High Island, Photogenic Birds & Rats, Etc.
Swimming isn't recommended either.
Didn't have to work on Tuesday, so I went to High Island instead. If my employer didn't mind I'd do this EVERY day.
Made my first stop at the Boy Scout Woods. Checked the scoreboard by the registration desk and it didn't look good - it's a bad sign when at midday only a few warbler species had been reported. I figured I might be in for a dull time. At first the place seemed birdless, but it was really only moderately birdless. With a little searching I was able to pull out a few migrants, the best of which was a Golden-winged Warbler. I first saw the Golden-winged along one of the trails, deep in a thicket. Later it (or possibly a second bird) came to the drip in front of the review stands, where this photo was taken.The bird behind it is an Indigo Bunting.
Since there wasn't much action at High Island I decided to try my luck on the Bolivar Peninsula. Rollover Pass was disappointing - there were the usual Black Skimmers, but not much else (most of the habitat had been submerged by the rising tide).
If you turn right at the end of Retillon Road, toward Houston Audubon's Bolivar Flats Sanctuary, you are now required to show a parking permit. I don't have one, so I didn't go there. Instead I turned left and drove east on the beach. Found a few small flocks of shorebirds and terns there. New year birds included Piping Plover and Common Tern.
Visited Smith Oaks in the late afternoon. Considering that a strong south wind had been blowing all day I wasn't expecting much, but I was in for a pleasant surprise. Fruiting mulberries at the parking area were attracting large numbers of tanagers, grosbeaks, buntings, orioles, etc. Warblers were less numerous, but made up in quality what they lacked in quantity. I don't want to sound like Paris Hilton, but Blackburnian Warbler is hot - maybe not swimsuit supermodel hot, but hot nonetheless. The male Blackburnian at Smith Oaks this afternoon was like a visiting celebrity surrounded by adoring fans.This male Rose-breasted Grosbeak was also at Smith Oaks. Made a few more additions to my year list there - Acadian Flycatcher, Philadelphia Vireo, Veery, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Chestnut-sided and Magnolia Warblers, and Dickcissel.
I carry my camera (a Canon Powershot) while birding in case opportunities present themselves. It's often frustrating, but sometimes a bird allows me to get close enough for a decent picture. Like this Red-eyed Vireo.Or this Ovenbird.Occasionally this strategy works with other critters too. Got a couple of cooperative Hispid Cotton Rats to pose for me. Rather cute and photogenic...for rats...Small rodents usually aren't so easily approachable. Next time I'll bring a big mallet.
Many of the nests in the rookery now contain young. Voracious, demanding, insatiable young. If this is what parenthood is like maybe I should be more worried...