Thursday, December 30, 2010

Short-eared Owls at Llano Grande, 12/29/10

Yesterday Honey and I covered our usual section for the Weslaco CBC. We basically have the flood channel from FM 88 to Mercedes. Despite a warm very windy day we did OK with 94 species. I'm still digging the sand out of my ears! Our best birds for the third year in a row were the Short-eared Owls right in their usual location by the Llano Grande golf course. I hadn't heard of any reports this year but thought I should still walk their field. High thick grass made if difficult and the few sparrows were hard to see in the stiff wind. But the owls popped up right on schedule and I got five of them in a few hundred yards.

Another good bird was this Pine Warbler. I'm not sure how many birders properly identify these dull ones.

A really cool find was this colony of Blue Spiny Lizards on a pile of broken concrete. The only others I have seen were at Falcon Dam and the entrance to Bentsen State Park. I'll go back for better photos of these guys.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Teniente Tract, 12/27/10

Getting up late this morning I decided to head up to Willacy County and
work on my county list. I saw little going up FM 1425. There was nothing
at the Sugar House Pond. No raptors at all on 1425 and west on FM 490. So
I decided to circle the Teniente Tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley NWR.
From TX 186 I went north on CR 30. Around the pond north of the nice ranch
house were quite a few Brewer's Blackbirds with the other blackbirds. Just
north of here the Teniente Tract starts. Here I stopped and started
pishing and tooting. Much to my surprise two Audubon's Orioles pop up.
I'm sure they nest up here in the brush country but I've never heard of
anyone seeing one.

Then I walked down the road a bit and heard a repeated "fwit" call. I
tooted and in comes a Least Flycatcher.

Then I walked a bit more, to the FWS parking area and had a calling Couch's
Kingbird. I noticed a little activity down the trail so I entered and
pished and tooted and this yellowish warbler jumps up wagging its tail.
Palm Warbler!

There was quite a bit of activity here with kinglets and gnatcatchers.
More pishing brought in one of my targets for the day... a bright Pine

I continued up CR 30 and then west on G.I. Rd and back south on CR 10.
Nothing else noteworthy. I also stopped at the CR 20 pond. There were
lots of birds but nothing unusual.

Four new county birds pushes my Willacy County list to 245 and just three away from first place. Of course I'm about the only one that birds up there so it probably doesn't matter too much.

Greater White-fronted Goose 50
Gadwall X
Northern Shoveler X
Northern Pintail 2
Ruddy Duck X
Least Grebe 10
Pied-billed Grebe X
Neotropic Cormorant 1
Turkey Vulture 3
Northern Harrier 1
Red-tailed Hawk 2
Crested Caracara 3
Peregrine Falcon 1
Sora 1
Common Moorhen 2
American Coot X
Sandhill Crane X
Killdeer X
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Wilson's Snipe 1
Ring-billed Gull 4
Mourning Dove X
Common Ground-Dove 6
Golden-fronted Woodpecker X
Ladder-backed Woodpecker X
Least Flycatcher 1
Eastern Phoebe X
Great Kiskadee 1
Couch's Kingbird 1
White-eyed Vireo 2
Green Jay 10
Black-crested Titmouse 5
Verdin 1
Cactus Wren 1
Bewick's Wren 3
House Wren 10
Marsh Wren 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 7
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 25
Northern Mockingbird 7
Long-billed Thrasher 4
Orange-crowned Warbler 25
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 8
Pine Warbler 1
Palm Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat X
Olive Sparrow 3
Cassin's Sparrow 2
Lincoln's Sparrow 12
Swamp Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 6
Pyrrhuloxia 8
Red-winged Blackbird X
Western Meadowlark 2
Brewer's Blackbird 20
Great-tailed Grackle X
Brown-headed Cowbird X
Audubon's Oriole 2

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Yturria Brush, 12/26/10

This cold frosty morning I headed over too the Yturria Brush tract of the Lower Rio Grande NWR to see if I could add a few birds to my Hidalgo County year list. Yturria Brush is Tamaulipan thorn scrub on the extreme SW border of Hidalgo County and allows access to habitat that can produce western desert species. Instead of taking the left fork to the west as I usually do, I continued straight to the north. As the trail veered away from the east boundary and its busy dirt road, I started seeing more stuff. Here's a Vesper Sparrow.

I have a really difficult time photographing Verdins. This is the best I could do.

Yturria Brush is one of the best places in the county for Black-throated Sparrow.

White-crowned Sparrow is sometimes a tough one to get on the county list. I saw two this morning.

Finally I got a good one. I heard a musical "mewp" call that could only be Green-tailed Towhee. But I just barely got a glimpse of it. But a little later a second popped up in a bush. And a bit down the trail I got a third. Pretty good for a bird I had only seen once in the county.

When I got home I figured out how to use Google Maps to calculate how far I had walked. Turned out I had walked 5.4 miles. No wonder my feet are so tired!

Northern Bobwhite (Eastern) 6
Turkey Vulture 3
Northern Harrier 3
Cooper's Hawk 1
White-tailed Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Crested Caracara 3
Mourning Dove 20
Greater Roadrunner 3
Golden-fronted Woodpecker 2
Ladder-backed Woodpecker 1
Eastern Phoebe 1
Great Kiskadee 1
White-eyed Vireo 4
Verdin 7
Bewick's Wren 2
House Wren 10
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 4
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 30
Hermit Thrush 1
Northern Mockingbird 35
Long-billed Thrasher 4
Curve-billed Thrasher 1
European Starling 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 30
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 6
Olive Sparrow 5
Green-tailed Towhee 3
Vesper Sparrow 6
Lark Sparrow 1
Black-throated Sparrow 7
Savannah Sparrow 3
Lincoln's Sparrow 2
White-crowned Sparrow 2
Northern Cardinal 5
Pyrrhuloxia 1
Red-winged Blackbird 100
Eastern Meadowlark 2
Brown-headed Cowbird 1

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Heck of a day! 12/3/10

I slept in a little late this morning so I made a last second decision to go to Edinburg to look for the resident Blue Jays. After a while I had one calling loudly from near Tim Brush's house by the irrigation canal. I didn't see it but it's still good for a new county bird by my rules. Also got a Summer Tanager, Least Flycatcher and Wilson's Warbler so I may go back there again sometime.

Next I went over to the Roselawn Cemetery to get better pics of the Greater Pewee. This time I was too close for a good pic.

Then I went over to the NABA Butterfly Park to look for some of the good leps from Mexico they've had thre lately. I was looking at a Tropical Greenstreak when I got word that a Dusky-capped Flycatcher had been found earlier in the day by Jeffrey Glassberg and Martin Reid. This is only the second record for the county and is the bright eastern Mexican "lawrencei" subspcies. Sorry for the poor pic.

Then I got to see a couple of great butterflies. I've seen lots of Gray Crackers in Mexico but very few in Texas.

Then someone found an Angled Leafwing which was a new one for me.

Meanwhile as I was looking at leps, Martin had been over at Benstsen looking for the Claw-tipped Bluet found the day before. When we got word he had refound it, there was a mad dash over by the "oders" to see this third record for the Valley. The strongly bifurcate terminalia are distinctive. (I love talking like that!)

Pretty good day.