Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sabine Woods, Shangri La Botanical Gardens, & more Backyard Birding

Time to get caught up on recent bird stuff.

Our Mississippi Kites were last seen on August 7. As I noted in my last blog entry, on that day they were unusually active. Their restless behavior was probably a preparation for migration, because the next day they were gone. Date of departure, August 8.

Texas has been extremely hot and dry all summer. Through the month of August we continued to receive very little rain, and daytime temperatures seldom dipped below the upper 90s. Even so, compared to other parts of the state, Southeast Texas has been fortunate. At least we've had some rain - enough to keep most of the vegetation alive, and the landscape more or less green. I recently drove to Houston, where they haven't been so lucky. There the grass has turned yellow, and many of the trees appeared to be dying.

Despite the heat I spent a few hours in the late morning/early afternoon of August 28 walking around Sabine Woods. Only saw three other birders, but the place was loaded with migrants, particularly large numbers of empids (mostly "Traill's" types and Leasts), Great Crested Flycatchers, Eastern Wood-Pewees, and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. Warblers included numerous Yellow, 1 Prairie, 2-3 Black-and-white, 1 Prothonotary, 1-2 Worm-eating, 10+ Mourning, 10+ Canada, 1 Hooded, 1 Wilson's, 1 American Redstart, 1 Ovenbird, and several Yellow-breasted Chats (if with the recent taxonomic changes that can still be counted as a warbler). Also saw 1-2 Chuck-Will's-Widows, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, 1 Olive-sided Flycatcher, 1 Blue Grosbeak, and Baltimore and Orchard Orioles. Deer flies were pesky in spots, but with the dry conditions the mosquitoes were not so bad. Here's a photo of a Great Crested Flycatcher taken that day:
The drying pond behind our house has been very productive lately. On September 18 I found a good assortment of migrants there, including an Eastern Wood-Pewee, 2 White-eyed Vireos, a Wilson's Warbler, a Northern Waterthrush, a Yellow-breasted Chat, and an adult male Baltimore Oriole. An immature Little Blue Heron and a Snowy Egret have been hanging out there, along with a sneaky little Green Heron. Here's a photo of the Little Blue and Snowy side-by-side:
Yesterday morning (September 24) I took the kids to the Shangri La Botanical Gardens in Orange, and we did the boat trip on Adams Bayou. Saw a few birds from the boat, including White Ibis, Osprey, Belted Kingfisher, and Pileated Woodpecker. Twice we spooked a Pied-billed Grebe into actually taking flight. Now that's a rare sight! Back at home yesterday it was like a replay of September 18, with mostly the same species (if not the same individuals) present around the pond - the cast of characters again included an Eastern Wood Pewee, a White-eyed Vireo, a Wilson's Warbler, and a Northern Waterthrush. Deja vu... A splotchy immature male Summer Tanager added the only new element to the mix.


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