Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Despite the Wind...


I was a little apprehensive heading out today under a wind advisory (never good for birding L), but Chris and Sandra were seasoned adventurers from Britain (who had traveled all over the world in their quest for birds and photos), so they knew the ups and downs of birding and that you just had to do the best you could.  We actually ended up with a decent list, despite the gale!

We started at Estero Llano Grande and had a Tropical Kingbird right there in the parking lot (along with a Mockingbird, which Sandra was happy to see as it was our state bird J)!  We found an Inca Dove singing “Bob Hope”, and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher came down to say hello at the culvert, and as we sat for five near the hummer feeder along the Tyrannulet Trail, a the female Rufous Hummer (that I erroneously thought was a Rubythroat at first as I didn't see the kiss of rufous) came in (but the Buffbelly only called, sadly, and as it turned out would never come in to the feeders L).  Several Golden-fronted Woodpeckers showed off, and down by the new blind we had a pair of Couch’s Kingbirds having a spat, and the Red-winged Blackbirds filled the trees (although never came in to the feeder area)!  The “old” feeder area was rather quiet except for several Orange-crowned Warblers that came in, and another five-minute vigil at Rick and May’s trailer just produced a couple more Archilochus hummers (probably Rubythroats, according to Rick as he examined my pics).

Young Rufous Hummingbird

Tropical Kingbird

An Orange-crowned Warbler ponders the orange...

Yet another Ruby-throated Hummingbird at the Sniders' feeder
After checking in we spent another several minutes at the feeders near the restrooms, and only logged Redwings (but they were in great light for photography J), so we headed onto the boardwalk to look at the waterfowl in better light:  both White and White-faced Ibis were on display today, along with several Snowy Egrets.  The regular ducks were there (except for the Cinnamon Teal), and we couldn’t pick out the “Mexican Duck” that was hanging around with the Mottleds.  But we got a great look at the Least Grebe that was also hanging with them!

Red-winged Blackbird

White-faced Ibis


Nothing of note was as Dowitcher Pond (even the ever-present Spotted Sandpiper had abandoned his log), so we headed straight to Alligator Lake.  Sandra was anxious to see night herons, and saw them we did, in spades!  There were even a couple of immatures of both species to compare!  The Anhinga was back, next to the Tricolored Heron, but the Neotrop had gone AWOL.  Thankfully the Pauraque was really out in the open this time, and even in the sun!  (He was rocking a little bit so he may have been getting ready to move to a shadier spot…)  The owl was a no-show, but we did get good looks at a cooperative White-eyed Vireo.  Nothing was at the overlook, so we headed straight back to the parking lot and the next destination (but not before kicking up a Dusky-blue Groundstreak before the feeders).

Sandra and Chris checking out the night herons...

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

The park's famous Pauraque

My charges had never seen Yellow-headed Blackbird or either cowbird, so we swung by the Progresso Silos, only between the truck traffic and the horrific wind, we weren’t able to pick out any Yellowheads except for one female in a big mob of black on the ground, and unfortunately the whole bunch flew before Chris and Sandra could spot it.  But miracle of miracles, I was able to get them on one lone Bronzed Cowbird in the mob that was puffing up his ruff and sticking up his tail enough to look different!  There were plenty of Brown-headed Cowbirds around, so that was an easy lifer…  On the way out a nice Cooper’s Hawk flew by at ground level and landed, but took off again before we could get even with him.

We headed to Santa Ana after that and sat at the feeders for awhile, hoping the Buffbelly would come in, but a very cooperative Altamira Oriole came down instead!  The bird walk was just finishing up, so we chatted with Lorna (a Winter Texan also staying at the Inn) and Laura and Steve Paulson who led the group.  They reported a Harris’ Hawk at Willow Lake as being the highlight of the walk, so we headed out, getting a couple more gnatcatchers, but it was quieting down by then.  The lake had a few coots (and the promised Harris’ across the way), but at the big blind a little pod of Least Grebes showed well!  At the next deck we found a big group of Black-necked Stilts way in the back, which led to a discussion as to whether they’re a separate species from Europe’s Black-winged Stilts or not (depends on your taxonomy).  We kicked up a Red Admiral and a White Peacock in the butterfly department, as well as many Red Saddlebags.  Another couple were shooting a very strongly marked lizard on a rock that I guessed was a Rosebelly Lizard coming into breeding condition, and thankfully my herp friends concurred!  We were almost back to the roundabout when I heard a distant Beardless Tyrannulet; I really didn’t expect the thing to come in, but I tried some pishing, and lo and behold he did come in close!  Thankfully Chris and Sandra did get on the bird before it shot away, so I was happy with that!

Altamira Oriole

Sandra on the Chachalaca Trail

Several Least Grebe shots

Various views of the Rosebelly Lizard, a South Texas specialty!

They were interested in Burrowing Owls, so we headed north on Tower Road in order to cut across to Border so the owls would be on their side of the car.  But the drive turned out to be a dud (except for some American Pipits that went bouncing away and never settled down).  Well, we did have a couple of young Caracaras in with a mob of Turkey Vultures in a field, so it wasn’t a total waste… 

Trying for Monk Parakeets in Hidalgo was next, and for the first time ever, we couldn’t find any!  I guess it was just too darn windy to be hanging around on the wires or near the nests, but Sandra did spot a flock of Cedar Waxwings in someone’s yard!  I was incredulous when she mentioned that they got them in their own yard in Britain, before we both realized she was referring to the Bohemian Waxwing!

I was hoping Anzalduas wouldn’t be closed due to the President’s Day holiday, and thankfully they weren’t!  On the way in three White-tailed Hawks were hanging in the wind (one adult and two youngsters), and when the adult landed in the field, a Caracara approached him and almost had a confrontation!  The wigeon pair was in the little floodway wetland, as was a heard-only Pied-billed Grebe, but the guys were willing to hike out in the field for the Sprague’s Pipit, despite the wind!  We enjoyed a flock of Western Meadowlarks in front of where we parked before heading out. 

I figured if the thing did pop up it would immediately hunker down in the grass, so I didn’t bother taking the scope.  Well.  The little guy must have known because he popped up, dutifully piked, then landed flat out in the open just several yards away!  Both Chris and Sandra were able to get pictures, so I was very happy about that!  An Osprey showed well while we were out there, which led to a discussion of their plight in Britain.

Sandra assesses Chris' shot of the Sprague's Pipit (below)!

©2018 Chris Briggs

Continuing the crawl, we added the Lesser Scaups to the list, and Sandra spotted a Loggerhead Shrike sitting on a post in that “government” area!  Swinging around from the dam area I heard peeping, and sure enough, a Black Phoebe was sitting on the wire “rope”!  He was almost upstaged by the young Vermilion Flycatcher that landed next to him (and later a Yellow-rumped Warbler joined the group)!  Killdeer had been calling and flying overhead at Santa Ana, but I could never get my charges on them, so I was thrilled when a group of four materialized right outside the car!  House Finches were actually singing, and later we saw a more “fully male” Vermilion Flycatcher just before we had to leave to go home.  A guy wandering amongst the trees looked familiar and turned out to be my friend Pullen from Mississippi, who was spending a week here and had already reported some good stuff from the Brownsville Dump (including the Tamaulipas Crow)!  On the way out a flock of Savannah Sparrows flew over the levee, and we had a pair of nice Red-tailed Hawks.  A Cattle Egret was in with some cattle going up Shary Road, but only Chris and I saw that one. 

Loggerhead Shrike

Killdeer (that always seem to look worried...)

Black Phoebe

Red-tailed Hawk

Ended up with 76 species for the day, which ain’t bad on a horribly windy day!  Bird list:

  Muscovy Duck (feral)
  American Wigeon                      
  Mottled Duck                         
  Blue-winged Teal                     
  Northern Shoveler                    
  Green-winged Teal                    
  Lesser Scaup                         
  Least Grebe                          
  Pied-billed Grebe                     
  Double-crested Cormorant             
  Great Blue Heron                     
  Great Egret                          
  Snowy Egret                          
  Tricolored Heron                      
  Cattle Egret                         
  Black-crowned Night-Heron            
  Yellow-crowned Night-Heron           
  White Ibis                           
  White-faced Ibis                     
  Turkey Vulture                       
  Cooper's Hawk                        
  Harris's Hawk                        
  White-tailed Hawk                    
  Red-tailed Hawk                      
  American Coot                        
  Black-necked Stilt                   
  Rock Pigeon                          
  Mourning Dove                        
  Inca Dove                            
  Common Pauraque                      
  Ruby-throated Hummingbird            
  Buff-bellied Hummingbird             
  Golden-fronted Woodpecker            
  Ladder-backed Woodpecker             
  Crested Caracara                     
  American Kestrel                     
  Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet        
  Black Phoebe                         
  Vermilion Flycatcher                 
  Great Kiskadee                       
  Tropical Kingbird                    
  Couch's Kingbird                     
  Loggerhead Shrike                     
  White-eyed Vireo                     
  Green Jay                            
  Northern Rough-winged Swallow        
  Tree Swallow                         
  Black-crested Titmouse               
  House Wren                           
  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher                
  Ruby-crowned Kinglet                 
  Long-billed Thrasher                 
  Northern Mockingbird                 
  European Starling                    
  American Pipit                        
  Sprague's Pipit                      
  Cedar Waxwing                        
  Orange-crowned Warbler               
  Common Yellowthroat                  
  Yellow-rumped Warbler                
  Savannah Sparrow                      
  Northern Cardinal                    
  Red-winged Blackbird                 
  Western Meadowlark                   
  Yellow-headed Blackbird              
  Great-tailed Grackle                 
  Bronzed Cowbird                       
  Brown-headed Cowbird                 
  Altamira Oriole                      
  House Finch                          
  House Sparrow                        


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