2022-08-17 Anahuac NWR

Neotropic Cormorant - Phalacrocorax brasilianus
These cormorants posed nicely at the West Line Road near the boat launch at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.
Laughing Gull - Leucophaeus atricilla
There were both first-year birds and adult non-breeding gulls along the West Line Road to the boat launch and the northwest corner of Shoveler Pond at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.

I broke camp at High Island early and drove to the nearby Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge to explore. I’d visited the refuge previously in March 2021. I began my tour at the Skillern Tract, several miles east of the main refuge. At the terminus of the road is a parking area and trails to explore. Because of the disrepair to the boardwalk leading north, I declined to wander in that direction. Instead, I walked out on the trail leading south. This trail followed a concrete sidewalk that wove its way through a tunnel of low trees lined with hundreds of large Golden Silk Orb-Weaver spiders. I used the legs of my tripod to fend off the webs that barricaded the trail, and chase the spiders out of my path. I reached the trail’s end finding no feathered quarry, though a large unidentifiable flycatcher I suspect was an Eastern Kingbird, teased me behind some leafy obstructions and into the bright sun. Black Flies and mosquitoes kept me company as I walked the trail.

I left the Skillern Tract and drove 6½  miles west to the main gate on the refuge. This refuge is well-suited to exploration while driving a vehicle, and with the high heat and humidity, that suited me just fine! With my air conditioner set to high, I set out to see what birds I might find during the August doldrums. Shoveler Pond at Anahuac NWR has four sides, and the tour road around it has a north, a west, a south, and an east side. My tour there was like a theater with four acts; each corresponding to a cardinal direction. When the curtain fell after Act 1 on the north stage, it was raised to reveal Act 2 and a new set of actors on the west stage, only to repeat on the south stage, and culminate with Act 4 on the east stage.

Act 1 was mostly uneventful until I reached the end of the session at the northwest corner and found a well-posed Laughing Gull which was chased off its perch by an adult Green Heron. In Act 2, I found juvenile Green Herons and Snowy Egrets haunting the western shore. Act 3, along the south shore, treated me to shorebirds. Black-Necked Stilt parents were in the company of their full-grown juveniles, and I also found a single Least Sandpiper and a Spotted Sandpiper. Act 4, along the eastern shore, provided meetings with Common Gallinules and Turkey Vultures on patrol over the marsh.

I finished my tour of Shoveler Pond, or more accurately, Shoveler Swamp, and I drove back towards the Friends Visitor Center. On my way, I found a female Rufous Hummingbird and many Eastern Kingbirds. These Kingbirds seemed to be everywhere at the refuge. 

I ended my visit with a drive on West Line Road to the boat launch at the western shore of East Galveston Bay. My favorite moment there was a close encounter with two Neotropic Cormorants that calmly posed for pictures.

When I ended my visit at Anahuac, I drove west to Kemah, a suburban community between Houston and Gaveston. and found a Walmart to boondock for the night. The following morning, I continued around the Gulf to the Brazoria and San Bernard National Wildlife Refuges. I hope to tell that story in the next installment.

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