Date: 3/22/21 8:44 am
From: Joseph Kennedy <josephkennedy36...>
Subject: [texbirds] Coast Birding last Thursday, a few spring arrivals
Had fun driving down to bolivar flats for the dawn ferry Thursday as the
wind had all the lights on Galveston set to make the maximum stop at each
light. Missed the ferry by 2 cars. Lots of wind on the ferry and lots of
spray. Had a good spot to watch from the car and had laughing gulls with
black heads and 4 forster's terns. Lesser scaup, white pelicans and brown
pelicans feeding on the Bolivar side.

Good spots in port bolivar did not have birds but several unbanded american
oystercatchers were on the reefs catching oysters. Fort Travis had 1
killdeer, 7 great-tailed grackles and a flock of starlings. Good flocks of
american oystercatchers under the wall of the fort and next to the jetty

A flock of roosting forster's terns there had 3 newly arrived gull-billed
terns and there were a few more way out by the jetty on Bolivar Flats. The
normal large flocks of royal terns were still missing but there are large
flocks of forster's terns starting to molt to summer plumage. A few royal
terns scattered in spots but no sandwich terns yet.

Tides were way out on bolivar flats and there were few birds seen driving
along the beaches east and west of Retillon. I had expected that the
eastern willets would have been in but only heard a single bird calling and
claiming territory on bolivar flats and several other spots. Local wilson's
plovers have arrived and I was scolded by a pair at least 1/2 miles from
any possible territory

It was a 3 to 4 mile walk around the waters edge with mostly sanderlings
out along the gulf. I watched one flock of maybe 200 birds fly in from the
gulf to join several other large flocks resting. Good numbers of western
sandpipers, dunlins and plovers feeding in the very fertile mud.

The highlight of the area was maybe 125 piping plovers mixed with a few
snowy, many semipalmated and the 3 wilson's plovers and many black-bellied
plovers still in winter plumage. This piping plover is a returning bird
that was banded on the flats back in 2012

A group of 25 piping plovers was feeding on one small patch of mud. Mainly
they were picking up very small things that came to the surface so the
plover did not even have to move to get more

There were little round things and longer bites

And a few birds hit the jackpot with a bigger goody

There were several thousand small shorebirds spread out on similar mud with
most being western sandpipers and dunlin. Almost no big shorebirds. Scaup
and red-breasted mergansers near the jetty. The wind made it hard to take
pictures but the birds really cooperated except when a jaeger (sp?) dove
into a group of ruddy turnstones scavenging at a dead fish and carried one
over the jetty to get out of the wind. It took about 30 minutes for the
flocks of peeps to return to that area. No other disturbance or dread while
I was there.

Headed up to high island and wandered smith oaks and the rookery area. Lots
of birds there putting on a great show. A few yellow-rumped warblers along
the dike there. One calling hooded warbler going up the hill to the drip
near the hog trap. Only a couple of cardinals singing along with a few
common grackles and mourning doves.

Spent a good bit of time on a search in ideal habitat in chambers county
for sedge and house wrens and swamp sparrows. Found none although they
should be singing now and locals joined by migrants.

There were some purple martins at colonies that had been empty on previous
trips. However, where there were several houses, only a single building was
in use.

There is much better habitat out there for beach nesting birds this year
after the storm tides of last summer so it will be interesting to see if
the birds agree when they arrive.

Joseph C. Kennedy
on Buffalo Bayou in West Houston

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