Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Common Crane at Muleshoe NWR, 11/20/14

Tuesday evening I saw on Facebook that Justin Bosler had found a Common Crane at Muleshoe NWR NW of Lubbock.  Those Bosler boys are always finding something good!  With Honey's blessings, I was off the next morning for the 700+ mile drive.  Spent the night in Lubbock and was out at the refuge by sun up. Problem was refuge management decided they didn't want a bunch of unruly bird watchers wandering around unsupervised on the refuge so they closed of access to Goose Lake where the Common Crane had been found.  So what to do?

I had a feeling the thousands of Sandhill Cranes roosting on the refuge lakes would be off early in the morning to feed in area fields.  So I positioned myself on the highway on the east side of Goose Lake and sure enough cranes were headed east.  But they were moving too fast and it was still too dark to get much on them.  I tried Paul's Lake where visibility is good but couldn't find my bird.  So I needed a new strategy.  I decided to head east and see if I could find flocks of feeding cranes.  And four miles to the east on CR 3397 I found a flock of several thousand.

But they were very wary and soon flushed only to resettle on the same fields.

After they settled I kept scoping the flock, hoping for a miracle.  And  miracle happened.  I couldn't believe it. There was the Common Crane feeding about 500 yards away with the Sandhills.  At this distance I was just hoping to get any recognizable photo.  Kyle O'Haver then showed up and we studied and photographed the distant Common Crane for about twenty minutes until the flock lifted and we were unable to refind the bird.  These are the best shots I could get through the scope.

As the next few days passed dozens of birders have gotten to see the Common Crane in at least four different locations.  Was there more than one?  Sharp-eyed Martin Reid proved there are two of these lost Siberian rarities.  Pretty weird.  Not only is this a first record for Texas, it's the first multiple occurrence of Common Crane ever in the country. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sal del Rey, Delta Lake, 11/18/14

This recent cool weather has got me out looking for birds and I'm really enjoying it.  I started this morning at the Sal del Rey unit of the Lower Rio Grande Valley NWR.  We have water in the salt lake for the first time in several winters.  Good stuff today included twenty Snowy Plovers.

I counted 75 Wilson' Phalaropes bouncing in the rough water.  A count of the individuals in this flight shot reveals there were actually 85 of them.  Hope they stay for the winter.

I also had fifty Western Sandpipers which is a bit high.  Here are a couple to compare with Least Sandpipers.  Notice the grayer color and the white face of the Westerns.  Unfortunately the cloudy weather messed up some good photos.

On the way out this White-eyed Vireo was not pleased with my pygmy owl imitations.

Birds were also plentiful at Delta Lake County Park north of Monte Alto.  The water is down on the west side of FM 88 creating some great mudflats with lots of shorebirds.  I counted and estimated about 500 or them.

Best was this distant Dunlin, my first for Hidalgo County this year.

My new scope is really good and I'm enjoying it but my digiscoping still sucks.  This shot with Laughing, Franklin's and Ring-billed Gulls was shot with way too high of an ISO.

Inside the picnic area there were a few passerines but this Vermillion Flycatcher stole the show.  It posed while I was inside the car so I got some good shots.

Here are the lists for today.

LRGV NWR--La Sal del Rey (LTC 005), Hidalgo, US-TX
Nov 18, 2014 8:50 AM - 11:10 AM
Protocol: Traveling
1.0 mile(s)
Comments:     Walked in from Brushline Road.
41 species

Greater White-fronted Goose  22
Northern Shoveler  1
Lesser Scaup  2
Eared Grebe  75
Turkey Vulture  2
Harris's Hawk  1
Red-shouldered Hawk  1
American Coot  3
Sandhill Crane  11
Black-necked Stilt  30
American Avocet  15
Snowy Plover  20
Greater Yellowlegs  2
Lesser Yellowlegs  7
Least Sandpiper  130
Western Sandpiper  50
Wilson's Phalarope  85
Laughing Gull  80
Common Ground-Dove  1
Mourning Dove  1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  1
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  3
Crested Caracara  3
Eastern Phoebe  2
Great Kiskadee  1
White-eyed Vireo  1
Green Jay  1
Black-crested Titmouse  2
Verdin  1
House Wren  7
Bewick's Wren  2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Northern Mockingbird  1
American Pipit  4
Orange-crowned Warbler  2
Nashville Warbler  2
Olive Sparrow  1
Lark Sparrow  3
Savannah Sparrow  5
Lincoln's Sparrow  7

Delta Lake (LTC 008), Hidalgo, US-TX
Nov 18, 2014 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Protocol: Traveling
1.5 mile(s)
39 species

Mottled Duck  1
Northern Pintail  1
Neotropic Cormorant  100
Double-crested Cormorant  50
American White Pelican  270
Great Blue Heron  3
Great Egret  2
Snowy Egret  3
Turkey Vulture  25
American Avocet  3
Killdeer  54
Greater Yellowlegs  5
Lesser Yellowlegs  2
Stilt Sandpiper  100
Dunlin  1
Least Sandpiper  200
Western Sandpiper  1
Long-billed Dowitcher  100
Laughing Gull  12
Franklin's Gull  6
Ring-billed Gull  6
Caspian Tern  1
Belted Kingfisher  1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  1
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  1
American Kestrel  2
Eastern Phoebe  2
Vermilion Flycatcher  2
Loggerhead Shrike  1
Tree Swallow  50
Barn Swallow  20
Marsh Wren  2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
European Starling  4
Orange-crowned Warbler  2
Nashville Warbler  1
Common Yellowthroat  2
Great-tailed Grackle  5