Sunday, May 01, 2016

Looking for Migrants (4)

After leaving High Island, we drove west along Bolivar Peninsula to catch the ferry to Galveston.

As usual, the Bolivar harbor was busy with Cormorants, Laughing Gulls, American White Pelicans and Brown Pelicans (below).

Apart from the usual hordes of Laughing Gulls, on this trip the ferry was followed by numbers of Royal Terns.

There were other terns also. At first I thought these were Forster's but then I noted their yellow-tipped bills and realized they were Sandwich Terns.

Once on Galveston, we did a quick drive along Sportsmens' Road. My first Reddish Egret of the year was too distant to photograph but a Great Egret and a Great Blue Heron were a little closer.

The roadside ditches were empty except for a couple of Willets and the only other bird we saw was a solitary White Ibis.

Although I had high hopes for Lafitte's Cove, it turned out to have only a few resident birds and even fewer migrants. In fact, the only migrants we spotted were a Gray Catbird, a Gray-cheeked Thrush and two Scalret Tanagers (below).

As this was our last birding stop, it meant that our trip ended with a whimper rather than a bang. We weren't too disappointed, though, because overall the trip had been quite productive: We had seen 90 species, of which almost half were new birds for the year. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Looking for Migrants (3)

Saturday morning we got to Boy Scout Woods in time for the morning birdwalk. Unfortunately, it was extremely quiet for birds. This Rose-breasted Grosbeak near the guides' house was the only migrant that we spotted.

We decided to check out the Smith Oaks rookery before heading home via Galveston.

The rookery was crowded with nesting Great Egrets. Most were standing guard over chicks.

A few were taking advantage of a quiet spell to do some preening.

One seemed to be having a difficult time with three boisterous chicks and had to administer a little discipline.

Elsewhere, some chicks were already large enough to be left unattended while their parents were off foraging.

A few Great Egrets appeared to be running late with this year's breeding and were still collecting nesting material.

The number of Roseate Spoonbills had grown since our previous visit and there were now many sitting on nests.

The number of Snowy Egrets had also increased a lot and most of those present were displaying in their beautiful breeding plumage.

The water between the observation decks and the rookery had a handful of American Coots, Blue-winged Teal and Common Gallinules (below).

Then just as we were leaving, Dee noticed a Purple Gallinule wandering along the water's edge. It was our first Purple Gallinule of the year and a good bird with which to say goodbye to High Island.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Looking for Migrants (2)

I got back to High Island a few minutes early for the 4:00 pm guided walk through Smith Oaks and I saw several birds before the walk began.

A Baltimore Oriole was in the trees near the assembly point.

A Blackburnian Warbler and a Magnolia Warbler popped up in the same area but were too fidgety for me to get photos. A Black-and-White Warbler was less difficult to photograph.

I joined the guided walk for an hour and a busy hour it was. There were several Scarlet Tanagers and Summer Tanagers (below).

Both Black-billed and Yellow-billed Cuckoo appeared, as did Eastren Wood-Pewee, Wood Thrush and a range of Warblers: Cerulean, Bluie-winged, Kentucky, Blackburnian, Tennessee and Hooded. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get photos of any of these birds. 

When I left the group and started walking back to the car, I was luckier. A Prothonotary Warbler decided to explore a branch just a couple of feet above my head.

So while the day's birding had not been spectacular, it had certainly been good enough to justify our trip and we had seen a very nice selection of migrating warblers, shorebirds and other species.

Our plan for the next day was to do a quick walk around Boy Scout Woods, pay a short visit to the Smith Oaks Rookery and then to take the ferry to Galveston, where we hoped to see more migrants at Lafitte's Cove.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Looking for Migrants (1)

We arrived at Boy Scout Woods only to be told by several people who were leaving that there were no birds around. Luckily, this turned out not to be true and I had my first bird - a Wood Thrush - within two minutes of entering the site.

We spent an hours walking the trails and compiled a nice if fairly small list of birds. Prothonotary Pond had a couple of Prothonotary Warblers and a Black-and-White Warbler as well as two more Wood Thrushes. The main drip had Hooded Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, Swainson's Thrush, Summer Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and several Gray Catbirds. The latter were the most numerous species overall and we soon lost count of how many individuals we came across.

The best bird was a Kentucky Warbler which strolled about on the trail  right in front of us.

We crossed the road to check out the garden of the guides' house and immediately added an Inca Dove to our list.

The trees there had a score of Cedar Waxwings while a bottlebush plant was hosting a Nashville Warbler.

An open patch nearby had not one, not two but seven Indigo Buntings.

By the time we had finished watching the Buntings, it was noon and so we set off on the guided trip to Bolivar.

We got to Rollover Pass before the rest of the group and parked as close to the far end of the beach as possible. Although there were plenty of birds in the air - including many Brown Pelicans - the water seemed to be largely empty except for a group of maybe 150 American Avocets in the far distance.  

Then a couple of Laughing Gulls landed near us.

They were followed by a Ring-billed Gull.

I pulled the car forward a little and we realized there were a lot birds gathered on a parch of beach that hadn't been visible. We quickly IDed five Tern species: Royal, Forster's, Sandwich, Black and Least.

We were delighted to see that the group also included several dozen Black Skimmers.

Unfortunately, as we and our fellow birders were scanning the beach for other birds, we spotted this Royal Tern with a broken wing.

The water now had a couple of Snowy Egrets (below) and a Great Blue Heron.

A Tricolored Heron was fishing further away, along with some Black-necked Stilts.

A Black-belllied Plover posed by the water's edge while a Semipalmated Plover explored the sand.

Three Ruddy Turnstones were living up to their name and turning over most stones that they came across.

A group of Short-billed Dowitchers marched past.

A single Sanderling pottered about nearby.

Two Western Sandpipers also appeared.

Willets patrolled the shallow water in numerous places.

However, the best sighting of all was of a Clapper Rail that walked across the beach right in front of our car, in clear view of the whole group of birders. 

From Rollover the group went to Yacht Basin Road, which had a nice selection of birds including Whimbrel, American Golden Plover, Wilson's Plover and Gull-billed Tern.
We left the grup there and headed up to Winnie to check into our motel, the excellent Winnie Inn & Suites. Dee wanted to rest while I was planning to drive back to High Island to take part in the afternoon birdwalk at Smith Oaks. I was hopeful that more migrants would appear - and they did!