Monday, May 07, 2012

Deer Fly Apocalypse & More Shorebirding

Made an abortive trip to Sabine Woods on Sunday.  Noticed when I arrived that there were only a few cars parked there, and I soon found out why.  Deer flies.  Met a couple of birders at the covered picnic area who were wearing towels around their heads.  They described the situation as "horrific," and said that the deer flies were the worst that they had ever seen in all their years of birding there.  I made a brief foray into the woods to see just how bad it was.  Sure enough, it was miserable.  As soon as I got into the woods they started to swarm around me, and not being one to suffer needlessly, I turned and beat a hasty retreat back to the car.  Met the same couple of birders on my way out, and they told me I hadn't even been in the bad part of the woods. I can handle clouds of mosquitoes, but deer flies have no respect for insect repellent, and their bites hurt.  Guess I won't be going back there this spring.  I gave up on Sabine Woods and headed for High Island.

Stopped to check the flooded fields along Highway 73, about 4 miles east of Winnie.  There were still lots of shorebirds there, including 1 Hudsonian Godwit, 60+ Buff-breasted Sandpipers, and over 100 Whimbrel.  At one point a Peregrine Falcon came cruising by, causing every bird smaller than a night-heron to take flight.

It was late in the afternoon when I arrived at Smith Oaks.  Fortunately there weren't many biting bugs, but then there weren't many birds either.  Did a lot of walking  and staring into trees, but the rewards were meager (8 Yellow, 1-2 Tennessee, 1 Black-and-white, 2 Blackburnian, and 2-3 Black-throated Green Warblers; 1 Ovenbird, 1 American Redstart, a few Summer and Scarlet Tanagers, and an occasional Rose-breasted Grosbeak).  Activity was more intense at the rookery, where I took these photos of Snowy Egrets.  Note the bubblegum-pink facial skin; this is only seen for a brief period during courtship.

Made a detour on my way home to check flooded fields along Pear Orchard Road near SR 1985.  Shorebirds there included Spotted, Least, Semipalmated, Pectoral, White-rumped, Buff-breasted, and Stilt Sandpipers; Lesser Yellowlegs, Whimbrel, Black-bellied Plover, and Wilson's Phalarope.  Tried, but couldn't turn any of them into Upland Sandpipers.


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