Sunday 23 June 2019

Upper Texas Coast - Day 2

Now that we knew that the best warbler action occurred in the afternoon, we could devote our morning to something different. Anahuac NWR is between Winnie and High Island, and by all accounts was very birdy. We made it our first destination of the day, and with the sun gently creeping up drove the Shoveler Pond loop, a one way road about two miles long with a large shallow lake in the middle. There is an huge reedbed stuffed full of breeding herons and egrets, and all around the vast flat expanse of Anahuac. It did not disappoint, it was completely stuffed with birds. Hundreds of Cattle EgretsGreat White EgretsTricoloured Herons and Roseate SpoonbillsLeast Bitterns hunted at the base of the reeds and Purple Gallinule squabbled in the ditches. The churrs, squeaks and whistles of Red-winged Blackbirds were a constant backdrop, and Orchard Oriole and Eastern Kingbirds sat atop the reeds. In the shallows Blue-winged Teal dabbled, Short-billed Dowitchers drilled, Black-necked Stilts swished and Stilt Sandpipers and Glossy Ibis probed, whilst flights of both Black-bellied and Fulvous Whistling Ducks zoomed overhead. There were so many birds we did not know where to turn. We placed ourselves on the eastern edge adjacent to the heronry (known in the US as a rookery) and had a blast.

Cattle Egret

Roseate Spoonbill

Tricoloured Heron

Snowy Egret

Tricoloured Heron

Red-winged Blackbird

Eastern Kingbird

As mid-morning approached we explored the coastal swamp based on an eBird tip-off for Seaside Sparrow, and then birded the area near the reserve headquarters. Another shallow pool here had a Solitary Sandpiper and an unexpected Wilson's Phalarope, albeit rather distant. Black Duck paddled by, and the surface of the water mirrored numerous Tree and Northern Rough-winged Swallows. A small stand of trees known as Jackson Woodlot held a Golden-winged Warbler and several Yellow-rumped Warblers, and a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher hunted along a fenceline. Back at the buildings at least three Common Nighthawk were roosting in the trees and Cliff Swallows nesting under the pillars.

Neotropic Cormorant

Seaside Sparrow

Scissortail Flycatcher

Golden-winged Warbler

Common Nighthawk

Rather than spend the afternoon at High Island we went a little further and drove around to Sabine Woods. As the crow flies this is barely any distance from High Island, but you cannot get into McFaddin NWR from the western side. Instead it is about an hour around via the rather desolate and post-dystopian Port Arthur. Despite seemingly close to ideal conditions, there was no large fall of songbirds at Sabine, but we did see a load more warblers - Blue-wingedBlack-throated BlueBlackburnian and more. Philadelphia Vireo was seen in the trees, and at the drips we were entertained by Wood ThrushSwainson's ThrushBrown Thrasher

Blue-winged Warbler

Rabbit Warbler

Wood Thrush

Brown Thrasher

Whilst over on this side we also checked out Sea Rim State Park beach, which had Least SandpiperSanderlingDunlinSandwich and Royal Terns amongst others, before returning for dusk to the woods. As had been the case in High Island the activity really picked up as the day ended, and birds that had previously remained hidden came out for a pre-roost bathe and drink, including a Great Crested Flycatcher. It had been a good day, improved even more by a nice meal and a beer on the way back to Winnie.

Least Sandpiper


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