Tuesday, April 27, 2021

A Magical Time of Birding on Grand Isle, (Continued)


On the second day of birding, we decided to bird on the Nature Conservancy trail. Dan and Barb joined us, and we had not taken three steps along the trail before warblers started to appear as they flew into thicker brush as we disturbed them. The birds had not yet left!

We slowed down our pace and started taking images of every bird we could and before long we had several new birds.

A blue winged warbler started us out and several more hooded warblers appeared almost underfoot.

Across the way indigo bunting fed in a field accompanied by a blue grosbeak that sat above the field on a branch.

It was great to have them side by side so we could compare their plumage. American red starts were also plentiful, and we got some shots of a female to go along with the male from the day before.

I took several images of different warblers, one a red eyed vireo and the other is yet to be identified by us.

I will try to identify them, (being retired is tough as you never have enough time to do all that you want to do). 

At a stone bench another birder we had met Tom, said he had spotted both a black billed and yellow billed cuckoo. As we talked about the cuckoos a black billed flew and landed on a large branch seemingly posing to have its picture posted on our blog, it was another new life bird!


A little further on, by a pool of water an eastern peewee was busy catching insects and another prothonotary warble made an appearance. The birds were so busy feeding that they did not seem to care about our presence.

Lilies had been planted the fall before and blackberry bushes were in bloom attracting a rose breasted hummingbird.

Renita spotted a magnolia warbler and then a palm warbler, but we were unable to get is picture. Our new friend Tom mentioned that he had seen four painted buntings, one of which was near the trailhead and returning toward the car Dan spotted the bird high on a branch.

It was partially hidden from view but as it moved along the branch, we could see its blue head, bright green back and wings, a bright red underside!

It flew away across some water but with our new lens I was able to get several shots including one in which it looked at us, (first photo), as is to make sure it was far enough away to be safe, (Painted buntings are often captured and caged as pets in Central America.

Shortly after it flew away, my sister Connie showed up along with more scarlet tanagers. We also did get to see our first Baltimore oriole of the year,

It had been another great of birding!  Clear skies

Saturday, April 24, 2021

A Magical Time, Birding on Grand Isle April 2021

As soon as we stepped out of the car, we noticed a scarlet tanager. Its bright red body accentuated with black wings and the solid red head making the bird unmistakable. There were several in the nearby bush and as we watched green colored females appeared.

A fallout had occurred!

In the same bush a beautiful, hooded warbler appeared and posed for a picture.

As we started walking into Lafitte Words summer tanagers appeared,

the birds were everywhere.

Connie and Gary were with us and the moved ahead as we stopped to take more photos.

An American redstart hopped from branch to branch before stopping long enough for us to take pictures.

Every stepped flushed more birds, a Tennessee Warbler

, next a Nashville warbler

, and a blue winged warbler,

you almost had to watch you step as hooded warblers were everywhere and you if might accidently step on one, (a very slight exaggeration). The trees and the ground were alight with warblers!

We caught up to them by a bench and after they talked of a conversation with a birder friend of theirs, we spotted a cerulean warbler

and next a black and white warbler

, one we had seen at High island. Both seemed unconcerned with us as they were busy feeding. It had been a long flight across the Gulf of Mexico, and they were trying to replenish their energy before continuing their migration.

Gary mentioned that he had never seen so many warblers and Connie and Gary have lived on Grand Isle for twenty-two years.

Later we returned to the same spot in the forest with our friends Barb and Dan and the bird fest was repeated. They have started their own life list and lots of the warblers were new to them. As Barb and Renita spotted the birds, they would point them out to us so Dan and I could take photo, (now Renita and Barb both want their own dslr cameras).

Besides the other warblers we did spot an ovenbird 

, and the joke became, did you see the Hooded warbler, as there were so many, (it was a new life list bird for them and a first for Dan to image).

Water was everywhere and we had to wade through shallow puddles. Surprisingly, there were no mosquitos as it had been arid for quite a while. Three days later a hatch occurred, and you needed mosquito lotion to keep from being eaten alive!

Tired from carrying the heavy camera lens were returned to Connie and Gary’s house for another excellent meal. Of course, Connie had baked a pecan and maple syrup pie along with a sugar free lemon pie for dessert. She makes the best pies we have ever eaten.

What a first day birding, a plethora of warblers, and fresh pie! Clear skies

Ps the Bird Festival had been canceled this year, cue to covid but the birders didn't care nor did the local birders! Most have had their shots.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

The Storm, A Nightmare on Grand Isle

The rain began and quickly fell as sheets. The lighting and thunder added to the storm’s din and then the wind blew. It was a wind we had never experienced before as the tree branches seemed to roll in all direction. The windows on the east side of the house began to leak and soon the floor was damp and so we put towels on each sill.

Still the house was sturdy, it had survived through numerous hurricanes, until Renita said she heard a freight train roaring overhead and so we fled into the interior bathroom. The house actually started to shake and roll a bit and the tv swayed back and forth, but that was not surprising as the house is built on posts. We wondered how long would it continue as the lights went out and the island lost all power?

We had left Texas, two days ago and reached my sisters house on Grand Isle, Louisiana. For the first time since covid we were able to hug, although Gary, not surprisingly settled for a firm handshake, (we had all had our vaccinations).

The next day we after breakfast we visited a bit but watched as the storm front approached and decided we should go to the other house. We could see the dark clouds, but little did we realize that it was an approaching Derecho which would turn into a Wake Low.

Now a Derecho is a strong wind front, and the heavy rain and winds were fueled by a depression low, called a wake front. It forms as an atmospheric depression behind the heavy rain amplifying the wind speed. It was later reported that the winds on the island reached at least seventy-five miles per hour, and a ship just offshore later recorded gusts of over one hundred and even two hundred while it was surrounded by waterspouts

After an hour, the rain lessened, and the winds started to ebb. Going outside we could see that the streets were flooded, (six inches of rain in one hour), in both directions and we were trapped where we were.

A police Suburban and truck drove through the water and blocked off the street. Both had their lights flashing. The house next door had lost siding and we had no idea what had happened to the rental house we were in.

For the next two days more fronts rolled in but at least they only added and anther four inches to the rain total. The final straw was when the water supply ran out and now, we wondered how long before things returned to normal. It was another nightmare just like the Texas freeze we had endured.

It was two days later that the storm water receded enough for us to make it to the store. The store had its own power supply, and we were able to buy bottled water and ice. Two days later a convoy of utility trucks arrived and worked to replace downed lines and snapped power poles.

The water came back on the second day, a boil order was ordered and the next day My sister and her husbands lights came on. We did not get power until Saturday night and when we did everyone on the island could probably hear us shout with joy.

We later learned that shrimp boats had overturned while at anchor in their harbor, besides the loss of life on the overturned jack boat.. May their families find their strength and solace.

As for us we now understand what a hurricane is like and we never want to be another one ever!

Now we could concentrate on the Spring Migration, did the birds make it across the Gulf of Mexico, would the birds be here, and did we have a fallout? 

Clear skies

Sunday, April 18, 2021

High Island, Texas April 11, 2021


We finished getting our Durango fifth wheel ready for its summer storage and headed out. Taking a meandering route our first stop was not far away, High island, Texas. Its one of our favorite places to stop and as always, we hoped for a fallout, (a fallout is when the migrating birds flying against a strong north wind across the Gulf of Mexico and seem to fall out of the sky as they reach the first piece of land).

After spending the night in a motel in Winnie, Texas we drove twenty miles south to the Boy Scout Woods, where we paid the eight dollar per day fee, (the Houston Audubon Society collects and maintains the areas). Right away we got to see a Carolina wren as it perched over our heads!

Sitting down by the first drips, (drips are places where a bathing area is maintained by providing piping into a large bird bath structure), we waited and waited. Usually this is a good spot but here we did not see any birds, so we headed north along the first trail.

The next drip was also empty and further on the only birds were a cardinal and a Great blue heron. The most exciting thing was a caterpillar.

Disappointed we drove to the next spot at Smith Oaks Woods. Starting down the trail another birder motioned us over to tell us she had seen a yellow billed cuckoo, a bird we had seen only once before. Joining her at the spot, Dons Drip, it did not take long before two black and white warblers arrived and seemed to pose for some images, after they left they were soon replaced by a black throated green warbler/golden cheeked warbler.

The lady was a more knowledgeable birder than us and said it was probably a rare bird, a golden cheeked warbler. Word spread and soon there were quite a few birders waiting to spot it. Down the trail one of the local experts arrived and after looking at the picture announced that it was a black throated green warbler.

She further stated the golden cheeked warbler did not inhabit the area, ever, (nothing like watching two birders argue, it was civil)!

We later posted out picture on the Bird Id group on Facebook and it was identified as the one she had named, (we fact check everything).

Our next stop was at the Rookery. It is in area where the Audubon Society has constructed a new walk was and many new breeding platforms for rosette spoonbills, great and snowy egrets, and neotropical cormorants, to name a few.

It is one of our favorite places and is so crowded with birds that their noise surrounds you. Birds were fighting over sticks, building nests, defending them, and viscously attacking any intruders! One should also mention that they are displaying their plumage as they attempt to attract a mate.

Some of the egret chicks had already hatched and were calling to their parents to feed me!

We watched several rosettes get into a fight with each other, (it was perhaps bill snapping, a mating behavior, and then getting into a fight with a snowy egret.

The egret came out better as it stabbed the rosettes with it sharp pointed bill!

Meanwhile down below a huge leather backed turtle swam

and an alligator rested hoping for a meal of a careless bird. On a previous visit a rosette got careless, and the alligator made a quick meal of the bird!

After taking numerous images we stopped and just listened to the bird’s racket. Below is a picture of a beautiful tri color heron, and then images of many of the birds in flight!

Where else can you sit among the descendants of the dinosaurs, (they did not die out just evolved),

Too soon it was time to head back to the motel and dinner.  Clear skies


Ps masks were required in large groups. It was nice to see that birders are not like the idiots that deny covid exists and refuse to get vaccinated, we have gotten our shots!