Sunday, April 13, 2014

Apr 13 (Day 103) - Grinding out migrants, lots of new friends, potential fallout?

My first day at Sabine Woods was a rousing success for several reasons. First, there were more birds that I expected. Second, I left the refuge with several gifts of food. Third, I met lots of new folks and had a great time birding and yakking with them. I arrived at Sabine Woods at 8:00am and I did not leave the property until 6:30 this evening. I spent 10.5 hours just wandering around the refuge teasing out new birds and equal numbers of new friends. My motel proved to be perfectly positioned as it took me only 18 minutes to ride the 4 miles to the woods.

Birding today was about what I expected. The southeast wind kept most birds moving over the coast, but things was kept interesting by a steady trickle of new birds all day. Birds were relatively thin, but by birding the same areas over and over, I was able to tease out 7 new species for the year. 

293 Golden-fronted woodpecker
294 Wood thrush
295 Common nighthawk (H)
296 Kentucky warbler - LIFER!
297 Tennesse warbler
298 American redstart
299 Northern waterthrush

These birds were fairly even spaced throughout the day, so there was constant reward for persevering through the slower hours. Clearly, the Kentucky warbler was the highlight for me as it was my 10th lifer of the trip. I only saw the bird for a few seconds, so I hope to find one that sticks around for a bit longer in the next few days. The bird today was observed skulking around "the drip" in a characteristically Kentucky fashion. "The drip" is nothing more than a thin, elevated hose from which fresh water is slowly dripped. These have been installed at many migrant traps to ensure the birds have a source of fresh from which to drink and in which to bath. Birds tend to cycle through the drip at regular intervals, so by continually watching the drip, it is possible to observe many different birds without moving much.  Most people, myself included, alternate between sauntering around the woods and watching the drip. Benches have been strategically placed around the the drip, so there are always people perched on them waiting for birds to come and go. 

Birders perched around the drip

View of the drip (back left, under tree - its tough to see in this photo)

Female painted bunting, female orchard oriole (behind), 
male painted bunting (right)

Male summer tanager (left), female orchard oriole (right). 
You can see a "drip" falling from the hose at the 
top center of the frame

 Left to right - female orchard oriole, adult male orchard oriole,
young male orchard oriole, indigo bunting

Female Golden-fronted woodpecker on log behind drip.

I was also able to manage a few photos of unbirds today

The birds today were great, but they were certainly outdone by the people. Today was a relatively nice weekend day during spring migration. This meant that there were a fair number of other folks sharing the woods with me. Many of these folks have traveled from around the country to witness the spring migration spectacle that can be seen on the Upper Texas coast at this time of year. Others are locals from the greater Houston area that have come down to the coast for the day or the weekend. This means there is a great mix of folks from both near and far. I had the chance to chat with many of them over the course of the day. Some knew about my adventure this year, so it was nice to see that word of the project has spread to many areas that I will not be fortunate enough to visit this year. Amazingly, two separate groups of people had read about my food struggles yesterday and showed up at Sabine Woods with provisions for me. These were incredibly generous gestures, and the foodstuffs with which they provided me will certainly be a welcome break from cold peas and pizza. I have said all year that I love getting help such as this. This year really would not be possible without the many forms of help I have received from dozens of people over the year. I think it is so cool that people follow me online and then take the time to find me when our paths will possibly intersect. I sort of feel like I am a real life "Where's Waldo"!

Provisons from my new friends

Group selfie of food providers - L to R - Jami (MN), Amy (MN),
 Marlena (TX), Marlon (TX), Nancy (OK).

I did get one keeper photo that makes the cut for my website

***click for bigger full sized image***

Eastern kingbird

Right now the weather looks like it could get funky tomorrow (Monday) during the day. This would set things up really well for Tuesday and Wednesday. Here's the rationale. Winds right now are strong from the southeast. Millions of birds left the Yucatan peninsula about 4 hours ago to start the 18-hour flight across the Gulf. This means they will start to arrive here in the late morning. If they run into rain en route, or if it is raining when the arrive, they will put down to feed rather than fly in the rain. If the rain is accompanied by a switch to north winds, this means the birds will be very tired when they arrive and a hopefully a huge number of them will crash out into the woods right when they reach the coast. The forecasted north winds for Tuesday and Wenesday will pin these birds in the woods until the winds again switch to the southeast on Thursday. Without the storms and wind change, the birds would just rocket right over the coast and head farther inland. The birding is best when the birds are tired and wet when they arrive. However, if the weather is too severe, it could cause the at-sea demise of many of the migrants we are hoping to see in the next few days. As always, there's a very fine line between life and death in the natural world.


  1. The pics of the drip setups are great! Keep safe and good luck!

    1. Yeah, the drip is some easy birding when its busy!

  2. Aw those people are the best! That's so awesome! I'm so excited to read about your Texas birding...just found out I'll be headed to Corpus Christi in the fall for my next job!

    1. If you're in CC in the winter, I will probably see you again since I'll likely finish my year down that way.

    2. I'll definitely be there into early November, but I'm not sure after that. If I can wrangle it that I can stay there through the winter I will be thrilled and will definitely let you know!

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks man! Lots of new birds still to find around here, so this shouldn't be a problem.