Wednesday, January 30, 2013

UTC 091: Hermann Park / Houston Zoo

The Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail - Upper Texas Coast

I tried to time my arrival late enough so that it wouldn't be just me, the birds, and the derelicts, but early enough that I could still see some birds.  I arrived around 8am, which seemed to be just about perfect.  This was confirmed by a jogger who stopped to talk to me.  She wanted to know if I was looking for the bald eagles that had recently been sighted and tried to steer me in the direction they might be found.  She made it clear that I was not safe here before daylight.  "Make sure there are joggers around."    

I'm not sure if she was exaggerating, but this is an urban park in the United States' 4th largest city.  It's probably wise to err on the safe side.         

Sam Houston statue.  He's pointing toward Hermann Park. 

I didn't find the bald eagles or the hawks she said were often to be found in the Japanese Garden.  I did find plenty of other birds, though.

I either saw several blue jays, or this one was stalking me.  Do you ever find yourself wondering if birds watch people as intently as people watch birds?

This is the first ring-necked duck I've ever seen.  He's wintering on the lake within the park.  The ring around his neck is not evident in this photo, but that unique bill helped identify him.

There are two different cormorants to be found on the Gulf Coast, so it took a closeup of his face to confirm he is a Double-Crested Cormorant.  You can also tell by the slight crook of the neck if seen in flight.

I saw some sparrows bathing in a puddle and headed over to a bench, planning to sit quietly and watch.  A pair of mountain bikers stopped and began conversing quite loudly, chasing them off before I could identify them.  Would it have been rude to ask, "Are you going to ride or chit-chat?"  I stayed a few minutes, hoping they'd move on soon.  They didn't.

The park was becoming more and more crowded with people as the morning went on.  I decided it was probably a good time to head over to the Houston Zoo, which is within the park.  They have some amazing birds to see any time of day.  There's an aviary where birds (more than 200 according to my map/guide) fly freely within the enclosure, as well as the usual cages.  I don't think I'm supposed to include them in my diary, though.  It doesn't really count if they're captive.      

Birds seen this visit:  Mallard, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Blue Jay, Mourning Dove, Ring-necked Duck, Rock Pigeon, American Coot, Double-crested Cormorant, Snowy Egret, Grackle, domestic geese, domestic ducks.

This is a large, multi-use, city park with jogging, walking, and biking trails, picnic areas, grills, playgrounds, and restrooms.  There is also a train, a zoo, a theater with free performances during the summer, and a golf course.  The Houston Museum of Natural Science, IMAX theater, planetarium, and butterfly center are across the street.  One could easily spend an entire weekend here.

The park and zoo are wheelchair accessible.        

I'm linking up with Wild Bird Wednesday.  Visit to see more birds or link up photos of your own.    


Marie said...

Wonderful shot, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your visit there birding in the Houston park! Houston is a BIG city...I always avoided it when we lived between Houston and Austin several years ago, and went to Austin instead. But, there are some very interesting things in and around Houston!

Wally Jones said...

Very nice post! Urban parks can hold wonderful bird surprises! The heron/cormorant encounter in today's post is a good example.
I like your photographs. The Ring-necked Duck is a handsome guy! --Wally

Brian Miller said...

wow...pretty nice place...and full of life as well...been a while since i was down there..

Stewart M said...

Nice post - I often find myself stuck in urban areas when I am away with work - parks like this keep me sane.

Cheers and thanks for lining to WBW.

Stewart M - Melbourne

Tempo said...

Many years ago I filled my back yard with native bird attracting trees, now I can sit out there among hundreds of beautiful native birds and snap away.. Birds can be so hard to film. PS:always listen to the locals..

Larry said...

A wonderful post Jennifer. I have been followed by jays and other corvids before. They are very intelligent birds so I imagine that bird was following you ;-) I always enjoy seeing Ring-necked Ducks and the shot of the preening Cormorant is really cool!

TexWisGirl said...

great ring-neck shot!

sage said...

Great shots... I don't know if I've seen a ring-necked duck

eileeninmd said...

Great post! Your Ring-neck shot is awesome. I enjoyed your collection of birds for WBW!

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