Friday, December 2, 2016

Easy Birder Tour Around Hidalgo

12/1/16

Took visiting birders Dick and Mako from the UK out birding yesterday to pick up some South Texas targets; we started by driving the levee between Bentsen and Anzalduas, where the best bird was a very cooperative Gray Hawk!  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Orange-crowned Warbler was also new, but the House Wren was being stubborn…  After Anzalduas opened we cruised around there, picking up brilliant Eastern Bluebirds and Vermilion Flycatchers, along with a tittering Tropical Kingbird and peeping Black Phoebe.  By the river had nice looks at a Neotropic Cormorant and Mottled Ducks while a Ringed Kingfisher rattled well but only gave fleeting looks.  The crop-dusters were done so we finished up by scouring the field for Sprague’s Pipits; several popped up and called, but wouldn’t land and give us a look.  Both kinds of meadowlarks showed, however.

Mako and Dick check out the Rio Grande at Anzalduas County Park

Vermilion Flycatcher being adorable...


We swung by Hidalgo for the Monk Parakeets and some back roads in Alamo for Burrowing Owl and American Pipits (doing the same thing the Sprague’s did L), and several White-tailed Hawks were very cooperative for photos!  We then headed over to Frontera where things were a little more cooperative for looks:  a show-off Green Kingfisher got lunch from the boardwalk railing while a group of White Ibis fed in the shadows.  An Altamira Oriole called but only allowed a fleeting glimpse for Mako, but at the feeder areas we got great looks at Chachalacas, White-tipped Dove, Green Jay, Black-crested Titmouse, and a Buff-bellied Hummingbird (along with the fat resident Fox Squirrel…).

Goose-stepping Monk Parakeet

With nesting material

Probably the same Burrowing Owl we had with Gary and Sons, only is a little different pose (notice the furry feet)...

Young White-tailed Hawk giving us the looking-over

Green Kingfisher on the boardwalk at Frontera

Dick getting his own shot (yellow circle marks the spot)

At Estero Ranger John arranged for us to take a tram as one of our guests had limited mobility, and after getting our fill of the many great ducks and grebes off the deck (including a pair of Cinnamon Teal), we headed back to the Tropical Zone where we looked in vain for the Perching Saliana (probably got blown south), then headed over to the levee where we saw lots of goodies, including oodles of Stilt Sandpipers and Long-billed Dowitchers hanging out, as well as Black-necked Stilts, Avocets, Spoonbills, gobs of White Pelicans, and a mob of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.  A nice Ringed Kingfisher perched for everyone, but the star was a hovering White-tailed Kite right in front of us!  A swing around Dowitcher Pond produced two female Buffleheads in addition to more Cinnamon Teal and other ducks, and finally back at Alligator Lake we nabbed the Yellow-crowned Night Heron and Pauraque (John was making a statement about how “difficult” it was to get ;-)).

Cassius Blue in Estero's parking lot

Mako and Dick check out Ducks from the Deck...

Cinnamon Teal pair

The male isn't quite fully cinnamon yet...

Snowy Egret shuffling for breakfast

Notice the contrast between the orange toes and gray webs on this Blue-winged Teal!


Mako and Dick smile from the tram while Ranger John hides behind it...

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

The "difficult" Pauraque (which always seems to be right by the trail)

We had to head home after that, but it was a very fun and successful 90-species day!  Bird list:

  Black-bellied Whistling-Duck         
  Gadwall                              
  Mottled Duck                         
  Blue-winged Teal                     
  Cinnamon Teal                        
  Northern Shoveler                     
  Northern Pintail                     
  Green-winged Teal                    
  Bufflehead                           
  Ruddy Duck                           
  Plain Chachalaca                      
  Least Grebe                          
  Pied-billed Grebe                    
  Neotropic Cormorant                  
  Double-crested Cormorant              
  American White Pelican               
  Great Blue Heron                     
  Great Egret                          
  Snowy Egret                          
  Little Blue Heron                    
  Tricolored Heron                     
  Cattle Egret                         
  Black-crowned Night-Heron            
  Yellow-crowned Night-Heron           
  White Ibis                           
  White-faced Ibis                     
  Roseate Spoonbill                    
  Black Vulture                        
  Turkey Vulture                       
  Osprey                               
  White-tailed Kite                    
  Harris's Hawk                        
  White-tailed Hawk                     
  Gray Hawk                            
  Red-tailed Hawk                      
  American Coot                        
  Black-necked Stilt                   
  American Avocet                      
  Killdeer                             
  Spotted Sandpiper                    
  Stilt Sandpiper                      
  Long-billed Dowitcher                
  Caspian Tern                         
  Rock Pigeon                          
  Eurasian Collared-Dove               
  White-winged Dove                    
  Mourning Dove                        
  Inca Dove                            
  White-tipped Dove                    
  Burrowing Owl                         
  Common Pauraque                      
  Buff-bellied Hummingbird             
  Ringed Kingfisher                    
  Belted Kingfisher                    
  Green Kingfisher                     
  Golden-fronted Woodpecker            
  Ladder-backed Woodpecker             
  Crested Caracara                     
  American Kestrel                     
  Monk Parakeet                        
  Black Phoebe                         
  Eastern Phoebe                        
  Vermilion Flycatcher                 
  Great Kiskadee                       
  Tropical Kingbird                    
  Loggerhead Shrike                    
  Green Jay                            
  Horned Lark                          
  Tree Swallow                         
  Black-crested Titmouse               
  House Wren                           
  Carolina Wren                        
  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher                
  Ruby-crowned Kinglet                 
  Eastern Bluebird                      
  Long-billed Thrasher                 
  Northern Mockingbird                 
  European Starling                    
  American Pipit                       
  Sprague's Pipit                      
  Orange-crowned Warbler               
  Common Yellowthroat                  
  Yellow-rumped Warbler                
  Northern Cardinal                    
  Red-winged Blackbird                 
  Eastern Meadowlark                   
  Western Meadowlark                   
  Great-tailed Grackle                 
  Altamira Oriole                      
  House Sparrow                        
 
90 SPECIES

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Thanksgiving Holiday, Part 4

11/24/16

My last day with Gary and Sons was spent trying to clean up on some missing targets, so we started at Estero Llano Grande hoping to catch one of the Screech Owls peeking out of their box.  It was a foggy morning, and the dew on all the spider webs looked like little pearls covering everything!  The Bufflehead showed well on Dowitcher Pond on the way to the Alligator Lake area, but the owls were not there (we DID manage to spot a White-tipped Dove for the boys, and Gary found one of the Pauraques right next to the trail!).  We figured the reported Sage Thrasher was a long shot, but we hiked up to the levee and then took the Camino de Aves Trail back, and back at the headquarters ran into Park Hosts Doug and Huck, who offered to take us back to the Tropical Zone to try for THAT owl (after enjoying a point-blank Green Kingfisher from the deck)!  He wasn't there, either, but we at least got a glimpse of the Beardless Tyrannulet and a cracking view of the Altamira Oriole for Gary!

Dew-covered spider webs

Bufflehead

Jesse tries shooting the nearly invisible Pauraque (below) with his IPhone!


Foggy view from the levee

Habitat along the Camino de Aves Trail

A visiting birder shows off his photos of the Laredo Amazon Kingfisher!

Cooperative Green Kingfisher




We run into Benton Basham back in the Tropical Zone!

 
Altamira Oriole

Giant Swallowtail
  
On the way to Santa Ana we checked out Border Road and miraculously picked up the Burrowing Owl AND a visual on the Sprague's Pipit, then headed over to Santa Ana for a try at the Olive Sparrow, Cave Swallow, and a long shot at Fulvous Whistling Duck.  Dipped on two of the targets (although we heard the sparrow lisping), but another birder reported Cave Swallows down the tour road, so the guys ended up climbing the Tree Tower and getting a flyover Cave while I checked the butter action (which was nuts - best one was a Glazed Pellicia). 

Burrowing Owl near Santa Ana

Texas Spiny Lizard

 Female Common Green Darner

Zebra Heliconian

Glazed Pellicia (below also)



Mob of ducks on Willow Lake guarded by a Kiskadee...

We then headed to Bentsen for a last ditch effort at the Olive Sparrow; Ranger Roy suggested staking out the drip at the Gatehouse Feeders, as they would occasionally come in, but the only takers were Green Jays and the occasional Red-winged Blackbirds and Great-tailed Grackles making chests at each other!  The Chachalacas were as entertaining as ever, and just before we finally called it quits a nice Clay-colored Thrush gave a great (but brief) look!

Chachalacas

Fluffy Green Jays at the drip at Bentsen



Great-tailed Grackles making chests at each other


Bird List:

  Black-bellied Whistling-Duck         
  Greater White-fronted Goose          
  Gadwall                              
  Mottled Duck                         
  Blue-winged Teal                     
  Northern Shoveler                     
  Northern Pintail                     
  Green-winged Teal                    
  Bufflehead                           
  Ruddy Duck                           
  Plain Chachalaca                      
  Pied-billed Grebe                    
  Great Blue Heron                     
  Great Egret                          
  Snowy Egret                          
  Yellow-crowned Night-Heron           
  White-faced Ibis                     
  Turkey Vulture                       
  White-tailed Kite                    
  Sharp-shinned Hawk                    
  Harris's Hawk                        
  White-tailed Hawk                    
  Red-shouldered Hawk                  
  Red-tailed Hawk                      
  American Coot                        
  Black-necked Stilt                   
  American Avocet                      
  Spotted Sandpiper                    
  Greater Yellowlegs                   
  Lesser Yellowlegs                    
  Least Sandpiper                      
  Long-billed Dowitcher                
  Rock Pigeon                           
  Mourning Dove                        
  Inca Dove                            
  Common Ground-Dove                   
  White-tipped Dove                    
  Burrowing Owl                        
  Common Pauraque                      
  Buff-bellied Hummingbird             
  Ringed Kingfisher                    
  Belted Kingfisher                    
  Green Kingfisher                     
  Golden-fronted Woodpecker            
  Ladder-backed Woodpecker             
  Crested Caracara                     
  American Kestrel                     
  Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet        
  Black Phoebe                         
  Eastern Phoebe                        
  Vermilion Flycatcher                 
  Great Kiskadee                       
  Couch's Kingbird                     
  Loggerhead Shrike                    
  White-eyed Vireo                     
  Green Jay                            
  Horned Lark                          
  Tree Swallow                         
  Cave Swallow                         
  Black-crested Titmouse               
  Verdin                               
  House Wren                           
  Carolina Wren                         
  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher                
  Ruby-crowned Kinglet                 
  Clay-colored Thrush                  
  Curve-billed Thrasher                 
  Long-billed Thrasher                 
  Northern Mockingbird                 
  European Starling                    
  American Pipit                       
  Sprague's Pipit                      
  Orange-crowned Warbler               
  Common Yellowthroat                  
  Yellow-rumped Warbler                
  Olive Sparrow                         
  Northern Cardinal                    
  Red-winged Blackbird                 
  Great-tailed Grackle                 
  Altamira Oriole                       
  Lesser Goldfinch                     
  House Sparrow                        
 
82 SPECIES


A Thanksgiving Holiday, Part 3

11/23/16

Had a fabulous chase day with Gary et al, starting on Old Port Isabel Road; unfortunately the Aplomado Falcon wasn't at his normal platform, but a young Peregrine had us fooled for a minute...  The target Cassin’s Sparrow popped up on a bush a little ways down, and at the turnaround point (the condition of the road was pretty bad) a Sprague’s Pipit flew overhead! 

The guys along Old Port Isabel Road (and this was the decent part...)

Backtracking and then blasting up to South Padre via SR48 (they opted not to stop at the boatramp seeing as they already had the oystercatcher), we went straight to the Bay Access Flats, and thankfully the water was out and the birds very approachable!  Unfortunately the only plovers to show were Black-bellied, but the guys were very happy with Sandwich and Royal Terns, Black Skimmers, Willets, Sanderlings, Western Sandpipers, and especially a Marbled Godwit (and I was very happy with the lingering Red Knot :-))!  Having birded in Florida, there were only a handful of targets they were after, so we headed to the boardwalk after that to try for Clapper Rail, and as per usual, they eventually sounded off (along with a Least Bittern) but never showed themselves. 

Part of the bird mob on the flats

Cooperative Tricolored Heron on the boardwalk


From there we headed down SR100 for a last-ditch search for the Aplomado, so I had the eagle-eyed guys yell if they saw a suspicious bird (as traffic along that road goes lickety-split and pulling over can be dangerous)!  Didn't take long, so I careened off, we got the scope out, and sire enough, a bona fide Aplomado was sitting on one of the crossbars very close to one of the many Ospreys!  As the guys were enjoying him, I was checking out the wetland that happened to be there when one of their other targets (and a tricky one at that) flew by:  Gull-billed Tern!  I was excited about the Sandhill Cranes, but that was a common bird back home for them! :-)

VERY distant view of an Aplomado Falcon

From there we backtracked to Laguna Atascosa where the feeders were kinda quiet, but in wandering the butterfly garden an Altamira Oriole came tearing in!  The boys got a great look, but by the time Gary caught up with us (thanks to the radio) the bird just took off! :-(  A skulky Long-billed Thrasher was a nice consolation prize before we meandered over to Kiskadee Trail, and again after we split up, the boys called us back:  they had found the Tropical Parula in a feeding flock (which also included a Nashville Warbler)!  We heard another Beardless Tyrannulet but couldn't pin him down, and the boys also flushed a Pauraque, which was rather anticlimactic after seeing the bird at Estero so close!  Over at Osprey Overlook a careful sort through the mob of waterfowl could produce no Eurasian Wigeon (plus the shelter was overrun with bees), so we headed on to the area west of Rio Hondo where Mountain Plovers had been sighted during the LRGV Bird Festival (after negotiating the detour around Rio Hondo itself).

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher heading in to Laguna Atascosa

Pauraque on Kiskadee Trail

From FM 508 we took FM 507 north to FM 1599, along which the plovers had been reported.  Again, we didn't have to go far before a flock of Killdeer flew across, and in amongst them were a couple of smaller, all brown birds!  With the scope we were able to get great views, and a few Long-billed Curlews were an added bonus!

Bird List:

  American Wigeon                      
  Northern Shoveler                    
  Northern Pintail                     
  Redhead                              
  Lesser Scaup                         
  Red-breasted Merganser                
  Ruddy Duck                           
  Plain Chachalaca                     
  Pied-billed Grebe                    
  Double-crested Cormorant             
  American White Pelican               
  Brown Pelican                        
  Least Bittern                        
  Great Blue Heron                     
  Great Egret                           
  Snowy Egret                          
  Little Blue Heron                    
  Tricolored Heron                     
  Reddish Egret                        
  Cattle Egret                         
  Green Heron                          
  Black-crowned Night-Heron            
  White Ibis                           
  Roseate Spoonbill                     
  Black Vulture                        
  Turkey Vulture                       
  Osprey                               
  Northern Harrier                     
  Harris's Hawk                        
  White-tailed Hawk                    
  Red-tailed Hawk                      
  Clapper Rail                         
  Common Gallinule                     
  American Coot                        
  Sandhill Crane                       
  Black-bellied Plover                 
  Killdeer                              
  Mountain Plover                      
  Greater Yellowlegs                   
  Willet                               
  Lesser Yellowlegs                    
  Long-billed Curlew                   
  Marbled Godwit                       
  Ruddy Turnstone                      
  Red Knot                             
  Sanderling                           
  Dunlin                               
  Western Sandpiper                    
  Laughing Gull                        
  Ring-billed Gull                      
  Gull-billed Tern                     
  Caspian Tern                         
  Forster's Tern                       
  Royal Tern                           
  Sandwich Tern                        
  Black Skimmer                        
  Rock Pigeon                          
  White-winged Dove                    
  Mourning Dove                        
  Inca Dove                            
  White-tipped Dove                    
  Common Pauraque                      
  Belted Kingfisher                     
  Golden-fronted Woodpecker            
  Ladder-backed Woodpecker             
  Crested Caracara                     
  American Kestrel                     
  Aplomado Falcon                      
  Peregrine Falcon                     
  Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet        
  Eastern Phoebe                       
  Vermilion Flycatcher                 
  Great Kiskadee                       
  Couch's Kingbird                     
  Scissor-tailed Flycatcher            
  Loggerhead Shrike                     
  White-eyed Vireo                     
  Blue-headed Vireo                    
  Green Jay                            
  Horned Lark                          
  Black-crested Titmouse               
  Verdin                               
  House Wren                           
  Marsh Wren                           
  Bewick's Wren                        
  Ruby-crowned Kinglet                 
  Curve-billed Thrasher                
  Long-billed Thrasher                 
  Northern Mockingbird                 
  European Starling                    
  American Pipit                       
  Sprague's Pipit                      
  Orange-crowned Warbler                
  Nashville Warbler                    
  Common Yellowthroat                  
  Tropical Parula                      
  Cassin's Sparrow                     
  Savannah Sparrow                     
  Northern Cardinal                    
  Red-winged Blackbird                 
  Eastern Meadowlark                   
  Great-tailed Grackle                 
  Altamira Oriole                      
  House Sparrow                        
 
104 SPECIES