As spring migration draws to a close on the Upper Texas Coast, we pause to reflect on the unusual and the interesting. A Green-breasted Mango made an appearance at Sabine Woods, on the coast near the Louisiana border. Good photos can be seen here. There are 12 previous records of this Mexican hummingbird in the U.S., all in the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas (except for two slightly up the coast near Corpus Christi, and one in North Carolina!). This bird generated a lot of discussion – Some suggested Green Violet-ear, and others cautioned that Black-throated Mango could not be ruled out. Take a look at the pictures and come to your own conclusion.
A Yellow-green Vireo was also seen at Sabine Woods. The sightings of this Mexican vireo in Texas have increased since it was first found in 1992. All records are in late spring, and probably represent “overshoots” – birds that migrate northward in Mexico and travel too far. Just down the coast a mile or so from Sabine Woods is a small grove of willows, about 50 yds. from the beach. These willows are a primary landing zone for many birds coming off of the Gulf. Several Cape May Warblers, a Townsend’s, and a possible Greater Pewee (pictured) were seen this spring. It is interesting that Cape May and Black-throated Blue are routinely found here and in Sabine Woods in the spring, but are extremely rare 15 miles or so down the coast at High Island. Both species are primarily eastern migrants (through Florida), as a majority of the birds winter in the Caribbean. However, some individuals do winter in Mexico, and these may be the birds seen on the Texas coast (but why not at High Island?). Alternately, a lot of sightings are after east winds – perhaps some eastern migrants are directed to the west with the winds.
I haven’t gotten the impression from anyone that bird numbers were down appreciably. Lots of folks had 20+ warbler species days, although I don’t think there were any spectacular fallouts. We may be approaching the day when bird numbers are low enough that these massive fallouts of migrants at coastal “fire-escapes” are almost a thing of the past. They are certainly much rarer now than they were when I started birding in the 70’s.
Photo by Greg Lavaty