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Spring Blitz

Part 13:  Sabine Pass Area (20 APR)

Actually slept in quite a bit this morning, so was able to have French Toast and sausage!  Headed east, and it wasn’t nearly as bad heading out as it seemed to be coming in (which always seems to be the case, anyway, because you’re not sure where your turns are, etc.)!  There was a report a while ago about some grasspipers at a turf farm north of Nome, so seeing as that was on the way to Winnie, I swung by to take a look.  There were some things way out there (and looking towards the sun) that could have been Upland Sandpipers, but I just couldn’t tell.

Headed on to the Port Arthur area, and avoiding that horrible road down to Texas Point I checked out 8th Street in Sabine Pass instead.  Just getting out of the car and listening was productive, as several Soras were calling along with a White-faced Ibis (assumed until proven otherwise), and when I pished, up popped a Seaside Sparrow on the wire!  He didn’t stay long, but as I looked the other direction, what else should have apparently popped up to pishing but a Least Bittern!  That was a first!  Sedge Wrens were singing all over as well, and lots of swallows swooped around, mainly Roughwings and Trees.

8th Street stretch of Texas Point NWR

Seaside Sparrow with a nose full of food...

Least Bittern

From there headed to the little Texas Point Nature Trail where I ran into a younger gentleman with a camera, who gave the report (just onesies and twosies, but a nice variety).  As he was speaking a nice Swainson’s Thrush popped up along with a Gray Catbird, and an Acadian Flycatcher called and then nicely showed himself.  Pewees were also around, and on the way out a Rose-breasted Grosbeak pinked.

Kiosk at the Texas Point Nature Trail (with Diggory standing guard...)

   

One of several Eastern Wood Pewees that were song-battling...   

Next stop was Sabine Woods (along with half of Texas J) and that was actually quite productive; I stuck to the dry trails as I didn’t have my NEOSes on (almost everyone else was wearing rubber boots; this one lady’s were quite cute with polka dots J), but was able to add some pretty neat warblers to the list!  Early on a nice male Tennessee showed himself, and both Blue-headed and Red-eyed Vireos showed nicely (White-eyes were all over).  At one flooded area a Louisiana Waterthrush bobbed on a log.  I ran into one couple in a clearing who were looking at something, and shortly a lovely male Chestnut-sided Warbler came out!  But I was more excited about the Worm-eating Warbler that was crawling through the leaves!  At one point a young man had found a Hooded Warbler and Yellow-throated Vireo (neither of which I spotted), but then told me of a Swainson’s Warbler just around the corner!  Another gentleman had him in his sights and very kindly pointed him out to me – he was tough to spot as he poked along the ground and quivered his wings!  A nice male Black-throated Green called overhead on the way out, and Swainson’s Thrushes and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were out the yin yang.  Hearing a Common Grackle creak as it flew overhead made it a Grackle Trifecta for the day, as I picked up Great-tailed in the parking lot in Humble, and Boat-tails were in the marsh along 8th Street.  Other interesting heard-onlies included a Long-billed Curlew and a Bank Swallow fussing overhead. 

I ran into a guy with a big gun shooting a pewee, and I asked him if his camera was set up to automatically bracket, as I notice a lot of the “big gun” cameras will shoot off three at a time.  He said no, although you can do that, so we got to talking cameras, and he raved about the little Powershot as well (he happened to have an EOS Rebel, same as my other camera, but with one of those huge 400mm lenses)!

Headed down to McFaddin NWR after that, saving Sea Rim SP for the drive back.  I was toying with the idea of doing this whole road BBS-style on another day (basically from the very end of the refuge access road to the Texas Point Nature Trail, which I think is around 17 miles total), but I noticed a gate at the start of the drive, and if it doesn’t open till sunrise, then I wouldn’t be able to get to the end of it by sunrise.  And if I EBirded everything, they’d probably want separate checklists for all four areas anyway, so I’ll have to think about that.  But there wasn’t a whole lot along the road; some Forster’s Terns were fussing at one of the boat ramps, and a Common Gallinule strutted his stuff in the middle of the road.  Green Herons were here and there, and Marsh Wrens were all over, but it was fun to see the occasional Indigo Bunting or Orchard Oriole pop up in the grass!  Eastern Kingbirds appeared along the wires; no Seaside Sparrows, but Savannahs were everywhere.  On the way out heard my FOS Common Nighthawk.

       

Forster's Terns   

Eastern Kingbird 

   

Common Gallinule

Boat-tailed Grackle - dark eye, rounder head, and voice separate it from Great-tailed.

There were more fishermen than birds there, really, so I headed back out and stopped at Sea Rim.  This was a marvelous stop, as while the beach access was closed to cars due to the storm damage, walking out there was a gold mine!  Right where the pavement ends were Stilts, Avocets, Willets, and Snowy Egrets all having a big time, and on the shoreline was a larid/shorebird/pelican bonanza!  A group of Brown Pelicans and a group of White Pelicans were keeping a polite distance from each other, while the shore itself was stuffed with Royal, Sandwich, and Common Terns (Least were also flying about), Laughing Gulls, Dunlin, Sanderlings, and more Willets, with singletons of Black-bellied Plover and Ruddy Turnstone!  (There was a smaller peep that I couldn’t ID, and a Least had been hanging around with the stilts earlier…)

Shorebird congregation at the entrance to the beach (mostly Avocets, but also a Snowy Egret in back and a Willet in front)

The kleep kleep calls are Avocets; and the plain, flat notes are Willets.  A Boat-tailed Grackle chimes in with his song, and at the end some annoyed Black-necked Stilts yip.

               

American Avocets in breeding plumage...

...and in non-breeding plumage

Snowy Egret

   

Black-necked Stilt

Stilt and Avocet together (both are in the same family)

 

Segregationalist pelicans... (note the one Brown Pelican stretching his bill!)

Closeup of the White Pelicans

Mixed flock with Common Terns (full black cap and dark carpal bar), one Forster's Tern (with the black ear patch), Dunlin (with the black bellies) and Sanderlings (the mostly white sandpipers).

       

Royal Terns (orange bills) in both breeding and non-breeding plumages, with Laughing Gulls and Sandwich Terns.

I traded places with a couple of guys who were clamming (or catching something with long nets, anyway), then took the boardwalk through the marsh, where a Spotted Sandpiper was bopping along and some Neotropic Cormorants had the deck staked out.  A Tricolored Heron kept moving along as I did, and at least two Least Bitterns flew over the marsh!  A trio of beautiful Roseate Spoonbills flew over, and Pied-billed Grebes were yelling along with lots of Coots, but that was about it (except for a female Baltimore Oriole that came wheeling in).

Gambusla Trail

Boat-tailed Grackle

Neotropic Cormorants

Stopped at Sabine Woods again to kill time until I had to head to Winnie, and as I was donning my NEOSes a Bobolink flew overhead singing!  Found the drip everyone was talking about, but only Redwings were coming in and I really didn’t have time to do it justice, so I moved on and kind of did a perimeter loop.  Got to break in the NEOSes very well, as the water was quite deep and mucky in some places!  I heard a “California Towhee” and sure enough, a couple of Hooded Warblers popped up to pishing!  A group of us ran into a female Redstart at one point, and I heard both Great Crested Flycatcher and Downy Woodpecker for the day, but that was it, as I had to head in to Winnie, picking up an Osprey along SR 87.  Hitting the coast certainly racked up a bunch of new species for the trip, but even for the day logged 94 species without really even trying!

Female American Redstart back at Sabine Woods

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