Eleven intrepid member birders set out on June 22 for what turned out to be a nine-day trip to Minnesota. The principal objective was to observe breeding Common Loons on Lake Vermilion and explore the birds in the nearby land areas. The headquarters were at the Spring Bay Resort on the northwest corner of the lake. The group had the full time use of a 13-passenger pontoon boat.
In common with most lakes in the northern tier of the middle part of the United States, there are lots of nesting Common Loons, and the trip was timed to coincide with the hatching of baby loons. The loons are reasonably tolerant of boats – the lake is a popular fishing destination – and allowed quite close approach. There are also nesting northern Bald Eagles and one memorable sight was to watch an eagle swimming! Common Goldeneyes are a common nesting species, and Trumpeter Swans are present. On land, two of the sought after species are woodpeckers: the Three-toed Woodpecker, and the rarer Black-backed Woodpecker, also a species with only three toes, and both very restricted in their US range.
Other species that we see in Southeast Texas in migration only nest in the area, including many warblers, Bobolinks and other species.
We will plan on having the doors open by 6:00 p.m. and the program will start at 7:00 p.m. sharp. We thank Beaumont Convention and Visitors Bureau for providing the refreshments for this meeting.
Our leaders will be there from about 8:30 a.m. Hopefully, this will be close to a peak in this year's Broad-winged Hawk migration, but there will always be some hawks. Any day from mid-September through mid or late October should produce a good number of migrating hawks.
To reach the Smith Point Hawk Watch site from Winnie, take Highway 124 south towards High Island. After 12 miles, turn right on FM1985 and follow it about 14 1/2 miles until it meets FM562. Follow FM562 14 miles to Smith Point. Continue straight until almost reaching the bay, and turn left, bearing left again to the parking area next to the Hawk Watch Tower on the Candy Abshier Wildlife Management Area. It takes at least 90 minutes from the Golden Triangle to reach the site. This Field Trip is much more a come and go as you wish trip, and help on hawk identification is always available on the tower during Hawk Watch season!
Our leaders may lead a group into the nearby woods looking for migrants, but you may stay on the tower if you wish. Mosquitoes are not normally a problem on the tower. Availability of food and fuel is essentially non-existent in Smith Point, so bring your lunch!
Historically, the peak of Broad-wing Hawk migration was September 25, although in recent years at Smith Point, it has tended to be later and less uniform. The exact peak day probably depends more on the weather on the migration path from Pennsylvania down to east Texas, and particularly on the two or three days prior. Should a cold front pass through, the days immediately following usually have a north wind, and there tend to be more migrating hawks of all species on those days. For more information, contact Steve Mayes (email@example.com).
The Smith Point Hawk Watch is conducted every day from August 15 through the end of October by the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory. If you cannot make it on this day, you can always go yourself or with friends, as there will always be identification help on the tower.
The day after a late September cold front – often the first fall cold front of the season – often produces a good number of hawks.