Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Hargill area shorebirds, 8/19/15

This morning I ran up to Hargill to check on the Collared Plover and searched unsuccessfully with another birder from Arkansas for more than two hours.  Could it be gone?  My last sighting was on Aug. 16 which coincides exactly with the last day it was seen last year.  There's plenty of water so hopefully it's still around. Afterwards I ran over to the newest shorebird hotspot, a shallow flooded field on the SE corner of the dogleg FM 490 makes where it is crossed by Brushline road.  Saturday Mary Gustafson found a juvenile Short-billed Dowitcher there which I got to see, but I wanted to try for some better photos.  Short-billed Dowitchers are easy to see on South Padre Island where they prefer the salty mudflats.  But they are hard to see in inland Hidalgo County and are only easy to identify when in the juvenile plumage with the golden marked tertials.  I think the rusty crown with bold supercilium may be field marks also.

I would have liked to have have photographed some juvie Long-billed Dowitchers for comparison but they don't seem to be down yet.  Adult shorebirds migrate south before the youngsters and juvenals are just starting to show up.  The Adult Long-billed Dowitchers were in various states of alternate (breeding) plumage moulting into basic (winter) plumage.

Rex and Birgit Stanford dropped by so Rex and I got into some vigorous shorebird identification discussion. A Least Sandpiper in its scaly rusty juvenile plumage was my first for the fall.  Compare it to the worn adult. Notice the narrow bill that tapers to a droopy tip.  Actually I'm starting to think the adult is in fresh winter plumage.

A small group of juvie Semipalmated Sandpipers had me scratching my head for a few minutes.  Don't go looking for webbed toes in this mud.  The brownish gray scaly plumage and short thick bill are field marks. Rex was looking for leg color which is black for Semipalms and yellow for Least but legs were muddy today.

A couple of juvenile Western Sandpipers were only slightly larger but the longer drooping bills really stand out.  Plumage often has some rusy feathers on the scapulars and the faint streaking on the sides of the breast is a good field mark.

By now it should be evident that juvenile shorebirds exhibit pale feather edgings that give them a scaly appearance.  Even this Spotted Sandpiper shows some pale feather edgings in the wings.

A young Black-necked Stilt with pale feather edges.

Here's an adult Solitary Sandpiper with a moulting adult Lesser Yellowlegs.  The dark center to the barred tail makes IDing a Solitary in flight pretty easy.  Some of the speckles are still present on the old breeding plumage on this adult Solitary.

Congrats if you made it this far!  Here's a couple of lists for the day.

Hwy 490 and Brushline, Hidalgo, Texas, US
Aug 19, 2015 10:45 AM - 1:20
Protocol: Stationary
18 species

Cattle Egret  2
Green Heron 2
White-faced Ibis  8
Common Gallinule  2
Black-necked Stilt  10
Killdeer 3
Spotted Sandpiper  2
Solitary Sandpiper  2
Greater Yellowlegs  1
Yellowlegs  8
Stilt Sandpiper  270
Least Sandpiper  15
Semipalmated Sandpiper5
Western Sandpiper  2
Short-billed Dowitcher  3
Long-billed Dowitcher 63
Wilson's Phalarope  2
Gull-billed Tern  1

Hargill Playa, Hidalgo, Texas, US
Aug 19, 2015 8:20 AM - 10:40 AM
33 species

Fulvous Whistling-Duck  1
Northern Pintail  1    
continuing female
Neotropic Cormorant  4
Great Egret  2
Snowy Egret 12
Tricolored Heron  1
Cattle Egret  1
Roseate Spoonbill  2
Turkey Vulture 1
Black-necked Stilt  20
American Avocet  15
Snowy Plover  4
Wilson's Plover 1
Killdeer  2
Spotted Sandpiper  2
Greater Yellowlegs  8
Sandpiper  20
Western Sandpiper  5
Long-billed Dowitcher  1
Phalarope  8
Laughing Gull  12
Least Tern  1
Gull-billed Tern  25    
carefully counted
Caspian Tern  1
Black Tern  7
Forster's Tern  1
Skimmer  4
Mourning Dove  1
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher  3
Horned Lark 1
Northern Mockingbird  1
Cassin's Sparrow  1
Dickcissel  1

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