On January 31st, I set off on a two-week trip to Texas. I had booked a spot in a Carolina Bird Club trip to bird southern Texas for eight days, and the plan was to drive there and back, birding as many states as possible. Someday, I would like to bird every state in the U.S. and this trip made it possible to cover ten new ones for me.
This was a nice stop, with a variety of birds, but too close to North Carolina to easily find a new species. I did notice that birds that were relatively uncommon at home seemed to be common here. There were roughly twenty-five Horned Grebes and a similar amount of Common Loons here.
I stayed in Mobile, Alabama that night, and in the morning got up early, ready to knock another two states off my list. My first stop was Dauphin Island, which is well-known for its birding opportunities, especially in the Spring when thousands of warblers cross the gulf from South America and find it as their first opportunity to rest. On the way there, I saw a beautiful pink sunrise, and pulled over to take a few photos.
The local Audubon chapter at Dauphin Island has bought up a number of locations and made them available for birding, the largest of which is the Audubon Bird Sanctuary. There are trails and a pond, and access to the beach. It was birding as usual for a while, but at the beach I could see thousands of cormorants floating together in the ocean, with a continuous stream of newcomers joining them.
On the way out, I stopped at a spot that ebird told me often had Common Goldeneye, a duck I needed for my life list. They are fairly rare in North Carolina, but when I pulled out my scope I was pleased to see three of them. Too far to get photos, but clearly visible in the spotting scope, I was happy to add the first new species of the trip to my life list.
My next stop was in Mississippi and was the Davis Bayou area of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. There is a nice road through a coastal forest with some paths to walk and a location near the shore. I didn’t stay very long but I managed to finally see two Marsh Wrens, which I have been hearing but not seeing for some time. They are very quick so I didn’t get a photo, but this is where I saw them.
I slept the night in a town named Jennings, Louisiana, and in the morning I went to Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge.
In the distance you can see just a small number of the waterfowl at this location. There were flocks of geese flying in by the hundreds and there were easily several thousand waterfowl in total. There was a lot of wind so I did most of my birding from the car, but it let me get fairly close at times.
In addition to the Greater White-fronted Geese in the center of that photo, I saw my first Neotropic Cormorants, Great-tailed Grackles, and Mottled Ducks. To top it all off, a few miles down the road on my way out, I ran into a small flock of Sandhill Cranes in a farmer’s field!
There were ten of them in all, and they let me take a few photos before walking away. Such large birds – I was amazed to see them just walking around in the open on the side of the road like that.
It had been a great beginning of what was to be an amazing next 10 days, with a whirlwind of new species and habitats. Hopefully I will get some more posts out soon.