Thursday, May 1, 2014

Big Day, 4/30/14

I'm not a great fan of doing big days, but when invited to participate in the Great Texas Birding Classic with John Yochum and Huck Hutchens I just couldn't say no.  So with a cold front rolling in we decided this would be the day for our one day big day on the South Coast region of the contest.  With two other teams competing against us, we were inspired us to put in a little more effort.  Photos for this post are a bit weak. Photography takes some time and effort which are hard to allocate when every minute of a big day counts.

We started predawn at Bentsen and racked up some night birds including the much wanted Elf Owl.  7AM found us at the river at Salineno listening to Audubon's Orioles.  High water made scoping the river difficult. A Gray Hawk was nice but nothing great showed up.  A drive down the dump road turned up a few sparrows and most of the desert stuff.  Then a quick run over to Starr County Park in Falcon Heights got us two Red-billed Pigeons feeding on Coma berries.

Another nice find at the park were a couple of House Finches, a hard to find species in the RGV.

We filled in a lot of holes in our list at Estero Llano Grande State Park and then checked out the turf farms. We missed Pectoral Sandpiper but got the other grasspipers.  Here's a Buff-breasted Sandpiper at the Weaver Rd. turf farm.

At this point time was becoming an issue and our species list was only in the 130's, so it was time to race out to South Padre Island.  We were hoping twenty four hours of north winds had caused a fallout.  But it turned out to be a pretty normal spring day on the Island.  Warblers were down a bit, but this MacGillivray's Warbler at Sheepshead was a nice find.  How's this for a bad documentary photo?  Where's Waldo?

We found a few more things at the Convention Center which was swamped with birders.  The late Hermit Thrush was still there.

A walk down the boardwalk found us a few more things like the expected Clapper Rail.

And finally a Least Bittern passed by as we were walking out.

By now it was 7PM and were were only at about 170.  So we raced to the south end of the Island to look for more shorebirds in the county park.  We finally got a Redhead and Red-breasted Merganser.  Our final additions to the list were Sanderlings and Ruddy Turnstones feeding in the Sargassum soup by the jetty.  It was a great scene but fading light didn't allow for a photo.

Our total number of species for the day was respectable 177, quite a bit below our hoped for 200. Although a very pleasant day, it was not particularly birdy.  Our misses included expected things like Northern Parula and amazingly Brown Pelican.  In retrospect we should have  been more disciplined with our route and time. But we're just three crusty old birders who can't help but savor the good birds throughout the day. Yes, we probably should have seen a few more species but it would not have been as much fun.  Did we win?  We'll find out in a few days.

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