Tuesday, June 7, 2016

04_17_to_22_2016 High Island Texas Birding, Spring Migration!!! Part III

The last of three parts of the photos from our High Island trip.

One morning it rained like crazy and we thought the day was lost to birding. At about two, it stopped and I headed over to the Boy Scout Woods area to find myself all alone and in the midst of a friggin' fall out! This means when there is an abundance of birds landing from migration. I called Dave at the hotel and he came over to see it too. It was simply amazing - more birds than we could put our eyes on!

There were countless Scarlet Tanagers like the one pictured here. 
And Magnolia Warblers...so beautiful
We spent some time at the nearby Hooks Bird Sanctuary were the warblers were thick. 
Here we saw some Prothonotary Warblers.
When the flooding was at it's worst, we got to dine at the Exxon Station. Yum! :)
More gloomy skies. This environment made for some difficult photography challenges.  
At the end of the week, we headed to my parent's home and stopped en route to check out a few other bird locations. This is one place nearer Galveston we'll have to hit again. 
A gorgeous Black-Capped Chickadee.
During the week, we did make it to a favorite destination (before it was flooded and closed to the public; months later, it's still flooded and closed). Here we got to see terrific birds and gators.

Nice dental work!
This little guy had killed a wild boar and was working hard at eating it. It was gruesome!
At my folk's house, things were nice, but wet. 
And as usual, the birds were there too. Here are some of the seven Muscovy's we saw as babies the previous year. These are the sweetest ducks ever!
Handsome male Muscovy
A Guinea Hen calling the alarm. They are crazy looking fowl!
My family got together one night for dinner. PIctured are my mom, dad, brother Richard, Tracy his wife, Hannah, Zoe, and me. My sister Rachel and her husband Jim aren't there.

I've not seen Jim since 1957.
To end the trip, we offer this beautiful Kentucky Warbler! We saw many of these life birds for us. 
And one can't go to the Houston area without a trip to Bucky's Convenience Store. The people there are wild about them.
Maybe it's all the ice?

See you in High Island next year!

04_17_to_22_2016 High Island Texas Birding, Spring Migration!!! Part II

Can't resist a wooden cut out and an opportunity to caress a mermaid. :)
A favorite bird - and one I was so happy for Dave to see the first time (last year; but saw many more this year) was the Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher. They are just gorgeous and elegant birds!
Neotropic Cormorant. Note the beautiful eye color.
And of course...gators. They are everywhere in the swampy areas around Houston. I just love seeing them. The flooding had driven many out on to the pavement. Here's little guy we encountered in a parking lot.
Beautiful male Orchard Oriole enjoying nectar from a flower.
It rained a lot while we were there and as a result, we got to enjoy some crazy scary skies. We'd headed up to a nearby area when this storm came in. 
Time to get back, before we couldn't due to flooding!
Male Scarlet Tanager happily feasting on food after his long migration.
Blackpoll Warbler! These birds are super heroes.  This tiny 4" bird has the longest migration of all the warblers. Their migration route averages 1,900 miles. Yes, 1,900 MILES - that is not a typo.

This was a life bird for both of us!

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackpoll_warbler
No one can ever see a Male Painted Bunting enough. These must be the most colorful songbirds in  North America.
The flooding brought out the turtle too.
Peeps! Peeps! Peeps everywhere!
Lovely portrait of a Neotropic Cormorant.
Laughing Gull.
Larger peep. I've already lost my meager shore birding ID skills.
This flock had an assortment of skimmers, gulls and terns. Beautiful.
Dave really got a beautiful photo of this Tricolored Heron with a snack.
And more peeps.
Another male Summer Tanager dining after a big flight.

 More in part III

04_17_to_22_2016 High Island Texas Birding, Spring Migration!!! Part I

High Island birding photos are finally going up!  So, for the second spring migration season in a row, we headed to High Island. We landed and Hobby, grabbed a car, then drove south to the Ferry.

< - - why does my face look weird here? What is up with that?

The ferry ride was fun as always. Plus, for the first time ever, I saw dolphins in the water. We moved to the Houston area in the early 1970s and I've never seen them there before. It was a treat.
We arrived at High Island and checked into our rockin' hotel - the only one there. It's simple but it has everything we need.

This area is called High Island because it composed of a salt dome that rises about 38' above sea level. This is quite high considering about a mile or two away is the Gulf of Mexico. High Island, and other areas on the Bolivar Penisula were destroyed during Hurricane Ike in 2008. It was awful. Some more info here: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/view.php?id=9107&eocn=image&eoci=morenh.  And here: http://coastal.er.usgs.gov/hurricanes/ike/photo-comparisons/highisland.html. And here: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/farewell-high-island-hurricane-ike-slams-a-birding-mecca/. There are many more sources on the interwebs for interested parties.

We'd not birded here before the hurricane and I'd feared we'd lost that chance. Happily, the birding is still strong for birds after the area had a chance to recover. 

A favorite place to go is the Boy Scout Woods.
Last year, we felt like we had arrived a little early and missed a lot of the birds. This year, I think we nailed it!  Why come here? Many of our song birds winter in central and south America. In the spring, they take flight north to where there are lots of insects. These insects are important in feeding young. Given that, they come here to raise young. To get here, many fly over the Gulf of Mexico nonstop for up to two days. High Island is a place along the coast that is the first land they see after this long difficult (and deadly for many birds) flight.

When they land here, they are exhausted and hungry. For that reason, they are not as skittish about people and this allows some nice looks at the birds who survive.  This is a beautiful Rose-Breasted Grosbeak (male).
Indigo Buntings were thick while we were there. Here's a beauty on a Bottle Brush.
It is sometimes easy to see where a 'good' bird has landed....look for the cluster of birders!
A real treat in the High Island area is the Rookery. This may be Dave's favorite place. This island is where birds such as Roseate Spoonbills, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets and other birds raise their young. In those waters are alligators.

Those white spots you see are Great Egrets on their nests.  The area has set up some nice platforms that make watching the birds easier.
Here are some adult Great Egrets with two offspring. The babies are adorable!
We've all experienced those awkward early years (and by the looks of the first photo in this series, I'm still experiencing it!)
This baby was working hard to earn some food.
This beautiful male Summer Tanager offers a great representation of an exhausted bird who had just arrived. He sat here, in the midst of a lot of birders, resting from the long, arduous trip. After he rested a bit, he got busy eating and eating and eating.
Gray Catbirds were everywhere.
After we arrived, it started raining a lot. And in true Houston form, it started flooding a lot. While it rains/floods a lot in Houston, these floods were quite extensive and for several days we couldn't have left High Island had we wanted too. All the water caused a lot of Water Moccasins (aka Cottonmouths) out in the open. We saw many. 
Tennesse Warbler on a bottlebrush. There must have been 100s of them there.
A gorgeous Hooded Warble (male). The tiny four inch birds are like bumblebees.
Once we could drive a bit (aka the ocean was not over the road), we headed to a nearby restaurant and watched barges push giant tankers into the Houston Ship Channel.
The local cat tired to convince us to take him with us. He's still there.
Look! Fried food!

More photos in Parts II and III....