Saturday, April 26, 2014

Apr 25 (Day 115) - High Island exit strategy, plans for the next few days

Despite relentless searching around High Island (TX), I was unable to locate any new birds today. This is not surprising as the list of potentially new birds has been whittled down to a literal handful: Black-billed cuckoo, Mourning warbler, Yellow-bellied flycatcher, Willow flycatcher, and Alder flycatcher. Identification of the last 2 is essentially impossible without hearing their calls, and these species generally do not call in these parts. The bottom line is that adding new birds at this location has become sufficiently difficult that it is time to move on; Time has become more valuable than birds under these circumstances. I should be able to pick up Willow flycatcher later, but finding these others is very unlikely after I depart High Island. I did spend a very nice afternoon birding with 2 new friends, Dub from Louisiana and Noah from California. Both of them proved to be diligent bird finders and great trailside companions. I may have missed Black-billed cuckoo (damn you cuckoo, and Mangrove too!), but I walked out of High Island with 2 new friends instead. Not a bad consolation prize......

Me, Noah, Dub

As a self-acknowledged perfectionist, the decision to give up on these remaining birds is incredibly difficult for me to make. I had a list of birds that I needed to find on the Texas Coast, and I am going to fall several species short of a full quorum. I knew that I was not going to find every possible bird, but it still stings when the actual concession is finally made. It would have been nice to find at least one of the outstanding birds today, but as most of these are late migrants, I simply cannot wait around for them to arrive. I must keep moving, and as I am going to have favorable winds the next 2-3 days, the time is right for me to start the next leg of my journey. I hope I can use this a lesson moving forward. I know full-well that few aspects of this trip will go perfectly. I need to periodically remind myself that just because something isn't perfect doesn't mean it isn't valuable. 

Scarlet tanager from today 
(far from perfect, but still nice!)

I plan to spend the next ~4 days riding to Austin. I must decide if I am going to make a stop at Attwater's Prairie Chicken NWR for the Attwater's subspecies of the Greater prairie chicken. I assume these are ABA countable, but someone please correct me if I am wrong. This would represent a significant detour for me. The refuge does tours to the restricted areas where the birds are most easily found on Saturdays, but I am not going to make tomorrow's (4/26) tour since its 170 miles (or 2-days ride) away. I am trying to work something out with the refuge to get access to the best areas on Monday or Tuesday of next week. If I can get access, I will very likely see the bird and the trip will be worth the extra riding and logistics. If I must use the general auto tour route, the chances of seeing the bird drop markedly, and I must decided if the detour is worthwhile. The problem is that I won't get an answer about access until Monday afternoon, so I have to make my decision without all the information in hand. If I pass on this bird now, it is unlikely that I will get another crack at it. I do not think I will be back in its range this summer. My original route map showed me going into Nebraska, but I now doubt that this will actually happen. The point is that this is a big decision that I must make in the next day or so.

The northeastern-most red dot in Texas is the Attwater's
NWR refuge where I could see the bird. 

I do not think I will have that much trouble covering decent miles each day on the ride to Austin (i.e. the next 4-5 days). However, I have no idea how difficult the riding is going to be west of Austin. I do know that it will be hilly and it will be hot. I am going to have to drop some gear so that I can carry additional water (I can hear everyone saying "Camelback" now so please know that I have that under control). There is very little infrastructure in this part of the country, so I will have to be constantly mindful of exactly where I am and how far it is to the next water source. It is going to be exceptionally challenging. 

NOTE: This is NOT the exact route. It's jus to 
give people an idea of what I am facing. 

And yes, that is a fully occupied, 
Texas-shaped, Purple martin house 
here in High Island.

I hope to look for a few birds along the road tomorrow, so I'll be sure to let everyone know how that goes!

Bonus Short-billed dowitcher shot leftover from 
yesterday (this bird had 2 legs unlike his 
one-legged friend from yesterday)

2 comments:

  1. Those species are still fair game for some distance west of you. Keep beating the bushes locally in the early AM when you can (especially later, near Austin) and you might be pleasantly surprised with what you find.

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  2. I agree with Anonymous. Mourning Warbler is a circum-Gulf migrant and can sometimes be easier to find a little inland. It's also still a tad early for them right now.

    As for the prairie-chickens, they are technically countable if you think they are established. However, I do not know of anyone that thinks the population truly is established. There are no "original" wild birds in the flock, and the flock is often replenished with captive-bred birds. I don't know of any successful breeding by the released birds, but it's been a while since I've had an update on them. Seeing them displaying is a really great experience, though!

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