Thursday, March 28, 2019

Filling the Bucket List, Part 3


For our last day together we were going to try and clean up some target species easier gotten in Cameron County.  We started at Palo Alto Battlefield, where a Curve-billed Thrasher got the list off to a great start!  This is by far the easiest place to get Cassin’s Sparrows, and we weren’t disappointed!  After picking up a Bewick’s Wren in a yucca coming out of the VC parking area, we crawled down to the far parking lot, and we had barely gotten out of the car before we saw the Cassin’s Sparrows singing, skylarking, and otherwise just putting on a great show; one even landed almost close enough to touch!  In with them was a Grasshopper Sparrow that most got a brief look at, and we also added Lincoln’s and Savannah Sparrows to the mix.  A pair of Harris’ Hawks got our juices going at first, and Eastern Meadowlarks were all over.  A Cactus Wren in the big cactus patch gave fleeting views as well, but the star of the show was a lovely hovering White-tailed Kite!  Walking back, a Bobwhite fed contentedly under a bench, and we heard the bright chink of a Sedge Wren.  Back at the visitor’s center a stunning male Hooded Oriole showed off!  

Curve-billed Thrasher

Eastern Meadowlark

The gang enjoys their life Cassin's Sparrow (below)

Another Cassin's Sparrow

Northern Bobwhite

From there we headed south to Old Port Isabel Road, and while the Aplomado Falcon eluded us, we got great looks at the White-tailed Hawk pair, lots of Long-billed Curlews, and show-off Gull-billed Terns near Loma Alta Lake.  There was enough overcast to make out a single Roseate Spoonbill along with several Coots and a couple of White Pelicans (which later flew over), and at the “traditional” falcon spot we had a cooperative pair of Chihuahuan Ravens as well as a Belted Kingfisher!  We padded the list with both ibis species and several ducks at both ponds, including American Wigeon, Ruddy Ducks, and a female Bufflehead!  A Fulvous Whistling Duck had been reported, but we never found that one…  It was nice to get both Tropical and Couch’s Kingbirds talking, and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers were all over!

Long-billed Curlew

Belted Kingfisher

The crew checks out the field...

Chihuahuan Raven

As expected, the road became impassable at the old pipeline intersection, so we turned around, picking up a couple of Horned Larks on the way out.  After a Stripes Stop we headed down Boca Chica Boulevard, and unless I’m losing my mind, the Aplomado nesting platform just past the checkpoint had disappeared!  (I know it can sometimes be blocked by a bush, but we looked for it from every conceivable angle…)  We had a nice Harrier as a consolation prize…  A guy from Ontario stopped when he saw us, and as we chatted he informed us that the road was closed further up due to Space-X rocket testing, so that shot our chances at getting Reddish Egret on the flats L, but we still checked out Palmito Hill for falcons and Cactus Wrens.  We found neither, but the girls enjoyed the history lesson provided by the interpretive signs!  We did log another magnificent White-tailed Hawk, and down in the wooded area (much of which has been cleared by the new landowners, I guess) a Long-billed Thrasher shot across the road, and we had a pair of Roadrunners that made our day!

Gail and Ron read all about the battle...

White-tailed Hawk

Greater Roadrunner

Next stop was the Highway 48 Boat Ramp for another shot at Reddish Egret; dipped on that, but we really padded the list with some great shorebirds and larids including American Oystercatcher (a life bird for Gwen), Avocets, Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings, Skimmers, and several tern species along with the Laughing Gulls.  In the heron department we got a pretty Tricolored and some egrets, but not the one we were hoping for…  We checked the wetland on the west side of the highway (accessible from the southbound lanes), but no egret there, either.  By that time we had to decide whether we wanted to go all the way to the South Padre Convention Centre (and deal with the Spring Breakers), so figuring they could get the egret in Florida, they opted to try a last ditch effort for the Aplomado at the SR100 viewing area.

Mess of shorebirds with a close-up of the American Oystercatcher below

So away we went, stopping first across from the “Blue Shack” where we didn’t pick up anything except the funky cactus growing on the power poles, so then headed on to the “official” viewing area.  There we finally hit pay dirt, as one of the Aplomados was sitting pretty on the nesting platform with his back to us, and even though it was heat-wave induced, you could still make out that white eyeline!  A group from Montreal wheeled in after us who were also super excited, as this was their first time to Texas as well!  The raven going after the Harris’ Hawk was almost ho hum!

The gang enjoys a heat-waved view of the Aplomado Falcon (below)!

Keith had offered to take them to see the Elf Owl that night, so we headed on home, where we all focused on putting air into Heppy’s rear tire before kissing goodbye!  We hit the 80 mark once again with 89 species, and as Ron wrote in their note to me afterwards, they hoped for 20 lifers and got 50!  What a blast!

Bird list:

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
American Wigeon
Mottled Duck
Ruddy Duck
Northern Bobwhite
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Mourning Dove
Greater Roadrunner
American Coot
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
American Oystercatcher
Long-billed Curlew
Ruddy Turnstone
Spotted Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Gull-billed Tern
Caspian Tern
Forster's Tern
Royal Tern
Black Skimmer
Double-crested Cormorant
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Tricolored Heron
White Ibis
White-faced Ibis
Roseate Spoonbill
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Harris's Hawk
White-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Belted Kingfisher
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Crested Caracara
American Kestrel
Aplomado Falcon
Great Kiskadee
Tropical Kingbird
Couch's Kingbird
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Loggerhead Shrike
White-eyed Vireo
Chihuahuan Raven
Horned Lark
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Purple Martin
Barn Swallow
House Wren
Sedge Wren
Bewick's Wren
Cactus Wren
Curve-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Cassin's Sparrow
Grasshopper Sparrow
Olive Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Eastern Meadowlark
Hooded Oriole
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Great-tailed Grackle
Orange-crowned Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Northern Cardinal

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