Scarlet tanagers appeared as flames on branches in Sabine Woods while cinnamon-toned American avocets bobbed in the surf for snacks at Sea Rim State Park.
Spring migration makes Port Arthur a birding hot spot, as those on a FeatherFest field trip to the area recently experienced. Sightings should be top-notch through early May, Glenn Olsen, trip leader, said.
He guided attendees through the famous woods where birders were fascinated to get close to a summer tanager rummaging in the leaves. She was exhausted from her long flight over the Gulf of Mexico and the group sympathized. A ruby-throated hummingbird darted low near evening primrose along the roadside as the birders scanned the coastal prairie for red-winged blackbirds.
Sea Rim State Park’s surf was the next stop. Birders experience the beach at a more relaxed pace than other visitors, pausing along the boardwalk entrance to train binoculars at noisy coots. Once they made it to the sand, they eyed patches of plovers, terns and gulls that captivated them for long stretches.
Down the road the bus made a slow drive through McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge as passengers scouted for blue grosbeak resting on windblown cane. Olsen trained his scope on neotropic cormorant balancing on a wire, then began to file back onto the bus. Someone spotted a least bittern and it was back off the bus to get a look at that bird as it settled into cane along a water-filled ditch.
It was back to Sabine Woods for sandwiches and sightings of scarlet tanager, yellow-rump warbler and waxwing landing in the mulberry patch.
They couldn’t resist one more round at Sea Rim State Park’s Gambusia Nature Trail boardwalk. As the sound of gulf waves hitting the beach supplied ambience, tall canes insulated birders for more sightings that included a baby gator and a very fully grown one.
Fill up your checklist in Port Arthur this spring. While in town, visit Museum of the Gulf Coast for a look at the area’s broad history. The museum also features local legends including sports great Jimmy Johnson and musical treasures such as Tex Ritter, The Big Bopper and Janis Joplin.