Thursday, February 25, 2016

Big Crowd for a Little Bird


            “Stanley” was a big state-lister from Indiana, as well as being a hard-core ABA lister, so there were only a handful of things that he needed.  After consulting his target list and considering the reasonable possibilities, we decided that a trip out to Salineño would be the most profitable, followed by a Wild Plover Hunt up “Sparrow Road” to look for some reported Mountain Plovers.

            Stanley and his wife “Candy” drove a Prius, so with the great gas mileage those cars get they opted to drive.  Driving through Rio Grande City a flock of his first target bird, the Green Parakeet, thankfully decided to do a flyover (the lighting wasn’t the best, but it was a good enough look to count J)!  When we arrived at Salineño, the place was packed: Merle’s “parking lot” was full already, and there were two vans down at the boat ramp, indicating a probable tour was also there!  The more eyes, the better, we agreed, and headed out on the “Seedeater Trail.”  We met a couple of folks who said they had just seen it, so we joined the rest who hadn’t been as fortunate as they remained at their vigil, hoping the little guy would return.  I knew the bird had been seen all along that trail, so I left Stanley and Candy with the group (I figured 20 pairs of eyes would be better than my one pair, just in case) and ventured on.  I hadn’t gone far before I heard a booming British voice, and I hurried back to find that Stanley had gotten a brief glimpse, but most of the group hadn’t, so we took up our vigils again.  Stanley and Connie and I moved down to a little spot that was next to the cane, as did the British guy, and in mid-yap I happened to see a little guy bop up right in front of us, and it was the seedeater!!  Our little patch filled up quickly J, but thankfully the bird performed beautifully in wonderful light, so everyone got a great look, including the leader of the tour group! J
Shy White-collared Seedeater, a bird found only along the Rio Grande in the US

"We got it!"  (And hidden in the brush are other folks still looking...) 

            Mission accomplished there, the next objective was the Audubon’s Oriole, and what an audience at the feeders!  J  We made the decision to stay as long as it took for the oriole to come in, but in the meantime we had great fun with the usual Altamira Orioles (especially when one was sharing a feeder with the wintering Hooded, giving great size comparisons), Green Jays, Kiskadees, and a special appearance from a Roadrunner coming in for corn!  But the “feeder rarity” of the morning turned out to be a female Black-headed Grosbeak that came in a couple of times!  Finally the Audubon’s came in for repeated great views, and then it was off for a river watch.
Fuzzy shot of a wandering female Black-headed Grosbeak from the West

Altamira Oriole
The similar Hooded Oriole

Here are the two together - note the size difference!
Audubon's Oriole is always the star!
Even the ubiquitous Kiskadees are good for a portrait!

Full house at the Salineno Show!
            I had warned Stanley that Muscovy and Red-billed Pigeon were highly unlikely, but we nevertheless had our snacks and enjoyed spotting Ringed Kingfishers, the resident Ospreys, and a Gray Hawk.  A lady from Corpus told us that they had just seen Black-tailed Gnatcatchers on the Seedeater Trail, so we decided to go look for them, but got only Blue-grays and a nice variety of sparrows.
Watching the river for pigeons...

...and searching the trail for gnatcatchers!
            After that it was time to go look for the plovers, so since Stanley was a “country guy” (they owned an apple orchard back home), we took the back way up to FM 490 and over towards McCook.  I mentioned that this route, though barren as can be in places, can have some wonderful birds (Prairie Falcon and Ferruginous Hawk in past years, in addition to the plovers), but by this time it was just too hot and windy; we scoured every field we could and could come up with nothing but Horned Larks and Western Meadowlarks (although we did spook up a Common Ground Dove near a building, and saw a distant White-tailed Hawk).  One interesting sighting was a helicopter stringing high-tension wires like a threat through a needle!
One oddity was dozens of these white shells scattered all over the plowed fields!

When you can't watch birds, you watch the utility guys string wires...
            The species list was low (55), but the quality couldn’t be beat!  Bird List:

  Plain Chachalaca                     
  Northern Bobwhite                    
  Pied-billed Grebe                    
  Double-crested Cormorant             
  Great Blue Heron                     
  Turkey Vulture                        
  Sharp-shinned Hawk                   
  Harris's Hawk                        
  White-tailed Hawk                    
  Gray Hawk                            
  Rock Pigeon                          
  Eurasian Collared-Dove               
  White-winged Dove                    
  Mourning Dove                        
  Inca Dove                            
  Common Ground-Dove                   
  Greater Roadrunner                   
  Ringed Kingfisher                     
  Golden-fronted Woodpecker            
  Ladder-backed Woodpecker             
  Crested Caracara                     
  American Kestrel                     
  Green Parakeet                       
  Great Kiskadee                       
  Loggerhead Shrike                    
  White-eyed Vireo                     
  Green Jay                            
  Horned Lark                          
  Black-crested Titmouse               
  Bewick's Wren                        
  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher                
  Ruby-crowned Kinglet                 
  Long-billed Thrasher                 
  Northern Mockingbird                  
  Orange-crowned Warbler               
  White-collared Seedeater             
  Olive Sparrow                        
  Chipping Sparrow                     
  Clay-colored Sparrow                 
  Savannah Sparrow                     
  Lincoln's Sparrow                    
  Northern Cardinal                     
  Black-headed Grosbeak                
  Red-winged Blackbird                 
  Western Meadowlark                    
  Great-tailed Grackle                 
  Brown-headed Cowbird                 
  Hooded Oriole                        
  Altamira Oriole                      
  Audubon's Oriole                     
  American Goldfinch                   
  House Sparrow                        


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