HIGHLIGHTS OF SOME 1988 CHRISTMAS COUNTS
by Ellen Red
Reports' from all the 1988 Christmas counts
told of incredible dryness. Former sloughs and
marshes were baked and cracked, lakes were dried
to little puddles or nonexistent, and everywhere
there were fewer birds. However, there were good
numbers of birders. Dryness has its advantages.
It was downright pleasant not having to slosh through
On the Cypress Creek count, the day dawned
with a spectacular sunrise. Birders in the fields of
Josey Ranch stopped to marvel at the sight of geese
on their early morning flights, long ribbons of them,
silhouetted against the beautiful pink clouds. In the
high grass, the LeConte's Sparrows were hopping up
to perch for everyone to see. It was a great
beginning to the fourteenth annual Cypress Creek
count, always held on New Year's Day.
The December 20th Christmas count at the
San Bernard NWR, on the other hand, began with
mist and an occasional shower. The wetness ended
by mid-morning, and was not enough to have any
effect on the birders or the drought. One group,
assigned to wetlands on the property adjoining the
refuge, walked for miles in an area where darkened
tree trunks showed evidence of water two feet high
in wetter times. Now, of course, there were only
dry leaves to kick through. There were no marsh
birds, of course, and only a few woods birds. However this group and the count as a whole saw quite
a good number of species before the day ended.
The count circle included the huge marshland of
the refuge, the beach, a little town nearby and residences along Clear Lake Creek. The rangers at
the refuge served all the birders gumbo and rice
for supper, a wonderful treat. If they keep that up,
future counts there will have more participants
than they can handle.
The Galveston Christmas count, held the day
after Christmas, was a different kind of outing for
some of the participants. The "town group" toured
the gardens of residents of Galveston, and picked
up a number of warbler species, including Black-and-
White, American Redstart and Wilson's. This group
also saw a Red-headed Woodpecker, a Blue Jay and
a Titmouse, but, no Chickadee. All of these birds
are very rare on the island. The group ate lunch at
the lovely, historic home of Martha Micks, and then
went to the East Beach jetties. The fog was close
to shore, and the waves were crashing over the
rocks. A Pomerine Jaeger startled everyone by suddenly appearing, flying low over the jetty. Further
down the beach a Gannet flew along out near the
The Freeport Christmas count on December 18
is considered the biggest and best of all the counts.
It always gets the most birds and the most birders,
and attracts a lot of attention from the rest of the
country. The dinner given by the Dow Chemical
Company is very exciting, because often a good
number of rare birds are seen on this count. Everyone listens as birders give details. You can flap
your arms to show how the bird flew, as Victor
did, but, as with all our counts, the committee
wants to be absolutely certain you saw that bird.
Susan Drennan, Editor in Chief of American Birds,
was a distinguished visitor at the dinner this year.
She gave everyone a boost when she stated that
the Freeport count sends in the best documentation
of any count in the nation.
In the December Spoonbill Mark Brown drew
a diagram of eighteen Christmas counts within seventy-five miles of Houston's center. Did anyone
go on all of them? It would be fun to know who
went on the most. If you went on six or more, let
your editor know.
MINUTES OF OG MEETING JAN. 5, 1989
Mr. David Dauphin of our very own OG presented the January program on the "Owls of North
America." Dave has been studying these primarily
nocturnal raptors for twenty years. This informative
and entertaining talk was accompanied by beautiful
slides and tape recorded calls of the 19 species of
owl. Dave encourages all of us to practice owl
calls; he "talks" to owls regularly, and says if he
can call up owls, anyone can.
The largest crowd this writer ever remembers
seeing at an OG meeting was present for the owl
program; and over heard later in the evening was
the comment, "This is the best meeting we've had
all year." Thanks, Dave.
In our business portion of the evening, Jerry
Patrick gave the Treasurer's report, detailed copies
of which are available to any member upon request.
Dues are due, Jerry reminds, and Peggy Milstead
urges those members who pay dues for two people
please to specify with the payment so as not to be
confused with single members making a two-year
Ed Rozenburg announced programs on "Birds
of South Africa" and "Predators" available at the
Houston Museum of Natural Science. Call 526-1763
Ed also reminded us of the relentless pressure
on the natural world, especially in the matters of
the proposed West Harris County airport and the
proposed road extension through the Armand Bayou
Nature Center. We are encouraged to write letters
expressing our views to the proper authorities, whose
names and addresses can be found in Nature Notes.
Changes in the Checklist Committee were
announced. Jim Morgan and Ted Eubanks have
resigned, and in their place Dave Dauphin, Steve
Gast and Ed Rozenburg will be joining Noel
Pettingell. They anticipate the revised checklist
will be ready to publish sometime this summer.
Caroline Callery made a motion that the OG
express its gratitude for the many, many hours of
tireless and dedicated service afforded to the OG
by Jim Morgan and Ted Eubanks over the years.
The motion was seconded and passed by landslide
proportions. Thank you, Jim and Ted.
Margaret Jones was present and brought two
beautiful paintings treasured by her late husband,
Paul. These paintings were originally acquired by
Paul from an OG auction, and are to be "recycled"
and auctioned at the March meeting. Thank you,
Margaret, for your donation to the OG.
Richard Uzar, Secretary