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Part 12:  Bannister WMA (and the weekend in Humble, 16-19 APR)

Headed up to Lufkin, and right when I hit Bannister WMA was when the heavens opened!  The good news is that I could see that the roads are still drivable when wet, although the lake was sure inching close to the campers I saw!  Headed in to the hotel and settled down with the Weather Channel to track this severe thunderstorm fixing to hit us!  I was pretty distracted so the trip report wasn’t as detailed as I would have liked, but so it goes…

Headed out next morning with my muffin (to save time), and still got to Townsend Rec Area (technically part of Angelina National Forest)as it was starting to get light, so no night birds…  Surprisingly a guy pulled up behind me who was getting ready to do some kayaking and joked about whether or not there were any dry envelopes in the iron ranger! J  After that guy left a big Pileated Woodpecker yelled and then took off through the trees, and as I was hoping he’d sound off again, his mate started making some real odd flicker-like sounds!  Either Pine Warblers or Chipping Sparrows were trilling all over, but no one showed themselves; what did call sounded like bright warbler chirps, so I’m assuming most of them were Pines.  Down by the water I heard a distant cou…..cou…..cou that I’d call a Yellow-billed Cuckoo in the Valley, but it was sure a weird place for one, I thought (although apparently they do come through here about now)!  The campers from yesterday weren’t driven away by the previous night’s storms (Huntsville, where I had been yesterday, apparently got clobbered so badly that the university there was flooded out), but the water was still pretty high!  Over at the boat ramp my friend was getting ready to put in, and as I scanned the lake yet another boater pulled up to put in while another guy puttered by out in the lake – popular place!  I was hoping to catch sight of a Bald Eagle, but the only water bird I picked up there was a croaking Great Blue Heron.  However, an Orchard Oriole singing in the Day Use area was nice, along with the day’s only Parula, and as I was leaving the boat ramp area a Rose-breasted Grosbeak picked and flew over!  Driving out of the park I pulled over to listen about a half mile out and heard a sickly-sounding crunch; hoping it was just a pine cone I ran over I was dismayed to discover that some fool had tossed a glass bottle into the grass (where you couldn’t see it, naturally)!  But the Lord was merciful and protected the tire throughout the day – that’s one place you don’t want to get stuck with a flat tire!

The road to Townsend Rec Area

Pileated Woodpecker contact call (looped once)

Flooded area near the campground

Attayac River

Started the BBS Protocol on the dirt roads after that, planning to cover all of FR 300 and 300A, along with all the little side roads in the WMA.  I actually ran out of time before I could finish the route, which surprised me, because I covered a lot more territory last year when I “BBS’ed” the part of Angelina NF south of Sam Rayburn Reservoir that included Boykin Springs and looped around to all those little “parks” along the lake’s edge!  And this route was considerably less birdy as well, but I have a tendency to want to explore new areas, and Bannister was reported to have the “Big Three” of the Pineywoods according to the Wildlife Viewing Map, so I thought I’d give it a try.  Only got one of the three (Brown-headed Nuthatch, which is always the easiest), but there was some habitat that looked great for Bachman’s Sparrows, and I indeed heard some suspicious sssping coming from the underbrush around the pines, but they just wouldn’t come out (I was surprised they weren’t singing yet).  Again, I saw very little, but besides the “trillers”, the bird that won the prize for numbers was Carolina Wren, with Cardinals and titmice in a tie for second place!  One rather clear area had some unique birds for the day, including a Yellow-breasted Chat and the first Flicker of the trip!  I had to stop for a potty break and was amused by a Broad-winged Hawk that decided to announce to the forest what I was doing (if you know the call, you’ll get the bad joke… J)!

Forest Road 300

Broad-winged Hawk  

As I mentioned yesterday, the roads were passable, but pretty adventurous, so after checking FR 301 I decided to take the paved roads around to FR 300 instead of backtracking. FR 300 south of SR 147 seemed to have all the Hooded Warblers, plus a flyover Cooper’s Hawk.  The plan was to check out FR 307, then come back and finish 300, but like I said, by the time I finished 307 it was already past 11:30 (and taking FM 705 and FM 83 all the way around to FR 300 would take too long), so I let it go at that.  But one of the best roads was little 307A, as at the end there was a lot of ode and butter action!  Most of the little guys were Carolina Satyrs, but this one spreadwing skipper settled down that I thought was a Silver-spotted at first, but looking at the book, he really didn’t match:  the white was along the trailing edge of the hindwing, and the gold spots on the forewing were very strong and shaped differently!  Thankfully Troy Hibbitts jumped right in and called it a Hoary Edge, which made perfect sense – it just looked much more boldly marked in real life than in the book!  Also a striking dragonfly let me get some nice shots, and at the time I was hoping it would be something new, but figured it was just a Sulphur-tipped Clubtail, which I’ve seen in the Valley.  However, Troy again came to my rescue and suggested Oklahoma Clubtail for the “pretty” one, and Ashy Clubtail for the duller one!  Three lifers in one shot!  J  Along the roads the big black butters were trying to “mud”:  most were Red-spotted Purples (I ran into a mess of ‘em yesterday during the rain), but one turned out to be a beautiful Spicebush Swallowtail! 


Hoary Edge


Several views of an Oklahoma Clubtail (above and below) 


Ashy Clubtail


Spicebush Swallowtail


The similar Red-spotted Purple, a brushfoot that mimics the more distasteful blackish swallowtails!

Headed towards Crosby after that to see if I could find this new location for the Swallow-tailed Kites.  Found the neighborhood fine and cruised up and down Aweigh (hoping no one would call the cops on me J) then noticed this little trail going back into a small woods.  I pulled over and prepared to check it out when this little gal in a motorized cart pulled up and asked if I was looking for the “fork-tailed hawks”!  That little trail was indeed the place, and she was confident that I’d get great looks as they had been “showing well” all week!  So I waltzed in, tiptoeing around the little kid trying to learn to ride his bike (and being coached by dad down the sidewalk J) but never seeing any kites.  I made several laps, figuring I at least needed the walk; did see a pair of nesting bluebirds, and kept hearing this strange song that sounded like one of those Australian gerygones that turned out to be a House Finch!  But on lap #3 one of the kites did indeed make a swoop by one of the trees, dropped down, and was never seen again!  I got a good look and a “proof shot”, so I don’t think I need to go back again (especially after the hairy drive to get to Humble from there… L).  So that leaves Monday free!

Highly-scrubbed recording of a House Finch that sounded incredibly like a Western Gerygone!

"Documentation shot" of one of Crosby's Swallow-tailed Kites

Finally found the Country Inn, got settled in, and tried their room service, which is a whole separate company, actually – I was a little apprehensive, but their food is actually quite good! 

Sleeping in on the weekends doesn’t count for much when you’re used to getting up early!  But that gave me plenty of time to get the laundry going, and the guy let me in a little early for breakfast seeing as everything was ready!  So I finished up about the time everyone else was settling in, and after the laundry was done (the dryer worked J) I found the maid and asked her to clean the room while I was out getting supplies.  When I got home I caught up on e-mail and tried to make arrangements for this coming week.

About 1:00 I was getting a hankering for ice cream, so since Google said there were several joints at the mall next door, over I went, and found one that would give me a hot fudge sundae!  While looking for the place I got a good walk in, and found a Cinnabon and Lens Crafters on top of that, so I have dessert for today and some lens wipes for the trip (which I neglected to bring with me)!

Pulling out of there, I really got to wondering if the Outback would be open for dinner at that hour (2:30), as I really didn’t wanna come back again and fight the crowds (plus, I didn’t eat the whole sundae, so I did have room for dinner), so I swung in, and sure enough, they were open, and there was plenty of room!  The gal at the hotel's front desk insisted I go to Sawgrass for steak, but when I saw the Outback, I just had to have one of their “Bloomin’ Onions”, so I ordered that along with a bone-in ribeye steak!  The onion wasn’t as tasty as I remember (this was a little too salty/spicy), but the steak was to die for!  I took 90% of it home, as I truly was full from the ice cream, and devoured the steak later while channel surfing; I’ll save the rest for lunch today.

Once home I took a shower, finished the e-mail, and got started on the pictures.  The next morning I went to Humble Area’s First Baptist (click here and scroll down for sermon notes).  Thankfully there was a gas station next door where I could get some ice, so got that taken care of, came back here, had lunch, then caught up on getting stuff posted to Facebook. 

Click here to continue to the Sabine Pass area

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