Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Upper Texas Coast - April 15, 2008 - What a Way to End the Day

Spring at the Upper Texas Coast is famous world-wide because it is a stop-over of beautiful songbirds migrating north from the tropics. A month before our travel date I have already been monitoring the reports coming from High Island and vicinities. Sightings of 20-plus species of warblers in one day started coming in around the second week of April. Not only warblers but colorful tanagers, orioles and vireos were seen as well.

And so it was during the 3-hour flight to Houston that I have started listing in my mind the many lifers we expect to find on our 5-day trip. My expectations were high and my enthusiasm unbridled. As soon as we got settled at Best Western in Beaumont, we immediately drove to Sabine Woods about 35 miles southeast. We arrived at about 5:30 pm but the sun was still up and our hopes of seeing some migrants were undiminished. The first bird we saw and our first lifer was an Eastern Kingbird. As Cynthia and I traversed the boardwalk, we were surprised to see a tiny yellow and black bird hopping ahead of us. The Hooded Warbler was our second lifer.

A birder who was walking with us pointed to a brown bird a few feet away. "Wood Thrush", he said. We thanked him for showing us lifer number 3. It wasn't long when a gray bird appeared from the underbrush. Lifer number 4 was a Catbird. Close to the pond, it was my turn to tell the other birder that there was a Kentucky Warbler lurking by the water's edge. That was lifer number 5. I saw a glimpse of a Blue Jay which counted as the sixth lifer of the day.   

The boardwalk ended at the edge of a shallow, weeded pond. By a broken twig across the pond, a yellow and black bird was hunting for insects. Kentucky Warbler, I said aloud. The local birder who was beside me said that it could probably just be a Common Yellowthroat. I've seen Yellowthroats before and this was no Yellowthroat, I murmured to myself. The birder peered through his binoculars and confirmed almost hesitatingly it seemed, that it was indeed our 7th lifer.

Back near the entrance, a Blue Grosbeak gleamed in the afternoon sun, while a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker worked a nearby tree.

It was almost 7 pm when we saw our 8th and final lifer of the day - a lovely yellow Blue-winged Warbler.

Along the road on the way home, we marvelled at the many waders flying in to roost at the roadside canals. The reddish rays of the setting sun accentuated the pink feathers of the Roseate Spoonbills. White Ibises and Egrets joined the Herons as they prepare to settle for the night.

As much as possible we try to rely on our GPS to take us to places we want to go. Unfortunately our hotel address is different than what the GPS had on record. After losing our way a couple of times, we finally found the correct freeway, albeit a little too late. I made a quick turn to the clover leaf that would connect us to our intended route at a 65-mph clip. The car swerved right and as I wrestled with the steering wheel and with my foot firmly planted on the brakes, the car then swung left, turned around, and hit the railings - first with the front right bumper then with the rear right bumper. All the while, Cynthia was saying, "Lord! Lord!". And it was indeed only through God's mercy and protection that we came out unscathed from the accident and the car only sustained superficial damage. Needless to say, we were quite shaken and it affected my verve and enthusiasm for the remainder of our stay in Texas.

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