Bolivar Beach House Apr 16—23, 2017
Posted by Michael O'Brien
A new offering in 2017, the Bolivar Beach House was a new twist on birding one of the richest stretches of coastline in North America. Our home base, Sandy Orchid Lodge, was just delightful. Aside from being roomy and very comfortable, the house offered a grand vista of the Gulf of Mexico right off the front porch. A little seawatching during morning coffee or afternoon cocktails was always rewarded with a steady flow of gulls, terns, and pelicans, along with small groups of migrating shorebirds and swallows. We were particularly excited to see a Magnificent Frigatebird off the porch one afternoon! In the surrounding dunes and field, Eastern Meadowlarks and Loggerhead Shrikes were setting up territories, often squabbling with neighboring Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, or fussing over a passing White-tailed Kite, Crested Caracara, or Northern Harrier. And that was just at the house!
Before arriving at the coast, we detoured north into the piney woods habitat at Jones State Forest. Here, we successfully located our primary target, the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker. We enjoyed fine views of several individuals around their nesting cluster, along with Red-headed Woodpecker, nesting Eastern Bluebirds, and Pine Warblers feeding recently fledged young. Nearby, at Liberty Park, we scanned the skies for kites and were successful at finding a single Swallow-tailed along with several Mississippi Kites.
During our time on the Bolivar Peninsula, the name of the game was monitoring the weather for conditions conducive to a passerine fallout. As migrants arrive from a 500+ mile flight over the Gulf of Mexico, they will frequently stop at the first available cover if they are met with either rain or northerly winds. As it turned out, rainy conditions prevailed during our first morning, clearing up in the afternoon. Our first clue that birds were arriving was seeing a Kentucky Warbler flitting through some shrubs out in the salt marsh! Although clearing conditions allowed many birds to overfly the coast, we were treated to a nice little fallout on our first afternoon at High Island. Most memorable were dozens of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds swarming around bottlebrush flowers, and as many Eastern Kingbirds, Indigo Buntings, and orioles feasting on fruiting mulberries. The following morning, we hit another nice patch of migrants at a private residence in Port Bolivar. Dozens more Indigo Buntings sparkled in the morning light as they fed in the driveway, and they were joined by Blue and Rose-breasted grosbeaks, Dickcissel, and several species of warblers including Prothonotary and Blackpoll.