Texas, High Island and Upper Gulf Coast, August 31st - September 1st 2003

Published by Surfbirds Admin (surfbirds AT surfbirds.com)


by Andrew Birch

This is just a brief report of a Labor Day weekend birding with Cin-Ty Lee along the Upper Gulf Coast. A combination of very limited time and a tropical storm during this period means that this report is in no way comprehensive as to the birds you may typically see duing this period. It may, however, give you an idea of some good spots to check. Despite the inclement weather (there was only about 4-5 hrs of dry birding) we did manage to see 95 species in 1 day.

August 31st 2003

We started the morning at first light at Bolivar Flats for shorebirds. From the car, we were able to see 1 Solitary Sandpiper, several Lesser Yellowlegs, 3 Wilson's Phalaropes and quite a few Short-billed Dowitchers and Marbled Godwits. A short watch out to sea didn't yield any storm-driven seabirds but there were plenty of Black Terns and Laughing Gulls.

Next stop, was Boy Scouts Wood on High Island that required a lot of work to turn up a few migrants. Birds here included 1 Prothonotary Warbler, Red-eyed Vireos, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Great-crested Flycatcher and Least Flycatcher. We then tried Smith Oaks but the weather had gotten worse and we decided to head for lunch in the hope that the downpour may subside after lunch. en route to Winnie, we came across a flock of 40 Magnificent Frigatebirds hanging by the road. A mixture of adults and iummatures. An unexpected sight and no doubt a product of the storm.

A possible break in the weather seemed to come from the south, so we headed towards Sabine Woods. By now, it had stopped raining and we were hopeful of some migrants. Birds here were thin but were of good quality. Most notable was Blue-winged Warbler, Prairie Warbler, 2 Northern Parulas, Black-and-white Warbler, Red-eyed Vireos, Least Flycatcher, Great-crested Flycatcher, Eastern Wood Pewee and 8 Eastern Kingbirds.

We then went back to Smith Oaks to try our luck now that the weather had cleared. Almost immediately, we had a Northern Parula quickly followed by a Black-and-white Warbler. A loud call in the undergrowth revealed itself as the prize of the trip. A Swainson's Warbler! This bird fed low on the ground by a puddle and was quite unexpected considering the lack of other migrants. As we looked up in the sky in a clearing we saw first a Black Vulture and then 2 Swallow-tailed Kites circling overhead and affording great views! Outside Smith Oaks, other bonus birds were 2 Barn Owls in a disused barn and several Orchard Orioles by the path.

En route home, we stopped at some flooded fields on the approach road to Anahuac. In the spring, these fields hold Hudsonian Godwit, Buff-breasted Sandpiper and White-rumped Sandpipers. The longer grass fields are also very good for Upland Sandpiper. Today, they were seathing with shorebirds that included Pectoral Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitchers, Western and Least Sandpipers, Laughing Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Black Tern, Forster's Tern, Black-bellied Whistling Duck.

September 1st 2003

We got rained out again at Quintana. The woods here look great as a migrant trap but in the heavy rain, all we could muster was a Yellow Warbler, Ruby-throated Hummingbird and a Purple Martin.

Cin-Ty had to drop me off at the airport at noon so on the way, we dropped by the University of Texas campus. By the president's house, we had 2 Least Flycatchers and 1 Yellow-throated Warbler.