2022-08-18 Thursday’s Gulf Coast Tour

Carolina Chickadee - Poecile carolinensis
Eighteen months prior to this meeting, I enjoyed my first encounter with Carolina Chickadees. I was grateful for this second meeting, because the images from my earlier visit here at San Bernard NWR were not as pristine as I’d have liked.
American White Ibis - Eudocimus albus
The White Ibis at the Wolfweed Wetland Marsh left the scene shortly after I snapped a few images, as did the rest of the marsh birds at San Bernard NWR a few minutes later.

I slept at the Walmart Astoria (i.e. parking lot) Wednesday night, but before I retired, calculated my route for Thursday. I set one of my destinations up for the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge. I drove, following Google’s directions, which was a big mistake. Google sent me to the headquarters where I was met with a locked gate. I had the same disappointing experience 18 months ago, and I fell into the same trap. I’d hoped that the locked gate from my earlier visit was a temporary setback, and I’d be able to gain entry this time. But it was now clear this was not the correct place to enter the reserve. 

After some online research, I found a road several miles away that was the correct place to enter the refuge, and I explored the auto tour road. But this was clearly not the right time of the year to meet the birds that it boasts to host. It’s my understanding that winter is the ideal time to visit here, when thousands of Snow Geese and other wildfowl that summer in higher latitudes find agreeable warm weather, and stay until it is time to return to the north and raise another generation. If these long-distance travelers were to show up now, they would be disappointed with the place. Most of the lakes, sloughs, and ponds were bone dry. One day, I’d like to visit when times are better suited for me and the birds. At least now, I know how to gain access.

Just as I did on my previous visit 18 months ago, I left Brazoria NWR and drove to San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge. I’d met Carolina Chickadees on the Bobcat Trail on my earlier visit, and I had my heart set on spending time with them again. Given how dry it was at Brazoria, I didn’t expect much standing water at San Bernard. But when I arrived I found there was still some water at the Wolfweed Wetland Marsh, though the level was pretty low. When I walked out to the observation deck, I noticed quite a few Common Gallinules foraging on the mudflats, while White Ibis poked around in the shallows. But as soon as I ascended the ramp to the platform, every bird in sight skedaddled.

With the subjects on the marsh being so shy, I walked away from the observation deck and back to the Bobcat Trail. There, I was rewarded with a lengthy encounter with the Carolina Chickadees I’d hoped for. I knew they’d still be in the area, as they are non-migratory. On my last visit here, I didn’t get many good looks, and at the time I believed them to be Black-Capped Chickadees. It wasn’t until I left the region and reviewed my images that I realized I’d had my first meeting with Carolina Chickadees. On this day, I believe I made up for the lost opportunities during my last visit, and I listened to their unique voices as they darted in and out of the foliage. I gathered as many fresh images of this species as the time and my endurance for the heat and humidity allowed, before taking my leave and continuing to inch my way down the Gulf Coast.

Using the Google Map search function, I found a Safety Rest Area east of Victoria that seemed a good place for me to stop for the night. I might have pushed all the way to Austwell and the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, but I’d have gotten there late in the day and not have been able to take advantage of the time to explore. Rather, I thought it better to show up in the morning and book my space at the City of Austwell’s RV Park, like my past visits. This arrangement would also give me the opportunity to have a morning breakfast in Victoria, and to top off my fuel, so I wouldn’t have to worry about running low during my visit to the nearby Aransas NWR. Even though the Whooping cranes are a month from showing up, I might still find some interesting birds. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Click map markers to reveal further information