For example, Olinger begins his short stories with the hilarious The Woodpecker Menace which showcases the humorous side of his writing. In this instance he makes fun of an annoying situation trying to combat a bothersome and pesky woodpecker. In another story we are escorted somewhere else with his compassionate Into the Brainforest.
Olinger reveals his sensitivity concerning young ones facing difficulties in school. He recounts that he volunteered to tutor a third grade boy who was struggling with his reading and could not read a book that was meant for students half his age. There are too many. Instead, I say, keep going. It seems more important to finish the book than to get it right just now. Our voyage continues when Olinger introduces us to his anarchist and eccentric neighbor, someone who perhaps we likewise have met in our own environment.
And if you are parents of a youngster learning to play T-ball, you can easily relate to the short story, The Good Sport. These are only a few examples of the ten delightful yarns that Olinger presents in his collection. It would be remiss of me to review this wonderful book of short stories without mentioning the illustrations that were provided by Tweed Meyer who has been a working artist in the Pacific Northwest for more than thirty years.
Her drawings are a perfect compliment to Olinger's wonderful prose. Copyright BookPleasures. All rights reserved. Our next site was down the nearby Yacht Basin Road in the short salt marsh. Our 4pm walk in Smith Oaks started slow, but by we were experiencing many newly arriving birds, especially Warblers. It is always fun to watch true migration right in front of your eyes. Now let us hope that these birds choose to stay the night here in High Island to make for a better morning walk tomorrow! Favorable conditions for birds to continue their migration path, this morning we found very few species during our morning walk in Boy Scout Woods.
The walked continued quietly towards the platform over the marsh area where we stayed safe from mosquitos for about half an hour. The Painted Bunting that sings from a hidden perch next to the platform was heard again but it continues to be frustratingly reclusive to us. We decided to take the risk and venture ourselves inland for the shorebird tour, knowing that it could be a hit and miss visit; we had not visited the area for several days and there were not a lot of reports of good birding.
The first stop we did was along French Road where we saw nothing. We then moved along County Road were we stopped a couple times and got not many but a couple good birds. Finally, after scanning seemingly endless grass fields without seeing any shorebird, we found a flooded mud field with hundreds of sandpipers on South Pear Orchard Road. It ended up being a very successful tour. At noon, we decided again to visit some coastal hotspots on the Bolivar Peninsula.
The variety and numbers of birds were generally low, but there were some stellar looks of some of the local specialties. We finished the walk just as a light rain shower arrived, which we hoped might yet yield some new migrant songbirds in the woods during the afternoon walk in High Island…. In short, some birds came in, perhaps temporarily grounded by the light rains , but generally the woods were fairly quiet, save for some discrete pockets of activity. With the unpredictability of weather, and weather forecasts , this season, it is hard to judge how the next few days will pan out; more thunderstorms are said to be coming at some point this week, which would then likely be accompanied by drop ins of birds.
We have now also entered the time of the month when the greatest number of birds is on the move, so even a day of moderate arrivals can be highly enjoyable, and drop ins may occur without necessarily any significant weather associated with it. With clear skies and bright sun this morning we were welcomes by dozens of photographers around the Bottlebrush and Mulberry trees outside the HAS Field station house across from Boy Scout Woods. Our noon shorebird tour started at Rollover Pass, but unfortunately the people fishing and sunbathing had scared away the birds in our normal spot. Our 4pm walk in Smith Oaks had a decent number of birds.
Not a huge arrival but a good selection of warblers to keep the crowds happy. The large stand of Live oaks near the parking lot held the best species. A western species which is rare in these parts. A beautiful morning today here in High Island with blue skies and bright sun. That attracted the attention of a few people that were going to join the walk including one of our guides that needs that one for her life list. Only a few people got to see it before it disappeared inside the forest.
Soon after we moved down towards the coast and stopped at Rollover Pass where, due to the high tide, lots of birds were concentrated along the small patches of sand still remaining above water. After spending about one busy hour at this spot, studying the large amount of birds and its sometimes subtle differences, we continued on and visited Yacht Basin Road where grassy slat plains attract many shorebirds.
Smith Oaks was filled with lots of warblers, probably not large numbers of individual birds but the variety was refreshingly high. Tomorrow we might expect that some of the birds stay at least for the morning since the slow north winds we are experiencing at the moment are predicted to shift to south winds at around mid-morning. The reality was very, very little indeed! The rains had moved through by then, and there was hope this would produce some arrivals.
Things can only get better from here! With torrential rain, severe thunderstorms, and flooding, it was no surprise that our morning tour in Boy Scout Woods, and our noon shorebird tour were a washout. However, by 3 pm the rain had subsided and a major influx of migrants arrived in High Island, meaning our 4 pm walk around Smith Oaks was pumping with literally thousands of birds. The most obvious increase in numbers were the warblers with the highest diversity for the season so far.
All in all it was the best afternoon of birding yet this season. With rain still in the forecast it is likely that these new arrivals will remain in High Island into tomorrow morning. You might just have to get rained on while you are looking at them. The Tropical Birding guides will be off tomorrow and Wednesday from our scheduled bird walks, but you may still see us out there if the birding was as good as it was this afternoon! April 17th, All in all, a great start to the day. We made a decision to go inland today for the noon shorebirding tour based on a few factors, not least of which was reports of highway 87 where we do our beach-based shorebirding having high water warnings in some stretches.
While water levels in the rice fields there were way down from our last visit thus much less birds , we nonetheless were able to pick out a handful of quality species. Forecasted afternoon rains never quite materialized, and thus the 4pm Smith Oaks Woods walk went off without a hitch, though the cool breeze and overcast skies remained foreboding.
This will be my last entry for the season, as I fly home to Indiana tomorrow Monday night. Thanks to the birders that allowed me the opportunity to guide them, to the Houston Audubon volunteers and staff for all their wisdom and kindness and incredible hospitality, to the community of High Island for playing pickup basketball and making incredible tacos and welcoming me into their homes, and to my fellow Tropical Birding guides for the friendship and the chance to glean from their vast bank of knowledge on the birds in this awesome part of the world.
April 16, A really windy morning today made the birding harder than usual. Many of the warblers we saw yesterday have already left probably taking advantage of the south winds. At noon, for the shorebird tour we decided to go down to the coast again. The classical first stop at Rollover Pass is consistently good for water birds and shorebirds. The nest box on the side of Rettilon Road had a BARN OWL for which we stopped but sadly not everybody got to see the bird since it decided to hide moving further inside the box. The afternoon at Smith Oaks was really quiet. Of course you always have the rookery for when the woods are not productive so we spent most of our time there.
We can only hope that some birds arrive tomorrow in the afternoon pushed by the rains predicted; nevertheless the morning does not look like it is going to be too birdy. Andres Vasquez. However, the morning walks failed to turn up the culprit there. A good-sized group turned up for the official walks, and so were split into two to cover the woods. The latter are now just starting to arrive, and are sure to become more regular in the coming days. At noon, having covered some inland shorebirding sites the day before, we took to the coast instead, covering Rollover Pass, Yacht Basin Road, and Bob Road.
As usual, this part of the Upper Texas Coast was jam-packed with birds. Again though, numbers of birds overall were low, but species diversity was good, with some good showy individuals. After another night of rain, our morning walk in Boy Scout Woods had us dodging some puddles, but still finding a few birds. On our noon shorebird tour we decided to head inland today in hopes of finding a different set of shorebird species found on the coast, ones which associate more with freshwater and open fields during migration.
The first place we stopped at were the flooded rice fields on French Road off of These were the first ones for the year. A very good haul of great species in one single field. Next we headed down to a field where a Ruff had been reports, but was not re-found. At 4pm we started our walk at Smith Oaks.
The feeling at the start was that it was going to be slow compared to the previous days, and with very little wind from the north this held true. Although, with many birders, we had many keen eyes to spot any movement in the trees. This expert spotting was on showcase by the young birders on the hike, Hank and Tucker, who found the group many good birds. The numbers of birds were down, but the diversity was still high. So in the end the numbers were down, but some nice birds are still lingering, although without a drop in of birds tonight it may be slow tomorrow.
But, as I have said before, most spring migration predictions are wrong! Hope to see you all tomorrow morning at Boy Scout Woods. After a fine weekend of birding, today was not too shabby, either. Things were a bit slower in the woods with overall numbers down some but diversity still good. Aside from pointing out these skulkers to excited birders, much of the morning was spent at Prothonotary Pond, where warblers, vireos, and thrushes come regularly for drinks and baths in the water.
For the midday shorebird tour, we decided to go inland today in lieu of our recent tradition of checking the beach birds. So instead of headed west along 87 we went north up to some flooded rice fields across from Stanolind Reservoir to check for freshwater specialists. Scanning the fields for our main quarry, we were able to pick out some goodies in the throngs of yellowlegs and grackles. From this site, we made our way back towards town and stopped along a frontage road at the High Island Bridge.
This perched bird made all that work worth it, though. The afternoon 4pm walk at Smith Oaks Woods was decidedly less birdy, as it was apparent many of the birds of the last few days had made their move northwards with the south winds. Nonetheless, our intrepid group still made a solid go of it and was rewarded with a smattering of thrushes, vireos, and warblers.
The biggest highlight, however brief, came literally seconds after Cameron was lamenting how his final hike of the season was a bit slow. Through the gaps in the canopy most of the group was able to snag a fleeting glimpse of this magnificent beast that is rarely encountered in these parts. I know I speak for everyone in expressing gratitude for his superb and highly informative guiding these past 2 weeks.
Take care, everyone. For the third day in a row there were plenty of birds making use of the High Island sanctuaries. This glut of birds is the reason Bolivar Flats is an area of international significances for shorebirds. The afternoon Smith Oak walk turned most of the same birds as the morning walk. After an impressive arrival of birds last night, our morning walk in Boy Scout Woods was met with high hopes, and few birders were disappointed.
Although a good number of birds continued on north, late last night, the diversity was still very high. Our shorebird tour at noon again started at Rollover pass, with a high tide, and many close birds. At 4pm we started our walk in Smith Oaks knowing there were plenty of birds around, and our group was not disappointed. The song bird numbers were down compared to yesterday afternoon, but the diversity was still decent.
With south winds continuing through the night our prediction for tomorrow is that it may be a little slow, with many birds using the tail wind to fly north tonight. April 8th, Hello birders! Perhaps greatest of all is the camaraderie between birders that is so evident in this amazing place. Our am morning walk at Boy Scout Woods was just a tad birdier than yesterday. Rollover Pass was fabulous as always, where we racked up more or less the same things as yesterday. Earlier north winds had gotten our hopes up a bit for what this afternoon might hold, and we were not disappointed.
Indigo Buntings. Tennessee Warblers, and Red-eyed Vireos were all over the woods. There was nary a dull moment this afternoon in the woods, thanks to these birds. Looking forward to seeing what tomorrow will bring us!! Despite a decent arrival of migrants yesterday afternoon, the Boy Scout Woods walk was impressively slow; perhaps glacial would best way to describe it. That is the way of things when birding coastal migrant traps in the spring though, you have to endure some famine to get to the feasts.
At Rollover Pass the tide was more cooperative than earlier in the week and many birds were in close. April , Like last year we will be offering free guided walks every Thursday through Monday no walks on Tuesdays and Wednesdays every morning at am in Boy Scout Woods, at 12 noon we lead a shorebird tour starting at Boy Scout Woods kiosk, and at 4pm we lead a walk through Smith Oaks. We will also be doing our daily updates now that we have sorted out our computer troubles!
The early season birding was not bad, the last 4 days during our morning walks in Boy Scout Woods. On Friday night winds started coming from the north, bringing cooler temperatures through until Sunday night. These north winds kept a few good species in the woodlot. Our noon shorebird tours have been going great as always. Starting at Rollover Pass consistently brings in the best diversity and numbers.
Let us hope this coming weekend will see more arriving migrants.
The Woodpecker Menace
Again our walks will start up again this Thursday at am at Boy Scout Woods. April 26th On the hunt for shorebirds and other coastal birds, we headed out to Rollover Pass, but being a Sunday, and therefore prime fishing time, the bird numbers were lower and the views were more distant than we would have liked. Sadly it left before many had even managed to park, and so missed it. The full suite of terns was out there though, just less numerous and a little distant i. Another two stops were made on our hunt for shorebirds; first on Barbados Drive Sandpiper Estates , which had been so productive the day before following the addition of more pools and feeding areas, after the Saturday morning rains.
Sadly, they were not to be satisfied, only a small number of warblers being present, and few migrants overall. For the final free-guided walk of the Houston Audubon season it was not what people longed for as a final finale. However, we have all really enjoyed being part of this most exciting of birding seasons, again, in High Island, and look forward to returning for more highs and lows of spring migration next year. April 25th Apart from that it poured rain for about 3 hours! At noon we started our shorebird tour at rollover pass and did very well here.
Our next stop was at the now flooded grassy fields surrounding the Shell gas station in Crystal Beach, where it was pumping with shorebirds. This ended a very diverse shorebird tour, and luckily the rain held off! With plenty of people came plenty of birds for our 4pm walk in Smith Oaks. With luck a few of these species will remain for the morning tour in Boy Scout Woods. April 24th This morning was overcast, drizzly and deceptively birdy by the entrance to Boy Scout Woods.
We continued our morning walk inside the reserve, but the initial burst of activity was short lived. The trails were pretty dead, and we soon found ourselves at the marsh where we at least had some birds to look at. The talk was that conditions might be right to bring in arrivals this afternoon. On our midday shorebirds, we started off as usual at Rollover Pass, but again, a couple of fishermen had parked their trucks on the sand spit and most of the birds were far off.
After a big build up, our afternoon walk at Smith Oaks was a bit of a disappointment. April 23rd However, by the afternoon the shifts have changed, and new migrants were to be found in the woods. By and large this is what happened today. Other migrants came in the form of single Philadelphia Vireo, Acadian Flycatcher, and Blue Grosbeak, to name but a few. A break from this relative monotony was provided by a drive down to the Bolivar shore, to get some shorebirds, while we waited for the hoped-for arrival of more songbirds from their southern wintering grounds.
Rollover Pass was poorer than expected, courtesy of the fishermen and trucks occupying where the shorebirds should have been. However, a change of location to HAS Bolivar Flats changed the game; some four or so Red Knots were resting on the shore, one of which was flushed with pinkish-red below; a handful of Piping Plovers roamed the tideline, and all the terns you need were resting on the beach including Black Tern.
Debate raged about whether the bird flood was provided by new birds, or these were merely birds that had remained from the morning, for in spite of the relative lack of birds on the Boy Scout walk, British birders visiting Smith Oaks in the morning had boasted of 17 warbler species in 20 minutes and as many as 20 warblers, total, in one hour. The walk opened with a Golden-winged Warbler for all who wanted it, along with a burnt male Blackburnian Warbler. You know things are going well when a Golden-winged Warbler passes overhead and people pay it no attention. Scarlet Tanagers and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks decorated the various mulberry bushes that were showing even scant attention to fruiting.
If this pattern continues tomorrow, a slow morning with a sprinkling of warblers, followed by a killer afternoon, we are in for a good day, and being Friday night, I will raise a bottle of Shiner Bock to that! Spring had sprung, as it were! However, spring represents a time of change as winter transitions into summer; and there are no more clear indications of rapid change than the day-by-day, or even hour-by-hour , tooing and froing of birds in High Island in this season. However, that is not to say there was not avian entertainment out in the woods, some enjoyed watching a male Golden-winged Warbler toy with their emotions for a while; others watched an Ovenbird parade by, and some saw a Kentucky Warbler hop on through.
Other migrants needed to step up and fill the void, and so birds like Great Crested Flycatcher and Swainson's Thrush stepped in. There had been a clear movement IN of the latter, with the sun-drenched woods ringing with the sound of them, all morning long. Another inbound species seemed to be Yellow-breasted Chat, a handful being heard, but less being seen. A bright sunny Sunday, the first in a while, had the local fishermen out in force, which led to more distant waterbird viewing than we have been normally accustomed too, but all the same we totted up the full suite of coastal terns one-by-one i.
No one seemed to have told the local American Avocets or Reddish Egrets to clear off when the local fishermen are on their turf, so they fed at absurdly close range for a time. But they are just now starting to make their migration moves, so there should be further chances in the coming days. With balmy weather continuing, and a light southerly tailwind being offered to the migrating migrants this afternoon, we all headed back to High Island for the afternoon walk in HAS Smith Oaks, with a feeling that the variety that we have become accustomed to in recent days was going to take a serious nosedive….
However, the doom-mongers predicting migrant-free woodlots this afternoon were not far wrong. Not least among them was one or two Golden-winged Warblers hanging on in HAS Smith Oaks, one of which literally dangled, invitingly, in front of nearly a century of birders gathered for the afternoon walks. However, several Chestnut-sided Warblers fed low enough to make people pay them their full and undivided attention too.
In general, the woods were again, predictably, quiet in the afternoon. A lonely female Cerulean Warbler, several Blue-winged Warblers, a few Ovenbirds and Northern Waterthrushes, and the odd Yellow-throated Vireo, provided just enough for birders to be suitably entertained. Furthermore, we have now reached that heady peak-time of migration, when birds are moving in such barely fathomable numbers, that whatever the weather, drops ins and good days can still occur, even in seemingly benign conditions.
April 18th After more turbulent weather last night, the hope was that the plentiful birds from yesterday would stick around, and again this hope came true. Lots of people, lots of birds, and lots of smiles all around this morning! We went inland to the Anahuac area today for our noon shorebird tour with word of good numbers of birds on RR Our second and final stop of the tour went right into Anahuac NWR, in a flooded field just to the east of Shoveler Pond.
Daily write-ups | Birding High Island
Our 4pm walk in Smith Oaks was extremely busy with people, and more importantly, birds. With a possibility of rain in the forecast overnight, we can hope that at least a few of these birds will stick around until the morning. April 17th With the good numbers of new arrivals yesterday afternoon and some rain overnight, we were confident that there would still be some birds around on our morning bird walk at HAS Boy Scout Woods. This was a popular bird with everybody and a lifer for many. Our walks have become so popular that we had to split up into 2 groups with 2 experienced guides in each.
Unfortunately it got a little shy of the hoard of approaching birders and hopped out of sight. The water looked pretty high but there were a lot of birds around. The latter with several individuals in full breeding plumage. From here we moved on to Bolivar flats in search of shorebirds. We moved into the forest where things calmed down considerably. Rain in the evening left us hoping that birds would stick around and we would get a few new arrivals tomorrow.
April 16th Early April in High Island was characterized by fine weather, but far from fine birding, as the fine weather encouraged the birds to head straight to their breeding grounds without stopping. Good for the birds; bad for the birders. Today fit the latter, newly emerged pattern for this spring perfectly. The weather soothsayers had spoken, rain was imminent in High Island, and no one was going to get away with dry feet by the end of play. The forecasters got this bang on. The early morning crowd escaped unscathed; the morning walk in Boy Scout being dry, but with just a scattering of birds.
By lunchtime the rain had not so much as crept in, but came in all guns blazing; gardens were already waterlogged by noon, having suffered a similar fate over recent days. A few days back, the initial surge of wet weather had opened up habitat for freshwater shorebirds in fields along , on the approach to Anahuac NWR, with a handful of Buff-breasted Sandpipers proving the weather change had not only produced good bird habitat, but birds to back up that theory too.
And so that is where we headed at noon; the natural choice for birding it seemed. However, within minutes of the convoy leaving High Island the skies unleashed their load again; by the time the eager birders arrived at Anahuac, the storm had matured into full blown, unbirdable rain. Birders refused to leave their vehicles, and each time the rain abated, encouraging the hardy to emerge, the rain would simply drench them again. Finally, enough was enough, and all concerned abandoned our futile attempt to find birds; a solitary, bedraggled America Bittern being all we had to show for our rain-affected attempt.
This time the birders were not to be disappointed. Yellow Warblers made their first big push of the spring, with few birders leaving the woods without one, and the first trickle of Chestnut-sided Warblers too made those compiling their annual warbler lists happy too, with a handful in the woods too. The first-of-seasons are exciting for all concerned, but also that feel of birds having just got in, fresh and lively to feed after their arduous Gulf crossing.
That feeling was all around us at Smith, as warblers streamed through the treetops, in a wave of nervous energy. Tennessee dominated proceedings, with all being a little weary of them by the close of business after several solid days of Tennessees in town. Black-throated Green Warblers also showed up in fair numbers too; while never challenging Tennessees for numerical supremacy, they were conspicuous and not uncommon all the same. As well as Tennessees, another major feature of the afternoon was a major wave of tanagers; the oaks in Smith Oaks looked like they had a scattering of red baubles, some displaying black patterning Scarlet Tanagers , while the majority were unbroken red Summer Tanagers.
Among this larger fare were handfuls of both Baltimore and Orchard Orioles. The migration casino paid out for some in the afternoon, when they clapped eyes on a sharp male Golden-winged Warbler, always a celebrity species in springtime North America, no matter the destination. Pure Blue-winged also entertained the jacketed crowd, who again had eyes on the skies by late afternoon, when tremors of thunder, had us retreating to the cars.
However, the rain stayed off, and we made it back with a few extra birds to spare too, with Acadian Flycatchers and Eastern Wood-Pewees also showing their faces. Long may this reign, and rain! April 13th Very stormy conditions last night and this morning in High Island kept a few birds in the area, but with winds from the south it was inevitable that many birds would leave, and our 8 am morning walk around Boy Scout Woods was evidence of this.
Our next stop at the park on Barbados Road had a flooded field which turned out to be a great shorebird magnet. A great end to a very species rich noon tour. April 12th The day finally arrived; warblers everywhere! The morning was simply amazing with many warbler species together with both species of Tanagers and Orioles. I also drove to Smith Oaks Woods and it was terrific there.
The Shorebird tour was short due to the strong rain on the Peninsula. Rollover Pass however was great as always; birds were really close and abundant. The rain after the visit to Rollover made us call the day. The afternoon was just as good as the morning but it also included a couple new species. In total we registered 15 species of wood warblers. Tomorrow it may be still quite good in the morning since the rains will prevent many birds from leaving and since there are more rains expected during the day probably the activity will last.
We had hoped that a few of the arrivals from yesterday would linger until this morning, and thankfully this wish pulled through. This was the best morning of the season so far, all thanks to a shift in wind! Our noon shorebird tour started today at Rollover Pass with an outstanding selection of birds awaiting us. Even better, the tide was perfect for close observation of most of the birds.
Next up we starting picking out some good shorebirds. With slightly rainy conditions for our 4pm walk in Smith Oaks, we finally crossed paths with a drop-in of birds. The weather looks promising for birds to drop-in later in the afternoon and stay into tomorrow with a high chance of rain in the forecast. See you at am in Boy Scout Woods. Once again the morning Boy Scout Woods walk was quite slow. A hovering White-tailed Kite was the highlight at the back of the woods. Common Yellowthroat and a calling Orange-crowned Warbler were the only warblers of the morning.
The noon shorebird was centered on Rollover Pass. Here we saw all the typical terns including a gorgeous full breeding plumage Black Tern and many beautiful pink-tinged Sandwich Terns. Big flocks of Black Skimmers jumped into the air every few minutes displaying their graceful flight style. A Long-billed Curlew found by Scott was a bird we rarely see at Rollover. A stop at Barbados Road provided nothing new but the walk ended early as a heavy rain began to fall.
The PM Smith Oaks walk took place in a light drizzle raising hopes that some birds might be grounded. Those hopes were quickly and utterly dashed as empty treetop after empty treetop dripped water rather than birds. Overhead a few very high passerines could be glimpsed shooting over High Island right at the edge of the low cloud ceiling. A bit lower a couple of Indigo Buntings gave their diagnostic buzzy flight call as they hurried overhead.
Hopefully they linger until tomorrow. Tropical Birding High Island crew. Recharged and energetic, we started the morning walk only to find that it is still quiet in the woods despite the records of a decent variety of warblers that people have been finding here and there around High Island. For the noon shorebird tour we decided to change the visit area and instead of visiting the coastal areas we had been visiting, we went inland towards Anahuac NWR. Even though it takes longer to get there, we saw a few interesting birds that made the trip worth it. The eagle sat for a while eating some prey it had got and the nervous shorebirds settled.
The afternoon walk was a bit more entertaining than the morning walk. Tomorrow morning it may still be a little quiet but we hope the afternoon improves due to the rains expected during the day according to the weather forecast. Our morning walk at Boy Scout Woods was fairly quiet this morning, but compared to previous days it was pretty species rich. We found a female MERLIN perched in a tree, enjoying some swallow breakfast, but apart from that there was very little out in the open marshy area in the south end of Boy Scout woods.
So the general consensus is that bird numbers are low, but diversity is on the rise. Our noon shorebird tour again started a Rollover Pass, where very high tides and high bird numbers allowed for close inspection of some great species. Our 4pm walk through smith Oaks was fairly species rich but no big numbers of birds were reported. We finally had a few birds today! Many large flocks of dark ibis indicated the active migration was occurring at least for ibis.
We once again swept the expected terns. The evening Smith Oaks walk was loaded with warblers! Sounds pretty great! Well it was an improvement, but the reality was that birds were very high and mostly moving quickly so it was difficult to get more than one or two people on any one bird. At least there was plenty of excitement! Other than that, the woods were not very active. Yes, basically we turned the morning warbler walk into a sort of seawatching walk.
Due to that we decided to take the noon shorebird tour towards that spot hoping the gull would still be hanging around. We did not find it sadly so after watching some of the regular terns there we moved on towards Roll Over Pass where some shorebirds awaited us. The tide was so low that birds were very distant. Afterwards we decided to move on and we checked just quickly the grasslands at Barbados Road to find no grassland shorebirds.
The afternoon was quite disappointing since many expected, due to the north winds, that many warblers would show up. This finally happed but just poorly. There were several new arrivals but not really big numbers at all. So with this in mind we works the edge of the wood lot and the marsh platform. Our shorebird tour at noon today was great. Rollover Pass was again pumping with birds. Hundreds of gulls and terns covered the sandy islands, with just as many shorebirds mixed in. A comical way to end our tour.
Much like our morning walk, our 4pm walk in Smith Oaks was also lacking migrants. Always a tricky species to see well, this individual did the usual quick flight, then bury itself in the reeds maneuver. Note that the time for the morning Boy Scout Wood walk has changed from to now beginning at AM. The noon shorebird walk and PM Smith Oaks walk continue as normal. Once again the walk will be held Thursday-Saturday with no walks on Tuesday or Wednesday. Scratch that it was really slow. Ok, Ok really, really, really slow. Not a single warbler was seen, but we did have edifying discussions about large grackle identification.
A perched White-tailed Kite was unanimously voted bird of the walk. The noon shorebird walk was better. Rollover Pass was awash with terns and shorebirds. Several Piping Plovers allowed close examination. The numbers of Black Terns, over 20, were quite good for this early in the season. Large numbers of pink-washed Sandwich Terns called, courted, and loafed on the mudflats. A couple of Whimbrel came in and gave phenomenal scope views, flanked by several cooperative Marbled Godwits. We saw both the largest tern in the world, Caspian, and large numbers of the smallest tern in the world, Least Tern.
At one point a pair of American Oystercatchers flew right past us. While close Brown Pelicans are a normal event, today several American White Pelicans were close and allowed great views. Also a few Long-billed Dowitchers attempted to blend in with numerous Short-billed Dowitchers and Dunlin. A few Western Sandpipers, just coming into full breeding plumage, were also in the mix. The Smith Oaks walk was still slow, but a veritable bonanza in comparison with the morning.
Both Yellow-throated Warbler and Yellow-throated Vireo were seen, the vireo posing for scope views. Northern Parula and Black-and-White Warbler were seen briefly. A flock of more than ten Orchard Orioles whipped through the treetops. Smith Pond held four! Belted Kingfishers at once and four Green Herons. A high-breeding Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was closely observed in the scope. The rookery continued its excellence with Roseate Spoonbills absolutely glowing in the evening light!
Great Egrets were courting and building nests, their gorgeous white plumes blowing in the light breeze. Two Solitary Sandpipers flew over and swirling flocks of Tricolored Herons dropped into roost in the pond. It was a great night to observe birds. May 3th and 4th. This was the last weekend of an exciting season. Both regular orioles and both tanagers were common during the hole afternoon.
The shorebird walks were great, one took place on the coast and the last one was inland. The very last guided tour of the season took place inland. We stopped in front of the flooded fields in between the entrance to Anahuac and Pear Orchard road. The place was incredible with literally thousands of birds including Hudsonian Godwits, Long-billed Dowitchers, American Golden Plovers, Stilt, White-rumped, Western, Semipalmted, Pectoral Sandpipers, Turnstones, Yellowlegs, Whimbrels and a few more; all those were giving spectacular flights when a Peregrine Falcon approached.
Inside Anahuac we went directly to the spot where the Ruff has been hanging around. This spot is just passing the information center on the left hand side boardwalk and platform. A super tame Sora wandered around the shallow waters next to the platform. The Ruff gave us great views, we had the bird on our binocs and scopes for over 20 minutes. This was the perfect ending for another great season. We will be back next year with the guided walks, the shorebird tours and the workshops. Thanks to all the readers of these updates and thanks to all the participants on the various activities that have made of this season another great one.
We would also like to thank all of the Houston Audubon staff and volunteers who work tirelessly to make each spring birding season run so smoothly, not just for the birders, but also for all of us at Tropical Birding. It is a partnership which gets better and better each year. See you all next season!! With breeze from the North continuing through the night it was expected that at least a few birds would have stayed around for our morning walk in Boy Scout Woods, and this was the case to some extent.
This afternoon we went inland for our shorebird tour, and what a great decision that was!! For me this was the best shorebird tour of the season in terms of sheer numbers and diversity of shorebirds. We started in some dry grassy fields along road going west before Anahuac NWR. Next we stopped at the first wet field we could find.
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For here we went into the Anahuac NWR where we found the now long staying RUFF at the small marsh boardwalk on the road just south of the visitors center. A great way to end a productive walk. The wind is supposed to change overnight and come from the south, meaning many birds will leave High Island on their journey north. Hopefully a few will stick around for the morning walk!! North winds brought new birds this week and the morning walk in that matter was nice. Even though there were not many individual birds we did get some nice variety.
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We then visited Prothonotary pond where a Northern Waterthrush was present. On the nest box located on the far-east side of the reserve on the edge of the forest we got a Barn Owl roosting. Both Buntings were seen, though not very well or at least not by everybody. The shorebird tour took us to Rollover Pass and the Bolivar Flats. In the first locations we had birds really close to us and a nice diversity. We got 7 species of terns including Caspian, Black and many Least. Sanderlings are getting their breeding plumages and it is the same case for Dunlins which are showing their very nice black patches on the bellies.
At least one hundred American Avocets were formed in a big group. We also got 3 species of plovers, Black-bellied, Semipalmated and Piping. The afternoon was rainy but nice. It started with a tree filled with Black-throated Green Warblers on the far side of the parking lot, on the benches area near the entrance to the rookery. Following the movement of the flock to trees nearby we found both Philadelphia and Warbling Vireos.
The now ever present Summer and Scarlet Tanagers were eating berries together with Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. Both species of Orioles were seen here and there whereas deeper inside the forest we found a couple of Blackburnian Warblers, Magnolia Warbler, American Redstarts, and a single Eastern Wood-Pewee. North winds will continue until noon tomorrow so if there are some late arrivals today we may have good birding tomorrow. Tropical Birding www.
Again there were winds blowing from the south this morning for our morning walk at Boy Scout Woods. The woods are even devoid of the huge numbers of Gray Catbirds seen previously. On our noon shorebird tour we again started at Rollover Pass where the tide was the highest I had ever seen. We checked out Barbados Rd. It was a real treat to watch this bird as it searched for prey after its long gulf crossing.
This is a possibility of a front tomorrow afternoon, or on Wednesday, so let us hope this will bring in some more birds, and hopefully a Cape May or two! April 27th, The strong south winds meant another slow day in the woodlots of High Island. On the morning, walk, we started with a few birds at the drip, including a Northern Waterthrush. Looping through Boy Scout woods, we again enjoyed great scope views of a teed-up singing Painted Bunting. For the mid-day shorebird excursion, we headed down the coast to Rollover Pass. The prospect was not good when we first arrived - the tide was high, and the wind was raging.
But we spent a while watching a small sandy peninsula, and one after one, most of the expected shorebirds flew in and showed off for the whole group. We particularly enjoyed a feeding squadron of American Avocets, a big flock of Black Skimmers, a trio of Stilt Sandpipers, and a few Whimbrels. A short stop at Barbados Road paid off in a big way when we were buzzed by 5 male Bobolinks, quite a scarce bird in these parts.
Scott had a brief view of a couple of Upland Sandpipers which unfortunately flew off before most of the group saw them. We ended the excursion at Bob Road, where we were treated to the sight of Short-billed and Long-billed Dowitchers, Dunlin, Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers, and Marbled Godwits at ridiculously close range. The best bird of all came at the last minute, when we spotted a single White-rumped Sandpiper in a little cove only a few yards away from us.
The afternoon walk at Smith Oaks was attended by a group of birders getting desperate for a warbler fix. Although we had to work hard, we did manage to find several species of warblers. One of the drips was highly productive, attracting Common Yellowthroat, a pair of Carolina Wrens, two Lincoln' s Sparrows, and a Chestnut-sided Warbler. Venturing deeper into the Smoaks, we spotted a couple of Black-throated Green Warblers and a single Blackburnian.
A fruiting mulberry held a a bunch of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. Although it wasn't part of the official trip, the rookery is still amazing. The coming and going of the breeding wading birds, the odd grunting vocalizations, and the little turf-wars between Roseate Spoonbills and Snowy Egrets all combine to make for a wonderful scene.
April 26th, Again south winds helped most of the birds fly north so the morning walk was quiet, quite quiet. In terms of warblers we got only a Northern Waterthrush, a pair of Black-and-whites, and a handful of Tennessees. The stars of the walk were a couple of Painted Buntings that showed up very well sitting up on exposed branches for everybody to have scope views.
At the platform we did not find the bitterns that had been around the past weeks but we got 3 Yellow-crowned Night-Herons that perched on telephone wires nearby. We decided to change the routine and this time we went inland for the shorebird tour. This turned out to be a little bit frustrating as we did not find what we were looking for.
The thing was that we got a hint from Cameron Cox that in the morning he got Hudsonian Godwits on the way to Anahuac together with Buff-breasted Sandpipers. This motivated us to go chase them. We went to the spot we were told but sadly the birds had moved on or just changed place. The afternoon walk had good diversity but fewer numbers of birds compared to previous days. No complaints on that part, we were very entertained the whole walk.
We did not go to the rookery but we know it is still quite active. Winds are predicted to be coming from the south by noon tomorrow; they are south-south-east at the moment and will be like that all night long. It is not promising at least for tomorrow morning. We will go to the coast for the shorebird tour unless something rare shows up inland and we hope to get surprises on the afternoon. Our shorebird tour today started at Rollover Pass, which had a fairly low tide exposing lots of mudflats, but the birds were a bit distant.
This is one of the first ones seen here this season, and rarely seen flying over the flats at Rollover. This afternoon there was a clear drop in of birds, with warbler numbers and diversity on the rise in Smith Oaks.
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We predict that tomorrow morning will again be slow as many of these arrivals will leave, but let us hope at least a few of them stay in Boy Scout woods for our morning walk. Another day of light south winds meant that the morning walk in Boy Scout Woods was fairly slow, but was, fortunately, punctuated by a few major highlights.
The noon shorebird walk featured the plover and tern show at Rollover Pass. At the peak of migration we often have afternoons were lots of birds are present even if the weather is not favorable for grounding birds. The afternoon walk at Smith Oaks was a great example of this phenomenon. It was great to enjoy a birdy afternoon with lots of birds and lots of great views. Cameron Cox Tropical Birding m. As expected, a quiet morning, nevertheless we did find a couple new arrivals in between the masses of Scarlet Tanagers and Gray Catbirds. The clearing close to the grand stand gave us an Eastern Wood-Pewee and Prothonotary Pond hosted a Louisiana Waterthrush, both new arrivals that probably came last night.
There has been good activity on the borders of the forest on the way to the platform. Already at the platform overlooking the swamps we saw a Whimbrel flying by, heard the Sora that still calls there from time to time and we were told that the Least Bitterns are still hanging around in the same place. We saw flying a Pileated Woodpecker which is always a nice bird. The first stop was actually a prolonged one as tons of birds were close. Apart from those we also found Piping and Semipalmated Plovers foraging beside each other so comparison was good to contrast them.
Dunlins are getting their black bellies, the same with Black-bellied Plovers. Finally, the last stop got us Long-billed Dowitchers. Stilts, a distant Osprey and an active Whimbrel. The afternoon walk was nice and birdy, we saw how a mixed flock of species landed on the trees by the parking lot. The flock included the first Philadelphia Vireo of the season together with Red-eyed, Blue-capped and Yellow-throated Vireos.
We entered inside the forest where we got a single Cerulean Warbler of which we did not get good views unlike the reports from other people that previously had seen several individuals well. Later on, further in, we were told about a couple of Canada Warblers that we did find and got good views. Winds do not look like favorable tomorrow and it may not be very active through the morning but we might get surprised in the afternoon the same wey we have been the past two days. April 20th, After an exciting afternoon walk yesterday we were curious of how birding would be today.
Even though it was not superb, we still saw some cool birds during the morning walk at Boy Scout Woods. The meadows behind the sanctuary on the south end were productive; we got Blue Grosbeaks, Indigo Buntings, Common Yellowthroat, some people saw there Yellow-billed Cuckoo and a Yellow-breasted Chat. Warblers were scarce; we only got a pair of Ovenbirds and not much more.
The Shorebird tour was birdy as always, though birds were distant in Rollover Pass given the numbers of fishermen but still we found the usual stuff, Black and Caspian Terns among them. On the Bolivar Flats, Piping Plovers are present in a considerable number, the same with Black-bellied. The nest of White-tailed Kites is active very close to the main road; the birds have been spotted soaring in the area as well from time to time. The afternoon walk down at Smith Oaks was a bit quiet, numbers of birds were high but diversity was low.
Winds and weather conditions do not look very favorable for tomorrow but we can get surprises. With light winds blowing from the south-east the numbers of bird were not especially high this morning for our walk in Boy Scout woods, but the diversity was still good. We also heard and then saw 2 SORA walking at the edge of the reeds. The noon shorebird tour today went inland for only the second time this season, but unfortunately the wet farm field which held some great shorebirds yesterday had since dried up by the time we left at 12pm. Hopefully with the now slight North winds many of these birds will stick around to be found again tomorrow morning.
The north winds blowing all night long produced a few new arrivals today at Boy Scout Woods, during the morning walk we saw several of those. A single Acadian Fly was also found though not everybody got to see it. Noon walk was quite entertaining and diverse. We did not spend much time there because due to the holiday there were many fishermen flushing the birds away.
We stayed the whole time within the forest and activity had us busy for about an hour and a half; not big diversity but several birds everywhere we moved. The good activity of birds lasted for 2 days until Wednesday afternoon until the winds started switching again, blowing from the south and taking with it most of the birds that arrived early on the week. Today, the morning walk on Boy Scout Woods was a bit quiet, nevertheless a few nice things showed up. We got the first Veery of the season at the drip in front of the kiosk.
In terms of warblers, Black-throated Green, Black-and-white and Tennessee were seen. Gray Catbirds are abundant now as well as Orchard Orioles. Both Scarlet and Summer Tanager showed up late in the morning. The noon shorebird tour was really nice, lots of species. The first stop got us 7 species of terns, including 4 individuals of Black Tern.
Red-breasted Merganser was seen quite well with scopes. The second stop got us American Golden Plover, nice views of it, plus, after ending the tour one of the participants came back there and saw Upland Sandpipers. Back at High Island, down at Smith Oaks sanctuary, we got some new warblers for the day. The rookery is still active and birds are still in full display colors, well worth coming visiting. Tomorrow winds are expected to come from the north at least until early afternoon which can bring new birds, birding can be quite good if this pattern lingers.
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