Monday, February 25, 2008

Looney Tawakoni Trip, 2/23/08

With a break in the weather up north and not too much homework this weekend I decided to make the long trip up to Lake Tawakoni east of Dallas to look for the reported Arctic Loon, a darn rare bird anywhere in the USA. So I got out of school a little early and was on the road by 3:30 PM, spent the night in Waco and was on the lake shore at 8:30 AM after about 600 miles of driving. A few other birders were already there. Loons were about. Problem was they were a good quarter of a mile away. Even at this distance we were able to pick out the light grey Red-throated Loon with its bill up in the air. We could also pick out a Pacific Loon from the Common Loons by its smaller size and crisper face pattern with smaller bill. Nothing resembling the Arctic Loon ever showed up. I don't think I could have callled it at that distance anyway. So I had to be content with two new birds for my Texas list. I spent the rest of the day looking for stuff that is rare or absent from south Texas. I grew up in Missouri with Red-bellied Woodpeckers but they seem exotic now.

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Sparrows are hard to find in the Valley so I enjoyed such common birds as Field, Song, Fox, White-throated, White-crowned and Harris' Sparrow's' Here's a Harris' Sparrow.

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I walked some fields chasing what I thought were longspurs but could never get close enough to them. So I headed for home and was in bed shortly after 2 AM. 1200 miles and a full day's birding in 34 and a half hours. Talk about looney!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Back to normal.

Well my White-crested Elaenia was present for two days and then it was outta there. I guess quite a few people got to see it but many drove or flew out on Monday and there was nothing to see. There has been a raging argument on Texbirds as to whether the bird should have been netted. There were even accusations that it had been taken as a specimen. I don't care that much either way. It's a little depressing to think that I will never see a bird this unusual again. Even if I found an Elegant Euphonia or a Squirrel Cuckoo it wouldn't be as unexpected or remarkable as the elaenia. Well anyway, it's on to the next one.

I checked out the feeders at Bentsen this morning and quickly found the Allen's Hummingbird. So I drove over to Anzalduas for the Townsends Warbler. No luck. There were a few warblers but not as many as usual in winter. The tyrannulets were vocal and easy to see.

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Gadwall 25
American Wigeon 6
Blue-winged Teal 1
Least Grebe 1
Pied-billed Grebe 1
American White Pelican 30
Neotropic Cormorant 1
Double-crested Cormorant 12
Anhinga 2
Great Egret 2
Snowy Egret 5
Black Vulture 3
Turkey Vulture 10
Gray Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
American Coot 25
Least Sandpiper 1
Rock Pigeon 8
Mourning Dove 10
White-tipped Dove 1
Ringed Kingfisher 1
Belted Kingfisher 1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker 8
Ladder-backed Woodpecker 3
Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet 3
Eastern Phoebe 2
Great Kiskadee 1
White-eyed Vireo 1
Green Jay 10
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 5
Black-crested Titmouse 4
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 5
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 5
Eastern Bluebird 1
Northern Mockingbird 6
American Pipit 12
Orange-crowned Warbler 5
Nashville Warbler 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 6
Black-throated Green Warbler 3
Pine Warbler 1
Black-and-white Warbler 2
Common Yellowthroat 3
Savannah Sparrow 1
Lincoln's Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 10
Eastern Meadowlark 10
Great-tailed Grackle 8
American Goldfinch 2
House Sparrow 5

The Burrowing Owl continues as nearby Granjeno.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

White-crested Elaenia still present.

After I got home last night I had so much adrenaline pumping through my veins that it was impossible to sleep. Back in 1989 when I lived in Arizona I found the first Pine Warbler for Arizona. It was pretty exciting when Kenn Kaufman and others came out to document it. In 1992 I found the 3rd US record of Crescent-chested Warbler in Patagonia. That bird hung around for six months and returned the following winter for two more months. What fun trying to help the big listers add one more tick. But this one was different. When I found the Elaenia I immediately knew I had a first ABA record. That's pretty much the Holy Grail for birders. It was thrilling and at the same time it was nauseating. What If I've screwed this up? Maybe it's a big Least Flycatcher with some albinism on his head? What if no one else sees it? Arghh! Well I did screw up the ID. The only thing that seemed reasonable was Yellow-bellied Elaenia. I'm thankful we have birders around like Martin Reid who are not afraid to leave the country and gain some international experience. His call of White-crested Elaenia seems to be the consensus.

Here's a link to Martins Pics and a recording of the call.

Here's a link to Eric Bredens fine pics.

Anyway I didn't make it out there today. I guess the bird ws really cooperative. But I was suffering from an Elaenia hangover. And I didn't even drink anything!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Holy Moly! What a day! White-crested Elaenia at South Padre Island

This morning started innocently enought. I ran over to Quita Mazatlan WBC in McAllen to look for the Western Tanager. That's a good bird for the county year list. Well, I found it without too much trouble and enjoyed the very birdy environs of Quita Mazatlan. Then this afternoon Honey and I were to meet a friend at South Padre Island for dinner. Well we left a little early to do some birding. I wanted to check out the beach for Gannets and Lesser Black-backs.

Thinking it would be a shame to be out here and not check out the Sheepshead Valley Land Fund lot, we decided to drop by for a few minutes. We pulled up to the lot and Honey stayed in the car while I walked over to the fence and did a little pishing and F. Pygmy Owl tooting, hoping to attact whatever may be in there. I was only there a couple of minutes when this flycatcher zooms in responding to my tooting. It was bigger than an Empionax. First thing to come to mind was a Myiarchus. Maybe Ash-throated as i didn't see a lot of color. Well I got my glasses on the bird. Holy Moly! (If I was Tom McKinney from skillsbills blog I would be swearing profusely now, but I'm not). It was a grayish good sized flycatcher wih olive tones and a crest with a bright white spot in the middle of it. Yellow-bellied Elaenia was all I could think of. At this point I started shaking as there are no previous Yellow-bellied Elaenia records in the USA. I ran back to the car and grabbed the camera and lucky for me the bird ws still there so I snapped these pics.

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I did some calling and finally managed to get a hold of Scarlet Colley. She and George show up a few minutes later along with some passerby birders and then Brad McKinney and Mary Gustafson get there a little before dark. There were a few tense minutes as we tried to refind the bird for Brad and Mary but eventually all get to see it. Brad was troubled by the lack of yellow on the underparts and so was I. When we got home I checked out all of my central and South American field guides and the closest thing I could find to our bird was White-crested Elaenia from southern South America. Then strangely enough, among the posts on Texbirds discussing the pics of the Elaenia was a post by Martin Reid who says he thinks it is a White-crested Elaenia. I'm sure there will be more discussion as to the identity of this bird. Hopefully lots of people will get to see it tomorrow and maybe get some better pics. Anyway, when it's all sorted out, we just found a new species for the ABA area. Holy Moly!

Oh, and here's the Western Tanager.

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