Spring in South Texas Apr 02—11, 2018
Posted by Barry Zimmer
On a tour filled with one successful day after another, the seventh day of our trip stood out above all others. It began along Highway 100 west of Port Isabel with wonderful scope views of an Aplomado Falcon. This striking species has become a fairly regular fixture on recent tours to this area, but such exceptional views of this highly sought bird seemed to be an auspicious beginning to our day.
We were headed out to South Padre Island in hopes that stiff north winds that had prevailed overnight would bring down migrants. As we came off the causeway onto the island, we paused at a mangrove edged mudflat. The first thing we noticed was that Scissor-tailed Flycatchers were everywhere—sitting on the mud, perched in the small mangroves, and hovering low against the north winds in search of food. An impressive 48 of these magnificent birds were in view at one spot! I turned to the group and said, “Wow, I think this is going to be good!” As we pulled back out onto the main road, a flock of 200 or more Franklin’s Gulls came cruising in low right in front of us. My level of anticipation was now skyrocketing. Moments later we arrived at a migrant trap called Sheepshead. I could tell by the number of birders present that there would be plenty of birds. Warblers hopping around on the paved street near the parking area seemed to verify that feeling. Stepping out of the van, I quickly saw several male Baltimore Orioles and a couple of Orchard Orioles (25 for the day) flitting through the tops of the mesquites. I was trying to get folks on those when someone called out, “Black-throated Green Warbler next to a Northern Parula.” We were just getting views of these warblers, when from across the street we heard the call, “Indigo and Painted buntings side by side.” For the next hour or so, we enjoyed the dizzying pace, moving around this small brushy lot and adding one new bird after another. A blazing red Summer Tanager arrived, and right below it a striking Hooded Warbler. To the right a Kentucky Warbler skulked through the underbrush, as did a Gray Catbird and a Swainson’s Thrush. A Blue-winged Warbler showed off in the open, as did several Black-and-white Warblers, Northern Parulas (20 for the day), Nashville Warblers, and Common Yellowthroats. Great Crested Flycatcher, White-eyed and Red-eyed vireos, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher—the parade of new birds went on and on.
Read Barry’s full report in his Field Report.