Sunday, December 9, 2018

Black Scoter at Boca Chica Beach, 12/9/18

This fall several dozen Black Scoters have been seen hanging out around the seawall in Galveston.  while many have been reported in Florida also.  So when Justin LeClaire found one at Boca Chica Beach yesterday, I was not surprised although there are no previous Cameron County records on eBird.  Well if Justin can find one, why not me?  So this morning I took off in the old Tacoma 4x4 to drive the beach at Boca Chica.

As my truck gets older, each trip I wonder if it will come home safely.  This morning after a brief stop on TX 4 just a few miles from the beach, I put my foot down on the brake pedal while I put it in drive and the brake made this funny "sploosh" sound and my the pedal went down to the floor.  Woops.  Well something broke and I had just lost most of my brake fluid and had precious little braking ability left.  Should I turn around and try to make it home?  Hmmm.....I wouldn't hurt to drive slowly to the beach and look around for scoters.  So I did.  I drove up to the jetties and saw precious little and every stop was an adventure.  I learned I could put it in neutral and it would slow fairly quickly in the sand.

Nothing at the jetties.  So I headed back down the beach and decided I should head for home while the truck still had a few stops left in it.  And just before I left the beach, this little flock of four American Wigeons passed by over the surf.  A fifth duck was following and it was coal black.  Just like a Black Scoter!  So I stopped the truck as best I could and jumped out and fired away with the camera.  The feeble cropped shots sure seem to show a black duck with yellow/orange on the bill and gray undersides to the primaries.  I would have to call it a male Black Scoter.






Well, pretty cool but not very satisfying.  I may have to go back out and find a good place to watch the duck pass by and try for another.  BTW, I drove back home on the freeway but had to stop a few time at lights before I got there.  I learned I could put the truck into 2nd and then into 1st to stop at lights.  Really fun.


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Good Hidalgo County Birds, 11/27/18

A sunny, cool, calm day was in the forecast so I needed to bird somewhere.  It was a toss up between driving the beach or checking Sal del Rey and the area.  I chose the latter since I didn't want to do so much driving and I wanted to see if the Red-necked Phalaropes were still around.  I got up there pretty early and made the walk in from Brushline Road.  Turned out there were eleven Wilson's Phalaropes which are pretty late for this time of year, four Snowy Plovers on the beach and plenty of Laughing Gulls but no Red-necks.  Walking back there were plenty of passerines along the way and one low in a bush got my attention.  Danged if it wasn't a Sage Thrasher.  I had been thinking about them and was hoping to find one though the probability was low.  Maybe this signals a good year for them.


And just a bit down the trail I found some kinglets and got another surprise.  They were Golden-crowned Kinglets.  Mary Gustafson had heard some in this area a few days ago and we had one on South Padre Island so maybe it's a good year for them too.


A couple of Cactus Wrens were more expected.


I enjoy Common Ground-Doves.


Here's a poor shot of the distant Wilson's Phalaropes.


Back on Brushline Road I headed north and made stops at appropriate looking spots for sparrows.  Not many to be found.  My pishing and pygmy owl tooting pulled in a few migrants like these Black-and-white and Black-throated Green Warblers.



And then at a grassy spot north of the Tres Presas gate, I had called in a House Wren and noticed something else skulking in the grass.  It didn't call but I just had this feeling it would be a Sedge Wren.  I was right!  We don't get too many of them up there.


I still wasn't finding any sparrows on Brushline though the grass looked pretty good after the fall rains.  So I back-tracked and turned east on GI Road.  Still not much happening.  But the shallow pond in front of the Rio Beef Yard had some water and a small flock of Sandhill Cranes.


Then a quarter mile or so down the road I found a flock of American Goldfinches feeding on sunflower seeds.  And this is the stretch of road that marks the boundary between Hidalgo and Willacy Counties.  There were on the Hidalgo side which is not big deal.  But one flew across the road and landed on the fence in Willacy side where it was a new county bird for me, #281.


After seeing nothing but Lincoln's Sparrows, I finally found a flock with a couple of Lark and Clay-colored Sparrows.  I need the Clay-colored for my Hidalgo County year list but these were on the Teniente Tract in Willacy County.


Time to head for home.  I stopped by Delta Lake where the mudflats were loaded with birds.


Including an amazing 335 Long-billed Curlews.



Three White-fronted Geese circled overhead and told me to go home so I did.


Not many sparrows but a heck of a day.