Last Saturday I made another trip out to Smith Oaks to see how much the babies had grown since my last visit. A month ago most of the egret eggs had hatched, but they still weren't very old (maybe a week or two) while the spoonbills were still unhatched. The spoonbills have now hatched, but haven't left the nests to roam around yet. It will be a few more weeks before they're running around on the island by themselves and a few more weeks after that before they'll be able to fly.
Now you might be asking "why aren't the parents there?" and that's because they were out getting food. The island rookery is very safe as long as the babies stick to the nest while the parents are gone. Even if they do fall out there's a slim chance that something can get to them. Remember the alligator from the last post, well that's the only real threat for them right now. I guess there's the threat of gars if they go into the water too, but that's an even slimmer chance than the alligator. In case you don't know what a gar is they are a type of fish that's pretty aggressive and fun to catch. There were plenty around in the water and you could tell because they would actually come to the surface every now and then for whatever reason. I managed to get a few photos of their backs as they came to the surface, but I'm only going to post one because they all look the same.
I was able to get a few good shots of some Greater and Lesser Egrets, one Roseate Spoonbill, and a good one of a Double Crested Cormorant in flight.
Anahuac Wildlife Preserve
The Anahuac Wildlife Preserve is right down the road from Smith Oaks, in fact it's a little closer to Houston than the rookery. It's pretty nice, quiet, and pretty large preserve actually. It's mostly a salt marsh and salt prarie environment so there's more variety of species here than Smith Oaks.
Right out front of the main visitors center there's a Gazebo where about a dozen or more pairs of Cave and Cliff Swallows make their nests. They're almost identical as far as looks go, but their nests are different and that's the easiest way to tell them apart. Cave Swallows build their nests open at the top, while Cliff Swallows fully enclose their nests with mud to protect them from the elements.
The last bird in this slideshows is a Tree Swallow. I saw him perched out on the main driving trail where the first stop-off point is so I decided to get a quick photo while he was there.
Below are some photos from the driving trail. There's a fair amount of different species for this slideshow so I ID'd them in the captions instead of typing up a summary of them all in order.
Two things I'll point out in this slideshow is that if you look closely at the Red-winged Blackbird he's actually eating spiders from their webs in the marsh grasses. The other is the Tri-colored Heron. Right after I took that photo he flew away with that reed, I'm guessing to use it for nesting material.
Like the last post I have another star, the Purple Gallinule. I found a few at one of the stopping points still in the marsh part of the driving trail. Both male and female Purple Gallinules have this bright coloration which is different from most species of birds where the females are a more drab color and the males are more brightly colored to help attract the females. Purple Gallinues aren't very good fliers, but they are extremely good waders. Their longer legs and toes help spread out their weight to the point where they can easily walk across lilypads and other floating foliage.
The first photo in this slideshow is of one I found walking around with it's mate. I took this photo while walking on an elevated walking platform in the marsh. The others are all of a mother and her chicks.
The chicks are solid black which doesn't make them as noticable to predators, but their colors come in once they reach adulthood. This mother was walking around with six chicks, two were following closely while the rest just wandered around within sight of their mother while she was feeding them. I was actually only about ten feet or so away from the family while taking most of these photos so they must not see humans as much of a threat, which makes for some good opportunities.
Anyway I thought I'd end this post with them since they're one of the most interesting looking birds in South East Texas in my opinion. I just got my new 600mm Tamron lens in the mail yesterday, so look forward to even better photos coming up soon.