Tuesday, April 20, 2010
A Wild Reeve Chase
The day began early as usual. I picked up the Brit birder and we headed down to the Bolivar peninsula to try to find the elusive nelson's sharp-tailed sparrow. This little fella hangs out in cord grass marshes, and can be difficult to see. We drove 2 side roads that had excellent habitat for the sparrow, but could not raise a single one. We did see many seaside sparrows which was some compensation for the time put in.
The standing pools of water on the peninsula that had been so productive yesterday were not today because the tide was low, and the shorebirds were feeding elsewhere. At about 9 AM we decided to do a twitch as the English call it. A twitch is when an English birder "chases" a bird--usually a rare one. 2 days ago a female ruff, known as a reeve, was found in some rice fields about 35 miles west of Houston. Only a few ruffs and reeves are seen in the U.S. each year. We took the ferry from Port Bolivar over to Galveston and then drove up to the small town of Pattison. Enroute we ran across a Whole Foods Market, so I took the Brit in to see what it was like, and to buy some Black and Gold chocolate.
When we arrived at the rice fields a birder from Houston was scanning for the reeve. Soon after we got there a couple we had met at High Island also stopped in to look for the bird. Unfortunately, while there were lots of birds out in the rice fields, they were so far out that we could not really see them all that well with our spotting scopes. The reeve is not a very large shorebird, and in the end we had to give up. We did see a nice group of hudsonian godwits, plus some distant buff-breasted sandpipers and many dowitchers and yellowlegs (greater and lesser).
We drove back toward High Island stopping at a body of water that the couple told us had wilson phalaropes. It was a very large pool perfect for wading birds, and sure enough there were 4 phalaropes feeding there--a new year bird. We were scanning the small sandpipers known as peeps in hopes of finding the white-rumped when the farmer who owned the property came barreling up in his pickup truck and told us to clear out. We did not know we had driven down a road that was private, so we apologized and left.
Back at High Island we checked out a yard that had large numbers of wood and swainson thrushes. We located 1 gray-cheeked thrush mixed in with the group. There were also a few ovenbirds (a kind of warbler for you non-birders). The ovenbird and gray-cheeked were both new birds for the year also.
We finished our birding day in the marshy area at Boy Scout Woods (a part of the Houston Audubon Society birding sites in High Island). The sun was getting low in the sky, but there were many birds still feeding--orchard and baltimore orioles, indigo buntings, marsh and sedge wrens, lincoln and swamp sparrows, great and boat-tailed grackles, little bitterns, and summer and scarlet tanagers. The top photo is a scarlet tanager looking to eat some mulberries. The 2nd picture is of the roseate spoonbills' rookery at Smith Oaks.
14 new birds were added to the week's total which breaks last week's record for the most birds seen in a week, and there are still 2 days of birding left in this week. The 3 new year birds brings the YTD number to 497. Tomorrow I will bird here in the morning before I start the long drive back to Florida. Stay tuned!