01 May 2009

‘Eastern’ Rarities drop in at Smith…(High Island, Texas): 30 April 2009

April ended with a bang as two top class birds turned up in Smith Oaks. A brief morning walk guiding for Houston Audubon initially gave the impression of the big “end of season” clearout, with little warblers to show for a quick walk along the levee, although a single American Avocet and a little feeding party of “summ plum” Stilt Sandpipers on Claybottom Pond were worthy enough. However, we reached “Cape May Corner” and there they were, at least two cool Capes, including a fetching male, working the yaupons with a bunch of other warblers, including Bay-breasteds, and the most numerous warbler in the woods right now, Blackpoll. However, as we were sifting through this merry band up popped a brownish, hulking-billed vireo sporting a clear dark whisker – BLACK-WHISKERED VIREO, a rarity in these parts and a lifer for more than a few of us present. Annoyingly though it managed to sneak off and miss our camera lenses and more than a few other birders in the process.

More Bobolinks and Dickcissels were seen along the highway on the Bolivar Peninsula (and a lonely Piping Plover down near the shore, and a Long-billed Curlew at Rollover Pass-almost a rarity in these post-Ike days), and a Clay-colored Sparrow was a surprise find by Josh Engel along Yacht Basin Road. Although all this “birdfun” was tarnished a little when a male Black-throated Blue Warbler dropped in the same woods in the afternoon, and refused to show after an initial thrill for the finder. This was the second one on my “home turf” this week that had managed to elude me so masterfully. Still I did get to have some marvellous looks at a few Magnolia Warblers (see photo) dangling daintily right in front of me, so not all bad after all…

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