Date: 1/25/17 4:51 pm
From: Petra Hockey <phockey...>
Subject: [texbirds] Birding on Matagorda Island - 2 days, different locations
This is a copy and paste of 2 posts to facebook Texbirds. Photos and maps can be seen there.

On Monday I birded on Matagorda Island from about 10:30am - 3pm. Had the trails all to myself. The route I took that day was not my usual one but I wanted to check a marsh for NELSON'S SPARROWS that had them in the past. It can be muddy on high to regular tides but on Monday the extremely low tide made it possible to traverse the old roadbed mostly dry footed. I only found 1-2 Nelson's and believe that the encroachment of black mangrove has something to do with the low numbers. The beautiful day was made even more special by a flock of 4 GROOVE-BILLED ANIS, an unexpected find at this time of year and especially after such a hard freeze earlier. A GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE was a good find in Calhoun Co. on a barrier island. Cute LECONTE'S SPARROWS are always a favorite of mine and actually set up long enough to snap a photo. The attached Google Earth jpg shows the route for that day. Route and report from Tuesday's trip to follow …

On Tuesday I birded on Matagorda Island from about 10am - 2:30pm. I wanted to check one of my favorite spots for winter residents and scope out the "birdability" for spring migration. The location is called the "North Salt Cedars", a group of salt cedars and increasingly numerous toothache trees, baccharis bushes, etc. that surround a couple of old bomb craters and cover some sand dunes. They are the only group of trees growing on sand dunes on the island and are therefore visible for arriving spring migrants from a long way. I have had High Island-like birding in that area more than once - thus my love for this spot. It is a bit difficult to reach and requires a boat from either of the access spots: 4.5 miles per foot or bike from the old airbase along the North Rd. or a much shorter but cross country treck from Sunday Beach to the top of the dune where the North Rd. ends (see map).
Birding was good despite the less than ideal time of day. Some additional tracks cut through the vegetation by TPWD personnel to aid with access for hunting helped to reduce the need for bushwhacking (see map). A very pale KRIDER'S and very dark HARLAN'S spanned the spectrum of Red-tailed Hawk colors. Several PALM WARBLERS (photo) were all the bright yellow Eastern birds. A BROWN THRASHER was uncommon for the island, 4 NORTHERN FLICKERS in loose association were a surprise but not as heart stopping as the big covey of N. Bobwhites that exploded from nearly underfoot. Best bird of the day required a bit of patience and tracking and was challenging to photograph .. an EMPIDONAX flycatcher with bright olive-green upper and quite yellow underparts. I have my thoughts about the ID but would like to hear from other experienced birders what your take on it is. Check out the photos. Do not attempt bushwhacking in this area without good snake guards.

Petra Hockey
Port O’Connor, Calhoun Co.
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