Wednesday, April 30, 2008

More Texas Big Sit Highlights

Here are some other avian highlights. I'll be brief today since Blogger is still playing a tattoo on my ability to upload photos (or fix typos). Besides, isn't it wordless Wednesday?

OrioleTree
On South Padre Island in spring you see lot of trees and shrubs with several birds in them. This tepeguaje has three orioles in it—at least.


CrummyIndigos
The indigo buntings were dropping into the bushes in twos and threes.

DickcisselTrio
Hundreds of dickcissels passed through during the night and day. These three paused for a photo.

EvilGreatTailedGrackle
This great-tailed grackle gave me the creeps. Wonder why?

BaltimoreOrioleOrange
The oranges we put out proved irresistible to this male Baltimore oriole.

SouthPadreBayView
Looking out onto the bay we saw an ever-changing cast of birds.

RubyThroatedHummerMale
I can never resist the chance to take photos of ruby-throated hummingbirds.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Warblers of South Padre

CapeMayWarbler
A curious Cape May warbler peers at me from a mesquite.

Because of its location along the Texas Gulf Coast, South Padre Island attracts certain creatures: spring break revelers from college, surf fishermen, boogie board addicts, sun worshipers, and migrant songbirds, and the birders that chase them.

Among the birds that pile up on South Padre in the spring, no group gets as much attention as the warblers. The convention center on the northern reaches of South Padre has a brackish marsh and several lines of trees. These are the first land-based features that migrant warblers see when the come across the gulf from Mexico on their all-night flights headed northward. So the birds drop out of the sky seeking refuge and head for the biggest clump of trees in sight.

Waiting for them are the birders and photographers. On a good day you might be able to catch 30 warbler species there. The trouble is that a good day for the birders is when the winds howl out of the North, forcing the birds to fight all night across the gulf. Many of them reach land just barely, dropping exhausted into the trees, onto the beaches, sometimes lacking the energy to begin foraging right away. So a good day for birders is often a bad day for the warblers.

While doing our Big Sit from midnight to midnight last Sunday on the back side of the South Padre Convention Center we heard rumors of a north wind bringing a storm front across Texas. This would be good for birds if it arrived at the right time. Well lucky for the birds, it arrived too late to inhibit migration. Unluckily for us we did not get the huge fallout of warblers that the Texas Coast is famous for having.

Still The Groovy-billed Anis (our Big Sit team) eked out a respectable 17 warbler species, the last two (a bay-breasted and a magnolia) right at dusk in pounding rain. More on the rain in a future post.

Here are some of the visual highlights, warbler-wise, that I was able to capture in between bouts of Big Sitting. I should note that these images are barely cropped if at all. The birds were VERY close, coming in for sips of water and for the insects sheltering in the trees. Tired migrant birds are less spooky and wary which explains why there were at least a dozen photographers there with their big rigs, shooting warblers.

TNWarbler
Tennessee warbler reaching for a tasty morsel.

YellowWarblerSPadre

Yellow warbler looking happy to be on land again.



GoodCapeMayW
Cape May warbler.

ChestnutSidedWarblerBug
Chestnut-sided warbler about to nail the insect above it (look closely).

MoonwalkingBlackpoll
This blackpoll warbler looks like he's moonwalking.

WilsonsWarbler
Wilson's warbler.

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