Thursday, April 27, 2017

South Padre Island Part 2, 11/26/17

There was another good bird on the Island besides the Black-throated Blue Warbler at Sheepshead.  A male Lazuli Bunting has been seen for the past few days at the Convention Center and I was hoping to get lucky and maybe get some good photos.  Well, I did.  He was hanging out with his close cousins the Indigo Buntings who were taking advantage of the free food.



There were at least sixty Indigo Buntings, mostly males.



And sprinkled among the Indigos were a half dozen of everyone's favorite, the Painted Bunting.  They were easiest to photograph at the water feature.




This Scarlet Tanager dared me to get a photo.  What a magnificent animal!




Cousin to the buntings and tanagers is the Rose-breasted Grosbeak.


Not as colorful but beautiful in their own right are the thrushes.  Here's the common Swainson's thrush with its big buffy eye ring.


The Gray-cheeked Thrush has a colder gray cast.


The Veery has a warm buffy rusty color and less spotting on the breast.


Red-eyed Vireos are on of the most common birds of the eastern forests.  We see relatively few considering how common they are.



A Philadelphia Vireo was down at Sheepshead.


I did not see this nighthawk well enough in flight to determine if it was a Lesser or a Common Nighthawk.


Brightly colored male Baltimore and Orchard Orioles are always popular.



However this male Hooded Oriole at Sheepshead was a surprise.  I rarely see them on SPI.


A fun day of sensory overload!















South Padre Island Part 1, 4/26/17

Gee, with the new house and doing most of my birding in the yard lately, I haven't posted in awhile.  But I ran out to South Padre Island yesterday and got some good photos of some good stuff so I thought it was worth a post.  A very cooperative Black-throated Bure Warbler has been hanging out at the Valley Land Fund's Sheepshead lot for several days and I was happy he was still there.  We get one in the Valley every couple of years.



There were more warblers up at the Convention Center taking advantage of the water feature.  This Blackburnian Warbler came in several times to bathe.



As did this Bay-breasted.  I don't see very many of these so  it's always a treat.



I Have a tough time getting good photos of Yellow Warblers.  It's hard to pick up any reflection in the eye but I got it this time.


We would appreciate Nashville Warblers more if they weren't so common.


Meanwhile, more warblers were hanging out in the row of trees behind the Convention Center.  Here's my first Magnolia Warbler of the season.


My first Chestnut-sided Warbler was not so cooperative.


There were two Black-throated Green Warblers but I didn't get the pretty male.


Back at the water feature there were a couple of Tennessee Warblers.


And a Common Yellowthroat.


This had to be the most photogenic Ovenbird I have ever encountered.



Seems like the few Palm Warblers we get are always walking around in the grass and hard to see clearly.


Don't forget the perky Black-and-white Warbler.



I ran back up to Sheepshead later in the afternoon and got luck with a MacGillivray's Warbler.


And an early Mourning Warbler.


So I finished up the day with 21 species of warblers.  Not shown were Blackpoll, Blue-winged, Hooded, Myrtle and Wilson's Warblers and a Yellow-breasted Chat.  Not fantastic but I like to get  up over twenty sometime every spring.  I'll make another post for the other sharp spring migrants seen this day on SPI.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

West Texas Trip, 2/3-6/17

Quite a few of the top Texas listers have been seeing good stuff out in the the Transpecos of West Texas lately so I figured I would run out there for the weekend.   I got an early start and was able to make it out to Lake Balmorhea in Reeves county, 600 miles away, with some daylight left.  I always like to stop and look for lost waterfowl at this desert oasis.  Not too much exciting going on.  I always enjoy the Clark's and Western Grebes.  Love is in the air for this pair of Clark's.


There was a nice mixed flock of Snow and Ross's Geese.


I overnighted in Van Horn.  My target for this trip was the first winter California Gull at Tornillo Reservoir south of El Paso.  I've chased a number of these over the years and always come up empty.  But that was to change.  It was the first gull I saw on the lake.




There was an amazing flock of Common Mergansers that I estimated to be at least 1200 strong.


Another nearby lake that I have always want to check out is the McNary Reservoir.  eBird has reported some good stuff there lately and upon arrival it didn't take long for things to get interesting.  As soon as I walked up on the dike I flushed a covey of Gambel's Quails.  I've seen very few of these in Texas.


And nearby I heard an unfamiliar thrasher-like song.  My guess was Crissal Thrasher and I was right.


The lake was loaded with ducks, Snow and Ross's Geese, Double-crested Cormorants and another big flock of Common Mergansers.  It was still before noon so I decided I would have time to run up to Dell City and look of Sagebrush Sparrows.  The drive up RR 1111 north of Sierra Blanca produced little but I started seeing more birds on RR 1437 to Dell City like this dark Ferruginous Hawk. 


I had to do some searching around Dell City to find the road to the sand dunes on the east side of the Guadalupe Mountains. I later found out it is named Williams Road.  In the process of wandering around I found this nice Prairie Falcon.


Once on William's Road I could tell the bleak terrain with scattered grass and saltbush was textbook Sagebrush Sparrow winter habitat.  Eventually I found a nice flock of about eight of them near a railroad tank car used for storing water for cattle.  


And nearby at the turnaround and parking area for access to the sand dunes I found three Sage Thrashers and some Brewer's Sparrows.


Another night in Van Horn and I got an early start to the Guadalupe Mountains.  After considerable thought I decided on walking up McKittrick Canyon rather than hike up Devil's Hall or up to the Bowl.  I figured there might be water up there and the walking is easier.  Turned out to be a pretty slow day.  Six hours and seven miles of walking only produce eleven species.  But one of them was this young Black-chinned Sparrow.


My only real activity of the day started with a couple of Townsend's Solitaires near the Pratt Cabin.


Then I heard tapping on a nearby tree that I hoped was coming from a Red-naped Sapsucker.  Turned out to be a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.  Not sure which would be more common here.


I did some pygmy-owl tooting and a flock of birds landed far above me in a dead pine.  They included the solitaires, five Western Bluebirds and a Pine Siskin.  A little later I found the bluebirds in the stream.


A couple of White-breasted Nuthatches also responded.  But I never found the coveted Mountain Chickadees or Steller's Jays.


Got back to the motel in Van Horn in time for a great meal at Chuy's and an exciting Super Bowl.  The next morning I headed south towards the Davis Mountains.  Birding was a little slow except for the L E Wood Picnic Area on TX 118 north of Fort Davis.  There I had juncos, chippys, Acorn Woodpecker, more White-breasted Nuthatches and Western Bluebirds and a heard only Mountain Chickadee.



A brief stop at the bird feeding station in the state park found it deserted and a short run down to Fort Pena Colorado County Park south of Marathon turned up little.  There were both Say's and Eastern Phoebes, Swamp, Song, White-crowned, Chipping and Clay-colored Sparrows and a few Yellow-rumps.  So I decided it was dark and I had had enough and made the long drive back home.