Thursday, April 10, 2014

Apr 10 (Day 100) - Logistics, logistics, logistics (and crawfish)

I did no birding, nor any biking today. However, it was a very productive day nonetheless as I was able to sort out any number of outstanding issues with the adventure.  The first and foremost of these was lodging in East Texas for the next two weeks. I am going to be in Sabine Pass from the night of the 12th to the morning of the 18th. I have had this lodging sorted out for some time now. What was less certain was what was going to happen after these days. Today I secured lodging for the 18th, 19th, and 20th just a few miles from Anahuac NWR. This is great news since this will be my only real shot at Yellow rail and one of my better shots at Black rail. Anahuac has great water birding which should compliment the land birding I do in Sabine pass and High Island.

East/Upper Texas coast birding hot spots!

I have been trying to secure a place to stay on High Island for quite some time now. I have had a couple folks helping me with this, but collectively we have not had any success. As a last ditch effort, I called the only motel in High Island to see if they had anything left. Miraculously, they did, and I locked up a spot for the nights of 21-26. This is the PERFECT time to be at High Island, and, coupled with the 5 days I'll have birding at Sabine Woods from the 13th to 17th, should give me a very good crack at collecting most of the neotropical migrants I need to find. I will likely shoot down to the Bolivar Peninsula and Shorebird Sanctuary from 27-29 before I begin the long run to Arizona. 

The birding the next two weeks is going to be very different from both the birding I have done for the first part of the year and the birding I will do for the rest of the year. I will be in a relatively small area for a relatively long time. I will not be going to different locations to find different birds, but instead I will be waiting for many different species of birds to arrive at a few specific locations.  I just have to bird the same areas over and over and hope that they fill up with birds on one or two big days (called fallouts).  Below I will explain how we can actually predict when these fallout days will occur. It is all weather dependent, so let's start with the forecast for the Upper Texas Coast for the next few days.

For the next 3 days, migrating birds will be leaving the Yucatan Peninsula (see map) in Mexico with very strong south tailwinds (see forecast). These birds will fly overnight across the Gulf Of Mexico towards the Gulf Coast States. Since they have such a strong tailwind, they will fly right over Eastern Texas without stopping. There will be some birds at the coast, but most will keep going farther inland. However, it looks like this could change on Monday. The winds are going to shift to the North on Monday, and this shift could be accompanied by rain. This means that birds crossing the Gulf will get wet and tired since they will be flying into wind and rain. When this happens, fallouts can occur right along the coast. A fallout is when exhausted birds literally fall out of the sky as soon as they reach land. On these days there can be birds EVERYWHERE. On one hand it is great for birding, but on the other it is a reminder than many birds don't make it under these harsh conditions. It is a bit bittersweet for birders in this respect. Many exhausted birds will even rest on the offshore oil rigs before they reach the coast.

A map of a front pushing down from the northwest.
This is what I am hoping will happen on Monday/Tuesday.

Oriole fallout on Gulf Coast

Warblers during a fallout (Catbird too!)

 Rose-breasted grosbeaks and Indigo buntings during a fallout

I am spending enough time on the Texas coast that I should get at least a few good birding days. As long as I spend enough time combing through the woods, I should be able to find a new species at a steady trickle. However, it sure would be nice to get a couple big fallouts where I can get a whole bunch of birds really fast! 

As I am in Louisiana, I felt it only appropriate that I sample some of the local cuisine. Tonight's big event was eating my first crawfish. It was a bit scary at first, but I soon discovered why they are considered such a delicacy around here! 


  1. We had a little fallout earlier this week after some thunderstorms. There were Indigo Buntings and Blue Grosbeaks and warblers everywhere! And then someone brought in a Ruby-throated Hummingbird that was found laying on the boardwalk leading up the refuge. The poor thing couldn't fly and just laid in my hand. We took it over to the rehab across the street and they gave it some sugar syrup and it immediately perked up and started flying around the room. It was definitely a reminder of what a fallout truly means for the birds. Poor little guy flew all the way across the gulf to be met with storms and rain, and he probably wouldn't have recovered if someone hadn't found him. It's sad that days that are so epic for us as birders often don't mean great things for the birds themselves. Glad you're doing well in LA, though! Enjoy Texas!!

    1. Glad to hear the hummingbird recovered! Yeah, migration can be rough, but those that survive are the fittest and pass on those good genes!

  2. Hi Dorian,
    You will like the world wind map,37.36,1291
    that Andy McGann wrote about at Nemesis Bird yesterday. can see the winds over the Gulf beautifully!

    I've been enjoying your blog since the beginning, thanks for sharing it with the world.

    Mike Slater, Reading PA

    1. This is SO COOL! I am going to be looking a this for the rest of the year!

  3. Wishing you great birding as you hit the upcoming "Hot Spots". May the weather cooperate and a big fallout occur sometime during your stay. I was at High Island once, but missed a fallout. Still, many wonderful birds there and nearby.

    1. Thanks Rick! I'll be sure to keep everyone posted....