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Big Week 2014

Part 7:  Galveston Island

Got out of the hotel at oh dark hundred, and finally found 8 Mile Road in the dusk, which turns into Sportsman.  Right away Common Nighthawks were beenting and Eastern Meadowlarks whistling, but I headed straight to the end to sit and await the dawn.  Laughing Gulls drowned almost everything else out, but a nice Clapper Rail sounded off several times with both the “double note” and the “clapping” song.  As it got lighter I could make out a few Dunlin, Ruddy Turnstones, Short-billed Dowitchers, and Willets feeding at the edge.  Waders were flying hither and yon, including a couple of breeding-plumaged Reddish Egrets.

"Dawn chorus" (if you care to call it that) at the end of Sportsman Road, consisting mostly of Laughing Gulls and a whistling/clattering Great-tailed Grackle!  Near the end of the recording a bona fide Clapper Rail starts his clapping!

Here a singing Willet precedes the accelerating song of the Clapper Rail, with the grackle in the background.

Rails also have a "grunting" call (looped once).

At sunrise I started the “BBS Protocol” and added a few more shorebirds, including a cooperative Black-bellied Plover at the parking area at the end of 8 Mile.  Added an Osprey and a singing Boat-tailed Grackle at one stop, along with flyover Skimmers and Spoonbills.  Both a Sedge and Marsh Wren were singing on the way out, so that was pretty cool hearing both of them together!  The best bird along Settigast was a Merlin, along with singing Upland Sandpipers!


Preening Barn Swallows along the road

Sedge Wrens have a dry song that starts with a few chacks and then accelerates.

Marsh Wrens have a more "moist", burbling song that kinda goes all over...

Eastern Meadowlark (the dry rattles also belong to the meadowlark)

Lafitte’s Cove was next, with a Bronzed Cowbird greeting me as I stepped out of the car!  Despite the warnings, there really weren’t a whole lot of people there (although the parking lot was almost full); one young couple was diligently looking for Stilt Sandpipers in a little wetland that had both yellowlegs (mostly Lesser), Pectoral Sandpipers, Black-necked Stilts, Long-billed Dowitchers, Least Sandpipers, and a single Semipalmated Sandpiper that flew in and gave good looks.  Blue-winged Teal and Mottled Ducks were there, of course, along with Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.  I decided to take the hiking trail through the open area, which was new since I was there last:  it loops all the way back to the parking area.  Lots of Indigo Buntings were back here, but that was about it.  Taking the boardwalk back to the woodland, however, yielded a Northern Waterthrush bouncing around where a Pec was feeding!


Pectoral Sandpiper along the boardwalk

Lesser Yellowlegs   


Semipalmated Sandpiper

Mottled Duck

Back in the grove, some loud chirping alerted me to a flock containing two Tennessee Warblers (couldn’t pull anything else out), but then a Curve-billed Thrasher wannabe started sounding off—had to be a Wood Thrush!  It zipped across the trail and landed where I couldn’t see it, but another gentleman had a fine view and confirmed that’s what it was!  Ran into a small group of birders who had just seen a Blackpoll Warbler (the one lady was very thrilled to get that one J) but alas, none of the reported migrants (except the Tennessees) showed themselves for me; I heard a Rose-breasted Grosbeak give its pink call, an Archilochus hummingbird (which I’m assuming Ruby-throated on the coast) chattered hidden in the trees, and a Painted Bunting was singing unseen somewhere, but it was frustratingly quiet.  Wound my way around to where the Tennessees were still chirping, and noticed something skulking around near my feet—had just enough of a view to log a beautiful Kentucky Warbler!  Hope the others got to see him; you know how they can be…  On the way out a gorgeous Scarlet Tanager was flopping around in the grass, and Catbirds were all over, so I was pleased to get at least some migrants!  The young couple had found their Stilt Sandpipers, and lo and behold a group of four were still out there when I got to the overlook!  Didn’t stay long, though…  A Common Grackle sounded off and flew by, making it a three-grackle day! 

Long-billed Dowitchers (the big red ones) and Stilt Sandpipers

A Common Grackle flies past

An excited Tennessee Warbler chirps...

...while an excited Wood Thrush gives a very Curve-billed Thrasher-like call!

Made a quick stop at Lafitte’s Grove where a Black-crowned Night Heron was focused statuesque-like on getting breakfast, so he paid me no mind!  A Green Heron sat up on a dead tree across the way, and a Great-tailed Grackle performed his electrical concert, but that was about it.

Black-crowned Night Heron waiting patiently for lunch...

Heading down to the state park, added a bush-full of Blue Grosbeaks, several Shrikes, and a White-crowned Sparrow to the list right away!  Some Savannah Sparrows were hanging out at the picnic area, and at one of the kayak put-in spots a Common Loon was floating in the distance; that was nice to get!  But I was surprised (and disappointed) that I hadn’t heard any Seaside Sparrows; the last time I was here in the spring they were all along Sportsman, and seemed easy to get at the state park, but not a wheeze this time!  Hiked a little of the Clapper Rail Trail for that purpose and only got some Least Terns out of it, but at the end of the road was a nice pond with more ducks and shorebirds, including some beautiful Wilson’s Phalaropes and a stunning Semipalmated Plover!

Savannah Sparrow hanging at the picnic area

I wanted to check out this migrant trap called Dos Vacas I heard about, but couldn’t find the place, so headed south towards Port Aransas, making a stop at one of the beach accesses to drain the cooler; picked up a few coastal birds for the day including Herring Gull, Sanderling, and Sandwich Tern.  Since I always get turned around in Port Aransas (I did get turned around after getting off SR 35, but took that opportunity to raid the Church’s on the corner J), I was gratified to find the Best Western without getting lost, and who should I run into but Jon McIntyre!  (He was standing behind the desk with a little plastic name tag, so I thought he was a BW employee at first…)  I had forgotten that the ABA Convention was in town until the hostess asked me if I was with them!

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