Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Groovy-billed Anis

The Groovy-billed Anis Back row from left: Jeff Gordon, Manny Madsen, BOTB, Ben Lizdas.
Front row from left: Marci M. Fuller, Nicholas Fuller, Terry Fuller, Liz deLuna Gordon.

Way back on April 30 when Blogger decided to "move my cheese," or rather it decided not to let me post my cheese in the way in which I had become accustomed, I was in the middle of a series of posts about the Big Sit team I was on for The Great Texas Birding Classic. The team was co-sponsored by the generous folks at Eagle Optics and Bird Watcher's Digest.

It was The Groovy-billed Anis and we came in second place in the GTBC Big Sit category. We did however win the prizes for having the most fun and the most-ossumest team shirts.

Each team shirt was a unique creation involving tie-dying, spray paint, and a stencil (thanks Claire!) of a groove-billed ani (a bird we did NOT see on the Big Sit day, by the way).

Here's a gallery of the Groovies.

Liz of the Cosmos, our spiritual leader.

Marci, our toasty hostess with the mostest.

Marci's hubby Terry our most intensely observant birder.

Nicholas who may create the first Wii birding game.

Marci's dad Manny lent the team a degree of class.

Ben Lizdas, birding maven from Eagle Optics.

Jeff Gordon spotter of most birds AND winner at Talladega Motor Speedway the following afternoon.

Bill of the Birds (who created this year's team shirts) Next stop: Project Runway!

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Warblers of South Padre

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.

Tennessee warbler reaching for a tasty morsel.


Yellow warbler looking happy to be on land again.

Cape May warbler.

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

This blackpoll warbler looks like he's moonwalking.

Wilson's warbler.

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