Bird Notes from West Houston

Monday, April 24, 2006

Great Day Birding!

Glenn and I went birding on Sunday, 4/23. I've been telling him about my property in Chambers County, so he came over to see it. The birds just didn't cooperate with us. We did see a few pretty good migrants: Wood Thrush, Black-throated Green Warblers, Blue Grosbeak, a female Hooded Warbler, Indigo Buntings and the resident Northern Parula. We decided to run to High Island and see what was going on down there. We got to Boy Scout Woods just before 5:00 and before we got ten feet inside the gate, we had seen a Blackburnian Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo, Blackpoll Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Scarlet Tanagers, Yellow Warblers and Baltimore Orioles. We made out way to the stands and there was quite a bit of activity around the water. There were Gray Catbirds, a Worm-eating Warbler, Scarlet Tanagers, a Kentucky Warbler, Indigo Buntings, Yellow Warblers and a Northern Waterthrush. We made a quick walk around the boardwalk and into the woods where I found a female American Redstart. Daylight was getting in short supply so we decided to go to Smith Oaks and brave the mosquitoes. We started off in the woods where we saw many of the same birds as Boy Scout Woods, but added a Gray-cheeked Thrush, Tennessee Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler and Orchard Oriole. The rookery was very active. We saw very clearly a Great Egret feeding three chicks. We also got to see alligators waiting below for the chance to grab a careless chick that might fall out of the nest. One of the more interesting things we saw was a turtle (I'm not sure what species) laying eggs on the levee at the rookery. On the way back, there was just enough light to see a Pileated Woodpecker fly across Hwy. 61 just south of Anahuac. In all, we counted 30 species at Boy Scout Woods, 40 species at Smith Oaks, 23 species on my property and 8 species driving to and from High Island.

This week and next week are the peak weeks for migration here. There are more species and higher numbers of each species, so this is a great time to get out and go birding! Wednesday looks especially promising with a cool front forecast to go offshore with rain accompanying it. Glad I'm off!

- Paul

Monday, April 17, 2006

Spring Migration Report

It seems that we are having a lower than average spring migration. People from all parts of the state are reporting fewer migrants this year. I have certainly found that to be true on my property. The number of species is significantly lower than it was this time last year. I'm not sure what the cause is, but strongly suspect it's a combination of the drought and the strong south winds we've been having. The birds come in and find fewer insects because of the drought and move on. Some of them take full advantage of the tail-wind and keep on going north and don't even stop here.

Listed below are the migrant sightings from my property and the date the first one was seen so far this year:

3/29 - Great Crested Flycatcher
4/5 - Eastern Kingbird
3/19 - Yellow-throated Vireo
3/29 - Red-eyed Vireo
4/12 - Tree Swallow
3/26 - Northern Rough-winged Swallow
3/19 - Barn Swallow
4/12 - Veery
4/12 - Gray-cheeked Thrush
4/12 - Swainson's Thrush
4/5 - Wood Thrush
3/15 - Orange-crowned Warbler
3/15 - Northern Parula
3/29 - Yellow-throated Warbler
3/29 - Black-and-white Warbler
3/29 - Louisiana Waterthrush
3/19 - Hooded Warbler
3/29 - Indigo Bunting

Mind you, I'm not complaining! I get concerned where there seems to be such a region-wide difference in bird populations. It may be nothing. Only time will tell.

- Paul

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Rarity last week

On Monday, Apr. 3, a customer called the store and said he had an unusual bird coming to his finch feeder. As he described it, the only bird that matched the description was a Lesser Goldfinch, Carduelis psaltria. We told him how rare a Lesser Goldfinch is in Houston, so he came into the store to look at our field guides to make sure that he was actually seeing one. Upon examining the field guides, he was positive of his identification. After the store closed on Tuesday, I went to his house. After fighting traffic to get there, I stepped out on the backporch to see a bright yellow streak fly above my head. I'm sure that was him, but he never came back that evening. So, on Friday I went back at 5:30 armed with my camera. We sat on their back patio and about twenty minutes later he showed up! I got several shots of him. (I have to get the film developed before I can proclaim I got "good" shots!) About 6:30, he came in for one last meal and then left for the night. That was the last time anyone saw him. We're not sure why he left, but so far he hasn't come back to the feeder.

Check the birds at your feeders! Rarities show up in this area, probably more than we realize. If you see something that is unusual, look it up and let someone else know about it. Try to get photos of it to document the sighting. Video is even better. You never know when something rare will show up in your yard.