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Golden Triangle Audubon Bird Alert -- November 2, 2009

This past weekend's cold front seems to have marked the completion of the transition from fall migration to arriving winter residents. Neotropical migrant warblers at Sabine Woods on Saturday (October 31)  included American Redstart, Northern Parula and Magnolia Warbler, all three species which are very rare in November. Other species such as Nashville, Black-and-white and Black-throated Green Warblers, all species well known as late migrants, were also seen over the weekend.  Orange-crowned and Yellow-rumped Warblers, winter resident species, were the most numerous on Sunday.  Other straggling migrant species included Indigo Buntings, still reasonably plentiful, and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, conspicuous on wires both on the coast and inland.  But the last few Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are still around, both at feeders in town and in oaks along the coast.  One species that could not be missed this weekend was Eastern Phoebe. There were large numbers everywhere along the coast. Hermit Thrushes arrived, and on Sunday, three were on the road on the edge of Clam Lake in McFaddin NWR in addition to other in more normal wooded locations.


The anticipated push of sparrows seems to have occurred on Sunday, when Sabine Woods had a few Chipping Sparrows and a Dark-eyed (Slate colored) Junco along with a pair of Golden Crowned Kinglets (to add to the very numerous Ruby-crowned).  Along Highway 87 at the remains of the willows on the north side of the road near the ranch entrances, there were two more Chipping Sparrows and a female Eastern Towhee. Swamp Sparrows (lots) and Lincoln's Sparrows (a few) were again present in the wet northern part of Sabine Woods, while there were high numbers (25+) of Nelson's Sparrows along the "road" to where the old Pilot Station used to be at Texas Point.


Unusual species at Sabine Woods on Saturday included the Groove-billed Ani that has been there probably since late September.  It was as vocal and visible on Saturday, but there was not a squawk from it on Sunday.  An Ash-throated Flycatcher was seen Saturday, possibly the same bird as was seen on the field trip on October 17.  Around midday on Saturday, a falcon with black wing linings but otherwise all light undersides flow rapidly over high, east to west in a glide, wings held back.  This can only have been a Prairie Falcon


In west Jefferson County, raptor numbers are slowly increasing, and Northern Harrier numbers are now nearer normal. There were also a fair number of Red-tailed Hawks.  The replacement of wooden power poles with metal ones, some in the routine course of upgrading, and others when replaced due to the effects of the hurricanes, has deprived Red-tails in particular of places to perch.  The typical Red-tail perch use to be the crossbar of a power pole.  But talons will not penetrate into metal poles the way they do into wooden ones, and Red-tails are not so keen to perch on metal.  Unlike most smaller Hawks, they can't perch well on wires which typically do offer something for the talons to grasp.  With the loss of many trees in the hurricanes, Red-tails in west Jefferson County are now likely to be found on unusual perches, even on 4 and 5 ft fence posts.  Numbers of Savannah Sparrows are slowly increasing.


There are many fields in west Jefferson County with water standing in them.  But only two areas seemed to have many birds. There were probably 750 White Ibis and 1500  Long-billed Dowitchers, plus a few Stilt Sandpipers. in a field on the west side of Heisig Road, about 1/2 mile south of Johnson Road, and another good collection of White Ibis on the west side South China Road, 1/2 mile south of Lawhon Road was accompanied by flocks of Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, more of the latter, and a few Dowitchers.


Thanks for reports from Gerald Duhon, John Haynes and Steve Mayes.


John A. Whittle


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