Boy Scout Woods, High Island
This year we visited Boy Scout woods April 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th and 19th, often more than once a day. Birds can turn up here at any time and a visit with no birds does not mean the next visit the same day, will be the same.
After first visiting Jesse Jones Park again we left the motel and drove east along I10, leaving it at Winnie, and drove south down route 124 to High Island. En route we saw a few Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Red-winged Blackbirds, Herring Gulls and Tricolored Herons. About 18 miles south of Winnie we saw the famous bridge crossing the Intracoastal Waterway and leading to High Island.
High Island Badge 2002
This year's badge showed a Worm-eating Warbler so, rather suitably, the first warbler we had at Boy Scout Woods was a Worm-eating Warbler!
We walked around the woods and out to the marshy area and back into the woods. There was obviously far less about than last year but we did get lots of Blue Jays and Northern Cardinals. We found Prothonotary Pond, a place we hadn't come across last year, and things picked up a little – Ovenbird, Brown Thrasher and Kentucky Warbler, all in the undergrowth, and a nearby male Hooded Warbler. As we sat overlooking the pond Helen spotted a Black-and-white Warbler in a tree overhead.
On all our trips to Boy Scout Woods we heard many and saw a few Ruby-throated Hummingbirds – much more obvious than last time and this time some very mice males.
Continuing around the woods we added a male Scarlet Tanager and a male Blue-headed Vireo. In the open area, mostly in the reeds of the marsh, we saw Great-tailed Grackles, Neotropic Cormorants, Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Moorhens, Northern Mockingbird, Mourning Dove and an Anhinga flew over. Heading back into the wood we found a singing male Orchard Oriole.
Back at Purkey's Pond, (near the water drip), there was a Green Heron. It was here we heard that (apparently) one or two Swallow-tailed Kites had been seen flying over the wood and over High Island generally. We set off to see if we could catch up with one when, in the Cathedral, we overhead someone ask his companion if he'd got it. 'It' turned out to be Swainson's Warbler so we questioned, diverted and hurried down the boardwalk to where the bird was, hopefully, being watched. Fortunately the bird was about and after Helen picked it up before me(!) we both got good views of the rufous cap and distinct shape of a Swainson's Warbler. This was one of our target birds and we were very pleased to have had it so easily. This was the fourth day of its stay in the wood – perhaps it would stay until the Birdfinders group arrived tomorrow... sadly for them it didn't!
Back out in the open area we walked along the boardwalk to the covered seating area by the marsh where we had great views of a hunting White-tailed Kite, getting closer and closer as it hunted, dropping every so often with its wings raised and feet extended. Also hear we had Laughing Gulls flying overhead.
Once again returning to the woods we added Gray Catbird by the drip, and, in the Cathedral a Northern Waterthrush, a female Summer Tanager and an Eastern Wood-pewee.
We arrived at Boy Scout soon after dawn and had a look for Swainson's Warbler with no luck. Out towards the marsh we had White-throated and Swamp Sparrows, and in the reeds good views of both two Soras and singing Marsh Wren. Great-tailed Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds were, as usual, obvious and noisy and the White-tailed Kite put in another appearance.
A Brown Thrasher sang from the top of a tree at the edge of the wood and Ruby-throats were more heard than seen. Near the photo blind we came across Carolina Wrens and Brown-headed Cowbirds were heard calling. Two Inca Dove's sat in a tree by the north edge of the wood and a Loggerhead Shrike watched from a telegraph wire along 5th Avenue.
The Birdfinders group had arrived and we approached them from the direction of the main entrance. Pete looked over and stopped dead. After a few moments he called Vaughan over and we greeted our two completely stunned friends. Those few moments were worth the effort of flying to Texas!
After an early afternoon trip to nearby Smiths Oaks we came back to Boy Scout. It was still quite but we had good views of Worm-eating Warbler, Blue-headed Vireo and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo.
A trip to Anahuac split our Boy Scout trips but later we were back for the third visit of the day. The late afternoon had brought a few migrants in to the trees around the Cathedral: Tennessee Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, Orchard and Baltimore Orioles and a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak. A few Tree Swallows were in evidence and two Green Herons flew over. The usual Great-tailed Grackles could be heard and a few Common Grackles were seen.
The oilfields were first visited on the 16th and after we had dropped in there we headed back to the woods, first visiting Smiths Oaks, then onto Boy Scout Woods. Boy Scout was again quiet; highlights were a male and female Summer Tanager, five Carolina Wrens and a fantastic male Ruby-throated Hummingbird sitting in the open and in the sunlight, turning its head to show flashes of the iridesent ruby throat. Finally, back at the water drip we, and everyone else, spent a few very pleasent minutes watching four Armadillos mud-bathing.
The mid to late afternoon of the 17th saw us again at Boy Scout Woods. A few migrants started appearing and we managed to get a female Summer Tanager, Orchard Orioles, a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Northern Waterthrush, three yellow-billed Cuckoos and a Yellow Warbler. Our friends headed off to Smiths Oaks where they had Blackburnian Warbler. We however opted to stay where we were and continued the walk around the woods. We wandered along a path we hadn't done before and heard a song we didn't recognize. Helen said it first went zeeee zeeee (up and down) but thereafter it sounded like nothing we were familiar with. We crept through the wood and found the bird feeding amongst the foliage. I got my bins on it and excitedly said 'it's a Blue-winged'. Then came the expected immediate horror of the situation in that I was the only one to have seen the bird. Fortunately Helen got on the bird, and we both had great views of our first ever Blue-winged Warbler. We were very glad we had stayed here and not gone to Smiths Oaks!.
The 19th was our last day's birding in Texas and, amongst other places, we visited Boy Scout Woods twice. First time we had a fine male Blackpoll Warbler, Swainson's Thrush and the usual Northern Cardinal, Gray Catbird and Common Grackle.
Later that day we were back, and although there was nothing new for the trip about it was pleasant enough: two Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Blue-headed Vireo, Blackpoll and Black-and-White Warbler (this one a very good-looking spring male), a male Scarlet Tanager, Ruby-throats, Northern Waterthrush and an Ovenbird.