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.

Summer Season:  June 1 - July 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:

Birders repeatedly commented on the excess heat with multiple days over 100 degrees and the absence of rain this summer. Yet few saw unfavorable effects on the bird life.

Bird Sightings


A first county record for Least Grebe occurred in Washington when a pair built a nest, laid an egg, but later abandoned the nest, perhaps after a predator took the egg; the observations were made from 14 Jun to 8 Jul (Dorothy Bednarski, Claire Byrne, Monica Byrne) in Independence. [The only other Least Grebe records for the Central Brazos Valley are a sight record on 9 Sep 1998 at Alcoa Lake (Milam) after Tropical Storm Frances and another 11-19 Mar 1999 in Lee. Outside of this area, Least Grebes have been known to breed in the southern parts of the Central Texas Prairie in Gonzales and DeWitt. There are also old, unsubstantiated records for McLennan to the northwest, but the species is not included on the county checklist. Sight records for Bastrop, directly west of Washington, include a 27 Dec 1998 sighting.]

A rare summer breeder, two adult and two juvenile Pied-billed Grebes were observed 29 Jun (Darrell Vollert) near Chappell Hill in Washington.

American White Pelicans were reported this summer in several locations, including 30 at Lake Somerville in Burleson in mid Jun, 22 at Camp Tyler in Smith on 25 Jun (Alan Byboth) and one at Texas Eastman in Longview, Harrison from 10-25 Jul (Eddie Ray).

An adult Least Bittern observed 11 July (Keith Arnold) in Brazos is only the third area record for July.

A rare summer sighting was two Black-crowned Night-Herons on 26 Jun (Guy Luneau, Scott Luneau) at the Texas Eastman facility in Longview, Harrison.

White Ibis were found this summer near Chappell Hill in Washington on 16 Jun and 28 Jul (Darrell Vollert) and in Burleson on 19 Jul (Gary Fritcher).

Wood Storks arrived earlier than usual with a 4 Jun (Peter Barnes) report of five at Richland Creek WMA in Freestone and mid June sightings in Montgomery, Washington, Angelina and Brazos.


Black-bellied Whistling Ducks made good showings in Brazos (Cathy Liles, Barbara Lorenz) and Washington (Darrell Vollert).

A Swallow-tailed Kite report on 8 June (Nancy Bird) in Kirbyville in Jasper is rare.

Independently, a White-tailed Kite was reported in two different Washington locations on 17 July (Claire Byrne, Darrell Vollert).

Mississippi Kites had a good breeding season in Washington with two confirmed nests and 2-3 suspected nests (Darrell Vollert). Sightings in Brazos in early June and late July may have represented another nest or late and early migrants.

The only summer report of a Bald Eagle was one adult in Angelina on 7 Jul (Louis Debetaz, Georgette Guernsey, Nancy Bird).

A summer record for Sharp-shinned Hawk is rare; one was seen in Cass on 7 Jun (Jim Inold) and another in Hunt on 25 Jul (Matt White).

An American Kestrel still present 25 Jun (Randy Pinkston) in Jones State Forest, Montgomery, was late.


An adult Purple Gallinule with a juvenile from 30 Jun to 28 Jul (Nancy Bird, Georgette Guernsey) at Kurth Lake in north Angelina was certainly a noteworthy event since it constitutes both a first county record and a breeding record.

Common Moorhens breed in the Central Brazos Valley, but only in a few specific sites. Country Club Lake in Brazos, which for years produced dozens of moorhens, this year added only one or two chicks to the population. Keith Arnold surmises, "The population has really crashed since the demise of the aquatic vegetation." There was a sighting of one moorhen on 29 Jun (Darrell Vollert) at Hughes Lake in Washington, but not evidence of breeding.

American Coots were present in a few locations this summer: four small ponds in different Washington locations, Country Club Lake in Brazos, Lake Tyler in Smith and Texas Eastman in Harrison.

The Spotted Sandpiper found 7 Jul (Louis Debetaz, Georgette Guernsey, Nancy Bird) at Kurth Lake in Angelina is an early arrival and the earliest county record.

A first county record for Washington on 10 Jul (Darrell Vollert) was also the first July record for the 10-county area for Long-billed Curlew.


Caspian Terns on 26-27 June (Guy Luneau, Eddie Ray) were late migrants in Harrison.

An early arrival and the earliest county record was a Forster's Tern observed 7 Jul (Louis Debetaz, Georgette Guernsey, Nancy Bird) at Kurth Lake in Angelina.

A Least Tern was observed 16 Jul (Mike Dillon) at Martin Creek Lake in Panola.


The first July record for a White-winged Dove in Brazos occurred the 4th (Keith Arnold). While common in other areas, this species is still rare to uncommon in many of the Central Brazos Valley counties.


A Buff-bellied Hummingbird was observed for the third summer at backyard feeders in Chappell Hill, Washington. On 5 Jul and 1 Aug (Marcia Effinger) two were at the feeders and documented on videotape. This is the only location in the region with consistent sightings of this species.

A female Green Kingfisher on 16 Jun (Darrell Vollert) at Hughes Lake was a first county record for Washington. [A brief search of historical sightings shows Green Kingfisher has a westerly and southerly distribution. The eastern edge is defined by accidental sightings from Wise Co. in North Central Texas to McLennan and Bell Co. in Central Texas. The northern edge is defined by a line of sightings stretching from Travis to Bastrop to Colorado to Fort Bend to Harris and Galveston Counties. Now the northern edge of this eastern distribution is shifting further north with accidental sightings in Lee Co. (4/5/98) and now Washington Co. (6/16/00)].


Two Bell's Vireos, rare breeders in East Texas, were observed 27 Jun (Eddie Ray) at Texas Eastman in Longview in Harrison.


Three Wood Thrushes were reported 26 Jun (Derek Muschalek, Rob Thacker) at Little Thicket Nature Sanctuary, San Jacinto.

Nesting Pine Warblers are associated with the piney woods of East Texas and have not previously been found in the mostly Post Oak habitat of Central Brazos Valley during summer. But this year, sightings in four Washington locations (Rehburg, Sandy Hill, Chappell Hill, Brenham) from late May to 28 Jun (Darrell Vollert) suggest a shift in the population or else many warblers that have gone unnoticed previously. All sightings were birds in stands of Loblolly Pines.

Two Prairie Warblers near Willis in Montgomery on 9 Jun (Charles Bryant) seem out of territory.

A Louisiana Waterthrush observed 29 Jul (Darrell Vollert) near Chappell Hill in Washington is only the second record for the county and the first summer record for the 10-county area.


Two Field Sparrows on 7 Jul (Louis Debetaz, Georgette Guernsey, Nancy Bird) at Kurth Lake in Angelina adds to a very short list of summer records.

Summer Blue Grosbeaks were observed near Chappell Hill, Washington, 24 Jun to 20 Jul (Darrell Vollert). Early in August a fledgling grosbeak was turned in at a rehabilitation center in College Station, Brazos, providing direct evidence of rare breeding in the Central Brazos Valley (David Phalen).

Two juvenile Yellow-headed Blackbirds on 25 Jun (Grace Hackney) in northwest Nacogdoches were unexpected in summer.

A few Orchard Orioles were observed periodically in Washington from May through 8 Jul (Darrell Vollert), but the large influx of migrants was impressive, starting with 16+ observed 10 Jul.

House Finch continues to spread, with July sightings of single birds in Harrison (Eddie Ray), Marion (Hazel Bluhm), and Smith (Alan Byboth).

Undoubtedly the most unusual sighting this summer in East Texas was the adult male Evening Grosbeak observed in great detail 24-25 Jun (Wanda Baggett, Sybil Greenway) in Marion. This irruptive species is rarely seen in Texas and the last report in northeast Texas was in the 1980s. A June sighting is probably unprecedented for the State of Texas.


Keith Arnold, Wanda Baggett, Peter Barnes, Dorothy Bednarski, Nancy Bird, Charles Bryant, Alan Byboth, Claire Byrne, Monica Byrne, Louis Debetaz, Mike Dillon, Marcia Effinger, Bert Frenz, Gary Fritcher, Sybil Greenway, Georgette Guernsey, Grace Hackney, Jim Inold, Cathy Liles, Barbara Lorenz, Guy Luneau, Scott Luneau, Derek Muschalek, David Phalen, Randy Pinkston, Eddie Ray, Rob Thacker, Darrell Vollert, Matt White

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Revised: April 20, 2004.