Golden Triangle Audubon Bird Alert Update -- April 24, 2010
There were relatively few migrants in Sabine Woods early this morning (April 24), but after 8:30 a.m. or 9 a.m. the number and variety of birds increased steadily throughout the day. At least 25 warbler species were confirmed in the Woods today. Bird of the day was a male Black-throated Blue Warbler, but very early male Canada Warblers (probably two) seen by many and a male Mourning Warbler seen well by a very few late in the day were close behind. Tennessee Warblers were numerous, as were Northern Waterthrushes, with about 25 present, restricting the amount of pond edge available to each to a very short stretch, and forcing some out into the woods, dry though they are. Interesting were at least six (and very probably several more) Nashville Warblers, a circumgulf migrant not usually plentiful in the spring along the coast in our area. There were both male and female Cerulean Warblers, the males being fairly easily seen. A male Golden-winged was present. There were several Black-throated Green Warblers, but Worm-eating and Kentucky, present in large numbers a few days ago were back to "migration normal" – easily found but not there in high numbers. Blackpoll, Blackburnian and Magnolia were seen but were not easily found.
Both Summer and Scarlet Tanager were reasonably well represented, while Wood and Swainson's Thrushes were easily found. Gray-cheeked Thrush and Veery were seen, but probably only one of each. Baltimore Orioles increased quite dramatically in number as the day wore on. Painted Buntings, both male and female became very numerous towards the end of the day with possibly as many as 25 males and 20 females in the Woods. Great Crested Flycatchers were more numerous than they have been, and there were some Eastern Wood-Pewees around.
Other interesting migrants included Western Kingbird everywhere: in the back of the Woods, along 87, and along the roads in McFaddin NWR. At least 16 were counted by this observer (and there were surely more). Lark Sparrows and Chipping Sparrows were also along the same road edges, with at least 14 Lark and 16 Chipping. A Clay-colored Sparrow was seen in McFaddin. Several groups of 9 to 12 Dickcissels, mostly males, were moving around along Highway 87 in the afternoon.
The front came through this morning on schedule, and continued moving into the Gulf. It almost seems as if today's migrants started arriving at about 9 a.m. just after the front passed. Almost all the moisture was and remains ahead of the front. The build up of birds during the day may have reflected birds reaching the coast to the west of the Woods gradually moving into them. Tonight, there is substantial cloudiness NW to SW over the central Gulf ahead of the front and some not far offshore from the northern Yucatan. But with Merida winds SE at 17 mph, the birds may well leave. It appears the birds at 3000 ft will have about a 30 mph tailwind for the first half of the crossing and a 20 mph headwind for the rest. They may have less of a headwind if they drop down to near sea level halfway across. The wind direction as forecast is strongly influenced by the deep low pressure center forecast to be over Illinois tomorrow afternoon. The combined effect might put the birds on the Texas coast in the afternoon sometime. The wind on the Texas coast will have a strong westerly component at that time. With winds in the 20-30 mph range and bird flight speeds in the 25-30 mph range, it is difficult to make predictions, and it may be that the journey time will be strongly influenced by factors such as exact time of departure and altitude.
With thanks for reports from Steve Dillinger, John Haynes, Sherrie Roden, Steve Mayes and others.
John A. Whittle