Monday, January 18, 2016

The Girls from California

13 JAN 2016

The trip with fellow Californians “Betty and Kathy” (names changed to protect identity) was one of those situations where you strike up a conversation with a couple of guests, and the next thing you know, you’re taking them birding! J  They were also interested in trying for the Aplomado Falcons, and even after briefing them on our lack of success the day before, they still wanted to go for it (as indeed, we would see lots of other good stuff along the way).  So we headed down to the Boca Chica tract of the LRGV NWR, but on the way I decided to swing in the south end of Old Port Isabel Road, even though I knew we wouldn’t get any further than a mile up the road.  Turns out that was not a wasted detour at all, as we got crippling views of a very cooperative White-tailed Hawk on a pole, a Cassin’s Sparrow that hopped up on a fence wire, and both King Rail and Sedge Wrens calling at the turnaround point!  Once again we got Roseate Spoonbills and White Pelicans on Loma Alta Lake, and some uncooperative Gull-billed Terns were a life bird for Betty, so we were hoping for better views later.
White-tailed Hawk

As far as we got on Old Port Isabel Road

Scanning the flatlands for falcons
From there we headed down to Boca Chica as planned, and this time I stopped several times along the entirety of the main road, along with the dirt “back road” that can often have woodland species you might not nab along the main drag.  It was in this area that we had a somewhat cooperative White-eyed Vireo (another lifer for Betty), and back on the main road a Roadrunner made a brief appearance.  At another stop a flock of swallows proved to be Cave, another potential lifer “in the bank” if they ever decide to split off the Caribbean race (as Betty had that one in Cuba)!  Harris’ Hawks and Caracaras were masquerading as Chihuahuan Ravens the whole time, but we finally got a look at a real one! J 
Boca Chica back road
The girls had state-of-the-art scopes, so with every stop they were scanning hard for raptors; at one point a suspicious bird got our juices going, but when it flew it proved itself to be a Peregrine (still nothing to sniff at).  Still no Aplomado, but we had nice views of several Harris’ Hawks (Betty was finally able to get a decent picture), both male and female Harriers, a pair of perched White-tailed Kites, and in the various roadside wetlands had several waterbirds along with a calling Swamp Sparrow.  Down on the flats we had some nice shorebird studies (including a couple of ultra-cute Snowy Plovers), but the big show was over 250 Reddish Egrets of both morphs all packed together like sardines (in two different groups)!  Needless to say EBird “burped” on that one (as Kathy was faithfully inputting everything we saw as we went)!  Several Horned Larks bopped along the mud close to the road, and thankfully several Gull-billed Terns paced us close in the car and even landed, giving Betty knockout looks!  I showed the girls the “hidden” access to the Rio Grande where we had some Avocets and a head-on Black-crowned Night Heron coming at us, then headed down the beach, having nice studies of Royal and Forster’s Terns, a few Sanderlings and Willets, Laughing and Ring-billed Gulls here and there, and several stages of Herring Gull, including a nice-looking 2nd-year bird!  We didn’t make it all the way to the mouth as the tide was coming in, but it was a nice way to see close birds from the car!
Betty stalks a Harris' Hawk
Gull-billed Tern

Betty and Kathy at the Rio Grande

Horned Lark
Mob of Reddish Egrets

White morph Reddish Egret doing its thing...
Group of Royal Terns
2nd-year Herring Gull
From there we headed up SR 48 to the famous boat ramp, where this time the Oystercatcher was right there in front of us!  There were also lots of skimmers along with a young Little Blue Heron.  After thoroughly scouring the area, we headed on up to SR 100 on the off chance an Aplomado might be perched on one of the poles; no such luck, so we headed on in to Weslaco, where the Birds-Eye app revealed a couple of parrot roosts.  Starting at the Valley Nature Center’s parking lot, we didn’t get far before we spotted a flock of parrots heading south, so in true storm-chasing fashion we blasted south on Border and screamed onto 10th Street, where we actually found a big flock of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks in someone’s tree!  Continuing to cruise the neighborhood we finally heard the parrot cacophony just south of us and found their tree, enjoying yet another life bird for the girls (and a roost closer to home to boot)!
Red-crowned Parrot roost (take with my IPhone, but you hopefully can hear the racket!)
We ended the day with a whopping 96 species!  Bird List:

  Black-bellied Whistling-Duck          Dendrocygna autumnalis
  Snow Goose                            Chen caerulescens
  Gadwall                               Anas strepera
  Mottled Duck                          Anas fulvigula
  Blue-winged Teal                      Anas discors
  Northern Shoveler                     Anas clypeata
  Northern Bobwhite                     Colinus virginianus
  Pied-billed Grebe                     Podilymbus podiceps
  Neotropic Cormorant                   Phalacrocorax brasilianus
  Double-crested Cormorant              Phalacrocorax auritus
  American White Pelican                Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
  Brown Pelican                         Pelecanus occidentalis
  Great Blue Heron                      Ardea herodias
  Great Egret                           Ardea alba
  Snowy Egret                           Egretta thula
  Little Blue Heron                     Egretta caerulea
  Reddish Egret                         Egretta rufescens
  Black-crowned Night-Heron             Nycticorax nycticorax
  White Ibis                            Eudocimus albus
  White-faced Ibis                      Plegadis chihi
  Roseate Spoonbill                     Platalea ajaja
  Black Vulture                         Coragyps atratus
  Turkey Vulture                        Cathartes aura
  Osprey                                Pandion haliaetus
  White-tailed Kite                     Elanus leucurus
  Northern Harrier                      Circus cyaneus
  Cooper's Hawk                         Accipiter cooperii
  Harris's Hawk                         Parabuteo unicinctus
  White-tailed Hawk                     Geranoaetus albicaudatus
  Red-tailed Hawk                       Buteo jamaicensis
  King Rail                             Rallus elegans
  Sora                                  Porzana carolina
  American Coot                         Fulica americana
  Sandhill Crane                        Grus canadensis
  Black-necked Stilt                    Himantopus mexicanus
  American Avocet                       Recurvirostra americana
  American Oystercatcher                Haematopus palliatus
  Black-bellied Plover                  Pluvialis squatarola
  Snowy Plover                          Charadrius nivosus
  Killdeer                              Charadrius vociferus
  Spotted Sandpiper                     Actitis macularius
  Greater Yellowlegs                    Tringa melanoleuca
  Willet                                Tringa semipalmata
  Lesser Yellowlegs                     Tringa flavipes
  Long-billed Curlew                    Numenius americanus
  Ruddy Turnstone                       Arenaria interpres
  Sanderling                            Calidris alba
  Least Sandpiper                       Calidris minutilla
  Western Sandpiper                     Calidris mauri
  Laughing Gull                         Leucophaeus atricilla
  Ring-billed Gull                      Larus delawarensis
  Herring Gull                          Larus argentatus
  Gull-billed Tern                      Gelochelidon nilotica
  Caspian Tern                          Hydroprogne caspia
  Forster's Tern                        Sterna forsteri
  Royal Tern                            Thalasseus maximus
  Black Skimmer                         Rynchops niger
  Rock Pigeon                           Columba livia
  Eurasian Collared-Dove                Streptopelia decaocto
  Mourning Dove                         Zenaida macroura
  Greater Roadrunner                    Geococcyx californianus
  Belted Kingfisher                     Megaceryle alcyon
  Golden-fronted Woodpecker             Melanerpes aurifrons
  Ladder-backed Woodpecker              Picoides scalaris
  Crested Caracara                      Caracara cheriway
  American Kestrel                      Falco sparverius
  Peregrine Falcon                      Falco peregrinus
  Red-crowned Parrot                    Amazona viridigenalis
  Great Kiskadee                        Pitangus sulphuratus
  Loggerhead Shrike                     Lanius ludovicianus
  White-eyed Vireo                      Vireo griseus
  Green Jay                             Cyanocorax yncas
  Chihuahuan Raven                      Corvus cryptoleucus
  Horned Lark                           Eremophila alpestris
  Cave Swallow                          Petrochelidon fulva
  Verdin                                Auriparus flaviceps
  House Wren                            Troglodytes aedon
  Sedge Wren                            Cistothorus platensis
  Curve-billed Thrasher                 Toxostoma curvirostre
  Long-billed Thrasher                  Toxostoma longirostre
  Northern Mockingbird                  Mimus polyglottos
  European Starling                     Sturnus vulgaris
  Orange-crowned Warbler                Oreothlypis celata
  Common Yellowthroat                   Geothlypis trichas
  Yellow-rumped Warbler                 Setophaga coronata
  Olive Sparrow                         Arremonops rufivirgatus
  Cassin's Sparrow                      Peucaea cassinii
  Savannah Sparrow                      Passerculus sandwichensis
  Lincoln's Sparrow                     Melospiza lincolnii
  Swamp Sparrow                         Melospiza georgiana
  Northern Cardinal                     Cardinalis cardinalis
  Red-winged Blackbird                  Agelaius phoeniceus
  Eastern Meadowlark                    Sturnella magna
  Western Meadowlark                    Sturnella neglecta
  Great-tailed Grackle                  Quiscalus mexicanus
  House Sparrow                         Passer domesticus



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