Birder's Guide

JAN 2019

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 41 of 67

es, be sure to check carefully through the flocks of Laughing Gulls in spring and fall migration for any stray Franklin's Gulls. Up to eight tern species are pos- sible (Least, Gull-billed, Caspian, Black, Common, Forster's, Royal, and Sandwich), with August and September potentially yielding all eight in the same day. One or two Long-billed Curlews may be present in winter, and the spring sandpiper influx brings the chance for species like Stilt, White-rumped, and even Baird's. White-tailed Kites sometimes hunt over the dunes near the shore. After combing through the plovers and pipers along the beach, you may look behind you to find a kite hovering in the sea wind or perched atop a fencepost, watching you with its blood-red eyes. Big Thicket National Preserve There is a soul-grounding essence to pine forests that one can only understand through firsthand experience. Big Thicket National Preserve, a patchwork of protected areas a short way north of Beaumont, is a convergence of ecosystems ranging from longleaf pine forests to rivers to cypress- rimmed bayous. Big Thicket has some of the highest concentrations of biological diver- sity north of the tropics, with exceptional numbers of plant species in particular. For birders, this is an excellent place to practice and appreciate the joys and rig- ors of birding by ear. Big Thicket is a good destination for warblers more or less asso- ciated with the Southeast like Swainson's, Hooded, and Pine. Pine is present all year, while Worm-eating and a few others are possible in migration. Big Thicket is one of the easternmost sites where Greater Roadrunner occurs, but it has become scarce and you'd be lucky to find one. If you work hard in the right habitat, winter- ing Henslow's Sparrows, a good bird for Texas in particular, is gettable although difficult. Canoeing or paddling through the park's many waterways is also an option, present - ing birders with the opportunity to apply tips from Benjamin Hack's recent "Tools of the Trade" column in the August issue of Birding. Before venturing forth, stop by the visitor center and ask for intel on what trails are currently most ac - cessible and birdiest. Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge Just as loaded with wading birds and ducks as Cattail Marsh, Anahuac is also famous as a one-stop-shop for rails. Typically, every April the refuge holds at least one special rail walk designed to yield Yellow in particular. Although closer to the Houston area than other sites mentioned here, Anahuac and its convenient car loop still make a great day trip from Beaumont. In winter, there's potential for picking out some good sparrows—Swamp, White- crowned, maybe even a Lincoln's—and in summer it's a good place for Purple Gallinule as well as the sometimes-tricky Least Bittern. Seaside Sparrow is possible all year long. The ID challenge of various black pas- serines is present here as well, but add in a small number of wintering Brewer's Blackbirds, which can be carefully told apart by structure and eye color. Bronzed Cowbird represents yet another possibility at this location. Anahuac has some intriguing raptor potential, too. It's great n Roseate Spoonbills (left) are often seen at Cattail Marsh, while Henslow's Sparrows (above) may be found with luck in the Big Thicket. Roseate Spoonbill photo © Bobby Ketchum Henslow's Sparrow photo © Mike Burrell n Least Terns breed at Bolivar Flats. Photo © Scott Heron 40 Birder's Guide to Travel | Jamuary 2019 Birding Beaumont

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