Sunday, March 16, 2008

What I Did This Weekend While Missing the Fork-tailed Flycatcher

Checking my email I see that on Saturday a Fork-tailed Flycatcher was found at Sabine Pass. I was birding on Saturday (by some small miracle) but in the wrong place. I went to High Island and Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge instead. I guess missing the FTFL (which would have been an ABA Area lifer) is my karmic comeuppance for not participating in a scheduled Sabine Woods work day. The bird was also seen today, but I didn't find out about it until just now. D'oh!!!

Saturday morning I heard my first Northern Parula of the season singing in the trees around our yard. I know they are common in northern conifer forests, but to me the Northern Parula's song is THE sound of the southern swamplands. My perception is that it's the most abundant warbler species breeding in the Big Thicket (Hooded Warbler would be the other main contender for that title). At our place, which is a bit more suburban, we get a few as migrants in March & April, and see them again in the fall. Saturday morning I also added Brown Thrasher to my year list - from the car window I watched a pair working the edge of the McDonalds parking lot in Lumberton.

On Texbirds there were reports of early migrants trickling in (Yellow-throated Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, etc.) so with Michelle and the babies gone for the day I figured I'd give High Island a try.

Well, it wasn't such a much. There were Purple Martins and Barn Swallows (nice year ticks) overhead, but the only other neotropical migrant was one Black-and-white Warbler at Boy Scout Woods. Aside from that it was just the usual winter birds - Blue-headed Vireo, Hermit Thrush, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-rumped and Orange-crowned Warblers, etc. Incidentally, here's a picture of that one Black-and-white Warbler.Both the Boy Scout Woods and Smith Oaks were "tore up from the floor up" by Hurricane Humberto. The rookery at Smith Oaks lost a lot of trees, and I noticed there appeared to be more intense competition for nesting sites and more aggression between birds than I had seen in past years. I practiced used the video feature of my camera to make short movies of Roseate Spoonbills and Snowy Egrets fighting (probably over a girl, as usual). I may post some of these video clips later, if I figure out how.This martin apartment complex is located in front of the Methodist Church in High Island.

After that I did the Shoveler Pond loop at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. Snakes, turtles, and alligators were enjoying the warm weather, but it wasn't buggy, at least not in a bad way. Highlights included a King Rail, a male Cinnamon Teal, and an American Bittern. Photographed this Eastern Phoebe sitting on the sign for Shoveler Pond.I was hoping to attend the TOS meeting in Alpine in May, but it doesn't look like I'll be going (I won't have accrued the necessary vacation time). This is particularly disappointing because it would have been a rare opportunity to see parts of the Davis Mountains that are not open to the general public. It was the only substantial birding trip I had planned for this year, which makes my minimalist big year even more minimal.


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