Sunday, July 15, 2018

Roseate Spoonbill

On Tuesday morning July 10 Sue and Stephen Whitmer, longtime neighborhood residents and birders, found a Roseate Spoonbill on Lake Creek. Spoonbills are large pink coastal wading birds. When people see them down on the Texas coast, they often call them flamingos because of their color. During the summer, some juveniles wander inland, and one or two can usually be found at Granger Lake or other large bodies of water. But they don't usually find our little neighborhood creek! Sue and Stephen saw one here in 1996, and I saw one in about 2002 (both observations pre-date eBird). So this was only the third time we know of that anyone has seen a Roseate Spoonbill on Lake Creek.

I put the word out to the local birding community. It was upstream from the trail, actually visible from the Broadmeade Avenue bridge across the creek. Sue said it was hanging around with Snowy Egrets and Great Egrets. Craig Browning and Barry Noret were able to find the bird around lunch time. Steven McDonald looked for it at 3 PM but couldn't find it. Shortly before 6 PM Helen Mastrangelo saw the spoonbill in the distance downstream from the Broadmeade bridge. Jordy Keith and I arrived a little later and the three of us searched downstream for the bird for about two hours but we couldn't find it. (We did find a juvenile Tricolored Heron, a similarly coastal species that wanders inland during its first year. It's more common here than the spoonbill.)

On Wednesday morning neighborhood resident Michael Falgoust photographed the spoonbill by the last dam on the creek (where Saddlebrook Trail ends). I finally found the bird in the same area Thursday evening. I arrived at the last dam at about 6:30 PM to see three people fishing, one of them launching a kayak on that small pond! So I knew if the bird was still there it would soon be scared away. As I looked upstream, I saw a large pinkish bird flying towards me. It flew low almost right over me, and continued downstream where I saw it land in the tall vegetation in the creek bed almost all the way down to the Parmer Lane bridge. I decided to follow it.

Walking on the trail downstream, I started to see several Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets in the creek bed, closer than I thought the spoonbill had landed. So I went off trail through the tall grass to get closer to the creek bed and see if the spoonbill was still associating with the egrets. As I slowly approached I spotted a pale pinkish bird loafing in the shade. I found it! As I slowly moved to get an unobstructed view and then waited, it lifted its bill from under its wings and I got this photo:

Roseate Spoonbill - 2

Nearby was another juvenile Tricolored Heron:

Tricolored Heron

I messaged a few folks and later that evening Steven McDonald was able to see both birds. Since then no one has reported seeing the spoonbill, but I don't know that anyone has checked the same location. I hope it's still around!

This was my 229th species to observe on Lake Creek Trail.

I organize my photos from Lake Creek Trail by month, and I've already accumulated quite a few for July. Here they are on Flickr, including a couple more spoonbill photos, the Tricolored Heron that Jordy, Helen, and I found on Tuesday, and lots of dragonflies!


mikhealc said...

That is really awesome!!!!!!

Unknown said...

Love you information on the Soonbill, great post.