Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Texas 19 - Port Aransas

Monday was a travel day. We did the coastal route from Galveston, very interesting, as always. One of the many delights of this enormous State are the constant sights of interest. We drove through many Villages and towns, the "real" Texas. Plenty of neat Coffee houses with Cinnamon Apple Pie!

Anyway, we ended up at Goose Island S.P. looking for a late Whooping Crane. No luck but we re-visited the "Big tree"...

1000+ year old Live Oak. Survivor of many a Hurricane!

Then it was on to Polywog Pond in Corpus Christi. A quiet session of 3 hours in muggy conditions BUT I did score my Green Kingfisher for the trip. Just too quick for a pic.

Full day around Port Aransas today (Tuesday) with some excellent sites close to out Motel.

Trip Total 229

Stay tuned...

Monday, 29 April 2019

Texas 19 - Pineywoods

Today worked out well, to say the least!

Two main targets...both seen very well. Firstly we spent the morning at W.G.Jones State Forest north of Houston were I eventually had fantastic views of Red-cockaded Woodpecker. A story to tell on return. I also added Red-headed Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker and Pileated Woodpecker (heard only). I also saw my first Cooper's Hawk.

The afternoon was spent at Liberty Municipal Park. I connected with Swallow-tailed Kite and also saw Mississippi Kite as a bonus!

A couple of pics to brighten things up a bit

We arrived back in Galveston around 7. Louise wanted some titivation time so I popped down the road and got lucky with an American Bittern in flight.

Trip Total 228

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Texas 19 - Nice and easy does it

Another perfect day here weather wise. Mid-seventies and abundant sunshine.

We made it to Frenchtown Road at the tip of the Bolivar Peninsular for dawn. It's first left off the Ferry!

I was soon enjoying Sora, Clapper and Virginia Rails. Can't beat this site for Rails. The BIG bonus was the sight of 2 Least Bitterns.

We moved on swiftly to the bridge over the Intracoastal Canal. Just before it is a track to the left. A Great Horned Owl site shared with me by Tim Isherwood. It is still occupied!

We spent the next few hours enjoying the superb Anahuac NWR. It was in fine fettle giving excellent views over much of the reserve.

Onward North to Winnie. A couple of reintroduced Whooping Cranes have been present for a while. Would have been rude to miss them as they were so (relatively) close.

After an hour in Hooks Woods at High Island (Hooded Warbler the highlight) we moved down to Rettilon Road and the superb Bolivar Flats. I spent a wonderful two hours here enjoying a wide variety of species.

A quality days Birding.

Time for a Woodland day tomorrow...

Trip Total 221

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Texas 19 - Quest for my second target

A down and up day today...the best kind!

Met Adam Archer and his wife Nadia at Lafitte's Cove at 7.30. Great to see them both. Guess you could say they were looking forward to another amazing days Birding on the island.

I'd earlier been to Settegast Road to look for my Bobolink. Yesterday there'd been around 20 here which is an unusually high number for this elusive passage migrant. There is a narrow window of opportunity...I just hoped I hadn't missed the boat. We arrived back in Galveston at 11pm last evening but I was up at 6 and keen to connect. After all it had been 19 years!!!

I gave it 45 minutes before I met Adam and Nadia...no sign BUT I enjoyed stunning views of 3 Common Nighthawks feeding in the early morning light. Superb!

After an hour or so enjoying amongst others Chesnut-sided Warbler and Ovenbird I said goodbye to them as I was returning for Louise. I did have another quick scan on Settegast but still no sign. As I turned to leave Adam and Nadia were approaching! True Birders. I asked Adam to let me know if he found any.

Of course...he did!

Around Noon we returned to search again. I bumped into local Birder Greg Hall and that began an hour to remember, which I'll share in detail on my return.

They say a picture paints a thousand words...

Texas 470

Friday, 26 April 2019

Texas 19 - Hill Country Summary

Thursday found me at Kerr WMA at dawn in search of Black-capped Vireo and Golden-cheeked Warbler. Despite much searching I found neither? Very surprised... and disappointed. After yesterday's storms, today was glorious.

I did manage to find a reported Lazuli Bunting late Wednesday at South Llano River S.P. Rare this far East. Oh, and I also had great views of a Ringed Kingfisher on a river walk with Louise at Kerrville late Tuesday, after Martin dropped me off.

Back to today. After returning to the Motel with my tail between my legs, we had breakfast and headed back to Lost Maples S.P. to try yet again for the elusive Audubon's Oriole. Again... no sign!

A nostalgic visit to Neal's Lodges at Concan after lunch also proved fruitless, mainly did to the 90F temp!

Species details and pics on return home.

I'm writing this as Louise drives is back along I10 to Houston, then on to Galveston. Hope it all makes sense. Not easy to Blog on the phone while travelling on the Interstate!

Time to think Bobolink...

Trip total 200

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Texas 19 - taking a breather!

By the wonders of modern technology I'm posting from Junction on I10 NW of Kerrville.

Thunderstorms this morning of the 24th. I'm looking for the wonderful Varied Bunting at Easter Pageant Hill. They were present here last year but I'm possibly slightly early? I arrived at dawn and have it an hour but the rain has set in for the moment, hence the time to catch up...of sorts.

So I thought I'd do a quick summary of my Hill Country visit so far.

Lost Maples proved unsurprisingly quiet during my mid-afternoon visit. Wouldn't it be great to be everywhere in the morning!! I did add...

Inca Dove
White-tipped Dove (local and elusive)
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Carolina Chickadee
Black-throated Titmouse
Carolina Wren
Chipping Sparrow
Rufous-crowned Sparrow
Olive Sparrow (heard)

On reflection not a bad haul especially when I add on a breif but spectacular visit to the feeder of a Scott's Oriole!!!

The main target was my nemesis Audubon's Oriole, which is present. I will return on Thursday... early!

Yesterday was a day with Martin Read. An ex-pat who's been in Texas for nearly 30 years. He knows his stuff! He took me to some top sites and we saw some great birds.
I'll do a full write-up on return with pics.
Highlights were...

Hooded Oriole
Vermilion Flycatcher
Painted Bunting
Ash-throated Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee

It was great to learn new things with him, especially regarding "the Sparrows". We had a laugh taking birds and footy. Thanks Martin.

Got to go now...it has stopped raining...

Texas 19 - Postponed again

Two 5am starts and much driving and Birding means a suspension in my diary!

I need to do this trip justice. I will post the odd pic and catch up when I have time...but actual Birding is the priority.

Had a great time today with Martin Read and learned a lot. The day needs to be given the time it deserves...

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Texas19 - Day 9 (postponed)

A combination of a very long drive, spotty Wi-fi and exhaustion means no update tonight. I'm also up at 5 again tomorrow to bird with Martin Reid.

Full story soon...

Monday, 22 April 2019

Texas 19 - Day 8

A relaxed day today avoiding the Easter crowds which have understandably invaded this wonderful Island. There's still plenty of room!

I left Louise to have a leisurely morning and headed down to San Luis Pass at the far western tip of the Island. I arrived at 7.30. I wanted to follow up a tip off from Tom who'd informed me there were some Yellow-headed Blackbirds frequenting a sub-division close by. Things were still very quiet as I slowly cruised round the roads within it. Two circuits later...no luck? One more time. On this occasion I tried another road that looked private but wasn't. Glad I did...

Just love this species...for no particular reason! An excellent Galveston tick.

As I was leaving the area I noticed a distinctive and iconic shape on a wire...

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
A common migrant but also a very beautiful one...

Never tire of this one...and plenty of others, come to think of it!

Time for a relaxed session with the scope (after all I'd brought it) at the pass. I positioned the car in a grockle proof position and hoped no-one would "go for a stroll" past the resting group. Luckily they didn't in a wonderful 2 hours watching.


Reddish Egret (White phase)

ALWAYS worth watching!

Just a great species in numerous ways.

Caspian Tern (my first) amongst many Royals...

The only one present
Piping Plover (endangered) 2
Semi-palmated Plover c50
Knot (scarce here) 2
White-rumped Sandpiper 33
Black Skimmer c200

A wonderful morning. Back for the boss and lunch at 1.

We were planning to return for the afternoon to get away from the crowds but a combination of timing and a 5am start tomorrow found us back at Lafitte's for the remainder of the afternoon. The weather was glorious and Louise sat in the sun reading her novel while I disappeared into the wood (a familiar scenario!).

Plenty of Swainson's Thrushes about this afternoon but sticking to deep cover. A couple of Black-throated Green Warblers hopped about on the path like Sparrows. I managed a frustratingly brief glimpse of my first Yellow-breasted Chat. I waited and waited but it didn't show again.

It was nearly time to leave. A young lad appeared and we started chatting. I told him I'd just seen a Baltimore oriole at what looked like a hanging basket! He told me he'd seen about TEN there earlier! That put me in my place. Here are three of them after the oranges of course...

I've already posted a pic of a female Painted Bunting. I was hoping to get a decent view of a male. Two minutes from departing...

He was in deep cover but you get the idea!!! Fortunately he moved into the sunshine to give us the full show.

Painted Bunting in all his glory...

I even managed a painted pic...

Happy Days indeed!

Heading for the Hills (Country) at 5am for three nights. Stay tuned.

Trip Total 151

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Texas 19 - Day 7

Easter Saturday meant it was time to leave Galveston for the day.

I re-visited Corps Woods at dawn to see if my little friend was still present. He was!
The sun shone on his tree at 7.20...but he'd disappeared. I left at 8 with no further sign. I did add Chimney Swift to the trip list with at least 10 birds shooting around over the reserve.

We made it onto the Ferry by 9 and off we went to High Island...

I made one stop on the way to try for Upland Sandpiper. None on on the turf but I scored two trip ticks with Whimbrel and Long-billed Curlew.

I wanted to try the Hooks Wood sanctuary today as I'd always concentrated on Boy Scout Woods and Smith Oaks on previous visits.The decision paid off handsomely...

Cerulean Warbler

One of three males I saw today!

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Not the best angle but my sharpest image
Golden-winged Warbler

A record shot!
Blue-winged Warbler

Black and White Warbler
Hooded Warbler
Kentucky Warbler
Prothonotary Warbler
Worm-eating Warbler
Blue-headed Vireo

Warbling Vireo
Swainson's Thrush
Grey-cheeked Thrush

The male Cerulean was the first bird I saw after I got out of the car! Incredible views of this unfortunately declining Warbler. Tough to take pics of fast moving birds under the canopy, the main thing is to enjoy SEEING them and believe me I did!

Late afternoon was spent enjoying Smith Oaks and the Rookery...

Roseate Spponbill

Trip Total...144

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Texas 19 - Day 6

The wind was in the North...well North-West! Promising...again!

The rain had gone and thankfully so had the lightening. I'd arranged to meet Lorna at Lafitte's but she didn't show so I made my way solo into the Oak Mott (a Texas term for small group of trees). There are a few open areas and if you plan accordingly you may see birds in sunlight...if they are present of course. The drips are in shade however. I know which areas I prefer.

The central open area is where I positioned myself and after around 30 minutes I started to see stuff...

American Redstart...

Yellow Warbler...

A ray of sunshine
Black-throated Green Warbler...

All were feeding very actively. I also saw a Blue-winged Warbler, Black and White Warbler, Hooded Warbler and another stunning Baltimore Oriole (a bird I will never tire of seeing). I also saw my first Hummingbird a Ruby-throated ...

So, a decent session before leaving at 9. Unfortunately on my return I realized I'd received a message from Lorna saying she was on her way to Lafitte's! Pity, as I wanted to say goodbye...for now.

We left our place around 11 and headed West down the Island. First stop was 8 mile road. One of my targets was Upland Sandpiper (for no particular reason except I like the species?!). We turned onto the road and I inspected the Ducks present on the first pool. Some very smart Fulvous Whistling Ducks were present...

Twenty minutes later I was looking at my Galveston US albeit distantly in vegetation. The NW winds made me visit Lafitte's again early afternoon in case more birds had dropped in. They had! The star turn was a female Cerulean Warbler...

As we were watching the bird I overheard a conversation..."There's a Cape May Warbler at Corps Woods"!!!!!!! Exit stage left.

We arrived some thirty minutes later. Louise stet her stall out and I disappeared around the corner. There was a young girl standing there looking intently into the trees. I asked her the inevitable question. She answered "Yes, I saw it 5 minutes ago"!!! This was a BIG deal for yours truly. Could I finally get my Texas Cape May after 11 visits over 19 years. The answer?

Oh Yes!!! My 469th species for this wonderful State

Trip Total 132

Friday, 19 April 2019

Texas 19 - Day 5

...the fall didn't materialize! "Don't expect anything then..."etc etc

Limited time tonight as we're saying goodbye to Lorna with a meal out at Brickhouse.

Brief highlights...

The day started well at Lafitte's with a couple of Soras on the grass by the car park at 7...

I was the only one there! It went downhill after that with serious T&L until I ran for the car at 10. After the inevitable coffee at La King's (very nice), I left Louise for some retail therapy and tried some spots on Pelican Island including a site for Great Kiskadee. No sight or sound I'm afraid. I also tried Kempner Park but the birds had avoided that as well! I did bump into Howard Smith, an ex-pat who'd lived in Texas for many years. Nice bloke...and he could understand me!

The afternoon saw us down at the West of the island trying out a few new spots including Dos Vacas Muertas and Point West water tower. I added Northern Waterthrush (2) to my trip list at the first site...

Hopping around in thick cover. Streaked throat.
...and a fine Summer Tanager was also seen at close quarters...

The Tower site yielded 3 Baltimore Orioles. A bonus considering the gusty wind...

Visible Migration!

A second stab at Lafitte's on the way back reinforced the "no fall" outcome but I did manage a female Painted Bunting, my first...

Blends in well!
Just a note on context. I've been a few times BUT I'm not an authority on range and occurrence...life's too short. However, I like to think I'm increasing my knowledge with each visit. Lets face it, when you're from an other continent, they're ALL great!
I was photographing a Grey Catbird in the Mulberry bush when a few birders raced over. "What ya got?" I told them. They were rather disappointed to say the least. One man's meat...
I liked it...
Trip Total 127

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Stormy weather boys!

The Storm has hit big style! I'm still up and about (7am) going for a possible Galveston Island Great Kiskadee. The boss is relaxing before a trip to the Strand. Weather clearing by 11. Bring on the grounded migrants!!!?

That's the theory anyway lol!

Texas 19 - Day 4

Started at a leisurely pace down the East end of the Island at Apffel Park, where after a decent wait, I managed to SEE a singing Sedge Wren...

After a coffee we returned to meet Lorna around 11. When I found her she was photographing a beautiful group of "fresh in" American Avocets...

Simply stunners...

Another bird had caught her eye...and mine...

Just WOW!!! I may have mentioned before this is my favourite Egret!

Where next then? We decided on a return to Corps Woods at the eastern tip of the Island. A Painted Bunting had been reported, another favourite. It seems I have quite a few!! The eBird report had the bird at a feeder but our previous visit there was no sign of any? We found seed on the ground and this was attracting a decent group of Indigo Buntings (c15) and some Blue Grosbeaks. No sign of the PB though. We bumped into  local lady visiting during her lunch hour. She knew of no feeders? After another circuit she informed us she'd found a path through the trees. We took it and sure enough we reached a platform overlooking some well stocked feeders?! A couple from Manchester who now live in Dallas had seen the bird. As we were chatting (very quietly) the bird appeared feeding on the bird-magnet mulberry bush. Another stunner I think you'll agree.

Then someone turned a red light bulb on...

Yes, the Scarlet Tanager really IS this red!!!

We then travelled west down Stewart Road checking out some eBird hotspots. My main target was Upland Sandpiper but it wasn't to be. We did find numerous White-tailed Kites (my first of the trip) including this distant resting pair...

As you can see the sky was starting to "fill in". A storm is brewing...tremendous!!! Fortunately it hadn't arrive yet enabling us to make a few more stops. 8 mile road produced a few more Duck ticks...Fulvous Whistling, Gadwall and Shoveler. I also had my first Lark Sparrow...

I think my little camera did well here!
Three more American Oystercatchers were seen.We then headed for Lafitte's hoping that the deteriorating weather would drop some stuff in. It did. The light was grim but there were birds everywhere! Hardly any Warblers (I added Common Yellowthroat) but lots of Orioles and Buntings. I saw at least half-a-dozen Baltimore Orioles and more than 20 Orchard...and yes we saw some more Painted Buntings albeit briefly. Everything was flighty. I managed to grab a pic of a distant Baltimore...

What will tomorrow bring? Stay tuned...

Trip Total 124

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Texas 19 - Day 3

Very quiet Warbler wise. This was borne out by a blank at Lafitte's this morning. A drive around Galveston Island S.P. did produce a Palm Warbler plus a Grey-cheeked Thrush.

Later found us at a new site, namely Texas City Dyke in a hunt for the local and elusive American Oystercatcher.

Took some time but I managed to find one eventually...

Another Lifer for Lorna!

Late afternoon found us relaxing in Kempner Park, just 10 blocks from our place. Some impressive Live Oaks...

Less impressive was the lack of birds. I did add Blue Jay and Red-shouldered Hawk to the trip list. Displaying Great-tailed Grackles were everywhere providing excellent entertainment...

We went out for a meal with Lorna tonight, so rather a brief one.

Trip total 100