Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sabine's Gull, Brown Booby at Boca Chica Jetty, 10/26/14

I missed yesterday's pelagic birding trip out of South Padre Island yesterday mostly because it filled up so fast and I wasn't on the ball.  But I didn't mind as I had a really good butterfly day at Resaca de la Palma. Still I was feeling a bit of angst after Mary called me to say they had seen a Sabine's Gull right off the South Padre Island Jetty as the boat returned last night.  Wow, that is a fantastic Cameron County bird!

So this morning I decided with stable weather and lots of bait fish off the jetties that the gull just might hang around a while.  I got a late start as I knew the light would be better for scoping in the afternoon.  I also figured that the Boca Chica Jetty across the water from SPI might be just as reliable and a heck of a lot easier to walk.  I reached Boca Chica Beach a little before noon and found the driving conditions such that I could have left the truck at home.  I checked out the gulls, terns and shorebirds along the five mile drive and spied plenty of offshore feeding action as I approached the jetty.  The jetty on the Boca Chica side is much easier to walk and much shorter as years of south east winds have deposited much sand along the structure.

I easily walked to the end of the jetty and shared it with a few fisherman as I scoped for the Sabine's Gull.  There were a few young Laughing Gulls just off the jetty and floating on the weed line that separated the cloudy water of the ship channel from the clear gulf water.  I kept scoping and then noticed the closest Laughing Gull had a more petite bill and some scaly feather edging on the back.  Was this the Sabine's Gull?

You bet it was!  Cameron County bird #377!

The Sabine's Gull flew to the north and I failed to refind it. It could have easily mixed in with the the dozens of young Laughing Gulls bobbing up and down in the waves.  No sooner had I stopped patting myself on the back when this big brown bird flies by and joins in the feeding frenzy.  Holey smokes!  It's a Brown Booby!

Not such a big deal this year as I had earlier seen Scarlet's adult Brown Booby in the ship channel this summer.  There's been several at Corpus Christi this year and there's four right now up by Houston.  None the less, this is my first self-found Brown Booby and normally would be the bird of the day.  Here's a photo of the feeding action.  All the action is where the dirty ship channel water meets the clean gulf water.

Along the beach there were plenty of the expected shorebirds.  I was happy to get my first Red Knots of the year.

This Franklin's Gull was easy to pick out among the Laughing Gulls.

This first winter Herring Gull was in very fresh plumage.  It shows the classic dark primaries and pale secondaries.

So, with a Sabine's Gull, a Brown Booby and lots of gulls and terns I wound up having my own personal pelagic trip.

Boca Chica Beach (LTC 043)-- USA side, Cameron, US-TX
Oct 26, 2014 11:50 AM - 3:00 PM
Protocol: Traveling
5.0 mile(s)
Comments:     Drove from FM 4 to Boca Chica Jetty and walked jetty.
22 species

Brown Booby  1
Neotropic Cormorant  1
Double-crested Cormorant  1
Brown Pelican  175
Great Blue Heron  2
Snowy Egret  1
Black-bellied Plover  3
Piping Plover  4
Willet  8
Ruddy Turnstone  55
Red Knot  11
Sanderling  300
Least Sandpiper  1
Sabine's Gull  1
Laughing Gull  300
Franklin's Gull  1
Ring-billed Gull  10
Herring Gull  15
Caspian Tern  1
Common Tern  1
Forster's Tern  600
Royal Tern  2

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sal del Rey, 10/15/14

This morning I ran up to the Sal del Rey unit of the Lower Rio Grande NWR to check on the water conditions.  There's now plenty of water and plenty of birds.  This big white-tailed buck greeted me as I walked in from Brushline Road.

Walking in I saw a small flock of Nashville Warblers and a couple of sparrows but not a lot else.  Upon arriving at the glassy calm lake I was afraid there was nothing on the water.  But some careful scoping started turning up stuff.  A flock of White-fronted Geese flew over with a lone Ross's Goose bringing up the rear.

I whistled my poor Snowy Plover call and a flock of Least Sandpipers with a single Western Sandpiper flew in , followed by a lone Snowy Plover.

Scoping across the lake I found a tight raft of American Coots, 35 Eared Grebes and a hundred Wilson's Plovers.  I'm hoping the phalaropes will stay for the CBC like they used to before the lake dried up.

A flock of Northern Shovelers flushed and were soon joined by three Northern Pintails.

Other shorebirds were Greater Yellowlegs, Long-billed Curlew and American Avcocets.  A flock of 40 Laughing Gulls were joined by two young Herring Gulls.  Herring Gulls are hard to find in Hidalgo County.

On the way out the harks started rising.  Two flocks of Swainson's Hawks totaled 112.  Here some of the diverse plumages.

On the way back to Weslaco I drove down Brushline Road where there were plenty of flooded fields.  It should be good birding this winter.  I then ran over to Hargill where the Collared Plover playa was as full as I've sever seen it.  There were tons of birds but they were very distant, mostly Least and Western Sandpipers with a lone Wilson's Phalarope.  Driving east along FM 490 there was more standing water. Here's the Sal del Rey list.

LRGV NWR--La Sal del Rey (LTC 005), Hidalgo, US-TX
Oct 15, 2014 8:40 AM - 10:55 AM
Protocol: Traveling
2.5 mile(s)
54 species

Greater White-fronted Goose  25
Ross's Goose  1
Gadwall  15
Blue-winged Teal  6
Northern Shoveler  30
Northern Pintail  3
Eared Grebe  35
Neotropic Cormorant  20
Great Egret  1
Snowy Egret  1
Cattle Egret  12
Turkey Vulture  6
Cooper's Hawk  1
Harris's Hawk  1
White-tailed Hawk  1
Red-shouldered Hawk  1
Swainson's Hawk  112
American Coot  60
Sandhill Crane  2
American Avocet  2
Snowy Plover  
Killdeer  1
Greater Yellowlegs  3
Long-billed Curlew  6
Least Sandpiper  47
Western Sandpiper  1
Wilson's Phalarope  100
Laughing Gull  40
Herring Gull  2
Common Ground-Dove  6
Mourning Dove  10
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  2
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  1
Crested Caracara  1
Eastern Phoebe  2
Great Kiskadee  1
Couch's Kingbird  2
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher  2
Green Jay  1
Barn Swallow  50
Cliff Swallow  1
Black-crested Titmouse  4
Verdin  1
House Wren  3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Northern Mockingbird  3
Orange-crowned Warbler  1
Nashville Warbler  4
Cassin's Sparrow  1
Lark Sparrow  5
Lincoln's Sparrow  2
Pyrrhuloxia  1
Red-winged Blackbird  40
Great-tailed Grackle  15