High Island, the best place to be during winter migration :-) I had read a lot about this place while reading about birding in Texas. Thankfully I was able to plan a trip to this place, thanks to my wife :-)
The plan was to join the bird walks arranged by Tropical Birding group. They were amazing. Took time to explain about the habitats, about the migration patterns and interesting behaviors in birds. They were very helpful and all of them volunteering for this work. They have 3 walks planned everyday during the spring migration except for Tuesday's and Wednesdays. The morning walk starts at 8:30 near the Boy Scout Woods Sanctuary. And this walks lasts about couple of hours. Afternoon walks start at 12 and the walks are planned either on shore or inland looking for shorebirds. And the evening walks start at 4 at Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary again looking for warblers and other birds. And if possible a walk would be planned near the rookery to look for the roosting birds.
I started at 6:30 and by the time I reached Boy Scout Wood Sanctuary there were already people near the Audubon center looking for birds. There was lot of activity there already. One of the first birds I saw was this beautiful Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Singing in this beautiful sunlight. First of the many life birds I saw during the visit. I thought it wouldn't be common but over the weekend I saw lot of them. The other very common bird we saw were the Orchard Oriole, Baltimore Orioles, Scarlet and Summer Tanagers. These beautiful colored birds were everywhere in the woods. And most of the times seen munching the berries. All these birds do is eat after their long journey and then need to bulk up a little before they again start their northward journey. The bottle brush plants near the Audubon center was attracting lot of these birds and there were lot of Tennessee Warblers around the same trees. We also saw lot of Indigo Buntings around. There was another bird which I need to confirm the ID which looked like a Blue Grosbeak.
|Orchard Oriole(1'st Summer Male)|
I met Charles Carlson and Chris at the Sanctuary before the walks started. I have done few birding walks with Charles Carlson and he has been very helpful with birding here in Dallas area. He usually helps me with the birding places around and helps with bird ID's :-) Even during this trip we did lot of birding together.
The bird walk was inside the Boy Scouts Wood Sanctuary. At the start of the trail we saw lot of Grey Catbirds and Tanagers. The first of the warbler seen during the walk was a Yellow Warbler and Golden Winged warbler. Also tropical birding group explained about the Brewster Warbler(which is a cross between Golden-winged Warbler and Blue-winged Warbler). We also saw Black and White Warbler near the prothonotary pond. That was the only bird we saw near the pond. I was hoping to see the water thrushes but we did not have any luck. And further on the trail we only saw Eastern-wood Pewee and a flyover Barn-owl. Since we were not seeing lot of activity on the trail we decided to head towards the Audubon center to check for birds near the bottle-brush trees.
|Black and White Warbler|
Behind the Audubon center they have few bird feeders where I saw a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting feeding. We also saw a lone Inca Dove there and other usual suspects(Tanagers, Orioles, Tennessee warblers and couple of Ruby-throated hummingbird) near the center.
The walk ended at around 10 at which point I joined Chuck to checkout the Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary. There were lot of birds and the first bird we saw after entering was Chestnut-sided warbler and Black-throated Green Warbler. We also saw few Swainson's thrushes and Tanagers here. We also saw lot of Red-Eyed Vireos around
After a while we went to the Rookery area to see the Gallinules and other roosting birds. We saw lot egrets with chicks and there were lot of Roseate Spoonbills too. There were few Common Gallinules. We also saw a big alligator near the rookery probably waiting for an easy meal.
For the noon walks usual we have to drive in our cars to some designated shorebird spots. The spots are communicated before and we were supposed to meet at Rollover pass. We had to follow the walk leaders in our cars. When we reached the rollover pass we saw there were lot of people enjoying their weekend time. We still saw few Black Skimmers, Terns and Sanderlings here. Also saw a White-morphed Reddish Egret here. Because of the number of people near there were not many birds around. Instead we were taken to Yacht Basin Road.
At the Yatch Basin road we saw lot of Marbled Godwits, Whimbrels, Black-necked Stilts and Ruddy Turnstones. We also saw lone Black-bellied Plover and few Wilsons Plovers. We also saw few Semi-palmated plovers and it was good to see Wilsons Plovers and Semi-palmated plovers side by side for comparison. We saw couple of Common nighthawks and lone Crested Caracara which scared few of the birds arounds. Also present were lot of Willets. But the best sighting of the day was a Clapper Rail which was hiding just 5 feet away from me. My first sighting of the rail species.
For evening walk we were back at Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary. We saw Swainson's and Wood Thrush here along with a Veery. Of the warbler species we saw Blackburnian, Hooded, Blue-winged, Yellow-throated, Black-throated Green, Chestnut-sided, Black and White and Tennessee. We also saw White-eyed, Red-eyed, Yellow-throated and Philadelphia Vireos. We also got a best closeup view of Northern Parula which was quite joyous :-)
|Black-throated Green Warbler|
At the end of the walk got to see Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Yellow-billed Cuckoo and a Blackpoll Warbler :-) Best way to end the day.
Boy Scout : http://ebird.org/ebird/view/
Rollover Pass : http://ebird.org/ebird/view/
Yatch Basin : http://ebird.org/ebird/view/
Smith Oaks : http://ebird.org/ebird/view/
Birds seen during the day :
|4||Great Blue Heron|
|42||Black-throated Green Warbler|