American Alligator


Texas Adventure
10-24 Apr 2004
Narrated by Henry Detwiler

Barry & Margie Hawthorne, Ron Nelson, and I enjoyed two weeks and 2600 miles of birding in Texas. 
species -- complete list at end of page 1
Click on thumbnail pictures for full-sized shots. Numbers refer to locations on the Texas Map on Page 1.

TUESDAY, 20 Apr 04 
Since we were so close, we took an early morning hike in W.G. Jones Forest again.  Hooded Warblers sang prolifically, but avoided all attempts to be seen.  Fortunately we had better luck with others, like Wood Duck, Chestnut-sided Warbler, and Summer Tanager.
A couple of hours northeast took us to our first patch of the "Big Thicket" (19), where we finally got to see our Hooded Warbler high up in a tree.  Another nice treat was this finely plumaged Painted Bunting.  A visit to the newly opened Big Thicket Visitor Center revealed it be an informational treasure trove.

Painted Bunting


Hooded Warbler

Pitcher Plant

Equipped with maps and brochures, we set out to see Pitcher Plants and Sundews, both carnivorous plants.  Shortly thereafter, we saw the retiring Swainson's Warbler, and later still the Bachman's Sparrow, restricted to the southern belt of Piney woods.

Margie, Barry, & Ron 
in the Big Thicket

WEDNESDAY, 21 Apr 04 
We drove straight to High Island (20) this morning, but southerly winds made for few warblers--the only sightings were Blackpoll and a female Hooded.  Smith Oak Woods had a fine rookery going, but also proved to be lacking in migrants.
Yellow-billed Cuckoo at High Island Pond

Fulvous Whistling-Duck
After a tasty picnic in the woods, we drove a short distance to Anahuac NWR (21).  Here we added more lifers and great birds for the trip.  This was THE spot for Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Purple Gallinule, and Least Bittern.

As we scrutinized and worked the cattails, we coaxed this King Rail out for several brief views.  In the Yellow Rail Prairie, Ron and I attempted in vain to flush the little guys.  All I managed to flush was a 4-foot alligator, who wheeled around and grinned at me with shiny teeth.  Fortunately, we got a Seaside Sparrow farther down the road!

King Rail

THURSDAY, 22 Apr 04

Clapper Rail

The next morning saw us back at High Island once again--but still no new warblers.  Fortunately, a Sedge Wren seen from the boardwalk was a new bird for Barry & Margie.  So we moved along to the coast towards Bolivar Flats (22).  This cooperative Clapper Rail was along the way, perched up on the edge of a milk carton.

Bolivar Flats was teeming with bird life!  Least Terns were nesting and dive-bombing intruders--we saw several eggs in their scrapes.  Farther along the beach we added Black Skimmer, a single Red Knot, more Reddish Egrets and other waders, avocets, dowitchers, sandpipers, and all manner of plovers:  Wilson's, Snowy, Semipalmated, Piping, & Killdeer.  In the Spartina grass marsh we found our real targets, good numbers of Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrows.

Wilson's Plover

Least Tern

Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow


 FRIDAY, 23 Apr 04

Today was our last full day!  We started out at Taylor Bayou and before long Barry had his prize Prothonotary Warbler eyeball to eyeball.  To top it off, a Yellow-throated Warbler sang at the top of a cypress.  Back at High Island, Barry and Margie waited out an Ovenbird and an American Redstart while Ron and I found a flock of White-rumped Sandpipers back at Anahuac.

Roseate Spoonbills
Smith Oaks Rookery

We picnicked at Smith Oaks again, and then roamed the woods in search of new birds.  Blue-winged Warbler, orioles, Scarlet & Summer Tanagers, and Gray-cheeked Thrush were hard-won birds.  We also spent more time looking at the fine birds at the rookery, and watching the alligators down below, who were also watching the birds!


SATURDAY, 24 Apr 04 
Clouds and rain returned once again as we headed north to Liberty in search of Swallow-tailed Kites.  No kites, but we saw a Red-shouldered Hawk, and watched a cottonmouth drag a dead frog back to its watery lair.  Shortly after lunch we said our goodbyes at the Houston airport.  It was an excellent trip, with good friends and good birds--I can't wait until next time!


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Photos Henry D. Detwiler