Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hail Mary Pass

Wednesday afternoon I noticed about 2:30 pm a new alert for a Year Bird from in my inbox. This week has been frustrating, report after report of migrants I can't chase, Canada Warbler and Mourning Warbler mostly. Sprinkle in few exotics like Scaly-breasted Munia and you have my week so far.

A Big Year is all about taking advantage of opportunity, and you make opportunity by keeping abreast of what's being seen where. So I checked the email again. What! Red Phalarope! At a public location! In the next half hour I secured the needed permissions, wife, boss, in that order, to chase the bird.

I spent the afternoon watching picture after picture posted of the bird on Facebook. At least the bird is being seen easily.

I wasn't ready to get up when the alarm sounded at 3 am. Still I was out of the house and headed north by 3:30 am. It was an uneventful drive to Dallas.

Red Phalarope, White Rock Lake, Dallas
"Mirror Mirror in the Lake Who's
the prettiest phalarope of all?"
With just 8 miles to go on the GPS traffic came to a halt in Dallas morning rush hour. At 7:42 am with 6 miles on the GPS Chris Runk called telling me they had the bird staked out. Could traffic move any slower?

I got there and Chris point "There's your bird". Red Phalarope for Year Bird 457! This was a badly needed review species too. I'm way behind in the number of review species I need for the year, this makes 11 and I figure I need 22.

A few minutes later Dennis Shepler called. He had an Eastern Whip-poor-will at Sabine Woods in Port Arthur. Lets see, its about 350 miles from White Rock Lake. Then Dennis sends a message that there was a Canada Warbler there to. A Big Year is about finding opportunity and taking advantage of it. Those birds should be refindale if I get there today. Time to roll! Wheels up and I was southbound by 9 am.

About half way there Dennis called again, John Whittle had heard what he thought was a Mourning Warbler. That's three species I need for the year.

The drive went smoothly and five and half hours later I pulled up to Sabine Woods at 2:30 pm. As I walked in the gate an Ovenbird greeted me. I took that as a good omen.

In the car I reviewed the chip notes of a Mourning Warbler. I walked to the first T intersection of the trail and I thought the phone has started playing in my pocket. I took it out, nope it was locked. I located the bird, Yes! Mourning Warbler was Year Bird 458!

Organic mosquito repellent.
Sometimes birding isn't pretty.
I checked the drip real fast and realized, that unlike Sunday, Sabine Woods was not mosquito free. I headed back to the car while chasing a Great Crested Flycatcher down the trail. I put on long sleeves and because the mosquitoes would not leave my ears alone, a bandanna to cover my face. I looked like a train robber.

I started working the western side if the Woods. Right away I spooked a Chucks-will's-widow. I started moving as quietly as I could. A couple of empids showed themselves and a pair of Yellow-billed Cuckoos.

Then I spooked another nightjar. I didn't get a good look. I relocated it and this time as it flew out of sight I could see it was much smaller and it had big white tail corners! Eastern Whip-poor-will was Year Bird 459! I really had though this was a bird I wasn't going to get this year.

I worked my way to the far west end of the woods. Right in the southwest corner of the woods I completed the hat trick - Canada Warbler for Year Bird 460! What a difference four days make on my luck.

I had a few minutes before I had to head home. I checked the one part of the woods I hadn't checked while a Broad-winged Hawk circled overhead. Nothing new so I decide to call this epic chase day closed. By the time I got home I had driven 700 miles! Dennis had thrown me a Hail Mary pass and somehow I drove to the end zone and caught it.


  1. I am reall enjoying these, a big year is so exciting, Keep posting on birds of texas bc that is how I found you.