Thursday, May 27, 2010

Weekend Birding in Hardin County

Last Saturday I went on a Hardin County field trip with Golden Triangle Audubon Society.  I got to ride with the Wittles, and we drove Firetower Road and Gore Store Road north of Silsbee, making stops where the habitat was interesting and the birds were singing.  I don't think I've ever been on a field trip where tapes (antiquated term - we are firmly in the digital age now) were used so liberally, and thanks to which we obtained excellent views of most birds.  Highlights included a Swallow-tailed Kite and Greater Roadrunner (the latter heard cooing and seen only briefly).  Prairie Warblers, Yellow-breasted Chats, and Indigo Buntings were plentiful in shrubby places with young pines, a habitat that is also plentiful in that area.  Here's an Indigo Bunting attempting to evade my camera:
A Swainson's Warbler was heard along Gore Store Road, but playback of it's song failed to lure it into view (a couple who split off from the main group not only managed to see one, but got an envy-inducing  photo as well). The field trip ended at noon, with a Yellow-throated Warbler singing in pines at the Beech Creek crossing.

Early Sunday morning I saw a Swallow-tailed Kite from our backyard - they seem to be most everywhere these days.  That afternoon I almost stepped on this Ribbon Snake (harmless)  in our front yard:

I brought Lucy outside to see the snake.  She liked him well enough, but at a safe distance...

Not much else to report.  Weather has been hot and mostly dry.  Wednesday evening I saw an adult Broad-winged Hawk fly by our yard carrying some small prey item in its talons.   Mobs of White-winged Doves continue to crowd our feeders - recently I've counted upwards of 20 in and around our yard at one time. 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Some Photographic Odds & Ends

Thought I'd post a few more recent photos.  This blotchy young male Summer Tanager was pigging out on mulberries at High Island on 4/25/10:
This Black-throated Green Warbler was photographed at High Island on the same day:

Worm-eating Warbler in an oak at High Island on 4/18/10, trying to blend in with its surroundings, and pretty much succeeding:

Newly hatched lubber grasshoppers holding a meeting on a philodendron leaf in our backyard, 5/2/10:
An angry mob of Carolina Chickadees led me to this Blotched Watersnake trying to be inconspicuous on a fence near the pond:
Flowering Maple (Abutilon) in our yard:

Saturday at Sabine Woods

Yesterday, in the middle of a drenching thunderstorm, I decided to go to Sabine Woods.  By the time I reached Port Arthur the storm was clearing, and from then on the weather was fine.  The atmospheric disturbance probably improved the birding - from what John Wittle later told me, most of the migrants present at Sabine Woods in the afternoon weren't there in the morning.  

Driving through the saltmarshes near Sabine Pass I hit a small chunky-looking bird that tried to cross the highway at exactly the wrong moment.  It was a Seaside Sparrow, a bird I hardly ever get to see.  Here's a photo of the still fresh corpse, minus tail feathers:  

Saturday afternoon was pretty good at Sabine Woods, with plenty of birds but no other birders until John Wittle showed up just as I was leaving.  I had 10 species of warblers, including 1 Golden-winged, 1 Blackburnian, 2 Bay-breasted, 2 Blackpoll, 2-3 Black-throated Green, 1 Black-and-white, 2-3 Yellow, 1 Magnolia, several American Redstarts, and 3-4 Northern Waterthrushes. There were no tanagers or grosbeaks, but Yellow-billed Cuckoos and Red-eyed Vireos were common, and Eastern Wood-Pewees were conspicuous around the pond. otherwise the season was clearly winding down with just a few Gray Catbirds and Swainson's Thrushes and 1 female Indigo Bunting.  The deer flies are starting to get thick out there.

I snapped off some photos as I walked through the woods. Here's one of a Northern Waterthrush:
And a Gray Catbird...
And a Swainson's Thrush...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Spring Winding Down...

Last night we had some muy grande thunderstorms, and power was knocked out. This morning I checked the yard for passerine migrants and was rewarded with a single Red-eyed Vireo.  Not exactly an awesome fallout, but I'll take what I can get.  Migrants have been scarce here lately, with the season winding down and the prevailing southerly winds probably blowing them all clear to Canada.  We still have droves of White-winged Doves and Ruby-throated hummingbirds at our feeders, and I frequently hear Great Crested Flycatcher and Summer Tanager when I'm puttering around the yard.

When I first moved here I planted a couple of little mulberry trees in the backyard.  I had dreams of them growing into towering giants like those at Sabine Woods and High Island, chock full of thrushes and tanagers and grosbeaks, etc.  This hasn't happened yet, and considering their growth rate, my potential life span, and the ever-decreasing numbers of neotropical migrants, I might not live to see that day.  But over the last seven years or so they have grown a bit, and somehow managed to survive two hurricanes.  I bring this up because this spring they are both bearing fruit, and I had a very satisfying moment a couple of days ago, as I watched a bright male Summer Tanager snatching a treat from one of them. So it hasn't all been for naught.

More birding of the accidental sort - on Sunday, May 9th, I was surprised to see an adult Swallow-tailed Kite circling near Rogers Park in Beaumont.  We were there because the park has a playground for the kids, not because it's a magnet for cool raptors.

On the evening of May 10th I saw a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron pass over our backyard, and on the evening of the 11th a male Great-tailed Grackle was spotted flying south (I know, I know - common roadside trash, but birding is all about location, and they are rare within sight of our yard).

I sometimes eat lunch at the Jack-in-the-Box that sits on the corner of MLK and Washington Boulevard in Beaumont.  Visible from the drive-thru window is a row of martin houses in front of a little hardware store. Lots of martins there. We have a martin house on a pole in our backyard.  All we have are House Sparrows.  Maybe the problem is we aren't at a busy urban intersection surrounded by gas stations and fast food...

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Backyard Bird Fallout

We had a little fallout here yesterday morning, first evidenced by a singing Chestnut-sided Warbler (yard bird #138) in our front yard.  I was alone with the kids so I couldn't spend much time birding or go far from the house, but for a while our yard certainly qualified as a target-rich environment, with Great Crested FlycatcherGray CatbirdTennessee Warbler, Summer Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, and Baltimore Oriole among the neotropical migrants vying for attention.  A Red-headed Woodpecker was a nice bonus. Weather at the time was dismal and drippy, which may have had something to do with the sudden appearance of so many migrants.

Today was very quiet by comparison.  The only birds of interest were a male Common Yellowthroat at the pond and a very distant Common Nighthawk.

Birding around our yard has been good lately.  Here are some additional highlights:

April 28 - A female Wood Duck, a Northern Waterthrush, a Common Yellowthroat, and a Yellow-breasted Chat were at the pond; a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak and male Indigo Bunting were at our feeders; and a Common Nighthawk was seen in the sky off to the southeast.

April 27 - A male Baltimore Oriole was at our hummingbird feeders in the morning, a Yellow-breasted Chat was at the pond in the evening, and Great Crested Flycatcher and Summer Tanager were around our yard at dusk.

April 25 - In the morning a Northern Waterthrush and female Painted Bunting were at the pond, Barn and Cliff Swallows were flying over, and a Great Crested Flycatcher was observed in our front yard.  After looking around the yard I drove to High Island, where my best finds were a Black-billed Cuckoo and male Lazuli Bunting at Smith Oaks.  I then birded the Bolivar Peninsula (Magnificent Frigatebird, shorebirds, etc.), and returned to Smith Oaks in the afternoon, arriving about 5 minutes too late to see the Fork-tailed Flycatcher that had just flown away, never to be seen again.  Despite the one totally egregious miss I managed to get 121 species for the day, including 20 species of warblers.

April 22 - Saw 2 male Indigo Buntings from our kitchen window, heard Common Nighthawk.

April 21 - A male Rose-breasted Grosbeak and male Indigo Bunting were in out front yard, a male Orchard Oriole and male Blue Grosbeak were in our backyard, and a Red-headed Woodpecker was seen flying over a neighbor's yard.

April 19 - A male Rose-breasted Grosbeak and 2 male Baltimore Orioles were in trees near the pond, and a male Baltimore Oriole was subsequently seen in the big live oak by the house.

April 18 - A Yellow-throated Vireo was seen and Summer Tanager heard singing for the first time this spring.  In the evening I spotlighted a Raccoon in our backyard - he seemed unintimidated by my approach, and stayed long enough for Lucy and Bryce to come out and see him before he scampered off.