Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Migration At Last

Back on March 24 I saw that first fateful email of the spring...the one that confirms what you have suspected all along...spring had arrived. But it wasn't the usual "FOS" I'm used to, about the first Western Kingbird or Warbling This is not California. When you read about Blue-winged and Worm-eating Warblers, Wood Thrush, 25+ Hooded Warblers...those are not-fucking-around spring birds.

You see, despite my standing in the birding community (#7), I rarely get much exposure to the epic movements of spring migrants that happens from Texas to Maine. If you want to see a bunch of migrating songbirds in California, you have to go to some bizarre desert shitholes, which is incredibly fun but also incredibly out of the way. You are stoked to see 10 species of warbler, not 20+. And so last weekend I found myself grateful to be living less than an hour from South Padre Island, which is known for it's great migrant traps and legitimate fallout potential. I have never experienced a fallout, and I would be more than willing to do a variety of awful things (most of them felonies and capital crimes) in order to bear witness to such a spectacle.

It turned out I was there on a "slow" day, but I was more than happy.

A few Yellow-throated Warblers were hard to ignore...they have melted my face over and over again for many years now, and this time was no different. I appreciate the epic stance this bird adopted for the photo.

By the end of the day I could no longer deny how crippled I felt by looking at these birds for too long, at dangerously close proximity. But there was another Yellow-throated beast that inflicted much damage...

The first bird I looked at when I got the South Padre Island Convention Center was this Yellow-throated Vireo. It gave me the shakes. 

It's good to see you again, my big-headed friend.

This vireo is superior in appearance to any native Californian vireo. Someone was really phoning it in when those west coast vireos all came into existence. Sure Yellow-throated Vireo seems to have borrowed the exact palate of a bright male Pine Warbler, but it's a winner.

Speaking of vireos that are better-looking than west coast vireos, there was a single White-eyed Vireo at the Convention Center, the only one I saw that day. White-eyed Vireo is by far the most confiding member of it's family that I have ever met, and come in to pishing rapidly and recklessly.

Of course White-eyed Vireo is one of the most common birds one finds in shrubland and forest in this part of the state, but that has not yet diminished my enthusiasm for them. Especially when they choose to sit motionless, on an unobstructed perch, about eight (8) feet away. 

I know what you are thinking. "Seagull Steve...I didn't know that bird photography was so easy." And to that I say, you are correct! Naw just kidding, it's hard as fuck. Here is a failed photo of a Black-and-white Warbler that I actually kind of like.

Luckily not all my Black-and-white Warbler shots from last Saturday were so blurry. This bird is a striking bird. There were a handful of Black-and-whites at the Convention Center and at Sheepshead, but they were so busy foraging nuthatch-style that they would rarely bother looking at you...which is great to see, but not to photograph.

I couldn't believe how many awesome birds were getting in my face...the geri-birding scene there is raging, and this is why.

How could someone not feel moved by such a rear end? Hella intricate and thought-provoking. 

"Every breath you take, every move you make...I'll be watching you." - Scissor-tailed Flycatcher to American Golden-Plover. 

Thankfully, there was much more to see and attempt to crush that day, so expect another South Padre Island post in the near future. Until then, drink whisky and read bird migration forecasts.


  1. This is ridiculous Seagull. RIDICULOUS.

    Perhaps this is nothing new or unusual to you, Mr. #7, but you should know that while you are crushing these many, many gorgeous birds in many, many intimate ways, I am feeling such powerful jealousy the likes of which has not been seen since Cain and Abel.

    Vireos are such a fantastic and, I'd argue, underrated group of birds.
    Alright, enough birder porn for today. I may have to put a filter on your sight of this keeps up.

    1. Ah yes...through the powers of the internet, I can grip off people several states away! Glad these images can inspire some emotions, albeit hateful ones.

  2. As an east coast reader, I love the west coast birds your blog exposes me to, but when your transplant birder lifestyle takes you to a place like the LRGV and an east coast migration, well, I'm looking forward to it.

    Fallout... the other "f" word. Sadly, I've never experienced it either, but birdcast is mentioning the potential for the western Gulf of Mexico, so good luck and enjoy.
    My prediction for your 'best' bird this work season: Black-vented Oriole

    1. I'm going back to South Padre on Saturday...I am trying to not get my hopes up. I read a migration forecast today that said something like "at worst, there will be a moderate fallout"...whatever that means.

      I would love BVOR! Missed it in my Mexico travels.

  3. You're fuckin killing me here. KILLING ME. Why did I get a job? What the fuck was I thinking? There are warblers to slay! I had to muster excitement over my FOY Orange-crowned this morning. A goddamn OCWA. Sigh.... You win.

    1. My enthusiasm for Orange-crowned Warblers wanes a little more every year. Sorry.