Archives

Postcards from Texas: Smith Oaks

Posted by Matthew Sim

As soon as we arrived at Smith Oaks I knew the birding was going to be good; before we had even entered the gates a Red-eyed Vireo jumped into the bushes in front of us. Then, in the first tree we passed, there was a male Golden-winged Warbler, a male Black-and-White Warbler and a male Blackburnian Warbler.

Black-and-White warbler

Black-and-White warbler

Just like that migrants were in every tree and bush. Blue-headed Vireo and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Magnolia Warbler and Black-throated Green Warbler. How about another Yellow-throated Vireo? More Black-and-white Warblers over here! Had enough Scarlet Tanagers yet? With each bird the woods seemed to become a immeasurable buffet with numerous gorgeous migrants on which to feast the eye.

Black-throated Green Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

I looked up and spotted an Anhinga, a sign that we were approaching the famous rookery and its rowdy inhabitants.

Anhinga

As we walked further and further the birding only got better and better. There were literally migrants in every bush and tree. Bay-breasted, Yellow, Blue-winged, Magnolia, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided, Black-and White and Tennessee Warblers were adorning every branch as were Northern Parulas, Common Yellowthroats, Philadelphia Vireos, Eastern Wood-Pewees, American Redstarts and Scarlet Tanagers. Even a beautiful Cerulean Warbler made a very brief appearance!

Bay-breasted Warbler

Bay-breasted Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Northern Parula

Northern Parula

Blackburnian Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler

Birding didn’t get any slower at the rookery as egrets, spoonbills and herons went about raising their families.

Rookery

Rookery

Young Spoonbill

The excitement didn’t even stop there as we got distant looks at a pair of beautiful Purple Gallinule. And one final highlight came as we were heading back to our car; a pair of Armadillo! It certainly was a great trip!

Nine-banded Armadillo

Nine-banded Armadillo

 

Postcards from Texas: Boy Scout Woods

Posted by Matthew Sim

Spring migration is starting to wind down here in Texas and I had still not been to the coast, thanks to a very busy schedule. This was made very painful a little over 2 weeks ago, when on Thursday, April 26th, a cold front grounded migrants and created a massive fallout of birds at coastal hotspots; what many locals were calling the best birding to be had in over 15 years. And I was stuck at school. Friday, there were still migrants everywhere. People were being told to try to avoid stepping on tired migrants that collapsed exhausted by the dozens on paths and lawns. And I was still stuck in school. Well surely I could get out on the weekend? Nope, weekend was already chock full of chores and commitments.

Finally though, on the Sunday I had the day off and I convinced my mom to chauffeur me down to High Island. She agreed (after a little while!) and we set off; though the weather forecast wasn’t going to create a fallout, I was still hoping for some good birds.

We arrived at Boy Scout Woods, a sanctuary run by the Houston Audubon at around 10:30 in the morning. The day got off to a great start when a very tame male Kentucky Warbler put on a show at one of the many small ponds and drips.

Kentucky Warbler

Kentucky Warbler

Things were looking good and as I walked through the woods I soon found my first Scarlet Tanagers and Black-and-white Warblers of the day.

Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanager

I carried on through the woods, seeing more thrushes, vireos, tanagers, flycatchers, grosbeaks, orioles and warblers, including a Worm-eating Warbler which scurried about in the undergrowth, giving me only fleeting glimpses. Things started to quiet down apart from dozens of catbirds and a very vocal Eastern Kingbird.

Eastern Kingbird

Yellow throated Vireos were common throughout the woods.

Yellow throated Vireos were common throughout the woods.

Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak

After an hour and a half, with fewer and fewer birds showing up, we decided to head over to another Houston Audubon run sanctuary, Smith Oaks, famous for its heron rookery. Before we left though, we stopped by at a house across from Boy Scout Woods whose front yard was covered in bottle brush and attracted many birds including Baltimore and Orchard Orioles; Tennessee, Chestnut-sided and Canada Warblers and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.

Female Orchard Oriole

Female Orchard Oriole

As we left this property, we spotted a Common Nighthawk perched on the street, content to just sit quietly. From there it was on to Smith Oaks! The trip to Smith Oaks will be posted tomorrow, stay tuned.