Friday, April 12, 2013

Texas - Day One

Thunderstorms, forty-five degrees, a stiff northern wind and rain came as a shocking start to the beginning of our Birdfinders Texas tour. The weather was bad enough for our Whooping Crane boat tour to be postponed until early afternoon. Thankfully everything worked out. By 1pm the wind had dropped and the temperature had already reached the upper sixties.

The morning could only be decsribed as raw. Clear, cold air moved in behind the rain-bearing front which moved SE across Aransas Bay. As a result, migration filled the air for much of the morning as wave upon wave of Franklin's Gulls moved low and fast into the brisk northerlies. A flock of about 25 Scissor-tailed Flycatchers hunkered low down in the salt marshes waiting for the worst of the weather to pass, and then a stream of 300 Mississippi Kites passed low over the oaks in much the same manner as the Franklin's Gulls had done all morning.

Franklin's Gulls - finding refuge with local Laughing Gulls in a parking lot puddle, Fulton Harbor, TX.
Franklin's Gulls - in migration, Fulton,TX.

American Golden Plover - Goose Isalnd SP, TX.

 Migrants overhead - Anhinga and Broad-winged Hawk together over Goose Island SP.TX.

 Mississippi Kites - small part of a stream of 300 birds, Fulton, TX.

Reddish Egrets - pair of white morphs, Aransas Bay, TX.

Swainson's Hawk - light morph, Goose Island, TX.

Whooping Crane and Great Egret - Aransas Bay, TX.

Later, raptor migration became even more evident as Swainson's Hawks (50+) and Broad-winged Hawks (1500+) began passing north in significant numbers over Goose Island State Park. A lucky few in our party also spotted a brief Swallow-tailed Kite passing north over the local gas station, a bird sadly missed by most of the group. Surprisingly few landbird migrants seemed to be involved but odds and ends included six American Golden Plovers at Goose Island and a constant stream of Cliff, Cave, Tree, Barn and Northern Rough-winged Swallows that continued for pretty much the whole day.

The afternoon was spent in more relaxed fashion aboard "The Skimmer" with Captain Tommy Moore. Whooping Cranes were the main target and seen well as always. But many others species were seen besides the cranes including White-tailed Hawks, Crested Caracara, Long-billed Curlew, Wilson's and Piping Plovers, Seaside Sparrow and a fantastic array of terns including multiple Gull-billed and Least Terns.

A most interesting first day in Texas, especially after the initial disappointment of being 'weathered out' for the morning boat excursion.

My personal highlight would have to be the fantistic flocks of handsome Franklin's Gulls which seemed to be moving north all day long. We estimated about 1500 birds.

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