30 April 2010

Blue Day in High Island (Texas): 30 April

My day begun late with a trip down to Frenchtown Road on the Bolivar Peninsula at noon. Thick mist and bouts of rain dogged viewing as I made my way down there. This was meant to be a shorebird walk, and indeed it did end up being one, eventually. However, just a short way down Frenchtown, a large flock of Dickcissels flushed out of the scrub and our thoughts quickly turned from shorebirds to what other songbirds were lurking having just crossed the Gulf? The answer was lots! We were out of the car quickly and soon after warbler names were flying this way and that: as we found this choice birds clinging to the vaguest of vegetation present in the area. The main component of this Gulf wave was Yellow Warblers, although a very brief Mourning Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Chestnut-sided Warblers, multiple Tennessees, Baltimore Orioles, and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Every so often another large crowd of Dickcissels passed over indicating more "Mexmigrants" were on the way.

With a brief respite from the activity, we switched back to what we had come for: shorebirds. A quick sweep of the fast diminishing pool at Frenchtown revealed a large shape feeding prominently in the nearest pool: female Hudosnian Godwit, 2 Stilt Sandpipers, and at least three White-rumped Sandpipers were the headliners today.
After a brief check of Rollover Pass to add a pack of skimmers and a hearty amount of Black Terns (some of which had now "blacked-up" nicely), we were back on the "dome": High Island, where warbler numbers were on the rise. I stopped in at the photo blind where a Blackburnian only flirted with the idea of coming down to the drip, and a Bay-breasted Warbler repeatedly visited the grandstand drip. However, in this superb 30 minute spell in the blind a male Cerulean Warbler dazzled the few of us present...magic!

28 April 2010

Day of the Chat...(High Island, Texas): 28 April

The morning walk in Boy Scout Woods was packed with birds, although a markedly different mix from yesterday. Gone were many of the warblers, although masses of thrushes were in attendance. It seemed every step we took brought up a flurry of Swainson's Thrushes. Tanagers too were loaded into the lot, both Scarlet and Summer. The one notable exception to that warbler statement were the Yellow-breasted Chats, that were simply everywhere. In just over an hour we had racked up a minimum of 30 different birds with no effort at all. Some even posed in the sunlight for us too. A remarkable chat event for sure, the likes of which no one I spoke to today seems to have seen before, ever.

In the afternoon things changed with warblers once again flitting around the woods, and a brief stint in the photo blind saw me get this Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Northern Parula, and immature bicolored Summer Tanager, before I tried to click the shutter and realized with horror (and birds teaming all around) my car was full!!!

27 April 2010

Drip Fest...(Boy Scout Woods, High Island, Texas): 27 April

High Island was pumping today, lots of warblers, tanagers, grosbeaks. thrushes. In the morning hearing the woods were pumping I headed out to Smith Oaks where huge numbers of Black-throated Green Warblers, Blue-headed Vireos dominated proceedings and a few Blackburnians and Canada Warblers thrown in.

In the afternoon I sneaked into the photo blind at Boy Scout Woods, for some top quality migrant action. Gulf migrants were coming in, non-stop with regulars commenting this was the biggest flurry of the spring so far. I sat glued for some time before I had to pull myself away. In that short half hour spell Nashville Warbler, Canada Warbler, Blue-headed & Warbling Vireos, Yellow-breasted Chat, and others coming in. In the end I had to drag myself from this and head over to Smith Oaks, where the woods were loaded with warblers, including a single Magnolia Warbler among the horde.

Restroom Rainbow!...(High Island, Texas): 27 April

I casually wandered into our restroom this morning (in the Tropical Birding High Island Information Center), glanced out the window and saw this beautiful male Painted Bunting munching seeds outside (photo). People have started to call them Painted Trash over the last few days as they have become so, so common. I for one though am still into them big time!

26 April 2010

High Island Report...(Texas): 26 April

My morning amble around the woods at Boy Scout, saw me alerted to an ashy gray form sitting quietly in a tree behind the Houston Audubon kiosk: Mississipi Kite, (bottom photo), my first of the spring season, and not a bad opener to our walk. A bounty of buntings graced the woods with some prominent mulberry bushes attracting the usual assortment of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Scarlet Tanagers, Cedar Waxwings, and a bunch of Painted Buntings too, with a mix of females and males competing for these juicy fruits. A Black-throated Green Warbler was found gleaning in an oak, and a Warbling Vireo was seen perched in a pecan tree. Most outstanding performance by a warbler this morning could have been Chestnut-sided Warbler, as it flitted around just in front of us (top photo), although was beaten to the punch 10 minutes later when Charley (Hesse) spotted a Swainson's Warbler trying to sneak into the drip in front of the Grandstand. It may have only been there for a few minutes but the looks were stellar as it surveyed the scene from a dead branch giving full scope views! An exciting few hours in the field.

25 April 2010

Fiendish Fork-tailed...(High Island, Texas): 25 April

After yesterday's rarity, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, the parking lot at Smith Oaks began filling before dawn in anticipation of catching up with it. A morning went by, with no sightings at all in spite of many patrols on the prowl. I searched several times and came up blank, although late in the afternoon several independent groups had brief sightings, although each time the bird managed to slip away before the masses could get satisfaction. Although much of yesterdays mini-fallout had moved on, a healthy batch of warblers were still in the woods, and Painted Bunting numbers received a bounce today, with mulberries frequently quivering from them. Indeed red mulberries are now prominent in Smith, andwere receiving Swainson's Thrushes, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and gaudy Baltimore Orioles (photo) to name a few. I also encountered a striking Yellow-breasted Chat in the same stand of mulberries as one of these rainbow buntings, and my FOS Bay-breasted Warbler fell in Smith today too. Black-throated Green Warblers were especially conspicuous today, and what with a few Blackburnians thrown in for me too, it was an enjoyable day in the woods, despite the Fork-tailed frustration!

24 April 2010

High Island MEGA: Fork-tailed Flycatcher (High Island, Texas): 24 April

Quick shot of this afternoon's mega: FORK-TAILED FLYCATCHER that we found this afternoon in Smith Oaks on High Island. After a magical few minutes the bird lifted off laround 17.30) leaving us with a truly memorable experience. Lets hope someone re-finds this distinctive bird and we can soak it up one more time...

23 April 2010

Shorebird Spectacular...(Bolivar Peninsula, Texas): 23 April

With warblerless woods in the morning for me I opted to head down to the shore and hot Frenchtown Road, which has been the top place for shorebirds over the last week or so. This ended up being my best days shorebirding down there in my three seasons based out of High Island. On arrival a small group of 5 Wilson's Phalaropes preened in among the dowitchers and held our attention until the summer plum Red Knot showed up (that has been faithful here for the last week of more). Sweeping the pool a large shorebird probing the mud proved to be yesterdays Hudsonian Godwit still present, although the three Baird's Sandpipers that nervously joined the pack soon jetted off north. (Perhaps helped along by the menacing Peregrine Falcon that scythed over the pool while we stood alongside).

A brief respite from waders had us scoping a bold Sora walking out onto the open mud, before we decided to check where the hudwit had gone. While hauling up to far end of the pool to check on the godwit we got caught in a rainshower that brought down a flurry of songbirds: 13 Dickcissels stood rain-sprinkled in the grass, before a male Bobolink emerged a short time later. The same magic flock also held a rainbow Painted Bunting, a lone Black-throated Green Warbler (looking completely lost in this near treeless landscape), Blue Grosbeak, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Warbling Vireo and several Indigo Buntings.
Back onto the shorebirds we teased out a pair of White-rumped Sandpipers, watched a frankly tame Clapper Rail bathing mid-pool for a time, (photo) and also found a single Pectoral Sandpipers, and more than 10 Stilt Sandpipers, not to mention a flock of 13 or so Fulvous Whistling Ducks near the lighhtouse.

The afternoon for me ended back on High Island ogling first a gorgeous male Golden-winged Warbler at Smith Oaks, my first this season, and then a flamey male Blackburnian Warbler.

"Dance of the Terns"...(Bolivar Peninsula, Texas): April

The last few weeks the coastbirding at Rollover Pass has been phenomenal, with up to 8 species of terns (including some blotchy Black Terns), flushed pink Franklin's Gulls dropping in from time to time, and packs of Black Skimmers regularly watched resting their oversized beaks on the sand. The shorebirds have also been in fine form with regular doses of Snowy Plovers among a horde of others. It has also been fun to watch the behavior of the birds, as the terns have been frisky, and frequently observed mating and "courting", while Reddish Egrets "fish dance" in the background. A magical coastal spot that has never failed to have some kind of show for us all.

Photo: Sandwich Terns "getting it on"

22 April 2010

High Island Report...(High Island, Texas): 22 April

Things were a bit slow today, with desperately slow woods in the morning. The shorebirding during the middle of the day saved us though, with the magical pool on Frenchtown Rd, on the Bolivar Peninsula, holding a Hudsonian Godwit lurking conspicuously among a pack of Short-billed Dowitchers, a red, red Red Knot fed along the edge, and a couple of dowdy male Wilson's Phalaropes dropped in and "hid" among the dowitchers too. A quick stop by the lighthouse saw us ogling 25 Fulvous Whistling-Ducks, and a large raptor along highway 87 near Crystal Beach had us applying the brakes with some urgency: White-tailed Hawk!

In Smith Oaks things were looking grim for a while before someone latched onto a Black-billed Cuckoo, and then right at the end of our walk in the woods, a male Cerulean Warbler seduced us, when he bent down and revealed his dreamy blue back to us all, to audible gasps all round! Lastly, a pair of Purple Gallinules (my first this season) distracted us from the egrets and spoonbills swapping sticks and displaying to one another at the Smith rookery.
The photos: Tennessee Warbler (bottom); Rose-breasted Grosbeak (top)

21 April 2010

Rainbow Bunting...(High Island, Texas): 21 April

After little on the morning walk in Boy Scout Woods on High Island, I spent the afternoon being toyed with by a male Painted Bunting. He popped up on the edge of the clearing, only for a band of birders to send him to ground as my shutter went, and then he cropped up in a brush pile but slipped away once more when I tried to stalk him and get him on film. Anyway in light of this I have added 2 very short videos of one from last week. They are very very short, but very sweet!
The drip by the grandstand was lively though. Yellow-breasted Chat sneaked in and out, Kentucky Warbler dropped in, then Hooded Warbler and Black-and-white Warblers, and of course a multitude of "ever-present" Orchard Orioles, Indigo Buntings, Scarlet & Summer Tanagers, and now too some beefy Rose-breasted Grosbeaks (that were out in full force today). However, the Black-billed Cuckoo that came in and posed in the cypress by the drip caused the biggest stir of the afternoon. In general the lot seemed to be pumping with thrushes again, like yesterday, although with a significant boost in Wood Thrushes to compete with the siege of Swainson's Thrushes hopping around the mottes. Wood Thrushes seemed to hop out at every turn, and cause dead leaves to rustle in every corner.

Reddish Egret...(Bolivar Peninsula, Texas): 21 April

While watching the "Phalarope" flurry yesterday at Frenchtown Rd on the Bolivar Peninsula this Reddish Egret overflew us. He may not have danced for us, but it was pretty nice all the same! Later in the day we also came across a dancing/fishing young white morph at Rollover Pass.

20 April 2010

The Wonder of Wilson...(Bolivar Peninsula, Texas): 20 April

Backtracking to the middle of the day, noon saw me out with a group down on the shore with Christian Boix. Frenchtown Road on the southern end of the Bolivar Peninsula has been irresistible of late, and today was no different.
I had barely got my 'scope upright when Christian was onto a beautiful brick Red Knot, doing a bad job of trying to hide among a group of "rusting" Short-billed Dowitchers. Least Sandpipers weaved in and out of the grasses at the edge of the pool, although the beastly Clapper Rail in the same area was a little more obvious. A Sora on the back edge of the marshy pool was much appreciated too. However, a couple of striking objects bolting out of the sky and dropping into the pool like avian missiles had Christian and I scrambling for our 'scopes: a pair of Wilson's Phalaropes had dramatically dropped in, superb. A little later someone pointed out the pair had moved in closer so I set my camera on my scope and pressed record. When I looked closer though I realized this was not the same pair at all, as this one held a "dull" male in its midst, but the first two were clearly "flawless" females. A quick scan of the marsh ended the confusion: there were two pairs to feast on. Magical shorebirds.

Thrush Fallout...(High Island, Texas): 20 April

Just popped in to the TOS Hook Woods sanctuary on 1st Street in High Island. A carpet of thrushes greeted us: 21 Wood Thrushes and an incredible 30 Swainson's Thrushes fed on an open lawn with 5 Ovenbirds in the area too (3 in one binocular view on the open grass was most unexpected!) Around the first drip I found this Yellow-breasted Chat, (photo) and a good flurry of Orchard Orioles, Indigo Buntings, and a few Blue Grosbeaks kicked up as we walked around the edges. A good 15 minute stop!

19 April 2010

Warbler Wonderland...(High Island, Texas): 19 April

Once again warblers were out in force today in High Island. I took a group around the woods at Boy Scout, and it was immediately obvious that yesterdays high numbers of warblers were well down and there clearly had been a lift off overnight. While numbers of individual warblers were down though a good variety were still around (25 species reported today). I saw well under that as I only spent time in Boy Scout, and the greater diversity today was at Smith. My best were Kentucky Warblers at both the Grandstand drip and by the photo blind (top photo), a pair of singing Tennessee Warblers in a Live Oak, and several Worm-eating Warblers.

My brief stint in the photo blind saw me nail this Indigo Bunting (bottom photo), and teased by a Blue-winged Warbler that just would not come down and play, along with several Swainson's Thrushes that bathed in the small pools. It also cost me, as I missed the pair of Mississippi Kites that glided over the Grandstand while I was focusing on the Kentucky! There was also a good bounty of Scarlet Tanagers that munched ripening mulberries just above people's heads late in the afternoon by the Houston Audubon kiosk.

18 April 2010

Warbler Frenzy...(High Island, Texas): 18 April

So far this spring we have had plenty of periods where it has felt like pulling teeth. This late, late spring has had us scratching our heads in wonder at where the warblers are? Today all that changed. Normally the arrival of trans-Gulf migrants falls in the afternoon, so that mornings are not usually where you look for the highest variety and numbers. of birds This pattern was turned on its head today, as large numbers of warblers, tanagers, grosbeaks, and thrushes dropped in overnight.

We attempted to have a business meeting this morning, as we'd thought the woods would be empty following yesterday afternoon's poor form, but had to rapidly abandon this when word came through that the woods were hopping with warblers. A total of
29 different warblers were seen today as a whole on High Island, and I managed to rack up a personal total of 21 species.

My favourite of the day was predictable: the first sky-backed male Cerulean Warbler of the spring is never beaten! However, some "flame-doused" male Blackburnian Warblers were not to be scoffed at either, several of which were seen in Boy Scout. One of the Blackburnians shared a tree with a Yellow-throated Warbler. I also bumped into numerous Black-and-white Warblers in the woods too, mostly males, with the odd female too. A few hours in Smith Oaks allowed me to photograph this White-eyed Vireo (top photo), and pick up a number of Hooded Warblers (bottom photo) that were especially numerous today. Another warbler that was easy to comeby today was Worm-eating Warbler of which I must have seen 6-8 birds today!

This was the best day of the spring so far, although northerly winds are predicted tomorrow so we eagerly await the next siege of migrants...

17 April 2010

Worm-eater in the Woods...(High Island, Texas): 16 April

In the afternoon I stood hypnotized at the Boy Scout Woods drip while birds came in from the Gulf of Mexico, especially when 3 male Painted Buntings lit up the drip at once. Yellow Warblers joined the regular Indigo Buntings and Orchard Orioles that were dropping in from Mexico during the afternoon too. Checking the photo blind or hide occasionally also got me up close and personal with male Hooded Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Gray Catbird and others. Best of all though was this wonderful Worm-eating Warbler (photo).

16 April 2010

Shorebird Showdown...(Bolivar Peninsula, Texas): 16 April

Our noon "shorebird showdown" was a spectacular feast of shorebirds as ever. Little was evident at HAS Bolivar Flats save for a small batch of American Avocets floating in the surf, and a lone Piping Plover scurrying around a beach pool. As a result we headed to Frenchtown Road, where shorebirds were loaded in a small pool by the roadside. Peeps were relatively few, but the ones that were there were in our faces, feeding on the very near edge and comprised of mainly Leasts, with quite a few Semipalmated Sandpipers (bottom photo), and just a single Western Sandpiper. The reeds at the back of the marsh held a Sora, and a much larger Clapper Rail or two also patrolled the edge. Short-billed Dowtichers outnumbered all else with hundreds present on the pool (middle photo), along with several Whimbrel, and a pair of Stilt Sandpipers.

Our third stop on this tour of the coastal hotspots on the peninsula was at Rollover Pass, that has been THE hotspot of the spring so far with a multitude of terns, shorebirds and others present everytime. Today was no different: A single Wilson's Plover competed with a pair of Snowy Plovers (top photo) to see who could give us the best view; the mass of terns held 2 Black Terns in non-breeding plumage hid in amongst the melee. A Long-billed Curlew flew lazily in and alighted on a sand bar for a short time, and the pack of Black Skimmers (numbering in the hundreds), and terns, Marbled Godwits and others allowed us to roll the car right up and snap away. Magical scene.

Our final shorebird stop was in the oilfields on the edge of High Island, where the red-letter bird was a non-breeding plumage Red Knot (in contrast to the rusty bird of a few days, back decidedly dowdy), in addition to at least 8 Stilt Sandpipers amongst a horde of other waders.

I then headed back to the High Island woods to see what had swept in from Mexico...

High Island...(Texas): 15-16 April

Yesterday morning was a dead zone in Boy Scout Woods, saved right at the end of the walk by a pair if male Bobolinks creeping around in the grass at the edge of the sewage pond. The afternoon was totally different, birds swept through the Live Oaks at Smith Oaks, dominated by a wave of Red-eyed Vireos (that hit treble figures in the afternoon), Scarlet & Summer Tanagers, and a healthy number of Indigo Buntings too. Also among this horde of passerines pulsing through the trees were single Yellow-throated Warbler, Northern Parula, and double figures of Prothonotary Warblers.

The morning walk around Houston Audubon's Boy Scout Woods this morning was in a similar vein to yesterday morning (dull!), and a far cry from yesterday afternoon (electric). Few of the songbirds seem to have lingered on, although a Worm-eating Warbler hiding in a shady tangle was the one notable exception, and several birds dropped into the drip, in a brief stop there, including this Blue-headed Vireo (top photo). The other nice find was two different Least Bitterns that flew across the marsh at the back of the woods, a Swamp Sparrow lurking in the reeds (bottom photo), although no sign of the hoped-for Purple Gallinule that should be turning up there any day now...

15 April 2010

High Island Nighthawk...(High Island, Texas): 14 April

With a southern storm lingering just north of the Yucatan in Mexico, we were wondering what effect this might have on High Island migrants. Sadly a wave of migrants did not come quite as we'd hoped, although we did have a Yellow-billed Cuckoo (that comically toyed with a frog for a while), and this Common Nighthawk came in and proceeded to roost in the open for the whole afternoon (photo). A blustery east wind tried its best to knock it off its perch, and occasionally it shifted its position as it stubbornly decided to remain on the same open branch. This was good for us though, and the photo opps that ensued.

14 April 2010

Red Red Knot...(High Island, Texas): 14 April '10

With the songbirding in the High Island woods being slow in the afternoon I returned with Iain and my little Nikon compact Coolpix 5100 to video the Red Knot that was now feeding with a large mixed flock of Dunlin, 4 Stilt Sandpipers, a single Lesser Yellowlegs, numerous Least Sandpipers, and a few Sanderling.

Oilbirding Part II...(High Island, Texas): 14 April '10

Nipped into the oilfields quickly at High Island chasing after a Red Knot (top photo) that Iain had found earlier, and there it was "rusted" to perfection. Yesterday there was also a non-breeding bird seen in this area too (by Kevin Karlson no less). Others waders present today included Stilt Sandpiper (1 non-breeding), lots of Dunlin, Western Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpipers, Long-billed Dowitchers (photo), and a Gull-billed Tern rested in among the sandpipers while Forster's Terns drifted around the pool too.

Rumors of a big area of bad weather in the southern Gulf holds the promise of migrants dropping in this afternoon to High Island...

13 April 2010

"Oilbirding"...(High Island, Texas): 13 April 2010

After a quiet morning in Boy Scout, Iain Campbell and I opted to "play" with our cameras over at the High Island oilfields. A pack of shorebirds were waiting for us and after initial spooking, settled down and allowed us to sidle right up to them for magical photo opportunities. Here is a shot of a pallid Least Sandpiper out the side window of the car (top photo), along with a rusting Long-billed Dowitcher (bottom photo). Other "waders" present included Lesser Yellowlegs, Dunlin, Semipalmated Sandpiper, and a lame looking Western Sandpiper that was hobbling rather uncomfortably along. A Gull-billed Tern also swept the marsh one time. Honestly, there was probably more species present but I was fixated on the approachable party at the front side of the pool!

12 April 2010

Tide of Tanagers...(High Island, Texas): 11 April 2010

A late afternoon "tide of tanagers" swept into Boy Scout Woods, although sadly the mulberry trees were not quite ready for them yet (perhaps due to the harsh winter experienced in these parts). This included both Summer Tanagers like this glowing male (photo), and vibrant male Scarlet Tanagers too.

11 April 2010

Citric Elation...(High Island, Texas): 11 April 2010

A morning walk around HAS Boy Scout Woods in High Island was not hopping with birds, with a general feel that maybe quite a few of yesterday afternoons bounty had lifted off during the night. As we made our way to the cathedral we needed to kick a Lincoln's Sparrow off the boardwalk to proceed, while a male Common Yellowthroat hopped along the edge of the path too. There were some goodies, not least this vivid Prothonotary Warbler dangling invitingly, and a Louisiana Waterthrush hid in the shadows at the edge of Prothonotary Pond. Above the Chimney Swifts were in full flow now, regularly let us know they were now firmly in. A Swainson's Thrush hiding in the shadowy leaf litter was my first for the North American spring season (although they had kept me company during the winter months in NW Ecuador), and the melancholy song of the Wood Thrush emanated from the brush in many places today.

Rollover Pass
was on form as ever, with the "full suite" of small plovers present, including
Wilson's, Snowy and Piping Plovers.

10 April 2010

Louisiana Comes to Texas...(High Island, Texas): 10 April 2010

This Louisiana Waterthrush was digi-videoed in HAS Boy Scout Woods, when its bright bubble-gum pink legs, and clean white throat can be seen to good effect.

High Island, Texas: 10 April 2010

My day began scouring the edges of Purkey's Pond, and checking the drip by the "Grandstand" in Boy Scout Woods, where a Louisiana Waterthrush worked the muddy edge on-and-off through the morning, a female Blue Grosbeak popped in to the cypress, and several Indigo Buntings lit up the drip. Overhead the newly arrived Chimney Swifts made their presence known by calling regularly.

An afternoon stroll in mid-afternoon after a heavy downpour had me dreaming of what might be lurking in Boy Scout. Sheltering in the Tropical Birding Information Center just across from the sanctuary I watched as a Red-eyed Vireo dropped into the magnolia in the front garden, and Indigo Buntings fed on the rank grass in the back yard. In the woods I did manage to nail this Yellow-throated Vireo, (photo) and an Ovenbird crept nervously through the leaf litter. A small mob of young White-throated Sparrows also flushed up in front of me as I made my way through an area of dense brush.

A late afternoon walk in HAS Smith Oaks beckons, and with Swainson's Warbler reported there a few hours back I hope this might lead to something...

Summer "Cardinals"...(Rollover Pass, near High Island, Texas): 9 April 2010

My morning amble around Boy Scout Woods was lively with 4 species of vireo (White-eyed, Blue-headed, Red-eyed, and Yellow-throated), and a gorgeous
Yellow-throated Warbler flitting around a Live Oak. A few Vermilion male Summer Tanagers glowed from the treetops in the morning sun (the video above shows a male Summer Tanager fresh in off the Gulf of Mexico from the day before, checking out the Boy Scout Woods drip). Incidentally they have now been moved into the cardinal family: Summer "Cardinal" anyone? By the end of the morning the warbler count from the wood was up to a healthy twelve species.

I took out a bunch of people down to the coast where we checked out a number of coastal hotspots: Bolivar Flats produced packs of Least Terns, a Wilson's Plover showing distinctive signs of nesting on the beach, and a "triage" of Long-billed Curlews that settled in the "dunes" behind the beach. The 17th Street jetty was awesome with huge numbers of birds, especially American Avocets, some 2000 of which were "formation feeding" in a swirling mass. Rollover Pass was once again too a hive of activity with Wilson's, Piping, and Snowy Plovers all right there and easy to compare.

The hot news though is right now it is raining in High Island and may lead to some interesting afternoon drops ins...

09 April 2010

More of these please! (High Island, Texas): 8 April 2010

Did not get much time in the field yesterday, as I spent much of the day manning a booth at Featherfest in Galverston. First time in that wonderful city for me, so felt a bit like a holiday! (Until a nasty rash I have was unnervingly diagnosed as a potential Brown Recluse Spider bite by star shorebirder Kevin Karlson). Back to the birds though, a short walk in HAS Boy Scout produced a skittish Ovenbird that got away before anyone else could get onto it (photo), my first of season Eastern Wood-Pewee, and a boisterous Great Crested Flycatcher that shouted its presence at us.

In the afternoon I managed to squeeze in a visit to Offatt's Bayou in Galverston for the chance of a last minute lifer, although among the pack of Common Loons (Great Northern Divers to us Brits), there were a few Pacific Loon candidates, although a combination of failing light and long distance prevented us from properly nailing an undeniable one. Some of the Common Loons though were in full breeding dress, something I not seen for some years now.

Other birders in the area of Galverston had picked up Swainson's Warbler, Chuck-wills-widow, while Painted Buntings and Prothonotary Hooded Warblers were sighted in High Island so hopefully today'll bring me more migrants than yesterday!

07 April 2010

Thrasher drops in to the Drip...(HAS Boy Scout Woods, High Island, Texas): 7 April 2010

With a front looming further north we wait with anticipation for what goodies it might bring.

In the meantime I spent a few hours in Boy Scout Woods on 5th Street during the afternoon, watching with others as a Kentucky Warbler crept into the drip in front of the "grandstand". A brief sojourn in the photo blind for me was largely fruitless, a Gray Catbird skulking in the brush threatening to come in, although never actually coming in, while I sat there (frustrated). However, this "bonnie" Brown Thrasher (a vastly underrated bird in my book) came in a couple of times (photo).

While I walked the woods in Smith Oaks during the afternoon, and eventually found a scorching Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (why is that not the state bird of Texas, seems way better than the mockingbird to me!), Iain Campbell snuck into the blind and enjoyed several Ovenbirds, a gaudy male Hooded Warbler, and even a Blue-winged Warbler.

I am hoping maybe I can get a photo or two of them tomorrow. I am also awaiting my first sky-blue male Cerulean Warbler of the spring. Hopefully it is just around the corner...

Rollover Reddish...(Rollover Pass, Texas): April 2010

While I await the next wave of migrants to come in off the Gulf of Mexico (with an intriguing thunderstorm system coming though tonight, meaning that I am awaiting this with some vigor!), here is a (crude) video of a Reddish Egret filmed the other day at Rollover Pass. Watching these egrets fishing is one of the highlights along the coast there, and I managed to capture (even if a little shakily), some of their best "dance" moves!

More migrant treats to come from the Upper Texas Coast, as soon as I manage to get one lined up in the lens...

05 April 2010

Boy Scout Blue-winged...(HAS Boy Scout Woods, High Island, Texas): 5 April 2010

The afternoon in Boy Scout was superb. I stood with an appreciative crowd by the famous freshwater drip at Boy Scout Woods and watched on as birds dropped in and off the Gulf of Mexico, bathed, drank, and went on their way. Pick of the bunch was this scintillating Blue-winged Warbler that I have to admit was photographed by Iain Campbell (NOT me) with his shiny new Canon 7D that I am completely jealous of, and completely incapable of buying! Other choice migrants checking out the drip included Northern Parula, and a brace of "tanagers": Scarlet and Summer Tanagers (that are actually now classified as cardinals) sitting side-by-side in front of the grandstand crowd at Bot Scout. Brown Thrasher blustered its way into the drip every so often, although most people were more impressed by a Yellow-throated Warbler that lit up the tree behind...It was a great afternoon with a handsome tally of 17 warbler species by the end of it, and the first "big" day of the spring so far, although by no means the last.