Saturday, July 23, 2016

Birder Patrol Shorebird Hunt


It was about this time last year when the Collared Plover showed up at Hargill Playa for the second year in a row, so we decided to run this month's Birder Patrol trip to check the playa, plus other fast-drying wetlands for shorebirds.  We rolled in from various parts of the Valley around 7:00, ending up with four vehicles altogether, and viewed the playa from the north side.  There was a good selection birds there; although we couldn't find a Wilson's Plover (a normally coastal bird that has taken up residence here), we did find several Snowy Plovers, along with Least and Stilt Sandpipers, both yellowlegs, dowitchers, tons of Laughing Gulls and Black-necked Stilts, and four tern species which included Black, Least, Caspian, and Gull-billed.  Both Roseate Spoonbills and White Ibis kept flying over in lines, and songbirds included nice looks at Dickcissels.  A big surprise was three Chimney Swifts overhead, only because I usually get these in the city!  An amusing sight was a Green Heron on the telephone wire!

The Harlingen contingent of the Birder Patrol arrives at the Hargill Playa (note the mist in the background)!

Paula and Alicia lead the pack!

Mexican Fruit Fly on my car window

Looking for goodies over the playa

From there we headed up to the ponds along CR20; even though out in the boonies, I had advised everyone to park beyond the ponds as the road where the ponds actually are is rather skinny, and cars do go through there (in fact, we had at least four go by while we were there)!  A Glossy Ibis had been reported here, and there were indeed several Plegadis type ibis, but none that we could definitively call a Glossy (although we did find a White-faced with a very pink face).  The oversummering female Pintail was still there, along with a couple of Ruddy Ducks and just tons of Wilson's Phalaropes, Avocets, and Least Sandpipers, along with a few odd herons.  Probably the best bird was a female Vermilion Flycatcher that was flopping around.  On the way out a nice White-tailed Hawk showed off for us.

Checking out the birdies at CR20

From there we tootled over to the 1015 Pond, which was totally and absolutely dry, so then we headed on to Sugarhouse Pond, which we heard was drying up fast, and indeed it was, but there were still good numbers of birds WAAAY out there; Long-billed Curlews and Coots were new for the day, but otherwise it was just more Avocets, phalaropes, stilts, and gulls pretty much.

It was still pretty early, so Pat suggested we try and see if we could access Valley Acres Reservoir, as this was a tremendous spot we covered during the Weslaco CBC.  It's imperative that you ask permission, however, and while we waited Pat went into the hangar to do just that and instantly made friends with Tiger, their Pit Bull "guard dog"!  Javier, the guy on duty, gave us his blessing (and a bunch of cards in case anyone wanted to make arrangements to come back at another time, as there is good habitat all around the lake), and this is truly where we hit the jackpot:  not only was the reservoir full of water, but it was full of birds as well!  The island of trees across the way was loaded with Wood Storks, and down below (where we had the young Brown Pelican during the CBC) were several White Pelicans, but what tickled most everyone were the hundreds of Fulvous Whistling Ducks packed along both sides of the island like a platoon of little soldiers, so much so that we thought it was a spit of land at first!  Families of Black-bellied were around as well, of course, but there was also a mob of Least Sandpipers on shore, amongst which we were able to pick out at least one Semipalmated and one Western!

Black-bellied Whistling Duck family

L-R:  Pat, Tiger the Killer Guard Dog, Virginia, Paula, and Alicia 

Wood Storks are hanging out in the tops of the trees and spreading their wings at the bottom, but look carefully for just a small portion of the Fulvous Whistling Duck mob! 

Linda, Sue (in the back) and Pat checking out the mob
 We called it a day after that with 67 species for the morning!  Bird list:

  Black-bellied Whistling-Duck         
  Fulvous Whistling-Duck               
  Mottled Duck                         
  Northern Pintail                     
  Ruddy Duck                           
  Northern Bobwhite                     
  Wood Stork                           
  Neotropic Cormorant                  
  American White Pelican               
  Great Blue Heron                      
  Great Egret                          
  Snowy Egret                          
  Little Blue Heron                    
  Tricolored Heron                     
  Cattle Egret                         
  Green Heron                          
  Black-crowned Night-Heron            
  White Ibis                           
  White-faced Ibis                      
  Roseate Spoonbill                    
  Turkey Vulture                       
  White-tailed Hawk                    
  Red-tailed Hawk                      
  American Coot                        
  Black-necked Stilt                   
  American Avocet                      
  Snowy Plover                         
  Spotted Sandpiper                    
  Greater Yellowlegs                   
  Lesser Yellowlegs                    
  Long-billed Curlew                   
  Stilt Sandpiper                      
  Least Sandpiper                      
  Semipalmated Sandpiper               
  Western Sandpiper                     
  Long-billed Dowitcher                
  Wilson's Phalarope                   
  Laughing Gull                        
  Least Tern                           
  Gull-billed Tern                     
  Caspian Tern                         
  Black Tern                           
  Eurasian Collared-Dove               
  Mourning Dove                        
  Common Nighthawk                     
  Chimney Swift                        
  Buff-bellied Hummingbird             
  Golden-fronted Woodpecker            
  Crested Caracara                     
  Vermilion Flycatcher                 
  Great Kiskadee                       
  Scissor-tailed Flycatcher            
  Loggerhead Shrike                    
  Horned Lark                          
  Northern Rough-winged Swallow        
  Bank Swallow                          
  Barn Swallow                         
  Bewick's Wren                        
  Northern Mockingbird                 
  European Starling                    
  Lark Sparrow                         
  Red-winged Blackbird                 
  Eastern Meadowlark                   
  Great-tailed Grackle                 
  House Sparrow                        


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