It is April and birders are anxiously awaiting the first big ‘fall out’ of spring migration. Fall out is a term used by birders when there is a significant weather event that results in large numbers of northward migrating birds being forced to land along the coast and thus “falling out” of the sky. Birds begin their northward migration based on many internal and external signals but without the benefit of weather forecasts from NOAA with warnings about spring frontal systems approaching. When they depart the Yucatan peninsula in favorable conditions, they have no way of knowing what awaits them. If they are lucky, the favorable conditions continue for their 14 + hour flight across the Gulf of Mexico and they reach the Texas coastline and keep going to the interior of the state where food supplies are plentiful. As they tire, they land to seek food, water, and rest before continuing their migration. Sometimes due to adverse weather conditions, they are forced to land at the first indication of suitable habitat with vegetation for cover and a place for insects to live, and water.
Quintana, Texas is one of those locations on the coast where there is a small amount of suitable habitat and fresh water. In some years, Quintana offers really good birding opportunities and in others, the conditions are such that birds for the most part overfly the coast and do not land. It’s always a good idea to check it out though because the only given is that if you don’t you won’t see those beautiful little colorful warblers and all the orioles, buntings, grosbeaks and flycatchers. If you want to take your chances and checkout Quintana, here is some info to help you get started.
Each day during the month of April, the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory is hosting a visitor’s station next to the city office in Quintana. To get there drive south on FM 1495 out of Freeport, go over the bridge crossing the Intracoastal Waterway and then turn left at the stop sign. Continue down the street passing through the small residential area, and then to the next stop sign where you will see the Neotropic Bird Sanctuary on the right side of the street and our Host Station a short distance ahead on the left. Our friendly and helpful volunteers and staff will be on hand to help you locate and id the birds as well as sell water, snacks, and bird guides. Each day a listing of the birds sighted will be posted.
There are actually three different areas in close proximity that you can bird. There is the Neotropic Bird Sanctuary across the street from our little building with the host station, the GCBO property behind the building and Xeriscape down the street a couple of blocks. All three have open walking paths and benches for sitting and observing. At the Neotropic Bird Sanctuary there is a three level observation tower where you can see into the taller trees and the grassy beach areas where the orioles love to land as well as out into the Gulf. The water features all have fresh water where the birds can bathe and rinse off the salt crystals accumulated during their trans-gulf flight.
We hope to see many new faces as well as our longtime friends in the next few weeks. We’ll be looking for you!
By: Carol Jones