Golden Triangle Audubon Bird Alert -- December 6, 2009
In keeping with the tradition that good birds are found in or near Sabine Woods on Work Days – remember the Fork-tailed Flycatcher in March 2008, and more recently, the Groove-billed Ani in September this year – TWO Great Kiskadees were in Sabine Woods on December 5. (We heard two explanations from some of those assembled – "they were driven up the coast by the snowstorm the night before" or "it's more evidence of global warming." We should probably point out that there was at least one Kiskadee roaming south Jefferson County from as early as August 2004 through May 2005 and again in 2006 and 2007.) A little less exciting, but perhaps still significant was the sighting of a White-tailed Kite along Clam Lake Road near the entrance to McFaddin NWR. While there were Kites regularly along the shore in that vicinity before Hurricane Ike, this is the first report we have had of these birds returning.
West Jefferson County continues to be present good birding. No sooner had we put out last week's Alert when Levie Horton reported seeing a subadult Bald Eagle near South China Road and Lawhon Road on November 29. Today (December 6), I saw an eagle come from the west and land initially on the edge of the woods which are south of the middle part of Mason Road. The bird quickly moved out of sight presumably into the middle of the woods. The area of the woods is labeled on Google Earth as "Turkey Island" and is centered at 29 deg 58.8 min N 94 deg 23.4 min W. (I was located at about 29 deg 59.4 min N 94 deg 23.5 min W when I observed it.) This eagle appeared to me to have the shape of a Golden Eagle, short head, with wings less plank like than the typical Bald Eagle. There was considerable white underneath the wings, and some white on the upper side, probably near the rump/tail. The bird was quite distant and I cannot be sure of anything other than that it was an eagle. Those woods are quite extensive, forming a triangle with two of the sides 2500 feet and the other side somewhat less, and it would be easy for any bird to hide in there! I think where I was on Mason Road is the nearest public access. The other sides of the woods can be seen (at greater distances) from McDermand Road before (south of) the (new) bridge over Pignut Gully and from FM365 between McDermand Road and FM1406 (but there is nowhere to stop on FM365 there!)
Elsewhere on the "South China Prairie" the Sandhill Cranes in good numbers were mostly in the fields west of Heisig Road (and east of League Road). There were Snow Geese on the ground east of South China Road south of Lawhon Road. The two female/immature Vermilion Flycatchers that were noted in the November 30 Alert (still available on the side panel ) as having not been seen last weekend were on territory on December 6, the League Road one just a little further north, and the Willis Road one on the other side of Willis Road. Thompson Road, just north of new bridge over an apparently unnamed gully, had several sparrow species – White-crowned, Song, Vesper and (of course) Savannah. On Old League Road, immediately south of FM1406, Gerald Duhon found a flock of 15-20 Brewer's Blackbirds. They were accompanied by a larger flock of Brown-headed Cowbirds; both flocks were attending cattle.
On Craigen Road, about 6/10 mile from Burrell-Wingate Road on December 6, I came across a mixed flock containing mainly Eastern Bluebirds and American Goldfinch, but also one nice male Harris's Sparrow. The birds quickly flew off to the south to the scattered trees around which the ground has been recently cleared. However, there is much good looking sparrow habitat on the north side of the road at that point, but nowhere anywhere near to stop for an extended period.
John A. Whittle