Monday, September 9, 2019

A Push for the Plovers


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


Black Skimmer

Royal Tern

Sandwich Tern

Black-bellied Plover

Immature Least Tern

Piping Plover (also below)

Snowy Plover
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??)

Common Gallinule

Red-eyed Vireo (also below)

Brown Anole
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

Eastern Kingbird

The Enforcer...

Mottled Duck

Tropical Buckeye

White Ibis

Common Gallinule

The "East Pond"

Roseate Spoonbills
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

Worm-eating 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
Pied-billed Grebe
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Mourning Dove
Groove-billed Ani
Common Nighthawk
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Clapper Rail
Common Gallinule
American Coot
Black-necked Stilt
Black-bellied Plover
Snowy Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Piping Plover
Marbled Godwit
Ruddy Turnstone
Least Sandpiper
Western Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Spotted Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Laughing Gull
Least Tern
Gull-billed Tern
Caspian Tern
Black Tern
Forster's Tern
Royal Tern
Sandwich Tern
Black Skimmer
Neotropic Cormorant
Brown Pelican
Least Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Reddish Egret
Green Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
White Ibis
Roseate Spoonbill
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Hawk
Belted Kingfisher
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Alder Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
Tropical Kingbird
Eastern Kingbird
Red-eyed Vireo
Loggerhead Shrike
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
European Starling
Northern Mockingbird
House Sparrow
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
Great-tailed Grackle
Worm-eating Warbler
Northern Waterthrush
Kentucky Warbler
Hooded Warbler
American Redstart
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Blue Grosbeak

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