Southeast TX trip (04/22-04/26/2011)

From 04/22-04/26/2011 with Mike Fleming and Stefan. Select pictures are at:

SO – Smith Oaks (High Island)
BF – Bolivar Flats
BS – Boy Scout Woods (High Island)
SW – Sabine Woods (Sabine Pass)
AN – Anahuac NWR
GS – Gore Store Rd (Big Thicket)
BO – Boykin Springs (Angelina NF)

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (near Sabine Pass)
Fulvous Whistling-Duck (2 at AN)
Mottled Duck (AN)
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Northern Bobwhite (1 calling at BO)
Pied-billed Grebe
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Neotropic Cormorant (SO)
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Cattle Egret
Reddish Egret (BF)
Green Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
White Ibis
White-faced Ibis
Roseate Spoonbill
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
Swainson’s Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk (1 above Kirby Nature Trail, Big Thicket)
Crested Caracara (SW)
Yellow Rail (1 at AN)
Clapper Rail (1 at Yacht Basin Rd; another possibly hybrid bird off SH124)
Purple Gallinule (SO)
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Piping Plover (Bob Rd)
American Oystercatcher (1 at Rollover Pass)
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Solitary Sandpiper (2 at BW)
Marbled Godwit
Ruddy Turnstone
Red Knot (many at Bob Rd)
Least Sandpiper
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper (several at Sea Rim SP)
Short-billed Dowitcher
Laughing Gull
Herring Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Gull-billed Tern (2 at 108 loop near BF)
Caspian Tern
Royal Tern
Sandwich Tern
Common Tern
Forster’s Tern
Black Tern (several at Bob Rd and Rollover Pass)
Least Tern
Black Skimmer (Rollover Pass)
Rock Dove
Eurasian Collared-Dove
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove
Inca Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Great Horned Owl (1 chick at Rook Woods, BW)
Common Nighthawk
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Red-cockaded Woodpecker (BO)
Piliated Woodpecker (Taylor Bayou)
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Great Crested Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee (1 at SW)
Eastern Kingbird
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Loggerhead Shrike
White-eyed Vireo
Yellow-throated Vireo (1 at SW)
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Brown-headed Nuthatch (a few at BO)
Carolina Wren
Sedge Wren (AN)
Eastern Bluebird (near GS)
Veery (SW)
Gray-cheeked Thrush (SW)
Swainson’s Thrush
Wood Thrush (SW)
American Robin (1 near SW)
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
European Starling
Tennessee Warbler (a few at SO)
Northern Parula (2 singing at White Memorial Park; 1 at SW; 1 at SO)
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler (1 at SO)
Magnolia Warbler (1 at SW;1 at SO)
Cape May Warbler (1 female at SW)
Black-throated Green Warbler (1 at SO)
Pine Warbler (BO)
Blackpoll Warbler (1 at BW)
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
Prothonotary Warbler (Taylor’s Bayou)
Northern Waterthrush (2 at SW)
Swainson’s Warbler (1 singing at BW)
Kentucky Warbler (1 singing at Kirby Nature Trail in Big Thicket; 1 at BW)
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler (1 at BW; several singing at GS and Kirby Nature Trail)
Yellow-breasted Chat (1 at BO)
Western Tanager (1 at SO)
Summer Tanager
Scarlet Tanager
Bachman’s Sparrow (2-3 at BO)
Savannah Sparrow
Nelson’s Sparrow (1 at Yacht Basin Rd near Gilchrist)
Seaside Sparrow (AN)
Swamp Sparrow (1 at SW)
White-crowned Sparrow (1 at Texas Point parking lot)
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Painted Bunting (2 at SW, 1 at BW)
Blue Grosbeak (2 at SW)
Dickcissel (1 at SW)
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark (AN)
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
Great-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
House Sparrow

Total: 156 (as opposed to the ‘08 trip with 184)

– Bonus birds: Cape May Warbler, Nelson’s Sparrow and Great Kiskadee
– Running into Sam Woods at BS again
– Due diligence with Stilt Sandpiper identification
– Cleaned up at Boykin Springs: Mike instantly found his lifer Brown-headed Nuthatch, then we got really close to a singing Bachman’s Sparrow and finally I found the Red-cockaded Woodies.
– We did the last rail walk of the season and got 1 Yellow. It was a late afternoon walk, so there was little else calling or singing
– Finding and tracking down a singing Kentucky Warbler at the Kirby Nature Trail
– A singing Swainson’s Warbler at Boy Scout Woods and a Bay-breasted Warbler at Smith Oaks.
Other notes:
– A strong wind from the south (about 25mph+) on all 4 days made the migrants overshoot High Island and Sabine Woods. The number of warblers was extremely low. On the first day at HI we found exactly ONE warbler: A singing Swainson’s … What this all meant was that we had to spend all 4 days working on our warblers and there was not enough time for anything else.
– We tried 3 locations for shorebirds near Anahuac for Upland Sandpiper, but failed to find any. We also were not able to return to the area around Bolivar Flats to clean up our list. We had originally intended to look around Katy Prairie, but ran out of time.
– Big misses: Blue-headed Vireo, Ovenbird, Least Bittern, Red-headed Woodpecker, Upland Sandpiper. None of the usual sexy warblers like Blue-winged, Golden-winged, Blackburnian and Cerulean were seen during the time we were down there.
-We tried a few new sites this time: 1. Taylor Bayou: Supposed to have breeding Swainson’s Warbler (we didn’t get it). Take 124 east of Winnie. Past Hampshire, turn east on Craigen Rd and 1mi to the bridge (which is currently out). 2. Rollover Pass: In Gilchrist. Check the bay side here. 3. Yacht Basin Rd. Just west of Rollover Pass. Go up to where there is a broken-down truck in the reeds to the west. This site has several Nelson’s Sparrows. 4. Bob’s Rd: Several miles west of Gilchrist on the bay side. Great for shorebirds when mudflats are exposed


2.25 birding days in Israel (mostly 4/15 and 4/16/2011)

Northern Israel, April 9 and 15-16, 2011 (a few pix are at

This was a business trip to Intel Haifa which gave me 2.5 hours on the afternoon of 4/9, a few occasional before-work-minutes and 2 full days on 4/15-16. It was a short-notice trip, so I was not able to do proper research for it. I ended up using “A guide to the birding hot-spots of Northern Israel” by Hadoram Shirihai, James Smith, Guy Kirwan and Dan Alon. This thin book was released in 1990 and is not very useful or current, really. On the night of 4/15-16, I stayed at the Astoria Galilee Hotel in Tiberias. This was no-frills, but ok, and the location was central.

On 4/9, I drove to Ma’agan Mikhael (MM) straight from the airport. I had about 3 hours of daylight. While access was to the site was easy, I didn’t know how to access the fish ponds. I ended up just walking in, but was at no time sure that I wasn’t going to be arrested any minute. At the fish ponds, Pied and White-throated Kingfishers were numerous; I only found one Common. Lots of herons/egrets were about, some of them caught in the netting.

In the mornings along the Louis Promenade just outside the Dan Carmel in downtown Carmel, I had good looks at the common residents like Syrian Woodpecker, Palestine Sunbird, Sardinian Warbler, Graceful Prinia and White-spectacled Bulbul. Hooded Crows and Laughing Doves are everywhere. I also lucked up on an Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler that I was able to get photos of.

On 4/15, I decided to visit the Bet Shean area. I started at Mt. Gilboa early in the morning, but failed to find Long-billed Pipit. So, I briefly stopped by Nir David and did get a Clamorous Reed Warbler in an area of reeds right by the entrance to the fish ponds. There were lots of shorebirds with at least one Marsh Sandpiper. Kfar Ruppin was one big disappointment: None of the species advertised in Shirihai were present. The kibbutz was very active though, but it was getting late in the day. The fish ponds were dead, so were the fields except for scores of Ortolan Buntings and masses of Black Kites sitting in fields.

On 4/16, I started early at Wadi Ammud and got Little Swift, Great Spotted Cuckoo and Long-billed Pipit there. This is a beautiful spot and there were lots of birds. Wish I could have stayed longer …  Next stop was Mt. Hermon where I missed every single one of my targets: No Syrian Serin near Neve Atif and no Crimson-winged Finch up the top of the ski lift. There was however a displaying Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush and several Black Redstarts. Cretschmar’s Bunting, Upcher’s Warbler and Pale Rock Sparrow had probably not arrived yet.

I finished the day at the Hula Lake Reserve. I should have come there earlier … Probably the best site I visited. A Great Spotted Cuckoo was in the row of eucalyptus trees en route to the parking lot. I rented a golf cart for about 2.5 hours (don’t ask …), but it was a lot of fun to do the 8.5Km circuit. A ranger pointed out a flock of Collared Pratincoles. 2 Spotted Crakes were coming out into the open it was late afternoon now. A single White Pelican and a few Common Cranes are probably young and sickly, otherwise they should have left a while ago. There were 2 Eurasian Spoonbill as well and lots of Wood Sandpiper and Ruff. A Black Francolin briefly came out for me. Lots of Bee-eaters …

I briefly tried for Eagle Owl at Wadi Ammud at dusk, but came up empty.

List of species (total 116):

Little Grebe (Kfar Ruppin reservoir)
Great Cormorant
Pygmy Cormorant (1 at Kfar Ruppin Reservoir)
White Pelican (1 left at Hula)
Little Bittern (1 at MM)
Night Heron (100s at MM)
Squacco Heron (2 at MM, 1 at Hula)
Cattle Egret
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Purple Heron (1 at MM)
Black Stork (many at Nir David)
White Stork
Glossy Ibis
Spoonbill (2 at Hula)
Common Teal
Pochard (1 at Kfar Ruppin fish ponds)
Black Kite (many in Bet Shean and Hula Valleys)
Griffon Vulture (1 on Mt. Hermon)
Short-toed Eagle (1 on Mt. Hermon, 1 on Mt. Galboa)
Long-legged Buzzard (1 near Neve Atif)
Steppe Buzzard (buteo buteo vulpinus; more than one near Kfar Ruppin)
Osprey (2 near Kfar Ruppin)
Lesser Kestrel (1 near Wadi Ammud)
Black Francolin (1 at Hula)
Quail (1 at Mt. Galboa)
Spotted Crake (2 at Hula)
Crane (a few left at Hula)
Black-winged Stilt
Stone Curlew (Kfar Ruppin fish ponds)
Collared Pratincole (~20 at Hula)
Ringed Plover
Spur-winged Plover (abundant)
Little Stint (Nir David, Hula)
Temminck’s Stint (Nir David)
Ruff (Nir David, many at Hula)
Black-tailed Godwit (3 at Hula)
Bar-tailed Godwit (1 at Nir David)
Spotted Redshank (4 at Nir David)
Marsh Sandpiper (1 at Nir David)
Greenshank (Nir David, Hula)
Green Sandpiper (1 at Nir David)
Wood Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper
Black-headed Gull
Lesser Black-headed Gull
Armenian Gull (3 at MM, many at Bet Alfa fish ponds)
Little Tern (1 at Kfar Ruppin)
tern sp (beach in Haifa)
Rock Dove
Collared Dove
Turtle Dove
Laughing Dove (abundant)
Great Spotted Cuckoo (2 near Wadi Ammud, 1 near Hula)
Common Cuckoo (Mt. Hermon)
Rose-ringed Parakeet
Little Owl (1 at Kfar Ruppin reservoir)
Alpine Swift (Wadi Ammud, Haifa)
Little Swift (Wadi Ammud)
White-breasted Kingfisher
Kingfisher (1 at MM)
Pied Kingfisher
Syrian Woodpecker
Crested Lark
Barn Swallow
Red-rumped Swallow (Newe Atif)
House Martin
Long-billed Pipit (Wadi Ammud)
White Wagtail
Spectacled Bulbul
Nightingale (1 at Kfar Ruppin)
Black Redstart (several up Mt. Hermon)
Eastern Stonechat
Black-eared Wheatear (Mt. Hermon)
Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush (1 displaying at Mt. Hermon)
Blue Rock-Thrush
Cetti’s Warbler
Graceful Prinia (abundant)
Reed Warbler
Clamorous Reed Warbler (Nir David)
Olivacious Warbler
phylloscopus sp (likely Chiffchaff or Plain Leaf Warbler)
Sardinian Warbler
Eastern Orphean Warbler (Mt. Hermon)
Lesser Whitethroat
Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler (1 at Louis Promenade, Haifa)
Collared Flycatcher (1 at Newe Atif)
Sombre Tit (Mt. Hermon)
Great Tit
Palestine Sunbird (abundant)
Lesser Gray Shrike (many at Mt Galboa)
Woodchat Shrike (many at Mt. Hermon)
Masked Shrike (1 near Kfar Ruppin reservoir)
Jay (atricapillus spp)
Hooded Crow
Common Myna
House Sparrow
Linnet (Mt Hermon)
Ortolan Bunting (abundant)

Mostly northern Lake Co, OR (4/2-4/3/2011)

I really had to get away. It had been a bad week. Another bad one to come …

I decided to do the long haul to see my first Greater Sage Grouse in several years. It was 11F this morning just before sunrise at the lek NE of Ft. Rock, OR, but the 57 Sage Grouse didn’t mind. There was lots of activity, with many males strutting around and calling. They stayed around until about 7:45am until chased off by Ferruginous Hawks and Prairie Falcons. I also saw a few Sage Thrashers and Sage Sparrows at various locations around Ft. Rock. The rock itself (i.e. the state park) yielded a pair of copulating Prairie Falcons and a third bird seeming to want to angle in on the action.

The final stop of my trip was the north end of the GW Burn east of Sisters. I had to hike the last 1.5mi in because of snow blocking the road. The snow got so deep that I couldn’t really explore the burn much. Single Hairy and Black-backed Woodpeckers were nice to see, nevertheless.

Yesterday had been very windy with lots of snow showers. Not a pleasant day to be out, really. Summer Lake had its fair share of large white birds, but only very few shorebirds. A small flock of Pinyon Jays was at Cabin Lake.

Mountain Bluebirds are not easy to get close to. This female was concerned with a bug on the ground, so I got lucky.


This Sage Thrasher was doing some morning gymnastics …