Thursday, April 24, 2008

Upper Texas Coast - April 17, 2008 - Out of the Woods

Today we revisited Sabine Woods. But first we went to Willow Pond about 6 miles down the road. It was pretty quiet except for the incessant calling of the local grackle population. At first I thought they were just Great-taileds which was very common in California. However, upon closer look, I realized that they were Boat-taileds and therefore a lifer for us! (#14).

A Green Heron was hunting close to the boardwalk. Suddenly a brightly-colored Summer Tanager played hide-and-seek with us. I also managed to track down a young Ruby-throated Hummingbird and chalked up lifer #15.

As we were about to leave, flashes of chestnut and black appeared among the green willow leaves. Soon a flock of Orchard orioles were cavorting among the trees, flying back and forth across the boardwalk. Occasionally, one of them would burst into song. These gaudy serenaders were our 16th lifer.

Saying goodbye to the morning chorus, we drove back to Sabine Woods. Along the way we encountered a flock of White Ibises flying along the highway. We've seen these birds before in the Valley but they were at quite a distance. So we stopped and enjoyed a closer look at a squadron of these white waders with black-tipped red bills.

Mid-morning at the Woods was pretty slow (it's that darn south winds again, one birder reminded us). It wasn't a total disaster though for we encountered a Great-crested Flycatcher by listening for it's "tit-syew" call. It was lifer # 17.

Nothing exciting happened from noon until about 3 pm. We were tired from perambulating the wooded area so we decided to rest by the drip. Soon lifer #18 in the form of a Brown Thrasher popped into view.

Then once again the Orchard Orioles stole the show. It was while watching them that I caught a glimpse of red in the underbrush. With my binoculars, my heart leapt for joy as I saw our target bird - the Painted Bunting. Our 19th lifer is arguably the most colorful bird in the United States. Red underparts, blue head and greenish yellow back made it nature's grand masterpiece. It was just so heartbreaking that they (there were more than one) kept their distance and therefore not allowing for good photographs.

As if the parade of colors were not enough, the bright orange and black of the Baltimore Oriole (#20) shone from atop a tree. When the Painted Buntings left, they were replaced by a gorgeous male American Redstart. Although not a lifer (we've seen a female in California) we were still awed by its black and yellow-orange plumage.

We ended our day watching a spectacle of colors brought in by the Scarlet Tanagers and a Yellow Warbler.

When we took our shower that evening we were dismayed to discover that we've been the victims of chigger attack. Both of my legs were peppered with red (and itchy) polka dots caused by the microscopic insects. Cynthia had her share, too, though not as worse as mine.

And the misery continues..

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