The Big Thicket

The alarm went off at 4:15 AM in the morning.  This was a couple of hours short of waking up chipper.  For a moment I didn’t know where I was, what I was doing.  Then I groggily recollected that Bill and I had been invited to tag along with the Wings Birding Group today on a trip into the Big Thicket at Boykins Spring. Which is north of Beaumont in the Piney Woods.  A mature Loblolly Pine forest with native grasses in the understory supported a colony of the endangered  Red-cockaded Woodpecker, the criptic Bachman’s Sparrow  and Swainson’s Warbler, which was on the top of my “Most Wanted List”.  It’s a bit of a drive from Winnie Texas to Boykin Springs, but by 7:15 AM, Bill and I were working the nest trees for woodpeckers and were successful within the first 15 minutes .

Red-cockaded Woodpecker at Boykin's Spring (Photo by John Vanderpoel

We then joined Jon Dunn and the group for the sparrow.  Eventually everyone got good looks at Bachman’s Sparrow.  This western subspecies, illinoisensis, is much redder than the Bachman’s I saw in Florida earlier this year.

The Hunted -Bachman's Sparrow at Boykin Spring (Photo by John Vanderpoel)

Jon Dunn came through big time on the Swainson’s Warbler.  It was number 500 on my year list!  A great bird, a bird I really had to get in Texas and found by the author of the Peterson Series Field Guide “Warblers of North America”

Swainson's Warbler at the Big Thicket (Photo by John Vanderpoel)

Today’s events are worthy of more commentary, but it’s late and I’m tired so this will have to do for now.

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13 Responses to The Big Thicket

  1. Bill Kaempfer says:

    John–Congratulations on 500. I had a hunch that it was going to be Swainsons, and to get it with Dunn is really fitting.

  2. Jim Vanderpoel says:


    that’s three of my top lifers in one morning!

    You and Bill are living the dream!


  3. John says:

    Your even with Lynn Barber’s big year right now.

  4. Rick Dorazil says:


    I am glad I was able to fit you into my busy schedule and take a day off ttomorrow to share with you some of my birding expertise…don’t worry I will be patient with your inexperience…Your Mentor

  5. Bill Kaempfer says:

    John, Well I don’t know what you are up to putzing around today, but I got a county/state bird up here.

  6. Congratulations on 500 John! Swainson’s Warbler, that is totally awesome. Great photos, too.

  7. Fred Urie says:

    Awesome birding, John. Number 500 with Mr. Dunn!

  8. John Vanderpoel says:

    Thanks, Fred.

  9. John Vanderpoel says:

    Thanks, Gabriel

  10. John Vanderpoel says:

    Hi John,

    Thanks, for the info. I still may want to go to Barrow.

  11. Rick Dorazil says:


    I could not of asked for a better first time birding than this past Friday with you and Bill. I am thankful for your patience and wealth of knowledge on birding. You will make a birder out of me yet…I look forward to going out again soon…I ordered my binoc’s

  12. Bob Gunning says:

    I think I put wrong email originally. I am visiting rid way in the middle of July to see my son. I plan on doing some birding. Of course I will see the black swifts. I am hoping to see bachmans sparrow, red napped sapsuckers and red cockaded woodpecker and many more. Any suggestions on where and when to go. Thanks Bob

  13. John Vanderpoel says:

    Three-toed Woodpeckers are fairly plentiful this year in Upper Beaver Meadows in Rocky Mountain NP.

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