Thursday, January 19, 2017

South Padre Island, 1/18/17

Thought I would take the truck out to South Padre Island today and drive the beach looking for gulls.  After crossing the causeway onto the Island, I pulled over to scan the mudflat and was pleased to get a Whimbrel.

The tide was low and I got the idea I could cross along the edge of the mudflat and checkout the mangroves for Seaside Sparrow.  I gave it a few pishes and got a Myrtle Warbler.  A couple of more pishes and in flies this little yellow bird with a chestnut head.  My goodness.  It was a Mangrove Warbler, the first I've seen on the Island.  Wonder if they will ever split these guys from Yellow Warbler.

Sheepshead had nothing and the Convention Center had only an Eastern Phoebe and Orange-crowned and Myrtle Warblers.  The flats to the north were loaded with birds and I added shorebirds, gulls and terns to my year list.  But nothing was close enough for photos.  So it was on to the beach.

The beach was in great shape for driving after being scoured by the recent high winds.  Unfortunately the birds must have been blown away also.  The only gulls were the expected Ring-billed, Herring and Laughing. I liked this strongly marked Ring-billed Gull.

And the only terns were Royal and Forster's.  It seem a little early to me for this oil smudged Royal Tern to be in breeding plumage.

The only shorebirds were Willets, a couple of Long-billed Curlews and lots of Sanderlings.

But it's winter and Northern Gannets are always a possibility so I kept scanning the sea periodically.  At mile four I saw some distant long-winged birds flying over the water and then dropping head first like a rock.  The scope gave me better looks but the Northern Gannets were a little distant for photos.  I saw twelve at this stop, had another at mile ten and two more were way out from the jetty at the Port Mansfield cut in Willacy County.

Nothing exciting at the jetty.  They was a flock of Ruddy Turnstones foraging among the rocks.

And a few Red-breasted Mergansers bounced in the surf.

There were lots of Brown Pelicans around and this one was particularly sharp in its new breeding dress.

All of the above was just the icing on the cake as I had already picked up a new bird for my Cameron County list first thing in the morning.  The day before, Mark and Joanie Hubinger had found a flock of Brewer's Blackbirds on FM 506 just north of the Military Highway.  I was happy to finally tick this not so rare bird for my Cameron County list, #394.

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