Sunday, April 18, 2010

It's Quiet...Too Quiet

The clear skies and prevalence of south winds has not been good for the birding here.  I can't speak for the coastal hotspots, but today was awfully quiet on the home front.  While tending to the garden I heard a vireo singing (probably Yellow-throated - some of them sound very alike to my ears), but otherwise there was nothing new.  The only warblers I saw today were Yellow-rumped.  Haven't had any Orchard Orioles here yet, and where are the Summer Tanagers?  They should have returned to our neighborhood by now.   

Recently I've noticed an interesting phenomenon involving Tree Swallows.  In the evening I regularly see them streaming southward past our home, often in substantial numbers.  A few days ago I observed hundreds and hundreds of them flying south over Beaumont at dusk (the location was a few miles directly south of our home).  I'm guesstulating - a new word I just coined  - that there must be a big roost site somewhere in the Beaumont area that they are returning to each evening. 

Several times in the last week I've seen White-winged Doves in our front yard.  This would have been very unusual prior to last summer, when they first started visiting our feeders.  Mourning Doves, House Sparrows, and House Finches have also noticeably increased in the last year or so, while some of our woodland birds seem to have decreased.  Our neighborhood has lost a lot of trees due to the hurricances, and I think this may have caused some changes in our local bird population, which has become more suburban in character.  Still waiting for our first Eurasian Collared-Dove...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spring Migration is On (and Other News)

Due to AT&T's dastardly decision to end its Worldnet service at the end of March, I am now without a web site and have had to change my email address.  Eventually I'll find a new web host and will fly again.  Until then I have this blog.  I'm still trying to get AT&T to stop billing me for the service they've cancelled - maybe a couple more hours on the phone and I'll get through to a live person, and maybe that person will even speak English. I could heap more scorn and invective on AT&T, but since everybody already seems to know they suck I'll leave it at that.

Ah, Spring.  Pretty Spring.  The wisteria and azaleas are in full bloom, and our whole neighborhood is decked out in bright pink and lavender flowers.  It's an annual event that lasts only a couple of weeks, just long enough to remind us that beauty is fleeting.  The winter freezes were hard on our garden, which is now slowly recovering.  Some of our less hardy plants appear to be dead (time will tell), while others are just starting to show signs of life.  Our bananas, philodendrons, and shrimp plants withered down to the ground, but most are now sporting new growth.  Full recovery will take time, and a mild winter or two would help.  Even now temperatures remain on the cool side, and on Saturday it was chilly enough that I wore a coat.  I'm sure we'll look back with nostalgia when the heat of summer returns.

Over the weekend I was birding with Grant & Kathy Webb of BirdingRVers.  On Saturday we toured High Island and the Boliver Peninsula, and on Sunday Grant and I (minus Kathy) went to Sabine Woods and then headed north to Silsbee and Lumberton.  This is their first trip to the southeast, so they both picked up quite a few lifers.  A brief stop at our house on Sunday even produced a couple of new birds for Grant (Carolina Chickadee and Brown-headed Nuthatch).

Early passerine migrants (mostly southern breeding species) were present at the coastal sites in low to moderate numbers.  White-eyed Vireos, Summer Tanagers, Blue Grosbeaks, and Indigo Buntings were among the more numerous (we tried, but couldn't find Kathy a Painted Bunting).  Of the warblers, Yellow-rumped was still most common, and "winter" sparrows at Sabine Woods included Song, Swamp, Lincoln's, and White-throated.  At Sabine Woods we also had a few northerly breeding neotropical migrants, like Northern Waterthrush, Ovenbird, and Scarlet Tanager.

One of several Blue Grosbeaks we saw at Smith Oaks on Saturday:
And a Summer Tanager...
It was great seeing Grant & Kathy again, plus it gave me a good excuse to go outside the boundaries of my own backyard and do some serious birding - something that rarely happens these days, what with the duties of parenthood and all.
On the home front it has been a mostly uneventful season, that is until just recently.  A male Blue Grosbeak near the pond on April 11th and a long-awaited Prothonotary Warbler (#137 for the yard list) on April 12th have been the highlights thus far.

The first returning male Ruby-throated Hummingbird was seen at our feeders on March 11th.  A Selasphorus hummingbird and wintering Baltimore Oriole were present through at least the 21st of March, but have apparently moved on.