Birding Goes to Crap on the Upper Texas Coast
This very green Selasphorus-type hummingbird decided to spend the winter at our feeders, which is where I took this photograph on March 12th. A gorgeous adult male Rufous Hummingbird also wintered here (most often lurking in the azaleas along our driveway), and was last seen during the first week of March. Our first Ruby-throated Hummingbird of the season arrived on March 1, beating our earliest previous spring sighting by 5 days.
Let's see, what else has happened since my last blog entry...Ever since we got back from our trip to Louisiana for Mardi Gras the kids and I have been sick off and on. Seems like the kids are constantly coughing, wheezing, throwing up, or en route to and from the pediatrician.
Last Sunday I toured the disaster area from High Island to Rollover Pass and Anahauc Natonal Wildlife Refuge. It wasn't pretty. The Bolivar Peninsula looks like an open landfill. Everywhere there are heaps of litter and debris from the beach homes and businesses that washed away in the hurricane. These photographs were taken at Rollover Pass, and are sadly typical:Bad as the trash situation was, the birds didn't seem to mind. As usual there were large flocks of gulls, terns, and pelicans on the flats at Rollover Pass. While I was there I met a couple of birders who were down from Missouri, and we commiserated over the condition of the habitat. They told me they had just been to Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, and described it as almost devoid of bird life. I went to see for myself.
Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge was indeed a grim lifeless place. The visitor center is gutted, saltwater immersion has killed most of the vegetation, and birds were few. I saw a snake on one of the refuge roads, but the storm surge must have killed most of the small fauna in the area. Not surprisingly I didn't see a single shrike on this trip (they are usually common), and only saw two raptors (a Red-tailed Hawk and a Northern Harrier). Recent drought conditions have compounded the problem - when I visited the refuge it was bone dry, and I didn't see any good shorebird habitat. Hopefully the rain we've received in the last few days will help flush out the wetlands and start the process of revegetation.
I'm thinking that it might be a good idea to take a break from coastal birding this spring. Maybe spend some time exploring the Big Thicket, do some hiking in the piney woods, or just stay close to home. The lack of coastal stopover habitat could make inland locations (such as our humble yard) more enticing to migrants. That's what I'm hoping for anyway.