Monday, December 12, 2016

Clean-up for Dick and Maco

12/6/16 – Dick & Maco

When George and I ran into Dick and Maco at Salineño, they said they were keen to do some clean-up birding the next day, so rather than subject them to another oh dark hundred departure time, we left at the normal 7:00 hour and adjusted our planned itinerary to try and target the birds they still had yet to bag after four days on their own.  We decided to start with the Mountain Plovers on FM 1599 as they were still being reported, and like George and my experience the day before, we were gratified to see other birders already there and looking!  (Ironically it was a trio from Georgia that we had run into at Laredo the day before… J)  The leader of the group did indeed spot the birds, but we all ended up going down the road about a half mile to get them in better light, and they showed even better than the previous two times I had been out there!  The Sandhill Cranes were still coming in, and I heard a distant flock of Snow Geese, but even more exciting for Dick was the American Pipit that flew in and landed right in front of us!  More numerous were the nicely-patterned Horned Larks (or Shore Larks as they call them in the UK).  We then crawled down 1599 in hopes of hearing a Sprague’s Pipit or spotting the geese I had heard, but ended up checking out the little pond where the Birder Patrol had a few shorebirds a couple of weeks previously; the Vermilion Flycatcher and Eastern Phoebe were still there along with a Great Egret, but the only shorebirds were a handful of Long-billed Dowitchers and a flock of Least Sandpipers, all of which flew around and vocalized nicely.  A Tropical Kingbird tittered unseen as well.

A group of Georgian birders (foreground) and Dick scope the fields for Mountain Plovers (below)

American Pipit

Horned Lark

I cringed when they reported that they had dipped on the Olive Sparrow at Salineño, so on a tip from my friend Norma we swung down to Hugh Ramsey Nature Park in Harlingen to try for it, as she said it often came in to the feeder area right there by the parking lot.  Everything but the sparrow came in over about a 15 minute wait (Dick announced to the birds, “Okay, we’re leaving now!” hoping the age-old Murphy’s Law of the bird showing up just when you leave would come into play), so we decided to poke around a short loop, as I had heard a Carolina Wren, which was also a target bird.  As we poked, we managed to kick up the resident Black Phoebe (considered rare in Cameron County, but becoming more common), and at one of the ponds the Carolina Wren miraculously showed itself while a Bewick’s sang in the background (don’t often get those two together)!  While trying to coax out a Curve-billed Thrasher (they had seen one in Arizona but I encouraged them to put this one in the bank, as it may be split down the road) we heard the Olive Sparrow singing (which is odd this time of year), but we never could get it out (same story with what would have been their life Verdin).  At another pond a pair of Green Kingfishers performed well, but what stole show was a knockout Isabella's Heliconian that Maco spotted!  Actually, the whole patch was alive with great butters:  we rescued a Queen that had gotten itself stuck on a very sticky plant, but in addition we saw Long-tailed and Sickle-winged Skippers, Mestras, Snouts, a Laviana White Skipper, and even a Zebra Heliconian! 

Black Phoebe

One of the wetlands at Hugh Ramsey

Dick and Maco enjoying the Green Kingfisher (below)

Isabella's Heliconian, a very rare butterfly in the Valley!

Long-tailed Skipper

Piping Plover was still high on Dick’s list (thankfully they actually saw and photographed the Clapper Rail on a previous outing), so on the way to South Padre we stopped at the SR100 Resacas for shorebirds, finally seeing some Least Sandpipers that were close enough to see the yellowish legs and adding a few ducks to the day list (along with a Belted Kingfisher).  Stops at the Blue Shack and the Falcon Parking Lot for Aplomados were unsuccessful (although we did have a nice Peregrine up on the crossbar that had us going), so that meant we had to try Boca Chica afterwards.  Once on the Island, thankfully we got to drive right up to the Big Bird Flock on the flats which included both flavors of pelicans, all the expected larids, Dunlin, a few turnstones and Willets, and even a few Marbled Godwits, which was also a life bird!  I was disappointed that the only plovers we were seeing were the Black-bellied (I confided that I thought “Grey Plover” was actually a more appropriate name J) when Dick spotted a distant Piping on a sandbar!  I clapped in glee which sent the whole flock flying… L  (Thankfully they all settled down quickly; they’re used to having revelers drive right through the middle of the flock…) 

One of the SR 100 resacas

Least Sandpipers

Caspian Terns (with one still begging)

Gulls and skimmers loafing and flying

Heading down SR 48 we made fruitless searches of both Boca Chica Blvd. and Old Port Isabel Road for the falcons, so since we were running out of time, we decided to blast out to Valley Nature Center for a crack at the Clay-colored Thrush, which Maco spotted and which gave great looks!  The Olive Sparrow was again elusive, but the Chachalacas entertained us at the feeders!  A Wilson’s Warbler calling in a feeding flock would have also been new for them if the thing had cooperated and showed itself…

Red-eared Sliders

Feeding area at Valley Nature Center

Ended up with 93 species for the day!  Bird List:

  Snow Goose                           
  American Wigeon                      
  Blue-winged Teal                     
  Northern Shoveler                    
  Ruddy Duck                           
  Plain Chachalaca                      
  Northern Bobwhite                    
  Least Grebe                          
  Pied-billed Grebe                    
  Double-crested Cormorant             
  American White Pelican               
  Brown Pelican                        
  Great Blue Heron                     
  Great Egret                          
  Snowy Egret                          
  Tricolored Heron                     
  Reddish Egret                        
  Turkey Vulture                       
  White-tailed Kite                    
  Northern Harrier                     
  Cooper's Hawk                        
  Harris's Hawk                        
  White-tailed Hawk                    
  American Coot                        
  Sandhill Crane                       
  Black-necked Stilt                   
  American Avocet                      
  Black-bellied Plover                 
  Piping Plover                        
  Mountain Plover                      
  Spotted Sandpiper                    
  Greater Yellowlegs                   
  Long-billed Curlew                    
  Marbled Godwit                       
  Ruddy Turnstone                      
  Least Sandpiper                      
  Long-billed Dowitcher                
  Laughing Gull                        
  Ring-billed Gull                     
  Caspian Tern                         
  Forster's Tern                       
  Royal Tern                           
  Sandwich Tern                        
  Black Skimmer                         
  Rock Pigeon                          
  Eurasian Collared-Dove               
  White-winged Dove                    
  Mourning Dove                        
  White-tipped Dove                    
  Buff-bellied Hummingbird             
  Belted Kingfisher                    
  Green Kingfisher                     
  Golden-fronted Woodpecker            
  Ladder-backed Woodpecker             
  Crested Caracara                     
  American Kestrel                     
  Peregrine Falcon                      
  Black Phoebe                         
  Eastern Phoebe                       
  Vermilion Flycatcher                 
  Great Kiskadee                       
  Tropical Kingbird                    
  Loggerhead Shrike                    
  White-eyed Vireo                     
  Green Jay                            
  Horned Lark                          
  Black-crested Titmouse               
  Carolina Wren                        
  Bewick's Wren                        
  Cactus Wren                          
  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher                
  Ruby-crowned Kinglet                 
  Clay-colored Thrush                  
  Curve-billed Thrasher                
  Northern Mockingbird                 
  European Starling                    
  American Pipit                       
  Orange-crowned Warbler               
  Common Yellowthroat                  
  Wilson's Warbler                     
  Olive Sparrow                        
  Savannah Sparrow                     
  Northern Cardinal                    
  Red-winged Blackbird                 
  Great-tailed Grackle                 
  Lesser Goldfinch                     
  House Sparrow                        


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