Dee and I spent the later part of Sunday morning in the Boy Scout Woods sanctuary at High Island. After reading all the reports of recent warbler fall-outs there, we were expecting to see a ton of warblers. As we were both tired, we were also hoping to have one of those magical High Island mornings when you sit on the benches at the water drip and let exciting birds come to you.
Well, it didn't work out quite like that. Warblers weren't as ubiquitous or as obliging as we hoped, and there were so many birders that it was hard to walk some of the trails.
The very first bird we saw was a stunner, though: a male Cerulean Warbler. A truly beautiful bird and a lifer. Unfortunately, my little camera wasn't up to catching a photo of it, or of the Gray Catbirds that were nearby. (Note to myself: I really need to get a better camera!)
Within a few minutes, we'd had enough of the crowds and so headed out of the woods into a more open area. This would probably mean we'd miss out on some warblers but might see other birds.
It turned out to be a good move. We immediately spotted several Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, then a Worm-eatingWarbler quickly followed by Chestnut-sided Warbler. I did a little better with my photography this time but only because this bird was really cooperative.
The next half-hour produced some of the best birding we've ever had. First a Scarlet Tanager appeared. Next there was a Painted Bunting.
Male Painted Bunting
Then the area in front of us was full of Indigo Buntings. At one moment, eight were in view at the same time.
Male Indigo Buntings
We walked a few yards further along the trail and spent several minutes spellbound watching another group of buntings: both male and female Indigo and Painted. To add variety, an Orchard Oriole put in an appearance, followed by a Hooded Warbler, a Yellow Warbler, a Baltimore Oriole and a Summer Tanager.
It was getting hot now and we headed for the picnic tables and lunch, stopping along the way to admire a Common Nighthawk doing an excellent impersonation of a knotty branch.
A quick look at the water drip after lunch produced only quick views of an Orange-crowned Warbler, a Yellow-breasted Chat and a Swainson's Warbler, the latter another life bird for me.
It had been a good morning for new birds: 10 new year birds plus two others that were also lifers. Of course, we would have seen a lot more warblers if we hadn't spent so long admiring the buntings. But we both felt the latter were worth every minute that we spent on them.
Next we headed over to Smith Woods. Our main aim was to see the wading birds' rookery, but I was also really hoping to see a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, not a rare bird but one that I always love to watch.