Seasonal Sightings for East Texas Pineywoods

Compiled by Bert Frenz,
North American Birds, Subregional Editor, East Texas and
Texas Ornithological Society, Director, Region VI, Central Prairie, Texas.

Spring Season:  March 1 - May 31, 2000

The 42 Texas counties included in this report are:  Anderson, Angelina, Bowie, Brazos, Burleson, Camp, Cass, Cherokee, Franklin, Freestone, Gregg, Grimes, Hardin, Harrison, Henderson, Houston, Jasper, Leon, Liberty, Limestone, Madison, Marion, Montgomery, Morris, Nacogdoches, Newton, Panola, Polk, Red River, Robertson, Rusk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Shelby, Smith, Titus, Trinity, Tyler, Upshur, Walker and Washington.     

Weather report:

As is usually the case, our spring sightings are linked to dramatic weather changes. This spring, heavy rains 1-4 May brought down large numbers and varieties of warblers, especially to the Central Brazos Valley, and a 19 May storm brought many unusual shorebirds to East Texas.

Bird Sightings


The only Pacific Loon sighting in East Texas this spring was one at Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Angelina on 27 Feb (Mark Adams, David Wolf, Mimi Hoppe Wolf, Rick Schaefer, et al.).

On 2 Mar (David Wolf) a count of 21 Common Loons was large at Lake O' the Pines in Marion. A 30 Apr (Matt Wagner) Common Loon in Brazos is the only April sighting on record for the Central Brazos Valley, although there are three prior May records.

Seeing over a thousand American White Pelicans huddled beneath the Lake Livingston dam in Polk was quite a sight on 5 Apr (Bert Frenz).

A Little Blue Heron on Lake O' the Pines in Marion on 3 Mar (David Wolf) was an early arrival.

A Tricolored Heron was present the last week of May (Darrell Vollert) at a private lake in Washington.

Rare wintering White Ibis in the Central Brazos Valley were still present in Brazos throughout March (Matt Wagner), soon to be joined in April by the usual spring arrivals.

An adult White-faced Ibis in Nacogdoches on 13 Apr (David Wolf) was a rare migrant. Two more were seen 19 May (David Wolf) in San Augustine.


On 12 Apr (David Wolf) a Black-bellied Whistling-Duck showed up in Nacogdoches after a heavy rain. [This species is not listed on David's 1979 checklist for the county].

Two Canada Geese still present 23 Apr (Peter Barnes) at Richland Creek WMA in Freestone were late.

Cinnamon Teal made unusual appearances in East Texas. David Wolf found different individual males on Lake Rayburn in San Augustine on 26-27 Feb and on 21 Mar. He comments, "Two records of this casual migrant in one spring is unheard of (we average one record every five years)." In addition, up to 5 Cinnamon Teal were at Richland Creek WMA in Freestone on 12 Mar (Peter Barnes) and were still present throughout the first half of April until 16 Apr.

A Canvasback on 15 Apr (Ron Weeks) at Martin Dies State Park in Jasper was late.

A Redhead on 23 Apr (Peter Barnes) at Richland Creek WMA in Freestone was late.

A Red-breasted Merganser at Lake Tyler in Smith on 16 Apr (Ron & Carol Gutberlet) was rare and five females on Lake Rayburn in San Augustine on 12 May (David Wolf) were late.

As a result of an ongoing study of Swallow-tailed Kites, we are getting many more reports of this species in East Texas. This spring season included 7 reports in Jasper, 2 in Newton, 1 in Tyler and 1 at the more central county of Robertson on 7 May (Cliff Shackelford & Jason Singhurst) , where it is the first spring sighting and only the third overall record for the county.

A White-tailed Kite, north of its normal range, was present at Richland Creek WMA in Freestone from 17 Apr (John MacFarlane) to 18 May (m.ob.). Another was reported 10 May (Alan Byboth) in Smith.

Rare migrants for East Texas, single Merlins were seen in 5 sightings in Angelina, Rusk and Gregg from 1 Apr to 1 May (m. ob.).

Single Peregrine Falcons passed through Nacogdoches on 13 Apr (David Wolf), Brazos on 28 Apr (Chris Merkord) and Gregg on 20 May (Guy, Joan & Scott Luneau, Eddie Ray).


A Purple Gallinule on 26 Apr (John and Barbara Scannell) at Gus Engling State Park in Anderson was a rare find.

Unlisted on the 1999 state park checklist, a Black-bellied Plover on 3 May (Jason Pike) will be a new species for Martin Creek Lake in Panola.

Peter Barnes reports, "After a storm on May 19, Texas Eastman in Longview (Harrison) was visited by incredible numbers of shorebirds, including 3 unusually late American Golden Plovers, 12 Black-bellied and 1 Semipalmated Plover, 22 Ruddy Turnstones, 8 Sanderling, 50 Stilt Sandpipers, 5 Wilson's Phalaropes, 30 Dunlin, and 500 White-rumped Sandpipers (Guy Luneau, Eddie Ray)."

A count of 232 was high for American Golden-Plovers in upper/middle Sam Rayburn Lake, Angelina/San Augustine, on 15 Mar (David Wolf).

American Avocets made an unusually good showing in East Texas with 60+ on an exposed island in middle Rayburn Lake, San Augustine, on 12 Apr (David Wolf), providing one of only a few spring records and the highest count ever. Thirty-eight were in Hunt on 26 Apr (Matt White), another fifty were in Harrison on 28 Apr (Guy Luneau), 6 in Panola the same day (Jason Pike) and 20 in Smith on 4 May (Peter Barnes).

Willets don't often venture into East Texas, so six reports of 1-5 in San Augustine, Harrison, Smith and Delta is noteworthy. Three of the reports coincided with the May 19 storm.

Atypically widespread reports of Whimbrel in East Texas occurred in May with four reports of 1-10 in Harrison, Smith and Delta.

Rare spring migrants, 1-6 Hudsonian Godwits turned up at Texas Eastman in Longview, Harrison, on three dates from 1-19 May (Eddie Ray, et al.). A Marbled Godwit at the same location on 2 May (NETFO field trip) was rare and late.

A Western Sandpiper in Angelina on 21 Mar (David Wolf) was a very early migrant.

A high count of 325+ Pectoral Sandpipers occurred 21 Mar (David Wolf) on Lake Rayburn in Angelina.

Transported by the 19 May storm, 17 Dunlins were counted in San Augustine (David Wolf) and 30 in Harrison (Guy Luneau & Eddie Ray).

Six Buff-breasted Sandpipers on 4 May (David Wolf), after heavy rain, provided one of very few spring records for Nacogdoches.


Adding to very few spring records, a Common Tern was sighted on Lake Rayburn in San Augustine on 17 Mar (David Wolf) and six were in Harrison on 19 May (Guy Luneau & Eddie Ray).


Common Ground-Doves appeared just north of their normal range with sightings in Brazos on 28 Mar (Ellen Ratoosh), Burleson on 12 Apr (Cathy Liles) and Freestone on 3 May (Peter Barnes). A 26 May (Mary Lee Archer) sighting in a College Station shopping center in Brazos was particularily out of character.

A 6 May (Georgette Guernsey) sighting of a Black-billed Cuckoo in Lufkin added one to very few county records for Angelina.

A rare wintering Short-eared Owl was still present 14 Mar (NETFO field trip) in Harrison.

Whip-poor-will reports covered a very wide timespread, stretching from an early 22 Mar (Eddie Ray) report in Harrison to a very late 31 May (Jim Yantis) identification in Anderson. The species is not known to breed in East Texas, so the May report was considered to be a very late migrant.


For the third season, a Buff-bellied Hummingbird returned to feeders in Chappell Hill in Washington, the first report being 4 Mar (Marcia Effinger). Although this bird is consistent, there is as yet no concrete evidence of breeding.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds appeared in unusually large numbers in the Central Brazos Valley in Brazos and Washington during the first week of May (Marcia Effinger, Kitty Anding, Ellen Ratoosh). Similar reports of large numbers occurred during the same period further south in Victoria (Brent Ortego) and San Patricio (Glenn Swartz).

A first county record for Brazos was a male Black-chinned Hummingbird on 6 Apr (Cindie Dillard), followed by a 1 May (Sandy Dillard) sighting of a female/immature at the same backyard feeders. In the Central Brazos Valley, Brazos Co. is two to three counties east of the hummingbird's normal range.

A wintering Rufous Hummingbird in Brenham in Washington extended its stay to 16 Apr (Scott & Gail Cole). Rufous Hummingbirds are still relatively rare in the Central Brazos Valley, although their numbers are increasing.


Except for Least and Acadian Flycatchers, most Empidonax sightings go unidentified to species. Yellow-bellied Flycatchers are rarely reported in East Texas. This spring brought two reports: 5 May (David Wolf) in Nacogdoches and 6 May (Guy Luneau) in Rusk. A Willow/Alder Flycatcher was at Richland Creek WMA, Freestone, on 2 May and three Alder Flycatchers were singing there on 20 May (Peter Barnes), the same day (Guy Luneau & Eddie Ray) that two were singing in Harrison. A Willow Flycatcher was actively flycatching, calling and singing in a stand of huisache in Chappell Hill, Washington, on 21 May (Darrell Vollert) and provided one of only two or three records for the 10-county area.


Territorial Bell's Vireos were singing in Franklin on 4 May (Matt White) and Nacogdoches on 5 and 10 May (David Wolf).

A Warbling Vireo on 18 Mar (Jimmie & Bob Putnam) in Angelina was unusually early.

A 19 Mar (Scott Brandes & Karl Kosciuch) arrival of a Red-eyed Vireo in Brazos tied the early arrival record for the Central Brazos Valley area and was quickly followed my three other Brazos reports within a week. These were consistent with the Seadrift, Calhoun, 23 Mar (Petra Hockey) earliest-ever report for the Central Texas Coast and the 30 Mar (Lynn Smith & Georgette Gurensey) early report for Angelina in East Texas.

Tree Swallows were nesting for the second second consecutive year at Texas Eastman in Longview, Harrison, with 2 pairs first noted on 5 Apr (Guy Luneau) and 3 pairs noted on 18 May (Guy Luneau & Eddie Ray).

Northern Rough-winged Swallows were early at Lake O' the Pines, Marion, on 3 Mar (David Wolf) and Lake Lufkin, Angelina, on 15 Mar (Nancy Bird).

Cave Swallows nesting in two intact Cliff Swallow nests were discovered 11 Apr (Karen Russell & Joan Dziezyc) in Brazos, providing only the second nesting record. Heretofore, the species was thought to be very rare in the county, but a detailed 1-day survey of all 21 overpasses along Hwy 6 in Brazos on 25 Apr (Bert Frenz) revealed a surprising count of 84 nests in 6 different locations stretching between the county borders. By comparison, the same area contained 367 Cliff Swallow and 104 Barn Swallow nests. Over 3000 Cliff Swallow nests were counted on 18 Apr (Bert Frenz) attached to the US 290 bridge over the Brazos River, separating Washington and Waller.

Wintering Red-breasted Nuthatches remained unusually long into spring with one in Washington until 18 Apr (Bert Frenz & Darrell Vollert), one in Harrison until 1 May (Guy Luneau & Mike Lovell), one in Bastrop until 3 May (Brush Freeman) and one in Smith until 5 May (Peter Barnes).

A White-breasted Nuthatch in Robertson on 27 Mar (Chris Merkord) provided only the second record for that county and the first March record for the 10-county area. A 12 Apr (Ellen Ratoosh) bird heard in Brazos was rare. Until last April, White-breasted Nuthatches were not known to occur in Martin Dies State Park in Jasper. This year Ron Weeks reported hearing or seeing 1-2 on three visits from 17 Mar to 15 Apr.


A 14 Apr (Mimi Hoppe Wolf) sighting of a Winter Wren in Nacogdoches was late.

A Golden-crowned Kinglet still present in Jasper on 15 Apr (David Sarkozi & Nick Block) was a late departure.

Very early was a Veery in Angelina on 19 Mar (Georgette Guernsey).

A Wood Thrush in Angelina on 21 Mar (Nancy Bird, Georgette Guernsey & Lynn Smith) was unusually early.

An American Robin near Chappell Hill on 8 May (Darrell Vollert) was very late for Washington, even though robins are well known summer nesters in adjacent Brazos Co.

Heavy rains brought down large numbers of Gray Catbirds in Brazos and Washington from 30 Apr to 5 May. Counts of 15+ were noted in two College Station parks and others were reported in nearly a dozen other county areas (m.ob.).

A Sprague's Pipit lingered in Rusk on 25 Mar (Guy Luneau).

Big rainstorms May 1-4 brought down high numbers of migrants in Central and East Texas as well as the Coastal Bend. For that day alone, 21 warbler species were reported in Central Brazos Valley along with 5 vireo species and 3 of the 4 migrant thrushes.

Fifty Tennessee Warblers at Texas Eastman at Longview, Harrison, on 28 Apr (Guy Luneau & Mike Lovell) was a remarkable count. A similar number was counted at the same location on 2 May (Guy & Joan Luneau).

David Wolf estimated 50 Magnolia Warblers in Nacogdoches after the 2 May storms.

A Black-throated Green Warbler in Nacogdoches on 15 Mar (David Wolf) was an early migrant. Three days later (Jeffrey Hanson) another was sighted in Montgomery.

The first arrivals of Yellow-throated Warblers were in Harrison on 15 Mar (Eddie Ray) and in Montgomery on 18 Mar (Jeffrey Hanson).

Until last summer, only winter records existed for Pine Warblers in the Central Brazos Valley, with a few stretching into early March. Now we have multiple May sightings and a 1 Jun report (Darrell Vollet) in three Washington locations, all in stands of Loblolly Pines.

Single Prairie Warblers were seen in migration in San Augustine on 12 Apr and in Nacogdoches on 13 Apr (David Wolf). Although locally fairly common breeding birds, they are rarely seen as migrants.

A Palm Warbler on 26 Mar (Chris Merkord) in Jasper and another on 1 May (Guy & Joan Luneau) in Harrison were rare finds.

Rare migrants, single Blackpoll Warblers were reported 28 Apr and 2 May (Guy Luneau) in Harrison and 3 May (David Wolf) in Nacogdoches.

An American Redstart on 12 Apr (David Wolf) was early for San Augustine.

The 31 Mar (Guy Luneau) arrival of a Prothonotary Warbler in Rusk was early; another was noted in Angelina the next day (Lynn Smith, Georgette Gurensey & Nancy Bird).

Very early Swainson's Warblers arrived in the first half of April, beginning 7 Apr (Guy Luneau) in Rusk, but also in Nacogdoches, Brazos and Washington in the next few days.

A reported Connecticut Warbler, a species for which there are very few well documented records in East Texas, was viewed for 5-6 minutes as a birding instructor pointed out the field marks to his class of ten students. The sighting was on 26 Apr (Jack Windsor) 3 mi. s. of Cherino in Nacogdoches. Although photos were taken with a simple camera, they showed nothing due to the 15-16 m. distance from the bird. The same area was checked the next day, but the bird could not be relocated.

A Hooded Warbler on 12 Mar (Louis Debetaz) was early in Angelina.


Four separate reports of Scarlet Tanager in Brazos during Apr (m.ob.) was unusual for this far inland. Single males were also reported in Nacogdoches on 12-13 Apr (David Wolf & Mimi Hoppe Wolf).

East Texas produced many more reports than usual of rare migrant Clay-colored Sparrows; 1-5 were found in eight separate reports for Gregg, Harrison, Hunt, Nacogdoches and Smith from 25 Apr to 26 May.

Of the 14 or so records of Henslow's Sparrow in Brazos since 1945, very few, if any, of these birds were seen beyond the first report. Many of the sightings were by birders who had never seen a Henslow's before. This year, thanks to the speed of e-mail, a 13 Mar (Karl Kosciuch) report of one in Lick Creek Park set off a flurry of activity that allowed a dozen observers to see one and sometimes two Henslow's repeatedly through 31 Mar. At the consistently reliable location in Nacogdoches the last seasonal sighting was 19 Mar (David Wolf & Mimi Hoppe Wolf). Two Henslow's Sparrows were banded in Marion on 11 Mar (Tom Walker) and seen again on 25 Mar (David Wolf & Tom Walker). The last report for East Texas this season was 1 Apr (Don Verser) at W. G. Jones State Forest in Montgomery.

A 20 May (Peter Barnes) sighting of a Swamp Sparrow in Freestone was very late for East Texas and the Central Brazos Valley.

A White-throated Sparrow in Nacogdoches on 22 May (David Wolf) is the latest record for the county.

White-crowned Sparrows typically leave the Central Brazos Valley by the end of April, so three reports in Brazos and Washington during the first week of May are unusual, but the late May report, approximately 23 May (Susan Bame), in Washington exceeds the prior record by a couple of days.

The Blue Grosbeak that appeared at an Angelina feeder on 26 Mar (Nancy Bird) was early, while the 25 May (Darrell Vollert) in Washington was late.

This spring Lazuli Buntings made an unusually strong showing east of the normal range, reaching as far as Atlanta in Cass, near the Louisiana border, on 26-28 Apr (Sonny Long & Beverly Nichols). One in Austin Co. on 26-27 Apr (Sue & Billie Bernard) is only the second record for the county, the first being in the same backyard in 1997. Other sightings include Jones on 26 Apr (fide Lorie Black), Travis on 27 Apr (Jeffrey Hanson), 3 in Bastrop on 2 May (Brush Freeman), Bexar on 2 May (Matt Heindel, Jon Dunn & Rick Hoyer), and over two dozen sightings in North Central Texas (fide Ed Wetzel).

An Indigo Bunting banded 4 Mar (Tom Walker) in Marion was very early and the one two weeks later on 19 Mar (Carol Wells) in Nacogdoches was still early. A high count of 35+ was noted on 12 Apr (David Wolf) in San Augustine.

A 28 Mar (Alan Byboth) report in Smith for Painted Bunting was early.

On 8 May (Peter Barnes) an estimated 1200 Dickcissels at Richland Creek WMA, Freestone, was a large concentration of migrants.

Rare migrants in East Texas, three Bobolinks passed through Harrison on 7 May (Guy, Joan & Scott Luneau, Mike Lovell) and one was seen in Franklin on 4 May (Matt White).

Rare for East Texas, two Yellow-headed Blackbirds were in Harrison on 1 May (Guy, Joan & Scott Luneau) and one was at the same location on 13 May (NETFO field trip).

As common as Great-tailed Grackles are in Central Texas, it seems surprising that they are still so rare in East Texas. A female Great-tailed Grackle was reported at the Longview airport in Gregg on 1 Apr (Guy & Scott Luneau). A male and a female on 26 May (Nancy Bird, Louis Debetaz & Georgette Guernsey) in Lufkin marks the first county record for Angelina.

An Orchard Oriole on 1 Apr (Georgette Guernsey, Nancy Bird & Lynn Smith) in Angelina was early. In Washington, an oriole sang on territory near Chappell Hill in Washington for almost three weeks and then disappeared after 29 May (Darrell Vollert). The next day (Darrell Vollert) a first spring male was found in nearby Brenham.


Mark Adams, Kitty Anding, Mary Lee Archer, Susan Bame, Peter Barnes, Sue & Billie Bernard, Nancy Bird, Lorie Black, Nick Block, Scott Brandes, Alan Byboth, Scott & Gail Cole, Louis Debetaz, Cindie Dillard, Sandy Dillard, Joan Dziezyc, Marcia Effinger, Brush Freeman, Bert Frenz, Georgette Guernsey, Ron & Carol Gutberlet, Jeffrey Hanson, Matt Heindel, Jon Dunn & Rick Hoyer, Petra Hockey, Karl Kosciuch, Cathy Liles, John MacFarlane, Sonny Long,  Mike Lovell, Guy Luneau, Joan Luneau, Scott Luneau, Chris Merkord, Beverly Nichols, Brent Ortego, Jason Pike, Jimmie & Bob Putnam, Ellen Ratoosh, Eddie Ray, Karen Russell, David Sarkozi, John and Barbara Scannell, Rick Schaefer, Cliff Shackelford, Jason Singhurst, Lynn Smith, Glenn Swartz, Don Verser, Darrell Vollert, Matt Wagner, Tom Walker, Ron Weeks, Carol Wells, Ed Wetzel, Matt White, Jack Windsor, David Wolf, Mimi Hoppe Wolf, Jim Yantis.

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