Monday, January 31, 2011

White-throated Thrush at Estero Llano Grande, 1/30/11

The White-throated Thrush, first found on the Weslaco CBC back in December, continues at Estero Llano Grande State Park. I went back for a second try at it yesterday and finally got some not so bad pics. As is the case with a number of north Mexican vagrants, White-throated Thrush has become almost annual in the RGV. The first one was at Laguna Vista in 1990.

The wintering Black-throated Gray Warbler put in an appearance at the water feature while I was waiting for the thrush.

Still a few good butterflies showing up. This is a Band-celled Sister.

Brooks County Blitz, 1/26/11

Last Wed. John Heaney and I decided to make a run up to Brooks County to work on a county list. The morning was spent west of Rachal digging up some sparrows. Dry conditions made for some tough birding. By the time we got to the Hwy 77 rest area at 2 PM we only had 50 species. But then things warmed with a Pine Warbler and Summer Tanager. The ephemeral ponds along the highway finally gave us some ducks and a couple of surprise Say's Phoebes. A Song sparrow hopped up in Los Olmos Creek for a good Brooks County find. We finished the day with a respectable 86 species. A return trip in the spring should push us over the century mark and first place is only 104.

Greater White-fronted Goose 5
Gadwall 3
Mottled Duck 2
Blue-winged Teal 6
Northern Shoveler 2
Northern Pintail 6
Green-winged Teal 6
Canvasback 5
Lesser Scaup 5
Wild Turkey 8
Pied-billed Grebe 3
Great Blue Heron 1
Great Egret 1
Cattle Egret 1
White-faced Ibis 7
Black Vulture 25
Turkey Vulture 12
Northern Harrier 3
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Cooper's Hawk 1
Harris's Hawk 1
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
White-tailed Hawk 4
Red-tailed Hawk 10
Crested Caracara 15
American Kestrel 12
American Coot 1
Sandhill Crane 140
Killdeer 5
Black-necked Stilt 5
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Lesser Yellowlegs 2
Least Sandpiper 8
Wilson's Snipe 1
Rock Pigeon 20
Eurasian Collared-Dove 5
Mourning Dove 25
Common Ground-Dove 3
White-tipped Dove 1
Greater Roadrunner 2
Eastern Screech-Owl 1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker 10
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1
Ladder-backed Woodpecker 5
Eastern Phoebe 10
Say's Phoebe 2
Vermilion Flycatcher 1
Ash-throated Flycatcher 1
Great Kiskadee 3
Loggerhead Shrike 7
White-eyed Vireo 2
Green Jay 15
Black-crested Titmouse 5
Verdin 4
Cactus Wren 1
Carolina Wren 1
Bewick's Wren 5
House Wren 10
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 10
Northern Mockingbird 20
Long-billed Thrasher 5
European Starling 15
American Pipit 1
Sprague's Pipit 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 15
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 15
Pine Warbler 2
Olive Sparrow 3
Cassin's Sparrow 2
Clay-colored Sparrow 7
Field Sparrow 2
Vesper Sparrow 8
Lark Sparrow 12
Savannah Sparrow 20
Grasshopper Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 1
Lincoln's Sparrow 6
Summer Tanager 1
Northern Cardinal 20
Pyrrhuloxia 25
Red-winged Blackbird 2
Eastern Meadowlark 30
Great-tailed Grackle 20
Lesser Goldfinch 2
House Sparrow 20

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hammond's Flycatcher in Copus Christi, 1/22/11

Last week Corpus Christi's dean of birding, Mel Cooksey, found a Hammond's Flycatcher at Rose Hill Cememtery in Corpus Christi. I finally got up there today and found the western empid without too much trouble. Texas bird #532 and my fourth Empidonax for the month. Hammond's Flycather is olive-gray without the contrasting white throat you see on Least. Due to the long primary extension the tail looks short.

Another characteristic of Hammond's Flycather is the short narrow bill.

Another good bird in the cemetery was this Plumbeous Vireo. I've seen many of them in the mountains of west Texas but it's pretty rare for Nueces County.

After doing well at Rose Hill, I headed over to Polywog Pond to look for Jon McIntyre's Rusty Blackbirds. It took a lot of searching but eventually I flushed the small flock of birds. They were hard to approach and all I managed was this week photo of a female.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

"Western" Flycatcher at Bentsen, 1/15/11

I heard from Mary that someone had found a possible "Western" Flycatcher at Bentsen Rio Grande State Park yesterday. So I got up this slightly warmer but drippy morning to look for it. This first day of precipitation after several rainless months really made the birds active. Orange-crowned Warblers were all over the place and there was plenty of action while I searched for yet another mystery empid. Finally after three hours of walking the Acacia Loop trail numerous times in the vicinity of the feeding station, The "Western" Flycatcher showed up right where it was seen yesterday. Dark skies didn't help my weak photography skills.

Up seeing it and firing a few pics I tried whistling my version of the Cordilleran Flycatcher "who-wheet" call. The bird immediately jumped to a new perch. However it failed to respond to any more of my calls. Odds are greatly in favor of this being a Cordilleran Flycatcher which is resident south of here in the Sierra Madre Oriental as opposed to Pacific-slope Flycathcer which is a west coast species. Whichever it is, it's still my Hidalgo County bird #361. I've been on a roll lately!

While waiting for the empid I saw my second Tropical Parula for the year.

One of my goals today was to find the Pine Siskins reported earlier. They are not annual down here. Luckily one popped up for a bad photo.

Plain Chachalaca X
Gray Hawk 1
White-winged Dove 1
Mourning Dove 1
Inca Dove 14
Common Ground-Dove 2
White-tipped Dove 15
Buff-bellied Hummingbird 1
Ringed Kingfisher 2
Golden-fronted Woodpecker 12
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1
Ladder-backed Woodpecker 1
Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet 1
Pacific-slope/Cordilleran Flycatcher (Western) 1
Eastern Phoebe 7
Vermilion Flycatcher 1
Great Kiskadee 6
White-eyed Vireo 1
Blue-headed Vireo 1
Green Jay X
Black-crested Titmouse 2
House Wren 5
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 10
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 10
Hermit Thrush 1
Northern Mockingbird X
Long-billed Thrasher 5
Curve-billed Thrasher 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 30
Tropical Parula 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 12
Black-and-white Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 2
Olive Sparrow 1
Lincoln's Sparrow 10
Northern Cardinal 8
Red-winged Blackbird X
Altamira Oriole 4
Pine Siskin 1

Estero Llano Grande, 1/14/10

After more cold crappy weather it finally brightened a bit so I went over to Estero Llano Grande State Park to look for stuff for my new year list. I added a few things, best of which was a couple of calling Virginia Rails. They were "oinking" nearby but wouldn't come out of the cattails. Interesting was this Cinnamon X Blue-winged Teal hybrid.

Soras were all over the place. I had seven of 'em.

Swamp Sparrows are usually real skulkers but this one was a bit brave.

Pauraques are normally easy to see at Estereo Llano Grande but this one was almost on the trail.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Frontera Audubon Thicket, 1/12/11

It was a cold blustery morning at Frontera. While much of the country is digging out of snow and going about their business, clouds and 45 degrees are enough to paralyze us in the Valley. The hummers were busy trying to stay warm. This young male Rufous Hummingbird was a nice surprise.

Buff-bellies were trying to guard their feeders from the Archilochus interlopers.

I took some photos of the Archilochus hummers and they all seem to be Black-chinned Hummingbirds. This one even shows a new purple gorget feather.

They all seemed to be pale crowned with short tails and broad, curved wing tips as
Sibley illustrates.

Same bird as above.

A couple of perky Overnbirds were strutting around the feeding station.

Plain Chachalaca 8
Turkey Vulture 10
Rock Pigeon 2
Buff-bellied Hummingbird 4
Black-chinned Hummingbird 4
Ruby-throated/Black-chinned Hummingbird 1
Rufous Hummingbird 1
Green Kingfisher 1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker 5
Eastern Phoebe 2
Great Kiskadee 2
White-eyed Vireo 2
Blue-headed Vireo 2
Black-crested Titmouse 1
Carolina Wren 2
House Wren 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2
Northern Mockingbird 5
Long-billed Thrasher 2
Orange-crowned Warbler 6
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 4
Ovenbird 2
Common Yellowthroat 1
Wilson's Warbler 4
Lincoln's Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 6

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Hidalgo County Birding, 1/8/10

I headed up north of Elsa to do some county birding today. My first stop was along FM 88 at Delta Lake for Yellow Warbler. They've been present here the last five winters at least. Two popped up right on cue across from the park headquarters.

While looking at the Yellow Warblers I saw a big brown bird on the lake. My first Hidalgo County Brown Pelican! With the Gray Flycatcher yesterday, my county list is now up to 359.

Next stop was Sal del Rey to pick up some seaside birds for the county year list. Hidalgo county is land-locked and hypersaline Sal del Rey acts like our seashore. I wasn't disappointed as I found five Sanderlings, 27 Snowy Plovers and 31 Wilson's Phalaropes.

A bonus was this Sedge Wren in the grass behind the freshwater cienega.

A quick stop at the Rio Beef Yard picked up my Brewer's Blackbirds for the year and then it was a run down Brushline Road to check the ponds. Not much on the water but pishing at the flooded woods south of the big pond turned up lots of stuff including a Golden-crowned Kinglet and this surprise Winter Wren.

Sal del Rey birds

Gadwall 1
Eared Grebe 35
Turkey Vulture 2
Cooper's Hawk 1
Harris's Hawk 2
Crested Caracara 1
American Kestrel 1
Snowy Plover 27
Killdeer 4
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Lesser Yellowlegs 1
Sanderling 5
Least Sandpiper 90
Wilson's Snipe 1
Wilson's Phalarope 31
Laughing Gull 15
Ring-billed Gull 21
Mourning Dove 4
Common Ground-Dove 2
Golden-fronted Woodpecker 3
Ladder-backed Woodpecker 1
Eastern Phoebe 6
Great Kiskadee 3
White-eyed Vireo 1
Green Jay 2
Black-crested Titmouse 2
Verdin 1
Bewick's Wren 1
House Wren 4
Sedge Wren 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 3
Northern Mockingbird 6
Long-billed Thrasher 1
Orange-crowned Warbler 8
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 15
Pine Warbler 3
Common Yellowthroat 1
Lark Sparrow 1
Savannah Sparrow 3
Lincoln's Sparrow 2
Northern Cardinal 3
Pyrrhuloxia 6
Eastern Meadowlark 2

Brushline Road birds.

Gadwall X
Blue-winged Teal X
Northern Shoveler X
Northern Pintail X
Green-winged Teal X
Northern Bobwhite 6
Least Grebe 2
Pied-billed Grebe 1
Great Blue Heron 1
White-tailed Kite 2
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Sora 4
Common Moorhen 1
American Coot 2
Eastern Phoebe 2
Great Kiskadee 3
White-eyed Vireo 1
Green Jay 2
Black-crested Titmouse 1
Verdin 1
Bewick's Wren 2
Winter Wren 1
Marsh Wren 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 3
Golden-crowned Kinglet 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 3
Northern Mockingbird 2
Long-billed Thrasher 1
American Pipit 2
Orange-crowned Warbler 5
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 15
Black-and-white Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 12
Savannah Sparrow 30
Lincoln's Sparrow 5
Swamp Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 2
Pyrrhuloxia 1
Western Meadowlark 5

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bentsen is a Rockin' 1/6/11

The Black-vented Oriole found at Bentsen State Park south of Mission a couple of weeks ago has been a lot more cooperative as of late. It has taken up residence in the RV resort just north of the park and has a particular fondness for a bright red Mexican coral bean. This morning I finally got some great looks but the light wasn't very good for photography.

Earlier in the week an unidentified Empidonax was found on the CBC at Bentsen. Turns out it's a Gray Flycatcher. I went looking for it after viewing the oriole and eventually found it between the bathrooms and Green jay blind. I got pretty good looks at it including its unique downward tail wag.

The pale color, short primary extension and long narrow bill are all good field marks.

A pair of Northern Beardless-Tyrannulets were very vocal.

Other good birds included Ringed Kingfisher, Gray Hawk, Golden-crowned Kinglet and a pair of Clay-colored Thrushes.

This Vermillion Flycather has a real attitude! Actually he was coughing up a bug.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck 200
Plain Chachalaca 32
Neotropic Cormorant 40
Anhinga 2
Great Egret 7
Tricolored Heron 2
Turkey Vulture 1
Osprey 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Gray Hawk 1
White-tailed Hawk 2
Caspian Tern 1
Mourning Dove 1
Inca Dove 12
Groove-billed Ani 1
Black-chinned Hummingbird 1
Ringed Kingfisher 1
Belted Kingfisher 1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker 3
Ladder-backed Woodpecker 1
Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet 2
Gray Flycatcher 1
Black Phoebe 1
Eastern Phoebe 3
Vermilion Flycatcher 3
Great Kiskadee 6
White-eyed Vireo 2
Blue-headed Vireo 2
Green Jay 10
Black-crested Titmouse 1
House Wren 3
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 3
Golden-crowned Kinglet 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 5
Clay-colored Thrush 2
Northern Mockingbird 5
Long-billed Thrasher 2
Orange-crowned Warbler 8
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 15
Common Yellowthroat 5
Lincoln's Sparrow 5
Northern Cardinal 6
Red-winged Blackbird 30
Bronzed Cowbird 1
Black-vented Oriole 1
Altamira Oriole 4
American Goldfinch 5

Sparrow Road, FM 2221, 1/4/11

A couple of days ago I covered Sparrow Road, FM2221 northwest of La Joya for the Bentsen/Anzalduas CBC. With the drought and a paucity of birds it was pretty boring, but I did manage ten species of sparrows. I liked this plucky little Vesper Sparrow.

Lark Buntings winter in small numbers in the Valley and are hard to find on a CBC.

White-crowned Sparrow is another tough one.

Grasshopper Sparrows are not a sure thing either.

Northern Bobwhite 14
Double-crested Cormorant 30
Turkey Vulture 3
White-tailed Kite 2
Northern Harrier 2
Harris's Hawk 2
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Crested Caracara 4
American Kestrel 4
Peregrine Falcon 1
Sora 1
Rock Pigeon 50
Eurasian Collared-Dove 2
Mourning Dove 335
Common Ground-Dove 10
Golden-fronted Woodpecker 4
Ladder-backed Woodpecker 1
Eastern Phoebe 1
Tropical Kingbird 2
Loggerhead Shrike 2
White-eyed Vireo 2
Green Jay 4
Horned Lark 3
Verdin 10
Cactus Wren 2
Bewick's Wren 4
House Wren 9
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 7
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 9
Northern Mockingbird 28
Long-billed Thrasher 2
Curve-billed Thrasher 6
Orange-crowned Warbler 19
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 1
Olive Sparrow 2
Cassin's Sparrow 8
Vesper Sparrow 18
Lark Sparrow 16
Black-throated Sparrow 5
Lark Bunting 7
Savannah Sparrow 113
Grasshopper Sparrow 3
Lincoln's Sparrow 7
White-crowned Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 11
Pyrrhuloxia 49
Red-winged Blackbird 335
Western Meadowlark 5
Great-tailed Grackle 50
Brown-headed Cowbird 6
House Sparrow 2

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

I got a late start this morning after enduring last night's rocket barrage as the neighborhood celebrated the new year. I am thankful no bullets came through the roof! I went over to Estero Llano Grande to start the new county year list. Good warblers included Tropical Parula and Black-throated Gray among the eight species I saw. Then it was the sit and wait game for the White-throated Trush. After two hours it flew in for a brief drink and a poor photo. This is the fifth one I have seen in the Valley.

After going home for lunch and a nap, I ran back over to the flood channel south of the park to look for a couple of things I had seen on the CBC earlier this week. The Yellow-headed Blackbirds were still around.

And after a bit of tromping around at the Short-eared Owl field, a couple popped up for good views and a year tick.

Then in a pond by the Llano Grande golf course I saw a Double-cresed Cormornat struggling to swallow a very spiny plecostomous. The common aquarium suckermouth catfish from South America seems to be common here in the waterways of the RGV.