This is a basic overview of what is around High
Island throughout the year.
January and February
The birding in eastern Texas
is some of
the best in the country early in the year, in large part due to the
huge number of wintering birds. Sparrows love it here, and Savanna,
Seaside, Chipping, White-crowned, Field, Vesper, Le Conte’s,
and Swamp Sparrows are all gettable. It is not just about sparrows:
Wintering waterfowl include Northern Pintail, Gadwall, Common
Golden-eye, Red-breasted Merganser, Green-winged Teal, Canvasback,
Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Redhead, and Common Loon. Raptor numbers are
all higher in winter, with Peregrine, Merlin, Red-tailed Hawk, Crested
Caracara, and White-tailed Hawk all possible.
The wintering birds begin to
move out, but the spring birding picks up
pace by mid-month. The first arrivals include Black-and-white Warblers,
Northern Parula, Yellow-throated Warbler, and Pectoral and Stilt
Sandpipers. By the end of March, migration is in full swing, with birds
like Prothonotary, Hooded, and Kentucky Warblers, Baltimore Oriole, and
Louisiana Waterthrush all having made their first appearances. On the
shorebird front, Buff-breasted Sandpipers start to move through, with
good numbers in the area.
While March may usher in the
beginning of migration, during April it
reaches a fever pitch, with the greatest numbers and variety. Almost
all of the migratory birds from the eastern US may be recorded around
High Island during April, when regular counts of 18 to 20 species of
warbler are not unusual, and 25-30 is possible. Big day counts well in
excess of 100 species are also easy to achieve during this period of
migration madness. Key warbler targets for this month include
Swainson’s, Worm-eating, Golden-winged, Blue-winged, and
Shorebird numbers also hit the roof in mid April, with good numbers of
Short-billed Dowitcher and Stilt, Upland, and Baird’s
Marbled Godwits and Red Knots should also be around in small numbers.
The rail-hunters will also have a great time this month; Yellow,
Virginia, King, and Clapper Rails as well as Sora are all common, while
Black Rails are vocal and become a bit easier to see.
The pace slows by mid-May, with
the bulk of migration tapering off by
the third week. Late arrivals like Chestnut-sided, Bay-breasted, and
Magnolia Warblers, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Veery, and the Empidonax
flycatchers. White-rumped Sandpipers are more readily found this month,
and Hudsonian Godwits reach their greatest abundance. May also offers
your best chance for the uncommon Black-billed Cuckoo.
June and July
come to the Upper Texas Coast to see more than just migrants. Although
most of the passage migrants have passed through by now, there are
still plenty of resident and summering birds to keep you occupied.
Tricolored Herons, Reddish Egrets, Little Blue Herons, and White Ibises
all breed in good numbers in this area. Spectacular Roseate Spoonbills
can be easily seen and photographed in the rookery at the Houston
Audubon Society’s Smith Oaks Sanctuary. Other
attractive breeding birds
include Black Skimmer, Least and Sandwich Terns, American
Oystercatcher, and even the threatened Piping Plover, which nests on
sandy beaches near Houston Audubon’s Bolivar Flats Sanctuary.
August to October
migration on the Upper Texas Coast is more protracted than the spring
migration. In August, impressive numbers of Mississippi Kites flow
through, signaling the beginning of the raptor migration. Shorebirds to
look for during this month include Upland and Baird’s
Sandpipers, and a
few flycatchers come through, like Olive-sided and various Empidonax.
September and October are the height of fall migration with exciting
numbers of Broad-winged, Red tailed, Swainson’s and
Hawks, American Kestrels. A sighting of the less common Swallow-tailed
Kite, Merlin, or Peregrine Falcon could be the rewards for a day of
hawk watching. Challenging fall warblers passing through include
Blue-winged, Nashville, Tennessee, and Chestnut sided to name only a
few. Returning shorebirds include Marbled Godwit, Red Knot, Pectoral
Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, and Wilson’s Phalarope
many other terns and gulls that will spend the winter along the coast.
November and December
Winter months are generally
mild and a great time to be out birding.
The honking of Snow, Greater White-fronted, and Canada Geese heralds
the coming of winter. The musical calling of Sandhill Cranes is a joy
to listen to out in the coastal fields, and the nearby marshes fill to
the brim with waterfowl, including Northern Pintail, Mottled Duck,
Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, Blue-winged teal, and a few Cinnamon Teal
for good measure. It’s a good time to look for wintering
Blue-headed Vireo, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Hermit Thrush, Brown
Thrasher, Bald Eagle, American Avocet, Bonaparte’s gull,
owl, and the occasional Palm Warbler or Groove-billed Ani to make the
day extra special.