Monday, December 24, 2007

West Texas quest for 500, 12/21-23/07

Having not added a new bird for my Texas List since August, Honey and I headed out to west Texas hoping to see the Golden-crowned Sparrow and Parasitic Jaegers found last weekend. My last day of school was Thursday, so we headed off dark and early on Friday morning to Robert Lee, north of San Angelo, about 500 miles from Weslaco, for the Golden-crowned Sparrow. We found the spot that had been well described on TEXBIRDS and found the bird after a few minutes. Texas bird #497. He's a cutie!

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After spending the night in the thriving metropolis of Pecos we headed up to Red Bluff Lake to have a look see. The cold front was passing through at the same time and made for difficult birding. The lake was a freezing, churning, frothy mess of whitecaps. We had a few interesting things like Horned and Eared Grebes and a few Common Goldeneyes and other ducks

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Then we headed south to Lake Balmorhea making a few unsuccessful forays though the worst looking desert for Sage Sparrows along the way. At Lake Balmorhea it didn't take long to find the two jaegers. I'm calling them Parasitic Jaegers since that the one I need for the Texas list. Also Parasitic Jaeger is what most winter jaegers on southwest reservoirs are identified as. They had a single large pale patch on the underside of the primaries. So they're #498. And if you don't like that, what are you gonna do about it?

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There were ton's of other cool waterfowl like these Snow and Ross' Geese.

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Snow Goose 100
Ross's Goose 10
Canada Goose 30
Gadwall 15
American Wigeon 5
Mallard 5
Northern Shoveler 3
Northern Pintail 5
Green-winged Teal 5
Bufflehead 5
Common Goldeneye 1
Common Merganser 4
Common Loon 1
Westrn/Clark's Grebe 20
Pied-billed Grebe 1
Eared Grebe 2
American White Pelican 50
Double-crested Cormorant 15
Great Blue Heron 12
Great Egret 1
Snowy Egret 2
Northern Harrier 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Golden Eagle 1
American Kestrel 2
Prairie Falcon 1
American Coot 30
Spotted Sandpiper 1
Greater Yellowlegs 2
Bonaparte's Gull 20
Ring-billed Gull 40
Parasitic Jaeger 2
Eurasian Collared-Dove 5
Say's Phoebe 2
Canyon Wren 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2
American Pipit 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 5
White-crowned Sparrow 10

After a frosty night in Alpine we headed to the spot south of Marfa where Mark Lockwood had several Baird's Sparrow a few years ago. I walked quite a bit of fenceline along the road but failed to kick up any sparrows. The red sedge they tend to hang out in had been mowed along the highway. Too bad all the state of Texas is privately owned. There was lots of great looking habitat across the fence. But it wasn't a total loss as a nice flock of about 50 Chestnut-collared Longspurs flew low overhead and bounded into the grasslands. #499!

Rather than waste more time on the Baird's Sparrows we decided to head up into the Davis Mountains. We were not dissappointed as the famous Madera Canyon picnic area north of Fort Davis yielded several Golden-crowned Kinglets and Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches.

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Then from out of the top of a large pine flew a noisy flock of six finchlike birds. I immediately recognized the enthusiastic kip-kip calls. Red Crossbills! Texas bird #500! Luckily they landed in response to my pygmy owl calls. As a beginning birder in the late 70's, Red Crossbill was the first rare bird I ever found. I encountered a flock in the Mark Twain National Forest near Paddy Creek in the Ozarks of Missouri. What a thrill for a new birder!

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After all, we were birding in Texas so here's some cows.

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david said...

Wow, what a great trip and photos! Congrats on reaching 500 in Texas.

Anonymous said...

nice collection