Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Upper Texas Coast - Day 1

After a quick breakfast at the 24h Waffle House over the road from our hotel in Winnie we made the 20 minute drive south to High Island. First stop was the much-lauded Smith Oaks Sanctuary. This is actually quite a large reserve, with a big heronry as well as woodland and drips. Despite the southerly winds it was not exactly heaving with birds, but we had excellent views of Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Cedar Waxwing and a smart male Scarlet Tanager before we had even left the car park. We paid the small entrance fee which covered us for all of the Audubon reserves for the day, and eagerly headed out into the woods. It was surprisingly quiet under the tree cover, but I picked out my first Blackpoll Warbler quite quickly. Catbirds were everywhere, easily the dominant bird – very pleased I did not schlep to Cornwall last year to see the vagrant!

Blackpoll Warbler

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

We spent a pleasant morning here walking around, including looking at the heronry which was heaving with Snowy and Great White Egrets, Ibises and Roseate Spoonbill. A Green Heron flew across the lake, but the photography opportunities were slim due to the orientation of the raised bund. It would be better in the late afternoon but it also appeared that the golden hour wouldn’t happen here due to the height of the trees alongside the water. We continued to rack up bird species everywhere we looked – Cardinal, Baltimore Oriole, various hirudines and warblers, and then Indigo Buntings out in the field near the car park. Mostly however it was a massive warblerfest.

Ovenbird

Black-throated Green Warbler

Wanting to see what other options existed, we relocated the short distance to Boy Scout Woods mid morning. This was a lot busier with people, but also had a lot more birds. Here we racked up Black and White Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Northern ParulaBlack-throated Green Warbler, American Redstart, Yellow WarblerTennessee Warbler, Northern WaterthrushSwainson’s Thrush and Blue Grosbeak. We ended up spending the rest of the day here. As we left I was lucky enough to see a Mississippi Kite flying north. It had been a shattering day, and very hard work behind the camera, but we had really sussed out the location and knew better how to approach it in the following days. High ISO basically!!

Magnolia Warbler

Northern Waterthrush

American Redstart

Swainson's Thrush drunk on Mulberries

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