We saw a white hawk in a willow from a long distance away, and recognized a White-tailed Kite – we get to see lots of them here, but this was the first photo. These are amazing birds, able to “kite” or hold in one place hovering over a possible prey, even in very strong winds. Out in the water, we caught long distance views of large mixed flocks of mergansers, amazing diving ducks and a mixed flock of grebes. It is such a surprise coming across large groups of birds, when they only appear as black spots before identification.
We were tired from all of the lifting and carrying, so we crashed for the rest of the afternoon. We treated ourselves to our last meal of grilled Harter House filets, a green salad and baked potato. We are tired, but it is a good tired.