High Island devastation and Fan-tail pics

2007 September 17
by David J. Ringer

DUNCANVILLE, TEXAS — Thursday morning, Hurricane Humberto crashed into the Texas Gulf Coast with a totally unexpected ferocity. High Island, a small town on the Bolivar Peninsula, was directly in the path of the storm. The name High Island is uttered with hushed voices and bright eyes in birding circles; it is one of the best-known sites on the continent for observing Neotropical migrants in spring.

UPDATE: For information about Hurricane Ike‘s effects in 2008, see Upper Texas Coast in crisis and More on Texas Ike disaster and how to help.

High Island’s famous Boy Scout Woods and Smith Oaks sustained severe damage during the storm. Scott Newsom reported to Texbirds:

The damage is extensive and widespread there [Boy Scout Woods] and in Smith Oaks. It took us several hours to cut through the downed trees to get to the bleachers ay BSWs. The Cathedral is gone. The huge Oak by the check-in building is down as are most of the other really big trees. There is one genuinely old Oak that came through O.K. The mulberries had to be severely cut back, though they should eventually recover. There won’t be much shade on the bleachers this coming year though. The sanctuaries, especially BSW will not be as you remembered them. Despite the fact that we got the main trail opened up today, there is so much work left to do that it will likely take months to finish the clean-up and repair. Despite the initial despair we all felt at seeing the extent of the destruction, it felt good to start working toward recovery of this very special place in the hearts of birders. I hope many more of you take advantage of the opportunity to give back to this wellspring of nature’s abundence in the coming weeks and months.

Just to read those words hurts a little. Houston Audubon has posted pictures of the devastation, as well as information about volunteering and donating for those who would like to help recovery efforts at the sanctuaries.

High Island is special because it is a patch of trees amid the salt marshes and grasslands of the coast. The trees provide food and shelter for countless migrants that can be quite literally near death after a grueling, non-stop flight across the Gulf. How the loss of so many trees will impact migrants remains to be seen.

There are people at High Island, too, and some of them lost homes in the storm. Power was just restored today. The high school football stadium was also damaged in the storm. The High Island team is called — what else? — the fighting cardinals, and the mascot adorns the town water tower.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the state, the Fan-tailed Warbler is still being seen in Big Bend National Park, a month after its discovery. During the period of scrutiny by birders, it has grown a new set of tail feathers. Mark Lockwood’s photo from late August shows the bird with a stubby tail; Tony Frank’s photos show a longer tail.

Related posts:

  1. Fan-tailed Warbler photographed!
  2. Fan-tailed Warbler discovered at Big Bend
  3. Island crows
  4. Pencil-tail
  5. Upper Texas Coast in crisis

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