Saturday, November 17, 2018

"Gray-headed" Junco at Quinta Mazatlan,11/17/18

This morning it was calm so I thought I would check out the ponds in eastern Hidalgo County in an attempt to find my 400th bird for the county.  I knew the chances were slim but it doesn't hurt to get out and look and see what's around.  I found some Buffleheads at the Sugar House Pond and a Dunlin at Delta Lake so I was doing pretty good for the morning.  My next stop was to be Sal del Rey in an attempt to refind the Red-necked Phalaropes from last week.  Then my darn WhatsApp dinged again.  "Dark-eyed Junco at Quinta Mazatlan."  Well, that would sure be new for my county list.  Every once in a while someone will find one on area Chrismast Bird Counts but they are never seen again.  I just got my first for Cameron County last winter.

So I turned the car around and headed south.  I arrived at the spot in the new southern extension of Quinta Mazatlan and found a group of birders waiting by a brush pile where the junco had been seen earlier in the morning.  It took a while but eventually the junco popped up.  It was the "Gray-headed" subspecies of the Dark-eyed Junco.  These are pretty common in the southwestern US but I think it may be the first for the lower RGV.  The few juncos we get are of the eastern "Slate-colored" subspecies.  And it was my 400th species for Hidalgo County and fifth new county bird in the last ten days.  I went the entire year of 2016 with out getting any new Hidalgo County birds, so this has been quite a streak.

I started the morning with six Buffleheads at the Sugar House Pond.  That was a new one for the county year list.

It's always tough to find Dunlins inland.  This one was at Delta Lake.

Two weeks ago I thought it might take a few years to get the county list up to 400.  I guess I was wrong.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Two More Hidalgo County Lifers, 11/15/18

This morning I was eating breakfast when my WhatsApp dinged again.  Huck was reporting a Tamaulipas Crow on FM 1015 just south of Estero.  Dang!  Well, that's just a few miles away so I hopped into the car with my camera and binocs before even brushing my teeth.  It took me just a few minutes to get there and I could see the moment I saw the bird that Huck had made a mistake.  The bill was too large and it lacked the glossy blue plumage of a Tamaulipas Crow.  But not to worry.  It was a Chihuahuan Raven and my #1 nemesis bird for Hidalgo County. They are easy to see in Cameron and Starr Counties but in 26 years of RGV living I had somehow missed seeing one in the Hidalgo County.  So this was species # 398 in the county for me.  The bird was in a plowed field with nothing to compare its size to so I can see how Huck made the mistake.

Meanwhile, I had another bird to chase after today.  A week ago Ron Weeks found a Plumbeous Vireo at the Rose Lawn Cemetery in McAllen after the birding festival.  Well, that's another one I've never seen in Hidalgo County.  I ran out shortly after Ron had found the bird last week but failed to find it.  Then Bert Wessling found it again yesterday and I failed to do the same despite a couple of hours of searching.  We had thought it may have left following the strong cold front that passed through the Valley.  So I made one more try for the Plumbeous Vireo this morning and found it with little trouble.  This Rocky Mountain species was split from Solitary Vireo years ago and was my 399th species for Hidalgo County.  It may well spend the winter as they have a couple of times in Corpus Christi.

So over the past two months I have added three species to my Cameron County list to bring my total to 404 and over the past two weeks I have added four species to my Hidalgo County list to up it to 399.  It's been a great fall!  I'm not sure if anyone has ever seen 400 species in two Texas Counties.  There are California birders that have over 400 in as many as four counties!