Sheila and I took a trip to the Gene Howe Wildlife Management Area this morning. It’s on the Canadian River just east of Canadian, TX, about a two hour drive from our house if you count coffee and restroom stops.
We went up to that part of the Panhandle because I had read a report on eBird of a Lesser Prairie Chicken sighting in Lipscomb County. We thought we’d start out at GHWMA and work our way north into Lipscomb as the morning progressed. We never saw the Prairie Chickens, but we did see lots of other birds.
After a pleasant drive on a beautiful morning we stopped at a pond and trail in the West Bull area of the WMA, stepped out of the truck and were immediately overwhelmed by birdsong. The first bird I saw was a new one for me-a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher that posed just long enough for me to get his portrait. Along with the Gnatcatcher there were several Northern Mockingbirds and Northern Cardinals calling in the cottonwoods around the pond, Red-winged Blackbirds and both Eastern and Western Meadowlarks added to the morning’s symphony.
The pond was full of American Coots, Blue-winged Teals, and Northern Shovelers. We found a small group of Eared Grebes as we walked around the shore. The male was decked out in full breeding plumage and was gorgeous. I’d photographed several of these birds at Meredith but none had been this colorful. As we continued along the foot path we encountered a huge Canada Goose. His (her-not sure how to tell the difference) head came almost to my shoulders. He honked at us for several minutes and then flew off.
We had been eying a group of about 4 or 5 medium/large, dark birds at the far shore of the pond as we walked and finally got close enough to see that they were White-faced Ibises. I had seen one from a distance last fall while out at Meredith with my youngest daughter but had been unable to get a good picture of it. These let us get pretty close and I was able to get several good photos. They are very beautiful and strange looking birds; long red legs, long down-curved bills, red skin around their eyes and bill and multicolored, iridescent feathers on their wings and back. Only the breeding males have a white line around the red skin that surrounds their eyes (thus the white-faced name) and there were none in this group. I got a particularly nice shot of a White-faced Ibis and a Blue-winged Teal flying off with their colors shining in the morning light.
After we returned to to the truck we found several Brown-headed Cowbirds in a nearby tree. Again, not a new bird for me but the only other one I had seen was a juvenile last fall at my feeders at home, so I was glad to be able to get pics of the adults.
We drove north up 305 into Lipscomb County to the area where the Prairie Chickens had been seen two weeks ago, but unfortunately, weren’t able to locate any. I really want to see these birds in their lek, gobbling and bubbling and puffing out the sacs on their throats as they dance for the hens. Must be quite a sight. We did see a beautiful Red-tailed Hawk beside the road. Red-taileds are the most abundant hawk in the US, but no less beautiful because of it.
All in all a nice day, even without the chickens. For more photos of the birds discussed in this post and other birds I’ve been fortunate enough to photograph in the last year check out the gallery pages.