Birder's Guide

NOV 2013

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.

Issue link: http://bg.aba.org/i/205710

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Big Day Record a testament to the important habitats that can be created by wise management for migrant birds. We picked up a host of new birds here, including Hudsonian Godwit, a species not seen in our previous two years of Texas Big Days. Andrew Farnsworth and Brian Sullivan lived up to their reputations as exceptional raptor spotters, pulling both expected accipiters, Mississippi Kite, and our only Peregrine Piping Plover and an assortment of other shorebirds are essential to add to the list while on the Bolivar Peninsula. Photo © Christopher L. Wood. Falcon, from the skies overhead. Our total stood at 183. Mitchell Lake was followed by a long cruise on I-10 towards Houston, with a quick stop near Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR, where we notched prairie birds such as White-tailed Hawk, Le Conte's Sparrow, Upland Sandpiper, and our frst Eastern Meadowlark. From there, we circumnavigated urban Houston and blitzed through the pineywoods at Eisenhower County Park, picking up four woodpeckers and several other eastern forest species in the heat of the day. A few key species— like Brown-headed Nuthatch, Bald Eagle, Fish Crow, and Swainson's Warbler—were specialties that reach or come close to their southernmost breeding range limits at Eisenhower Park, so that slightly longer extension to the north proved invaluable for adding some new species to our list. Entering Anahuac NWR, we knew we had many more possibilities, so our running tally at 219 indicated we were on a record pace. Seeing focks of Indigo Buntings, tanagers, and grosbeaks fushing from the roadside was a good sign and indicated that the hoped-for fallout of the Scarlet Tanager was one of the dominant species in the fallout at High Island. Photo © Christopher L. Wood. 34 Birder's Guide to Listing & Taxonomy | November 2013 previous day deposited a large number of birds that remained. Our frst rice feld stop was a good omen, getting us Buffbreasted Sandpiper, and our second stop scored two Glossy Ibis along with a number of target shorebirds. At 6 p.m., we fnally arrived at legendary High Island, where Scarlet Tanagers were dripping from the trees. We saw more than 100 tanagers on our quick circuit around Houston Audubon's Smith Oaks Sanctuary, including many individuals feeding on the ground and up to 15 in a single mulberry tree. This spectacle was a new experience for many of us, but the Big Day required focus on other more furtive and less colorful species. Veery, Wood Thrush, Ovenbird, Philadelphia Vireo, White-throated Sparrow, and Acadian Flycatcher were a few of the species we quickly added to our list. Warblers were not abundant, but the diversity was great: Blackburnian, Cerulean (a nice male found by Tim!), Chestnutsided, and Blackpoll warblers, Northern Waterthrush, and American Redstart were all key pickups. Trying one more spot, we hit Texas Ornithological Society's Hooks Woods Bird Sanctuary, where we added Blue-winged Warbler and our only surprise rarity of the day, a Lazuli Bunting! Jessie was taskmaster during our entire effort in the High Island woods, making sure we stayed focused on new species and didn't get too distracted by the kaleidoscope of colorful tanagers, grosbeaks, and orioles. This was critical to our success, because our schedule only allowed one fnal hour to collect all the coastal species for which Texas is so famous. As soon as we left the woods, we hit the ground running by fnding eight species of terns, fve more species of gulls (including Lesser Black-backed and Bonaparte's), Reddish Egret, Greater Scaup, Black Skimmer, and Marbled Godwit. The three coastal plovers—Snowy, Wilson's, and Piping—always require special effort, and we managed to nab all three.

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