04 May 2009

Blue Thriller in Boy Scout…(High Island, Texas): 3 May 2009

Well it was my final day in High Island for this spring season guiding for the Houston Audubon Society/Tropical Birding project . As with last year I felt some sadness at the season coming to a close, so many people (and a few birds too) make this a really enjoyable project – the volunteers from Houston Audubon who made some superb southern food for us all (the gumbo especially stands out), and just make this a great thing to be part of, and also the local High Islanders who are great to have beers with long into the night, and provide some truly rare and unique moments in life. As the latter had happened the night before it was hard to wrench myself out of bed, even knowing there might still be a lifer hanging out in the woods just across from our house on 5th Street.

Punishment came when I finally emerged bleary and red-eyed from the house only to be met by the sanctuary manager, Winnie Burkett, who informed me that the male Black-throated Blue Warbler (a rare bird in these parts) was still present, and pangs of regret at having pushed my alarm away in anger shortly before immediately kicked in. This bird had been tormenting me for the last week on High Island, where it is normally rare and not even annual in occurrence, although in this week alone there had been at least 4 different birds. All of which I had missed over the last five painful days. My lethargy from a heavy night on the drink with some serious local drinkers was suddenly forgotten as I leapt for my bins, camera and headed over to the Boy Scout Woods sanctuary. Of course on reaching the spot, the fiendish blue sprite had moved on again, and after ten minutes searching I had to return to the house to pick up some final things needed for the Houston Audubon guided walk around the sanctuary that I was going to lead. Just as I reached the house Christian Boix, (one of the other guides) rang with the news he had the warbler in his sights, so I raced there muttering something hurriedly to the people gathered for the walk who soon followed me to the spot, where Christian was waving in desperation as the Black-throated Blue slipped back into the underbrush with just the merest of glimpses! In the end though this slippery bird finally settled down into a routine and allowed all who wanted it a fine look at it, although he avoided all my attempts to get a decent close up shot of him!

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