Since Joakim had reported Piping Plovers on the Flats (and eBird had reported Red Knots at the Birding Center), I set my sights on South Padre Island for Saturday’s outing! It promised to be a gorgeous day, and as I arrived at the Flats around sunrise, the tide was in enough so that it prevented me from going “around the corner” (someone had already claimed that spot, anyway), but I could still drive up to some of the birds. Besides hearing Dickcissels “bratting” overhead, the usual players were loafing, not in huge numbers, but a lot of juveniles made up the mix. At least (no pun intended) a dozen Least Terns wheeled in that were all juvies, and several Black Skimmers and Royal Terns were youngsters as well. Right at the get go was a large flock of White Ibis all preening away, plus a few Willets, Sanderlings, and Ruddy Turnstones running around. Further out was a large flock of Short-billed Dowitchers with a few Marbled Godwits thrown in, and while I picked up both Semipalmated and Black-bellied Plovers right away, I couldn’t find the coveted Piping L. While checking out the terns on the far north side I spotted some little bodies, but I had to get good close looks and scrutinize them well to convince me they weren’t odd-looking Semipals, as their plumage overall looked too dark for Piping, but they certainly had the plain face pattern (and a few tell-tale leg bands)! Best I could figure was that the angle of the morning sun was playing tricks on their very worn plumage… A Snowy Plover was in the mix as well, and his back color was about the same as the Pipings (as they should be), so I figured it was the sun… I did hear one calling, so we’re safe… J
The Flats at dawn
White Ibis group
Close-up of one of the ibis
Immature Least Tern
Piping Plover (also below)
From there headed over to the Convention Centre, where I decided I liked the idea of parking on the far side of the Circular Area and working my way through to the Centre, even if things seemed slow (as “you never know”). No birds graced my journey but a pair of Common Green Darners “in the wheel” and shining brightly in the sun was a treat! A pewee was performing from the top of a tree near the sidewalk, and three Orchard Orioles landed briefly in the tree tops before moving on. A five-minute vigil at the water feature yielded a cooperative Northern Waterthrush and a very uncooperative Kentucky Warbler, then ran into a couple of guys in the “back yard” who pointed out a female American Redstart, some Yellow Warblers, a female Baltimore Oriole, and an empid that struck me as an Alder (I had heard a pit earlier that I suspected might have been said bird). The marsh lookout in the back had a Great Blue Heron and several Neotropic Cormorants lined up on the pilings, plus a good comparison of a Little Blue and Tricolored Heron. Our piebald Reddish Egret was running around, showing even more white feathering on his neck, but a close look at the pictures led me to think he was just worn… On the way back ran into Mark Esparza who had seen some frigatebirds fly over, but they eluded me…
Common Green Darners
Eastern Wood Pewee (also below)
Great Blue Heron and Neotropic Cormorants (also below)
Little Blue (left) and Tricolored Herons
Reddish Egret (also below)
On the way to the boardwalk I heard a Groove-billed Ani, and a little Least Flycatcher showed off close on the boardwalk (but took off the minute I pulled out the camera L)! Both Clapper Rails and Least Bitterns were calling but not showing themselves, Roseate Spoonbills were hanging out in the East Pond, and the friendly Common Gallinule was at his post. Migrants had been reported in previous days but they weren’t showing themselves this day, except for a pair of Blue Grosbeaks. These little crabs were running all over the “Mangrove Boardwalk”, looking like miniature tarantulas! A Common Nighthawk fluttered way overhead, Green Herons flew and called, and a couple of Yellow-crowned Night Herons flew by at the end of the “Marsh Boardwalk”. The Belted Kingfisher was back, and after using the restroom I was blasting past the water feature when a Red-eyed Vireo caught my eye, so I decided to spend another five minutes there, enjoying the vireo as he proceeded to take a dip!
Crab sp. (Any guesses??)
Red-eyed Vireo (also below)
The Birding and Nature Center was next, where the butterfly garden had a little action with another waterthrush, another Yellow Warbler, plus a Hooded Warbler and gobs of Eastern Kingbirds! Many Mottled Ducks were out on the sandbar, and several larids and shorebirds were way out there but too far away to ID. A Black Tern batted by at one of the blinds, and somewhere in there a Gull-billed also powered by. A scan of Laguna Madre picked up a single Pied-billed Grebe, and Tropical Buckeyes were showing off along the spur boardwalk that used to connect with the CC boardwalk. There were more White Ibis in that little open area that’s usually packed with birds (and sometimes even an alligator), but no shorebirds this time. A baby gallinule was poking along the reeds parallel to the East Pond, but I couldn’t pick up anything interesting besides the spoonbills.
View from the Birding and Nature Center Deck
The "East Pond"
Off to Sheepshead, where I ran into Mark again! He had spotted a Worm-eating Warbler (gone at the moment), but another waterthrush came in while I was there in addition to more Yellow Warblers. After checking out the “sunny side” I returned to the “dark side”, where Mark thought he had a Blackburnian Warbler! Thankfully it came down to viewing distance and showed well (what looked like a first-year female), and as I was following some action in the back, his Worm-eating Warbler showed up! That was very exciting (and sent us both wildly snapping pictures as that plus the Blackburnian were both flagged in eBird)!
Three shots of the immature Blackburnian Warbler
Was time to eat lunch and then head home, where I added a pair of White-tailed Hawks on the toll road, bringing the list up to 81 species for the morning! Bird list:
Muscovy Duck (Domestic type)Mottled Duck
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Northern Rough-winged Swallow