I tried to chase down the Texas flamingo pair but had no luck.
We are getting close to making the move to our summer place in North Carolina and I had to deliver some furniture and boxes of other stuff there, so I decided to combine the trip with chasing some birds along the way.
My first target was the famous Greater/American Flamingo pair that have been hanging out along the central Texas coast this winter. Almost all of the sporadic reports had been of sightings in areas where access is only by boat and no sightings were newer than several months, so I was excited to read an eBird report of the birds on a unit of Aransas National Wildlife Refuge that is accessible by land.
The birds were seen on the Whitmire Unit, and although the area is accessible by vehicle, unfortunately that unit is not open to the public. The area was not far off my intended route to North Carolina, so I decided to try to see what I could do anyway.
As it turns out, I couldn’t do much. At first I was encouraged by the fact that the Whitmire Unit is very close to the Cox Bay areas where the flamingos had been seen by several fishermen and a few lucky birders fairly recently. But a combination of bad weather, locked gates on every road near the unit, and poor visibility of the shoreline made it clear I was going to have to be very lucky to see my quarry. About the closest I could get to the birds’ reported location was three miles, so unless there was a miracle fly-by, I was out of luck. Alas, no miracles occurred.
I continued on toward NC and made a swing into Houston to check on some reports of manikins, both Nutmeg and Bronze, in the city. The eBird reports mentioned locations such as River Park and Schumann Trails so I was anticipating pleasant walks in city parks and along nature trails as I sought the birds. Wrong. River Park is an upscale, manicured housing development and Schumann Trails is a street in a gated community. The reports apparently were of birds coming to backyard feeders in those neighborhoods, but the birds were not readily accessible to me. Again I had struck out.
But, the remainder of my trip to NC was not without its share of birding adventure. I made stops at Peveto Woods in Louisiana and Dauphin Island in Alabama, two of the premiere spring migration birding spots along the Gulf Coast. The birding was good, but I did not find any rarities for my Eight to 800 quest.
As I made my way to North Carolina, Renee was keeping me up to date on the rare bird alerts and there was some discussion of sightings of a Ruff near Galveston. I had seen the reports but had not made a try for the bird since the jury was still out on whether or not it was indeed a Ruff. I unloaded the van and took care of some maintenance issues on the NC place and returned back to the road with a turn-around time of just four hours, intending to make a try for the Ruff on my return trip if it was confirmed. But, sightings ceased and the last I heard the consensus was that the bird was not a Ruff. Strike three on my rarity chase.
I returned to Houston and made yet another attempt at finding the manikins, this time at Buffalo Run Park in Missouri City, but again was not able to find them. I also made another attempt to see the flamingos, hoping that they had moved out into more accessible feeding locations, but it was so windy no self-respecting bird would be moving anywhere, except for long-distance migrants riding the southeasterlies up to Canada!
All-in-all it was a very frustrating trip. True, I saw lots of birds along the Gulf Coast, but none of them added to my life list. That’s the peril of being a “big number birder,” no matter how many birds you see, if they are not the rarities you need, you end up disappointed. I don’t like that kind of birding very much!