Dr. David Essian is a postdoctoral research associate working with HRI Endowed Chair for Conservation and Biodiversity, Dr. Dale Gawlik. He earned a B.S. and M.S. in Biology from Northern Michigan University, and his Ph.D. from Florida Atlantic University. His Master’s work focused on the food web dynamics associated with avian botulism Type E die-offs of waterbirds in the Great Lakes.
What makes this area noteworthy for birding?
This is one of the most impressive areas in the country for birding, especially in the springtime where you’ll see neo tropic migrants like warblers, tanagers, and orioles who fly north to their breeding sites over the Gulf of Mexico and use our parks as stopover habitats. It’s really a spectacle and visitors come from around the world to see these migrants. There’s nowhere else in the country quite like it.
Have any rare birds been spotted recently?
I spotted the Cattle Tyrant downtown at the intersection of Chaparral and Schatzell. It is a medium sized fly catcher native to South America and the first and only one of its species seen in the United States. Birders from around the state traveled to Corpus Christi to catch a glimpse and a photo. The Aplomado Falcon has also been spotted on North Padre Island.
What are some sustainable practices for birding?
Be mindful of bird breeding habitats like nesting islands for colonial waterbirds. These are good places to fish, but disturbances can cause the birds to abandon their nests, which results in nest failure. Also, a lot of the conservation work in this area is focused on bays, estuaries, and waterbirds, and we see a lot of improperly discarded fishing lines. Keep an eye out for these lines to avoid birds becoming entangled and then hundreds, if not more, ending up at rehabilitation centers.
What should photographers look out for when trying to aim for the perfect photo?
This isn’t really a problem in this area, but often photographers want the perfect picture of an owl, so they’ll try to bait the bird. However, this can be harmful, so you should be mindful that you’re spending time in the bird’s habitat. Enjoy yourself but be respectful to them and their habitat.
Are there any educational programs or initiatives for birders to learn more?
Something to keep an eye out for the monthly field trips for birding through the Coastal Bend chapter of the Audubon Society. They’re led by expert birders who have been birding in Nueces County for decades. During migration, the Audubon Society has a lights out program because migrating birds can become confused by buildings that are lit at night, knocking them off their migratory track. Other organizations like the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program do work in the Laguna Madre, Corpus Christi Bay, and the Nueces Delta, and have efforts that you can become involved in.
What advice can you give novice birders?
There’s a perception that birding is about seeing as many species as you can, but as a beginner, try to observe birds in whatever way allows you to connect with them the best and have fun with it. We’d love to see more people in our parks and around the city enjoying our diverse population of birds.