2 January 2000
| Very pleasant weather greeted observers as they
assembled in Sabine Pass for the fifth Sea Rim State Park count in the
resumed series. Twenty-nine observers in 13 parties recorded 35,049 birds
of 153 species. This ties the record for number of species established
in the December 1995 count. Five species were added to the species list
for the resumed counts -- Rough-legged Hawk, American Oystercatcher, Solitary
Sandpiper, Eurasian Collared-Dove, and dare we admit it, Rock Dove. Only
the Oystercatcher and the Collared-Dove were totally new, the others having
been seen in at least one of the five counts conducted in the seventies
Conditions were very unusual, with extremely dry conditions caused by the lack of rainfall over many months apparently causing some shifts in the distribution of within the circle. The Lost Lake area of Murphree WMA held very high concentrations of waterfowl and wading birds. While the weather cooperated for land birding, a persistent sea fog, which never did lift, undoubtedly robbed us of two or three "pelagic" species, as a scouting trip the previous day produced, in a single scan of the Gulf at Sea Rim, an incredible 115 Gannets and all three scoter species.
No loons were seen this year, somewhat disturbing as last
year's count produced only one. On the other hand, grebes were back. Over
600 Pied-billed Grebes were seen in a raft on Lost Lake, while both Eared
and Horned Grebes were seen from Pleasure Island. Numbers of both White
and Brown Pelicans were up substantially over totals of recent years. A
single formation of 650 American White Pelicans was seen flying west low
over the water at Sea Rim in the afternoon.
White Ibis numbers were about the same as the past few years, while White-faced Ibis, scarce this year elsewhere rebounded from lows in recent years. All time record numbers of Roseate Spoonbills were counted.
Both Black and Turkey Vultures continued to increase.
Geese, on the other hand were scarce on count day, although other evidence
suggests that this was an aberrant situation, as there are almost certainly
record numbers of all four goose species in Jefferson County this year.
Ducks were concentrated in Murphree, where there were 3500 Canvasbacks,
with lesser but still large numbers of other species. The south impoundment
of Pleasure Island had an estimated 5000 Green-winged Teal. However, scaup
were in severely reduced numbers, as they were elsewhere on the Upper Texas
Coast. Bufflehead and Ruddy Duck were in good numbers, many of the latter
in the Gulf off Sea Rim. No Wood Ducks were seen, unusual but understandable
as there is little of their preferred habitat, but the lack of even a single
Red-breasted Merganser cannot be explained.
|amount of suitable rail habitat in the count circle. Perhaps
that is the problem in that the rails have so much habitat to spread over
Shorebirds have always been a problem. There is little readily accessible shorebird habitat. We do find most of the expected species along the beach at Sea Rim, although the beach is generally narrow and lack areas of mud flats that would attract more birds and possible more species. When water levels are low, as they were on count day, there must be more shorebirds on the west side of the south impoundment at Pleasure Island, in the Keith, Johnson and Shell Lake areas, along the beach of the Texas Point NWR, and on the river bank on the Louisiana side of the Sabine-Neches Waterway. We need to make more effort to access these areas on future counts! There were very high numbers of Dunlins along the beach, and Woodcock were everywhere in Sabine Woods. At Sea Rim, the number of gulls and terns, not easily predictable was above average for most species.
A brighter note was struck by the doves, with Rock Doves along the waterfront on first street in Sabine, and 32 White-winged Doves and five Eurasian Collared-Doves, both in the vicinity of the Sabine Pass cemetery, where the only Inca Dove seen was also found. A good variety of owls was seen, but woodpeckers were disappointing with no Red-bellied Woodpecker found this year.
A hummingbird using the feeders at Sabine Woods was determined with reasonable certainty to be a Black-chinned. In winter, Black-chinned is generally more plentiful along the Gulf Coast than Ruby-throated.
The expected Passerine species were generally present, but not in outstanding numbers, and there were no surprises. Sparrows, however, were plentiful at Sabine Woods and elsewhere.
At the countdown dinner, held this year at Willy Ray's B-B-Q on Highway
69 in the north part of Port Arthur, the consensus was to hold the next
count on Sunday December 31. Thanks are due to all who participated:
GREBE, Pied-billed (1081), GREBE, Horned (4), GREBE, Eared (9), PELICAN, American White (1036), PELICAN, Brown (128), CORMORANT, Neotropic (435), CORMORANT, Double-crested (307), CORMORANT species (9), ANHINGA (15), BITTERN, American (1), HERON, Great Blue (51), EGRET, Great (134), EGRET, Snowy (124), HERON, Little Blue (18), HERON, Tricolored (36), EGRET, Cattle (4), HERON, Green (1), NIGHT-HERON, Black-crowned (55), NIGHT-HERON, Yellow-crowned (6), IBIS, White (166), IBIS, White-faced (333), SPOONBILL, Roseate (335), VULTURE, Black (45), VULTURE, Turkey (29), GOOSE, Greater White-fronted (72), GOOSE, Snow (807), GOOSE, Snow (Blue) (15), GOOSE, Ross's (2), GOOSE, Canada (70),
|GADWALL (712), WIGEON, American (525), MALLARD (21), DUCK, Mottled (22), TEAL, Blue-winged (31), SHOVELER, Northern (442), PINTAIL, Northern (181), TEAL, Green-winged (5727), CANVASBACK (3800), REDHEAD (12), DUCK, Ring-necked (700), SCAUP, Greater (4), SCAUP, Lesser (160), SCAUP, Species (300), SCOTER, Surf (2), SCOTER, species (8), BUFFLEHEAD (250), MERGANSER, Hooded (17), DUCK, Ruddy (376), DUCK, species (472), OSPREY (2), KITE, White-tailed (8), HARRIER, Northern (32), HAWK, Sharp-shinned (4), HAWK, Cooper's (8), HAWK, Red-shouldered (4), HAWK, Red-tailed (46), HAWK, Rough-legged (1), KESTREL, American (35), MERLIN (1), FALCON, Peregrine (2), BOBWHITE, Northern (1), RAIL, Clapper (1), RAIL, King (3), RAIL, Virginia (1), SORA (3), MOORHEN, Common (18), COOT, American (3500), PLOVER, Black-bellied (63), PLOVER, Snowy (7), PLOVER, Piping (6), KILLDEER (97), OYSTERCATCHER, American (3), STILT, Black-necked (17), AVOCET, American (216), YELLOWLEGS, Greater (1), YELLOWLEGS, Lesser (4), YELLOWLEGS, species (2), SANDPIPER, Solitary (1), WILLET (48), SANDPIPER, Spotted (8), CURLEW, Long-billed (2), SANDERLING (900), SANDPIPER, Western (25), SANDPIPER, Least (78), DUNLIN (1770), DOWITCHER, Short-billed (80), DOWITCHER, species (200), SNIPE, Common (4), WOODCOCK, American (6), GULL, Laughing (724), GULL, Bonaparte's (1500), GULL, Ring-billed (1225), GULL, Herring (77), TERN, Caspian (3), TERN, Royal (48), TERN, Common (1), TERN, Forster's (260), SKIMMER, Black (40), DOVE, Rock (5), COLLARED-DOVE, Eurasian (5), DOVE, White-winged (32), DOVE, Mourning (165), DOVE, Inca (1), OWL, Great Horned (2), OWL, Barn||(5), OWL, Barred (1), OWL, Short-eared (1), HUMMINGBIRD, Black-chinned (1), KINGFISHER, Belted (22), SAPSUCKER, Yellow-bellied (5), WOODPECKER, Downy (19), FLICKER, Northern (5), PHOEBE, Eastern (48), SHRIKE, Loggerhead (54), VIREO, White-eyed (1), VIREO, Blue-headed (2), JAY, Blue (46), CHICKADEE, Carolina (12), WREN, Carolina (1), WREN, House (8), WREN, Sedge (14), WREN, Marsh (13), KINGLET, Golden-crowned (10), KINGLET, Ruby-crowned (54), GNATCATCHER, Blue-gray (45), BLUEBIRD, Eastern (1), THRUSH, Hermit (3), ROBIN, American (11), CATBIRD, Gray (11), MOCKINGBIRD, Northern (53), THRASHER, Brown (40), STARLING, European (161), PIPIT, American (9), WARBLER, Orange-crowned (66), WARBLER, Yellow-rumped (150), WARBLER, Pine (10), WARBLER, Palm (1), YELLOWTHROAT, Common (23), TOWHEE, Eastern (2), TOWHEE, Spotted (1), SPARROW, Chipping (1), SPARROW, Field (14), SPARROW, Savannah (96), SPARROW, LeConte's (2), SPARROW, Nelson's Sharp-tailed (110), SPARROW, Seaside (18), SPARROW, Song (26), SPARROW, Lincoln's (16), SPARROW, Swamp (65), SPARROW, White-throated (73), SPARROW, White-crowned (12), CARDINAL, Northern (66), BLACKBIRD, Red-winged (1511), MEADOWLARK, Eastern (45), GRACKLE, Common (76), GRACKLE, Boat-tailed (733), GRACKLE, Great-tailed (189), GRACKLE, species (25), COWBIRD, Brown-headed (50), GOLDFINCH, American (35), SPARROW, House (91), SPECIES, total (153), INDIVIDUALS, total (34549),|