Birder's Guide

OCT 2016

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 22 of 61

tional Wildlife Refuge produced Northern Bobwhite and a pair of White-tailed Hawks. We didn't expect to see the chicken, but on the drive out, a gracious hen scurried across the road. Big Day magic! Outside Houston, Red-bellied, Red- headed, and Pileated woodpeckers, Tufted Titmouse, Brown-headed Nuthatch, and Fish Crow all fell into place before we headed to the coast—miraculously only a half hour behind schedule. As we ap- proached the wet shorebird fields just north of Anahuac National Wildlife Ref- uge, we realized that torrential rain dur- ing the previous week had turned them all into lakes. This ended up working to our advantage because, when we did find a "drier" field, almost everything was there for a one-stop shorebird shop: American Golden-Plover, Upland Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, thousands of peeps, and a single Wilson's Snipe. We had a flock of White-faced Ibis along the road but didn't take the time to scan for a Glossy—just one of a few Big Day blunders. We reached the Bolivar Peninsula with around 200 species, but then the total quickly skyrocketed. As we had hoped, afternoon thundershowers had grounded some migrants, and we quickly accumu- lated another 30 species in and around Boy Scout Woods and Smith Oaks. The oil fields south of High Island were fruitful, yielding our rarest bird of the day, a young Little Gull, accompanied by seven species of tern. Our last minutes of daylight were spent delighting in a group of Red Knots on the beach at Bolivar Flats. With dark- ness upon us, we made our way to the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge marsh- es, where we mopped up a few nocturnals: Marsh and Sedge wrens, both bitterns, Black and King rails, and the last bird of the day, a vocal Yellow Rail. Our final total was 271 species, the second-highest Texas Big Day. Although our effort was 23 species short of the 2013 record, we were extremely pleased with the result, considering our in- experience with Texas and the early date. We had more than our share of big misses and a relatively poor show- stages, one solid week was spent debating whether Big Bend or the Del Rio region of the Rio Grande could be worked into the route. We eventually realized that the Hills to Coast route was favored for a reason; now, we just had to find efficiencies. The Day Two travel boxes of strong coffee in hand, we started at 0:00 at Woodlawn Lake in San Antonio, where a lingering Ross's Goose and four Redheads got us off to a good start. We then headed west after a few quick stops for American Robin, Monk Parakeet, and Common Pauraque. We reached the Nueces River south of Uvalde around 02:30, where sounds of Elf Owl, Swainson's Thrush, and Common Poorwill echoed on a still, clear night. A quick hike at Cook's Slough pro- duced Great Kiskadee and Green Jay before we headed to Chalk Bluff Park for dawn. Chalk Bluff delivered around 70 new spe- cies, including White-tipped Dove, Green and Ringed kingfishers, Couch's Kingbird, Brown-crested Flycatcher, five wren spe- cies, Hooded Oriole, Lesser Nighthawk, and vocalizing Chihuahuan Ravens. Over the next hour, we scoured the desert scrub west of Uvalde for numerous specialties, such as Gray and Black-capped vireos and Golden-cheeked Warbler. A risky, stress - fully long stop at a border patrol station (30 seconds that felt like an eternity) produced Harris's Hawk, Osprey, and Yellow-headed Blackbird. After one last stop at the Uvalde Fish Hatchery for Cinnamon Teal, we head- ed east, about 40 minutes behind schedule. A 15-minute stop at Mitchell Lake Audu- bon Center near San Antonio yielded 54 species, including Green-winged Teal, Eared Grebe, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, and Curve-billed Thrasher. Farther east, the grasslands of Attwater Prairie Chicken Na- 21 October 2016 | Birder's Guide to Listing & Taxonomy Long Point, Ontario Stuart Mackenzie n Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge. Photo © Stu Mackenzie n Team Anous at Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge Photo © Yousif Attia TABLE 1 • Top 5 Texas Big Days Number of Species Team Date 294 J. Berry, A. Farnsworth, M. Iliff, T. Lenz, B. Sullivan, C. Wood 25 April 2013 271 Y. Attia, J. Brett, C. Friis, S. Mackenzie, R. Wood 18 April 2015 264 J. Berry, A. Farnsworth, M. Iliff, T. Lenz, B. Sullivan, C. Wood 22 April 2011 260 K. Behrens, C. Cox, P. Hosner, M. Retter 19 April 2008 258 A. Byrne, G. Beaton, D. Peake, R. Weeks, B. Kemp 24 April 2001 ing of migrants—for example, only two Empidonax flycatchers. If we had been a week later, experienced a decent fallout, and had a healthy dose of Big Day magic, 300 species would have been possible. Everything would have to be perfect for a North American Big Day ultima thule (a distant place beyond the borders of the known world)—a destination that may never be reached. This Big Day raised nearly $10,000 through Bird Studies Canada's Great Canadi- an Birdathon, contributing to the Long Point Bird Observatory ( and bird conservation across North America. A detailed trip report, including links to all 138 real-time eBird checklists, can be found at This miraculous day and subsequent summary article would not have been possible without the unrelenting commitment and enthusiasm, sleep deprivation, and editorial prowess of my fellow Anous brethren.

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