Monday, December 18, 2017

An Early Christmas Present


I wasn’t holding out much hope that the Green-breasted Mango had survived the historic snowstorm of last Friday (and neither was Howard, frankly, after two days with no reports of the thing), but he had purchased his tickets and was gonna go for it anyway, so this morning we headed to Quinta Mazatlan by way of Whataburger for breakfast J, and killed time in the parking lot until they opened the gates at 8:00.  It was another crisp, somewhat sunny, calm morning, and there were lots of feathers right there:  both Orange-crowned and Black-throated Green Warblers, gnatcatchers and kinglets, a Mockingbird and Curve-billed Thrasher side by side, and even fighting phoebes!  Finally when a Quinta truck came through we asked them about the gate, and he shrugged and said no one had said anything to him about their making a special opening of the park (normally they’re closed on Mondays), but he bade us enter anyway, so in we went, with Chachalacas running along ahead of us and Clay-colored Thrushes flying back and forth across the entrance road!

Treetop Eastern Phoebe

After getting Howard settled I went into the VC to check in and use the facilities, then took up watch (I would make several trips back there to get coffee, etc. – that sure felt good on a cold morning J)!  Every 15 minutes I would get up and walk the circle around the education center just in case the bird was laying low back there; Green Jays were fussing at something, and at one point I did flush something big that I thought might have been an owl, but later we saw the Red-shouldered Hawk flying around, so that could have been what I flushed.  Before long Chris Lopez and his dad arrived; Chris got some nice kinglet pictures which led to a discussion about how to tell them from Hutton’s Vireos (don’t have to worry about that here, but in the Hill Country or Big Bend it could come in handy)!  At one point I heard White-fronted Geese cackling in the distance, and three Gadwall wheeled overhead, but besides the Kiskadees and the other usuals, things weren’t very exciting until I heard a Summer Tanager calling over near the entrance road!  A Wilson’s Warbler got added to the list at one point, but around 11:30 we decided to do some road birding and then maybe come back later.

Howard takes up watch 

Inca Dove along the entrance road

Flyover Red-shouldered Hawk
The closest “bird road” was Wallace Road, so up we went, and that turned out to be very productive!  Right away we had several Red-tailed Hawks (including a couple of Fuertes’), and at one point we had a young White-tailed, but what was even better was a young Swainson’s, which is rare this time of year!  The folks who had bought the former Monte Cristo Tract had evidently cleared some trees, because now you could see the big lake from the road, with a Great Blue Heron perched on one of the snags!  Further down, the wetlands were in good shape; Howard spotted a Belted Kingfisher right away, with several Least Grebes floating along below it!  A Swamp Sparrow peeped behind us, and as we were checking the shorebirds a state trooper pulled up behind us, his lights flashing!  I thought I was pulled over enough, but his real reason for stopping (and he was very congenial) was to see what we were up to, and when he was convinced I was a “real birder”, he explained that this stretch was a popular “pickup” spot for illegal aliens!  I didn’t doubt him for a minute, as I often saw “creepy” cars along there and never felt comfortable enough to go far from the car!  But we saw a good variety of ducks (including a few Cinnamon Teal), a White Pelican, some nice shorebirds including Stilt Sandpipers and both flavors of yellowlegs, a perky Vermilion Flycatcher, and even overwintering Scissor-tailed and Least Flycatchers!

Red-tailed Hawk in flight

Redtails can be quite variable; this one leans closer to a "Fuertes'" type due to the nearly pristine underparts.

This one is much more typical, showing a stronger belly band.

The pale eye suggests that he's a youngster as well.

This juvenile Swainson's Hawk should have been in South America by now!

Like the Swainie, a few Scissor-tailed Flycatchers hang around all winter.

From there we blasted south on US281, stopped at the McDonald’s for a late lunch, and then decided to revisit Quinta after much hemming and hawing!  So we headed back in and set up shop, and after about an hour I happened to look up into the sugar hackberry tree that was the favorite hangout of the Mango, and there he was!!  Howard quickly got on him, and I miraculously got the scope on him, and we got great looks as he moved around and showed off every field mark (much better looks than I got the last time)!  He even gave us a breast view so we could see that diagnostic black stripe down the center!

The mango returns!  He has his back to us in the above shot, but you can still see that decurved bill.

Here he's showing a bit of his white underparts...

...but the black stripe down the middle is diagnostic, even in this lousy shot!

We took off after that, and with the Wallace Road romp we ended up with a respectable 78 species for the day!  Bird list:

  Greater White-fronted Goose          
  American Wigeon
  Blue-winged Teal                     
  Cinnamon Teal                        
  Northern Shoveler                    
  Ring-necked Duck                     
  Ruddy Duck                           
  Plain Chachalaca                     
  Least Grebe                          
  Neotropic Cormorant                  
  Double-crested Cormorant             
  American White Pelican               
  Great Blue Heron                     
  Great Egret                          
  Snowy Egret                          
  Cattle Egret                         
  White-faced Ibis                     
  Black Vulture                        
  Turkey Vulture                       
  Harris's Hawk                        
  White-tailed Hawk                    
  Red-shouldered Hawk                  
  Swainson's Hawk                      
  Red-tailed Hawk                      
  Common Gallinule                     
  American Coot                        
  Greater Yellowlegs                   
  Lesser Yellowlegs                     
  Stilt Sandpiper                      
  Least Sandpiper                      
  Long-billed Dowitcher                
  Rock Pigeon                          
  Eurasian Collared-Dove               
  White-winged Dove                     
  Mourning Dove                        
  Inca Dove                            
  Green-breasted Mango                 
  Buff-bellied Hummingbird             
  Belted Kingfisher                    
  Golden-fronted Woodpecker            
  Ladder-backed Woodpecker             
  Crested Caracara                     
  American Kestrel                     
  Least Flycatcher                     
  Eastern Phoebe                       
  Vermilion Flycatcher                 
  Great Kiskadee                       
  Tropical Kingbird                    
  Scissor-tailed Flycatcher            
  Loggerhead Shrike                    
  Green Jay                            
  Black-crested Titmouse               
  House Wren                           
  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher                
  Ruby-crowned Kinglet                 
  Clay-colored Thrush                  
  Curve-billed Thrasher                
  Long-billed Thrasher                 
  Northern Mockingbird                 
  European Starling                    
  American Pipit                       
  Orange-crowned Warbler               
  Common Yellowthroat                  
  Yellow-rumped Warbler                 
  Black-throated Green Warbler         
  Wilson's Warbler                     
  Olive Sparrow                        
  Lincoln's Sparrow                    
  Swamp Sparrow                        
  Summer Tanager                       
  Northern Cardinal                    
  Red-winged Blackbird                 
  Western Meadowlark                   
  Great-tailed Grackle                 
  House Sparrow                        


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