Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Recording Birds on the Beach

I had mentioned to George that I had gotten good recordings of shorebirds right from the car on South Padre, so on Monday they called saying that's exactly what they wanted to do!  So I picked them up in Los Fresnos and we headed over to the Island, where you can drive right on the beach of the Laguna Madre.  I had checked the tide tables to make sure we were hitting it right, and the tide was indeed out, but there were a lot of big water puddles and the birds were waaaay out there!  Hoping I wasn't having another cocky "This-is-a-Subaru-he-can-do-anything" moment (the last one got me stuck in a swamp in Arizona), we slowly picked our way across the beach and swung around so that the birds were on George's side.  I shouldn't have been surprised that the birds weren't as talkative as they have been when I've been out here in the spring (at those times you could hardly hear anything for the Laughing Gulls), but the Dunlin were chirping and giving their keeek! calls occasionally, and we got great looks at several Piping Plovers.  The Larid Flock consisted mainly of Black Skimmers and Royal Terns, and every so often the skimmers would lift off and give George a sample of their funny nasal nyep sounds!  Out in the bay were Red-breasted Mergansers and Redheads, and at one point one of the Redheads actually gave his cool "mewing" sound!  We kept hearing this squeaking that I suspected was a young tern, and sure enough, we found a full-grown, adult-plumaged Royal Tern that was still begging from Mom/Dad!  Both flavors of pelicans were also out, but of course they weren't saying anything (although the Great Blue Heron gave a great sample as he squawked annoyedly).

Piping Plover with colorful "bling" that identifies where the bird came from!

Male Red-breasted Merganser plows the surface looking for fish.


George records the shorebirds from the shelter of the car!

Snoozing Black Skimmers
Begging Royal Tern (the hunkered one on the right)

From there we headed over to the Convention Centre, where I explained what a haven it was for migrating birds in the spring!  Right now it was rather quiet, but a few things chattered from the boardwalk; unfortunately George didn't have his recorder running when the best bird sounded off:  a Least Bittern!  The snoozing Roseate Spoonbills were a big hit, and a Black-necked Stilt feeding like an Avocet (swooshing its bill back and forth over the water) was a first!  George was entranced by all the cool noises the grackles were making; their Commons in Minnesota aren't nearly as creative in their vocalizations!  The Common Gallinules cackled once in awhile, and the resident showoff at the end of the boardwalk gave Wanda a great show for her IPhone!  A Belted Kingfisher that had the "birding shelter" staked out rattled for us as well.  At the end of the north boardwalk a Reddish Egret (with a few white primaries) did a little dancing while two Tricolored Herons faced off.  It was deja vu when another Reddish Egret near the Birding Center's boardwalk started grunting while he fed, as one did that very thing for me one time and gave me a recording!  This guy was a little further away, though...  Thankfully George had his recorder going when a pair of Clapper Rails did their "grunting duet"!  On the way back through the mangroves, I heard a sharp pink! that I thought was a Swamp Sparrow at first, but that little voice in the back of my head was saying, "Are you sure that's not a Northern Waterthrush??"  And while a Swampie would like the reeds, the waterthrush would definitely prefer the mucky areas under the mangroves, so after George and I analyzed both calls later (and admitted they were very similar), he concurred that what we had heard (and he recorded) was a waterthrush.  Meanwhile a couple of very friendly Collared Doves walked up to us and said hello!  On the way back to the car a Catbird shot across the sidewalk.

Wanda and George on the boardwalk

Roseate Spoonbills

Another birder scans the mudflats from an island

The resident photogenic Common Gallinule
Friendly Collared Dove
Since we still had a bit of time I decided to show them the Sheepshead Lots for future reference, but we felt something might be chirping there as well.  A Wilson's Warbler did come in and chep for us, then took a bath in the water feature!  A Hermit Thrush also made a brief appearance, and a Buff-bellied Hummingbird and Yellow-rumped Warblers were heard-only, so we decided to call it a day after that with 65 species for the morning.  Bird List:
  Black-bellied Whistling-Duck          Dendrocygna autumnalis
  American Wigeon                       Anas americana
  Blue-winged Teal                      Anas discors
  Northern Pintail                      Anas acuta
  Redhead                               Aythya americana
  Red-breasted Merganser                Mergus serrator
  Pied-billed Grebe                     Podilymbus podiceps
  Double-crested Cormorant              Phalacrocorax auritus
  American White Pelican                Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
  Brown Pelican                         Pelecanus occidentalis
  Least Bittern                         Ixobrychus exilis
  Great Blue Heron                      Ardea herodias
  Little Blue Heron                     Egretta caerulea
  Tricolored Heron                      Egretta tricolor
  Reddish Egret                         Egretta rufescens
  Black-crowned Night-Heron             Nycticorax nycticorax
  White Ibis                            Eudocimus albus
  Roseate Spoonbill                     Platalea ajaja
  Turkey Vulture                        Cathartes aura
  Osprey                                Pandion haliaetus
  Harris's Hawk                         Parabuteo unicinctus
  Clapper Rail                          Rallus longirostris
  Common Gallinule                      Gallinula galeata
  American Coot                         Fulica americana
  Black-necked Stilt                    Himantopus mexicanus
  Black-bellied Plover                  Pluvialis squatarola
  Piping Plover                         Charadrius melodus
  Greater Yellowlegs                    Tringa melanoleuca
  Willet                                Tringa semipalmata
  Ruddy Turnstone                       Arenaria interpres
  Sanderling                            Calidris alba
  Dunlin                                Calidris alpina
  Laughing Gull                         Leucophaeus atricilla
  Ring-billed Gull                      Larus delawarensis
  Herring Gull                          Larus argentatus
  Caspian Tern                          Hydroprogne caspia
  Royal Tern                            Thalasseus maximus
  Sandwich Tern                         Thalasseus sandvicensis
  Black Skimmer                         Rynchops niger
  Rock Pigeon                           Columba livia
  Eurasian Collared-Dove                Streptopelia decaocto
  Mourning Dove                         Zenaida macroura
  Buff-bellied Hummingbird              Amazilia yucatanensis
  Belted Kingfisher                     Megaceryle alcyon
  Crested Caracara                      Caracara cheriway
  American Kestrel                      Falco sparverius
  Eastern Phoebe                        Sayornis phoebe
  House Wren                            Troglodytes aedon
  Marsh Wren                            Cistothorus palustris
  Ruby-crowned Kinglet                  Regulus calendula
  Hermit Thrush                         Catharus guttatus
  Gray Catbird                          Dumetella carolinensis
  Northern Mockingbird                  Mimus polyglottos
  European Starling                     Sturnus vulgaris
  Northern Waterthrush                  Parkesia noveboracensis
  Orange-crowned Warbler                Oreothlypis celata
  Common Yellowthroat                   Geothlypis trichas
  Yellow-rumped Warbler                 Setophaga coronata
  Wilson's Warbler                      Cardellina pusilla
  Lincoln's Sparrow                     Melospiza lincolnii
  Northern Cardinal                     Cardinalis cardinalis
  Red-winged Blackbird                  Agelaius phoeniceus
  Eastern Meadowlark                    Sturnella magna
  Great-tailed Grackle                  Quiscalus mexicanus
  House Sparrow                         Passer domesticus

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