Our journey through Texas and the search for migrants has ended – we are now on our way home through the mid-western United States. Our species list now stands at 283 since we left our RV park on March 17. A great many of our summer birds spend their winters in Central and South America. A few come north through western Mexico and can take an overland route, but many more must cross the Gulf of Mexico.
It is this crossing that results in some outstanding birding on the Gulf Coast. In good weather conditions the crossing is quite straight-forward and the birds don’t even need to come down when they make land. But if the winds are calm, or from the north, they sometimes come down in huge numbers as soon as they reach land. It is these concentrations that make the birding so exciting.
The coast of Texas is largely sand and salt marsh, so any small patch of forest is a huge attraction. We visited three such patches in eastern most portion of the Texas Gulf Coast along the Bolivar Peninsula: Boy Scout Woods, Smith Oak Woods and Sabine Woods. Every day was different as it brought the potential for a new batch of migrants.
We spent seven days in the region and had some days with just a few birds and other days with many. We had 23 different species of warbler, (only eight of which are found regularly in the West Kootenay).
We also had Scarlet and Summer Tanagers; Orchard and Baltimore Orioles; Yellow-throated and Philadelphia Vireos; Ruby-throated Hummingbirds; Acadian, Great Crested, and Brown-crested Flycatchers; Indigo and Painted Buntings; Rose-breasted Grosbeaks; and Wood Thrush. All of these species had flown across The Gulf.
In addition to these forest birds, a great many shorebirds make the same crossing. This large family, consisting of sandpipers, plovers, oystercatchers etc. was represented by 30 species during our week on the Bolivar Peninsula. I have not seen that many in 37 years living in the West Kootenay Region.
The most memorable experience we had while looking at shorebirds was seeing a flock of several thousand American Avocets standing on the beach! This is perhaps the most attractive and elegant of all the shorebirds, seeing just one or two is a treat, but to see thousands all together is unforgettable.
Another highlight was the sighting of a Ruff. This sandpiper is normally found in Europe and Asia and is a rare bird in the Americas, but one was located in a flooded field near Bolivar.
I made the trip to see it. I must admit that had I seen that bird on my own without prior knowledge as to its identity, I would have had a difficult time identifying it. Sandpipers are not colourful or boldly patterned, and this one was not giving much away! It is just the second one I have ever seen.
As I write this, we are in Missouri and it is cool and raining. The weather has been typically “spring-like” since we left Texas, that is, very changeable and unpredictable. It was sunny and 20 degrees yesterday; it is raining and 10 degrees today. By the time you read this I will probably be home, or at least back in Canada. My next article take us back to local events and birds.