by Noel Pettingell
TEN YEARS AGO THIS MONTH
FROM APRIL, 1977 SPOONBILL
"SPECIAL REPORTS TO THE CLEARING HOUSE
Possible nesting of a Hooded Merganser in Ft. Bend
County On March 4, 1977 several members of the
OG team doing a bird survey for the TP&W Dept.
on the Hale Ranch Park Site in Ft. Bend County observed a female Hooded Merganser as it flew into
a hole about 20 feet up on the side of a dead pecan tree. An examination of the hole on the next
day revealed one egg in the nest. Weather conditions prevented further examination or observation
at the site until April 8, at which time the nest
was found to contain 5 or 6 eggs. The merganser
was not seen on the April date, and the park manager had not seen any mergansers for some time.
Further observation and examination will be made.
Observers in the original party were Mary Ann
Chapman, T. Ben Feltner and C. Dean Fisher.
There are no prior nesting reports by [sic] Hooded
Mergansers in Texas.~C-H Editor"
THIRTY YEARS AGO THIS MONTH
FROM APRIL, 1957 SPOONBILL
"Gannet found in Galveston
On March 23rd, 1957, Mr. & Mrs. S. G. Kersh-
ner, Susan and Tommy Kershner, Ralph Peterson
and John O'Neill made a birding trip to Galveston.
All were interested in birds but Tommy Kershner
was also working on his bird study merit badge.
"Along West beach they came upon what was
thought to be a dead pelican washed up on the
shore. After pulling it out of the sand, field
guides were studied and it was discovered that the
bird was an immature gannet.
"John who is an expert at mounting birds,
took the gannet home and at the meeting of the
Houston Ornithology Group on April 11, he displayed a mounted Laughing gull, a Screech owl and
the immature gannet, all beautifully mounted and
ii perfect condition.
"The gannet is 'listed on our checklist as an
accidental visitant. The only other recent record
of this species in Galveston was an immature captured alive by George Williams and Lawrence Tab-
ony on September 20, 1952. Identification was verified by Prof. George Williams of Rice Institute."
SAN JACINTO: continued from page 1
Almost all the birds at San Jacinto Park are
found at the south end on the large sand bars. This
area is open to vehicles in summer and has a picnic area with a rest-room. A visit to this area in
summer and fall will always produce from 4 to 80
Wood Storks! These magnificent birds arrive here
in early June and leave by October. They always
associate with the Roseate Spoonbills to produce unparalleled beauty. This is the only spot near Houston besides Brazoria NWR where you are almost
certain to find them. However, at San Jacinto
they are quite tame and can be viewed from as
close as 20 yards. In the evenings, watch them as
they fly into the tall trees for their nightly roost.
Summer also brings many other coastal species
that loaf in the sandy areas. Regular birds at this
time include American White Pelican, Reddish
Egret, Mottled Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Clapper
Rail and Laughing Gull. Terns are abundant, including Caspian, Royal, Forster's, Least and Black.
Black Skimmers fly about making their unusual
"barking" calls. Great Blue Heron, Great and
Snowy Egrets and Tricolored Heron can be seen
throughout the extensive marshy area. Even the
rare Osprey occurs during the hot humid summer.
As summer fades into fall the park begins
attracting new residents. Late November brings
the largest raft of Hofoded Mergansers on the entire
UTC littoral region. Indeed this is the only area
on the UTC that I have enjoyed these handsome
ducks. They are easiest to find on cold, damp,
blustery days at the north end by an old submerged
chain-link fence. During these cold spells I have
counted up to 83, but on warm days I always find
fewer than 15. If you see the wintering group of
200 Black-crowned Night-Herons, you are in the correct area of the park. Other ducks that are found
in winter include Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall and a tremendous
raft of 2000 Lesser Scaup.
Shorebirds are very common on the sand flats
in migration and winter. You can always find Black-
bellied and Semipalmated Plovers. In winter you
should see American Avocet, Greater and Lesser
Yellowlegs, Willet, Spotted Sandpiper, Sanderling,
Western and Least Sandpipers and Dunlin. Mixed
flocks of dowitchers also winter in large concentrations. Common Snipe are occasionally seen feeding
in the marshy area. Listen for calling Northern
Flickers and singing Pine Warblers during this time.
During fall migration in August and September
be on the lookout for migrating White Ibis. Herons
and egrets begin showing up in tremendous numbers.
Black-necked Stilts, Solitary and Stilt Sandpipers
put in brief appearances. Check the hedge-rows
for Blue-winged Warblers, Yellow-breasted Chat and
Orchard and Baltimore Orioles.
The park also has a permanent avian population that can appeal to numerous birders. Olivaceous Cormorants can always be found preening on
the old pilings. Ospreys have been recorded every
month perching in the dead tree snags. Belted Kingfishers call constantly as they dive for fish. Red-
shouldered Hawks, Blue Jay, Common Yellowthroat
and Seaside Sparrows reside year round. Indeed I
have recorded a total of 135 species since I started
birding this park in 1985.