Thursday, May 16, 2024

Driving the Beach at SPI, 5/15/24

Yesterday afternoon Justin LeClaire found an Arctic Tern on the beach at South Padre Island while doing shorebird surveys.  Arctic Terns pass through Texas in late May on their 10,000 plus mile migration route from their Antarctic wintering range to their Arctic breeding range.  They are rarely seen in Texas.  I was photographing odes at Bentsen so there was no way I could make it out there and put in much of a search.  

So I got up early and was at the beach at 9AM.  I surmised getting out there earlier might not help as the birds would all be out feeding.  I spent the next seven hours driving the 25 miles of beach up tp to the Port Mansfield channel and then 25 miles back.  Lots of migrant shorebirds were seen but no Arctic Tern.  Justin wanted people to keep an eye open for banded Red Knots and I found a couple with band numbers 8ME and 380.  I will do a little research and see what I can find.

The closest thing I could find to Arctic Terns were three Common Terns by the jetty.  I rarely see Common Terns in their gray breeding plumage.

I kept a running total of species seen for my eBird report and came up 1190 Sanderlings.  Most were in some form of their highly variable breeding plumage.

Plenty of Ruddy Turnstones too.

There were a handfull of Dunlins.  Usually they are out on the flats.

I think this is the western subspecies of Willet.

I find it very difficult to get good photos of breeding plumaged Black-bellied Plovers.  This is about the best I've ever done and it's not that great.

Lots of Sandwich Terns were feeding at the Port Mansfield jetty.

I don't know if the Snowy Plovers were migrants or local breeders.

So no Arctic Tern but it was a beautiful day at the beach.

PS:  I posted these photos on the Rio Grande Valley Birding Facebook group and Justin was pretty quick to reply.  "Need to look up 8ME to be sure but it is one of the earliest knots that David banded with the Coastal Bird Program, probably banded here in texas around 2010 as a third year bird. That bird is still on the beach today. 380 is probably from around 2017/2018."

Wow!  That first Red Knot is about 15 years old!

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Another Mexican Violetear at South Padre Island, 5-10-24

Well a cool front with a shift of winds was forecast for today so I headed out to South Padre Island for some late spring migration action.  Turns out the front didn't quite make it so the winds never shifted to northerly and an easterly breeze was the best we could get.  The result was a somewhat mediocre day... except for my last stop.

My first stop of the morning was at the Valley Land Fund's Sheepshead lot.  Not much was going one except I did glimpse a large dark hummer streaking through the Turk's-cap.  I mused that maybe it was last week's Mexican Violetear from Retama Street but I could never refind it.  Then after an OK but not spectacular day I made a final stop to check out Sheepshead again.  It seemed like a few migrants were dropping in.  I birded a bit with a visiting couple and almost immediately after they left here comes the large dark hummer.  And this time it perched and I was able to fire off a number of shots.  The hummer was in the shade and I had to bump the ISO to 3200 but there was no doubt.  It was a Mexican Violetear!

This was definitely not the adult male that hung out a month ago on Cora Lee and was photographed by many.  And unless it sprouted a bunch of new feathers over the past week, it's not the immature Mexican Violetear found by Ryan Rodriguez and photographed by Caley Thomas.  So after never having a Mexican Violetear, South Padre Island has now hosted three of them during the past month.  It's definitely the best hummer I've ever found in the US and among the best birds I've ever found.

Other late afternoon birds at Sheepshead included this what I am assuming is a Common Nighthawk.

And a distant pop up Veery.

The Convention Center at lunch time was a little slow.  Here's a Red-eyed Vireo.

A Northern Waterthrush.

Here's my first Yellow-bellied Flycather for the year.  The primary extensions seem long but not long enough for Acadian and the yellowish throat rules out Acadian also.

Best was this Mangrove Warbler.  I don't know if it's a female or a young male.  Mangrove Warbler is a mangrove dwelling subspecies of Yellow Warbler.  The maroon headed adult males are quite distinct but AOS has yet to split them.  They have invaded the mangroves at South Padre Island in recent years  and are now fairly common.

Some good migrants had been reported from the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center so I ran over there and spent the afternoon on the deck above Songbird Alley with local birders Mary, Agnieska and Horatio.  It was warm and humid with an occasional pleasant breeze blowing over from the sewage treatment plant.  But we stuck it out and eventually a few birds came in for a drink or an afternoon bath.  Here's an Orchard Oriole.

There have already been a number of reports of MacGillivray's Warbler which is consistant with the large number of western migrants seen this spring.  This is my first for the year.

Magnolia Warblers were at all sites today.

Canada Warbler is one of the later migrants.

This male Bay-breasted Warbler wa a real knockout.

One more Western Tanager was out in front.  They have been common this spring.

Along with my only Black-troated Green Warbler for the day.

My first self found Mexican Violetear made for a dang fine day!