Saturday, April 24, 2010

Dauphin Island AL, April 2010

At High Island, someone I ran into recommended Dauphin Island as a great place to see migrants at this time of year (mid-April). So I decided if I'm going to fly all the way to the Gulf, I may as well check it out. So after a more-or-less two hour flight from Harlingen to Mobile, I rented a car and headed south for about an hour to Dauphin Island. Fortunately, there was a motel there which was very nice and right on the water by a park. Although it was dark when I arrived, the next morning I was up at daybreak and immediately found Red-headed Woodpeckers one block away!

Red-headed Woodpecker

Then I headed to the bird sanctuary where I found many more Red-headed Woodpeckers, along with Downy and Red-bellied. Cardinals were singing enthusiastically, as were Brown Thrashers Common Grackles, Gray Catbirds and Mockingbirds. I also stumbled upon a Chuck-wills-widow on the trail!


On the migrant front, most birds were Red-eyed Vireos. I found 13 species of warblers in total: Northern Waterthrush, Hooded, Prothonotary, Kentucky, Worm-eating, Black-and-White, Black-throated Green, Blue-winged, Tennessee, Orange-crowned, Yellow-rumped, Common Yellowthroat and Ovenbird.

Prothonotary Warbler

No orioles, but one Rose-breasted Grosbeak, one Painted Bunting, several Indigo Buntings and several Blue Grosbeaks. A nice Great Horned Owl greeted me in the afternoon, in direct sunlight and wide awake! Unfortunately, my camera falsely reported that the battery was dead, so I missed that shot!

Northern Cardinal

Common Grackle

Brown Thrasher

Red-bellied Woodpecker

On day two, I birded the island a bit more. Semipalmated Sandpipers and Plovers were in a small wetlands area along with Dunlin, Willet and Reddish Egret. Not finding much else at the sanctuar (Black-throated Green and Blue-winged Warblers), I took the ferry across to Bon Secour NWR. There I found some Sandwich Terns, American Avocets, and in the pine woodlands a Pileated Woodpecker, Brown-headed Nuthatches, Eastern Towhees and an Eastern Bluebird. All in all, I got 103 species of birds for my Alabama state list in only two days, and the weather and scenery were stunning. It was a great trip!

Eastern Bluebird

Rio Grande Valley, April 2010

Plain Chachalaca
After a nice week at High Island, I spent 6 more days on the Gulf Coast, starting with 4 days in the Rio Grande Valley (racking up 189 species!) and then flew over to Mobile to spend another couple of days on Dauphin Island and vicinity. All in all, I scored 216 species of birds, several javalinas and an armadillo grazing along the side of the road at Laguna Atascosa!

This was my fourth trip to the Valley, but my first time on South Padre Island. I was really impressed with the number of migrants at the conference center at Sheepshead, and afterwards touring a few vacant lots that scored a Clay-colored Sparrow and the birding center where I saw a Say's Phoebe and some close-range Clapper Rails! Santa Ana and Laguna Atascosa were fantastic as always, and I got a few firsts: a Common Nighthawk sleeping on a telephone wire, a Willet on a fencepost, and a Greater Roadrunner in a tree!

Here are a few photos by location: First, some farmland near Santa Ana (which was completely flooded due to recent heavy rain) where I saw American Pipits, Horned Larks, Bronzed Cowbirds and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks:

Bronzed Cowbird

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks
At Santa Ana, migrants were slow. I did get a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, an Ovenbird and White-eyed Vireos along with the usual suspects (Olive Sparrow, Green Jay, Black-crested Titmouse, Ringed Kingfisher, Greater Kiskadee). I also got to photograph a beautiful Sora in the marsh as a Border Patrol helicopter made a lot of noise overhead...

Great Kiskadee


Afterwards, I headed to Bentsen State Park where I got Altamira Oriole and White-tipped Dove. At Hidalgo, I also managed to snag a Black Phoebe at the birding center. That evening, I headed to South Padre where the real action began: Baltimore Orioles, Orchard Orioles, Painted and Indigo Buntings, Scarlet and Summer Tanagers, scads of Northern Parulas with Tennessee, Hooded, Yellow-throated, Blackpoll, Cerulean, Nashville Warblers, Northern Waterthrush, Yellow-breasted Chat, White-eyed, Warbling, Philadelphia and Red-eyed Vireos. Also present were Yellow and Black-billed Cuckoos!

Indigo Bunting
Scarlet Tanager

female Hooded Warbler

Baltimore Oriole

Poking around South Padre Island, a new friend and I managed to find an Upland Sandpiper, Black-crowned Night Heron, Inca Dove and Clay-colored Sparrow, along with a beautiful Tennessee Warbler (along with Swainson's Thrush, Eastern Phoebe and a few other goodies).

Upland Sandpiper

Tennessee Warbler

Northern Parula
Orchard Oriole

Black-billed Cuckoo

The shoreline was stuffed with terns and shorebirds. Least, Sandwich, Royal, Caspian and Forster's Terns, Franklins and Laughing Gulls, Snowy Plover, Black-bellied Plover and Semipalmated Plovers among them. And of course, Black Skimmers!

Black Skimmer
Before heading to the airport, I hit the boardwalk and found Clapper Rail, Reddish Egrets, Tricolored Heron, Say's Phoebe, White-rumped, Semipalmated and Spotted Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitchers and Dunlin. And a Belted Kingfisher also.

Clapper Rail

Reddish Egret

Laguna Atascosa was the final stop before the airport. Highlights included Philadelphia Vireo, Painted Bunting, Harris Hawk, Long and Short-billed Dowitchers and a White-tailed Hawk that I unfortunately did not manage to photograph. Also unfortunate was a miss on the Aplomado Falcon...

Greater Roadrunner

Painted Bunting

Green Jay in the parking lot!
That was it for the Rio Grande Valley for this trip. More on Alabama birding the next post!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

High Island, TX April 2010

I just got back from a quick weekend on the Texas coast. This trip wasn't as successful as last year, but I did manage to snag 128 species of birds, get my first-ever photos of King Rail and Least Bittern and have a great time.

The songbirds appear to be around two weeks late leaving Mexico. Evidently, there was a cold front that reached to the Yucutan, and that was why the numbers weren't there. Additionally, the mulberries were mostly still green, accounting for surprising misses on Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Baltimore Oriole.

Some good birds were seen, however. Prothonotary Warblers were fairly numerous, and in addition to scads of Yellow-rumped "Myrtles", I saw several Swainson's, Worm-eating, Orange-crowned, Northern Parula, Hooded, Louisiana Waterthrush and Palm Warblers. (Three of those are pictured above!) Vireos included Yellow-throated, White-eyed, Warbling, Red-eyed and Blue-headed. Scarlet and Summer Tanagers were both numerous, as were Indigo Buntings. Others saw Painted Buntings as well. Mostly, the warblers were low in both number and variety (no Nashville, American Redstart, Chestnut-sided or several other "common" warblers had been seen yet this year as of 4/11).

The waders and shorebirds were as good as last year. Least Terns were numerous, although oddly there were very few Brown Pelicans on the Bolivar Peninsula (that I could see, anyway). My group missed the Yellow and Black Rail at Anahuac NWR, but they had been seen earlier in the day. Our compensation: Least Bittern, American Bittern, King Rail, Clapper Rail, Sora, Seaside Sparrow and Mottled Duck. In reality, Least Bittern was the treat. Sadly, the light was very poor for a photo. But as my first-ever photo of this bird, it's acceptable...