Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Another Taste of Migration


            The Big Storms didn’t materialize down here like everyone thought, but since we did have a big thunder-boomer the night before, I figured we might have fallout conditions at South Padre, so after picking up Sharon we headed out!  Aplomado Falcon was big on her wish list, so we made a brief stop at the Blue Shack along SR 100, and thankfully there was a falcon perched on a power pole not too far away!  Whew!

            Headed on to the Convention Center after that, and I was honestly surprised that the place wasn’t packed after yesterday’s rains!  While there weren’t “tons” of birds (I think that big fallout three years ago spoiled us J), there were good numbers of Baltimore Orioles and Indigo Buntings, and Yellow-headed Blackbirds almost outnumbered the Redwings!  Quality was certainly present, as both a male and female Western Tanager appeared right away, and a little later a Bobolink teed up on top of one of the trees and then took off for the marsh!  A vireo in terrible light kinda struck me as a Red-eyed, and thankfully Jan Dauphin, another Valley birder, saw it at a better angle and confirmed it!  J A lovely Rose-breasted Grosbeak came in, and a handsome Northern Parula posed over the water feature and sang!  The back area had several Black-and-white and Black-throated Green Warblers, along with a couple of “western wanderers”:  a male Bullock’s Oriole and a stunning male “Audubon’s” Warbler!  A Painted Bunting posed over our heads, and another “most wanted” bird for Sharon, a Dickcissel, fed among the pigeons and Collared Doves!  A visit out back produced nothing as the tide was up to the brink (and we all watched with anticipation as a guy in a pickup who had gotten caught by the tide tried to drive out of it…).  Sitting on the “tucked away bench” in the southwest corner of the “Secret Garden” bagged us a Gray-cheeked Thrush along with great looks at all the buntings coming in.  We checked the boardwalk and managed to flush the female Least Bittern and were entertained by a tame Sora, but only heard the Clapper Rails.  Back at the Center we circled the “outer bushes” near the parking lot as they often have good stuff but are not visited as much by birders, and found the continuing female Pyrrhuloxia feeding with some Chipping and Clay-colored Sparrows.
Western Tanager, an annual vagrant in the Valley

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Bobolink, another vagrant

Female Least Bittern

Northern Parula
Female Pyrrhuloxia
Painted Bunting
"Audubon's" Warbler, rather rare on the coast
          From there we headed over to Sheepshead, and that’s where all the excitement was:  right away Mary G. alerted us to a Kentucky Warbler that was hanging around the sunny north side, but later what may have been the same bird came in to the drip on the shady south side and proceeded to give everyone a great show by taking a bath! J  The Cape May Warbler (a vagrant in the Valley) shortly showed up, along with Worm-eating, Chestnut-sided, Wilson’s, Blackburnian, more Black-and-whites and Black-throated Greens, and a Northern Waterthrush!  Non-warbler goodies included a molting Summer Tanager that had a rather interesting pattern, a Warbling Vireo that several were trying to turn into a Philadelphia, and several Swainson’s Thrushes.

Female Baltimore Oriole

Orchard Oriole

Cape May Warbler, also a vagrant
Summer Tanager in transitional plumage

Kentucky Warbler

Curious Black-throated Green Warbler

             Sharon’s most “most wanted” bird, however, was a Roadrunner, so from there we headed up to Laguna Atascosa.  Even the Eastern Meadowlarks were new for her, and she was delighted to finally get a look at one facing her!  Lark Sparrows were also plentiful, and I was once again reminded of how easy it is for us to take such a striking bird for granted!  We did well in the raptor department along Buena Vista, picking up pairs of White-tailed Kites and Harris’ Hawks, plus a White-tailed Hawk making his getaway with lunch.  Unfortunately no Roadrunners were to be had along the entrance road, so we parked at the Visitor’s Center and checked out the photo blind.  Thankfully another “want bird,” the Green Jay, didn’t disappoint, as several hopped around getting drinks, raiding the hummingbird feeder, and tussling amongst themselves!  Even the Bronzed Cowbirds put on a show by performing The Helicopter, a fascinating display wherein the male will hover motionless over the female for several seconds before landing and doing the Darth Vader puff-up!  On the way out we were blocked by some very dead-looking Chachalacas that were sunning; they certainly didn’t want to move and ended up “accompanying” us to the Kiskadee Trail!
Sunning Chachalacas

            On the way one of the rangers (Daniel Rivera, I was to discover) called us over to see a snake eating a lizard!  The snake was a Ruthven’s Whip Snake, and his lunch looked like a Texas Spotted Whiptail (probably the most common lizard we have)!  The lizard was still very much alive as the snake had him by the side of the neck, but the snake finally wore him down and swallowed him head first…  On the trail we tried to pish out an Olive Sparrow, but I knew that was a hopeless cause… J
A Ruthven's Whipsnake grabs a hapless Texas Spotted Whiptail for lunch! 


Interesting fungus covers a dead tree on the Kiskadee Trail

            After cooling off in the Visitor’s Center we drove down to Osprey Overlook in hopes of scaring up a Roadrunner; it was pretty dead by that point, and as I was turning around to leave, what should suddenly pop up but the Roadrunner!  As I’ve confessed, I can’t help messin’ with Roadrunners, so I cooed at it, and he answered back and came closer, but I think “he” was really a “she”, because another Roadrunner also answered on the other side of the car, and Sharon excitedly said, “There he is, out in the open!”  Sure enough, this guy had a very bright red-and-blue ear patch, which I understand is indicative of a male (the other bird’s ear patch was quite dull).  Talk about the 11th hour!!
A lady Roadrunner comes to investigate, along with her mate (below)!

            We headed back after that, but the excitement wasn’t over: on the way down Buena Vista Road, Sharon spotted a sparrow with a “very yellow breast,” which turned out to be a Grasshopper Sparrow (two of them, in fact)!  She got a kick out of their song, which truly does sound like a grasshopper!

            I wasn’t sure we’d break 100 with relatively few shorebirds on the list, but we certainly did (granted, many of them were heard-only that Sharon never got to see… L)!  Bird List:

  Black-bellied Whistling-Duck         
  Mottled Duck                         
  Plain Chachalaca                     
  Brown Pelican                        
  Least Bittern                        
  Great Blue Heron                      
  Great Egret                          
  Tricolored Heron                     
  Cattle Egret                         
  Roseate Spoonbill                    
  Turkey Vulture                       
  White-tailed Kite                    
  Harris's Hawk                        
  White-tailed Hawk                     
  Clapper Rail                         
  Common Gallinule                     
  American Coot                        
  Black-necked Stilt                   
  Spotted Sandpiper                    
  Long-billed Curlew                   
  Laughing Gull                        
  Franklin's Gull                      
  Least Tern                           
  Gull-billed Tern                     
  Royal Tern                           
  Sandwich Tern                        
  Black Skimmer                        
  Rock Pigeon                           
  Eurasian Collared-Dove               
  White-winged Dove                    
  Mourning Dove                        
  Inca Dove                            
  Common Ground-Dove                   
  White-tipped Dove                    
  Greater Roadrunner                   
  Chimney Swift                        
  Ruby-throated Hummingbird            
  Golden-fronted Woodpecker            
  Ladder-backed Woodpecker             
  American Kestrel                     
  Aplomado Falcon                      
  Eastern Wood-Pewee                   
  Brown-crested Flycatcher             
  Great Kiskadee                       
  Western Kingbird                      
  Scissor-tailed Flycatcher            
  Loggerhead Shrike                    
  White-eyed Vireo                     
  Warbling Vireo                       
  Red-eyed Vireo                       
  Green Jay                            
  Barn Swallow                         
  Marsh Wren                           
  Bewick's Wren                        
  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher                
  Gray-cheeked Thrush                  
  Swainson's Thrush                    
  Clay-colored Thrush                  
  Gray Catbird                         
  Long-billed Thrasher                 
  Northern Mockingbird                  
  European Starling                    
  Worm-eating Warbler                  
  Northern Waterthrush                 
  Black-and-white Warbler              
  Tennessee Warbler                    
  Nashville Warbler                    
  Kentucky Warbler                     
  Common Yellowthroat                  
  Cape May Warbler                     
  Northern Parula                      
  Blackburnian Warbler                 
  Yellow Warbler                       
  Chestnut-sided Warbler                
  Yellow-rumped Warbler                
  Black-throated Green Warbler         
  Wilson's Warbler                     
  Olive Sparrow                        
  Cassin's Sparrow                     
  Chipping Sparrow                     
  Clay-colored Sparrow                 
  Lark Sparrow                         
  Savannah Sparrow                     
  Grasshopper Sparrow                  
  Lincoln's Sparrow                    
  Summer Tanager                       
  Western Tanager                      
  Northern Cardinal                    
  Rose-breasted Grosbeak               
  Indigo Bunting                       
  Painted Bunting                      
  Red-winged Blackbird                  
  Eastern Meadowlark                   
  Yellow-headed Blackbird              
  Great-tailed Grackle                 
  Bronzed Cowbird                      
  Brown-headed Cowbird                 
  Orchard Oriole                       
  Bullock's Oriole                     
  Baltimore Oriole                     
  House Sparrow                         

No comments:

Post a Comment