Monday, September 5, 2011

Tailed Cecropian at NABA, 9/2/11

This past Thursday night I checked out the Texas Butterfly listserve to see if anything interesting had been seen locally. There was a post from Barry Nall up at Falcon Heights saying he had found a Tailed Cecropian in his yard that afternoon. This was the third U.S. record for this neotropical species. I thought about going up there on Friday morning but just didn't feel like making the long drive for a bug that might not even be there so I just headed over to the NABA Butterfly Center to see what was about.

Well the morning was pretty slow and David and Jan Dauphin were on their way out when I find this big leafwing-looking butterfly sitting in the shade on a baited post. The pattern on the underwing looked strangely familiar. Then I see these little spikes on the hindwing. Holy moly, it's the Tailed Cecropian! I had just been looking at pics of it the night before. I called to David and Jan as they were getting in their car and they came a running. It hung aroud for a half hour or so and we got some great photos of this first park record. My best bug find ever!

Frontera Audubon Thicket, 9/4-5/11

With a cool front coming from the north, I checked out Fronter Audubon Thicket in Welasco yesterday morning and again this afternoon to see if I could find any county year birds. Nothing new for the year list but a Bell's Vireo was pretty good along with 13 species of warblers. I had seven warbler species at the water feature this afternoon. Here's a few pics starting with a male Mourning Warbler.

Female MacGillivray's Warbler.

Northern Waterthrush

Yellow Warbler is usually the most abundant in early fall.

Yellow-brested Chat is also very common in fall but many birders miss these skulkers.

Yesterday's List

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck 25
Plain Chachalaca 15
Great Egret 2
Green Heron 1
Mississippi Kite 1
Gray Hawk 1
Swainson's Hawk 1
Killdeer 1
Upland Sandpiper 3
White-winged Dove 650
Mourning Dove 1
Inca Dove 3
White-tipped Dove 8
Yellow-billed Cuckoo 1
Common Pauraque 1
Chuck-will's-widow 1
Chimney Swift 5
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 2
Buff-bellied Hummingbird 12
Ringed Kingfisher 1
Green Kingfisher 1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker 6
Ladder-backed Woodpecker 2
Olive-sided Flycatcher 1
Alder Flycatcher 2
Least Flycatcher 1
Great Crested Flycatcher 1
Great Kiskadee 4
Couch's Kingbird 2
White-eyed Vireo 3
Bell's Vireo 1 photographed
Red-eyed Vireo 1
Green Jay 1
Barn Swallow 2
Carolina Wren 3
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 3
Clay-colored Thrush 1
Northern Mockingbird 3
Long-billed Thrasher 2
European Starling 7
Northern Waterthrush 1
Black-and-white Warbler 5
MacGillivray's Warbler 1
Mourning Warbler 2
Yellow Warbler 3
Yellow-throated Warbler 1
Canada Warbler 2
Wilson's Warbler 1
Yellow-breasted Chat 5
Olive Sparrow 3
Northern Cardinal 3
Blue Grosbeak 1
Great-tailed Grackle 2
Bronzed Cowbird 2
Lesser Goldfinch 5

Today's list.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck 1
Plain Chachalaca 10
Gray Hawk 1
White-winged Dove 20
Mourning Dove 1
Inca Dove 2
White-tipped Dove 3
Chuck-will's-widow 2
Buff-bellied Hummingbird 10
Ringed Kingfisher 1
Green Kingfisher 1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker 6
Ladder-backed Woodpecker 2
Olive-sided Flycatcher 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee 1
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher 1
Alder Flycatcher 2
Great Crested Flycatcher 1
Great Kiskadee 4
Couch's Kingbird 1
White-eyed Vireo 2
Green Jay 1
Black-crested Titmouse 2
Carolina Wren 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 2
Clay-colored Thrush 1
Northern Waterthrush 1
Black-and-white Warbler 4
Nashville Warbler 1
MacGillivray's Warbler 1
Mourning Warbler 7
American Redstart 1
Northern Parula 2
Yellow Warbler 8
Black-throated Green Warbler 1
Canada Warbler 2
Wilson's Warbler 4
Yellow-breasted Chat 6
Northern Cardinal 3
Great-tailed Grackle 1
Lesser Goldfinch 1
House Sparrow 4

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Boca Chica, 8/31/11

After J. D. Cortez told me about tons of birds on the flats at Boca Chica Unit of the Lower Rio Grande Valley NWR, I decided to drive down there and check it out. On the way I had a singing Botteri's Sparrow on Hwy 4 across from the Palmito Ranch. The turnoff for the Boca Chica Unit is about four miles before the beach with the road just being a sandy track that follows the Rio Grande.

Some large Black Mangroves along the river exceeded ten feet in height and held some buckeye butterflies that I think may be Mangrove Buckeye.

An unexpected find was six Seaside Sparrows. This is about as far south as they nest. I was hoping one would fly 50 yards across the river so I could add it to my Mexico list.

Another surprise was a Kentucky Warbler skulking in the mangroves.

The mudflats back to the north were covered with thousands of egrets and shorebirds. I scoped over them for a while but found nothing unusual.

After a couple of hours along the river I drove over to the beach and checked out the river mouth. Plenty of terns about including this Common.

This Keeled Earless Lizard was quite camouflaged against the sand.

Every time I get down here I like to check on the two Red Mangroves that grow along a little tidal creek. Though they had suffered a bit of frost damage last winter they were doing well and even producing fruit.

Living on the river on the other side.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Santa Ana NWR, 8/30/11

The hoard of storks and egrets at Pintail Lakes have departed but Santa Ana NWR still has plenty of good birds. Best for me today was this young Black Skimmer, my 278th Hidalgo county bird for the year.

Among the six species of warblers were seven Mourning Warblers, all in juvenile plumage. The broken eyering fool some birders into thinking they are MacGillivray's.

Northern Waterthushes are starting to go through.

Saw three Canada Warblers today. This one was at Frontera two days ago.

This scruffy male Indigo Bunting seems a bit early.

I tried again to get some better pictures of Neotropical Bluets but they were always just out of range and much more active than the Blue-ringed Dancers who always pose for photos.

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Hidalgo, US-TX
Aug 30, 2011 8:20 AM - 12:10 PM
Protocol: Traveling
2.0 mile(s)
73 species

Blue-winged Teal 60
Plain Chachalaca 4
Neotropic Cormorant 5
Great Egret 3
Snowy Egret 25
Cattle Egret 2
Green Heron 2
Black-crowned Night-Heron 2
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 1
White-faced Ibis 2
Roseate Spoonbill 7
Turkey Vulture 1
Broad-winged Hawk 1
Gray Hawk 1
American Coot 20
Killdeer 3
Black-necked Stilt 70
American Avocet 3
Upland Sandpiper 2
Least Sandpiper 30
Stilt Sandpiper 40
Long-billed Dowitcher 120
Laughing Gull 7
Gull-billed Tern 3
Black Tern 4
Forster's Tern 3
Black Skimmer 1
White-winged Dove 70
Mourning Dove 5
Common Ground-Dove 5
White-tipped Dove 2
Groove-billed Ani 25
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1
Buff-bellied Hummingbird 1
Ringed Kingfisher 1
Green Kingfisher 1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker 6
Ladder-backed Woodpecker 6
Eastern Wood-Pewee 1
Alder Flycatcher 4
Least Flycatcher 2
Brown-crested Flycatcher 2
Great Kiskadee 10
Tropical Kingbird 1
Couch's Kingbird 5
Eastern Kingbird 3
White-eyed Vireo 3
Green Jay 4
Purple Martin 2
Bank Swallow 1
Barn Swallow 5
Cave Swallow 35
Black-crested Titmouse 3
Carolina Wren 4
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 2
Clay-colored Thrush 1
Northern Mockingbird 2
Long-billed Thrasher 1
Northern Waterthrush 1
Black-and-white Warbler 3
Mourning Warbler 7
Yellow Warbler 40
Canada Warbler 3
Yellow-breasted Chat 8
Olive Sparrow 8
Northern Cardinal 1
Blue Grosbeak 2
Indigo Bunting 1 Male, photographed at Willow 1
Painted Bunting 3
Dickcissel 12
Red-winged Blackbird 25
Great-tailed Grackle 5
Lesser Goldfinch 1

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bentsen RGV State Park and NABA, 8/24/11

I spent yesterday morning birding and bugging at Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park south of Mission. Birds were pretty good with a Canada Warbler and plenty of Yellow Warblers and Yellow-breasted Chats. However my main goal was to look for bugs. Now that I've been looking more at damselflies, I'm starting to see the differences more easily and it was easy to pick out Golden-winged Dancers. These were along the resaca just south of the boat ramp.

At the same spot along the resaca I was happy to see two Mexican Scarlettails. Luckily they weren't wiped out by last years flood.

This Statira Sulphur near the entrance was a new one for me. Yellows and Sulphurs don't get me too excited.  Correction:  This is just a Lyside Sulphur.  Wow I've learned a lot in the last three years!

With the heat building up I decided to head over to nearby NABA Butterfly Park and see what was going on. One of the first things I saw was this Flag-tailed Spinyleg. Unfortunately I misIDed it at the time. And when I later saw a pair in tandem, I IDed them incorrectly again. After I got home I saw those long spiny legs in the photos and finally got it right.

Troy and Robin Zurovec were there at NABA and got me onto some great butterflies. This Florida White was new for me.

Robin also found this Gray Cracker. I used a flash and it brought out a lot of colors you normally miss as they hide in the shade.

Red-bordered Pixie is always nice to see.

This Pipevine Swallowtail as outside the nice new visitor's center.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Santa Ana Madness, 8/23/11

The flood waters from last summer are retreating, concentrating fish in the remaining pools, and creating a feeding frenzy at Santa Ana NWR. It looks just like a scene from the Okavango or the Venenzuelan Llanos. Here's a few shots of the madness.

I counted 800 Great Egrets and 310 Wood Storks with lesser numbers of Roseate Spoonbills, Snowy Egrets, White and White-faced Ibises and assorted shorebirds.

Add to the fun a few buckets of warblers and empids and it was a heck of a morning. This was only my second ever Prothonotary Warbler for Hidalgo County. It was also county year bird #276 tying my all time high.

Meanwhile Empidonax flycatchers semed to be every where giving me some great ID practice. Lots of Alder Flycatchers were calling.

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher is passing through also.

Here's the 90 species I've seen there over the past couple of days.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck 1
Fulvous Whistling-Duck 18
Mottled Duck 1
Blue-winged Teal 14
Least Grebe 2
Plain Chachalaca 7
Wood Stork 310
Neotropic Cormorant 70
Great Blue Heron 2
Great Egret 800
Snowy Egret 100
Little Blue Heron 5
Tricolored Heron 2
Green Heron 2
Black-crowned Night-Heron 4
Yellow-crowned Night-heron 3
White Ibis 10
White-faced Ibis 30
Roseate Spoonbill 20
Black Vulture 1
Turkey Vulture 1
Gray Hawk 1
Crested Caracara 1
American Coot 20
Killdeer 1
Black-necked Stilt 60
American Avocet 3
Solitary Sandpiper 1
Spotted Sandpiper 1
Greater Yellowlegs 2
Lesser Yellowlegs 2
Upland Sandpiper 1
Least Sandpiper 30
Stilt Sandpiper 220
Long-billed Dowitcher 80
Wilson's Phalarope 1
Laughing Gull 6
Gull-billed Tern 12
Black Tern 1
White-winged Dove 120
Mourning Dove 10
Common Ground-Dove 6
White-tipped Dove 6
Yellow-billed Cuckoo 2
Groove-billed Ani 14
Chuck-will's-widow 2
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 2
Buff-bellied Hummingbird 3
Ringed Kingfisher 1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker 8
Ladder-backed Woodpecker 10
Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee 1
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher 4
Alder Flycatcher 18
Least Flycatcher 4
Empidonax sp. 5
Great Crested Flycatcher 3
Brown-crested Flycatcher 4
Great Kiskadee 8
Couch's Kingbird 12
Tropical Kingbird 2
White-eyed Vireo 6
Green Jay 8
Purple Martin 110
Cave Swallow 50
Black-crested Titmouse 15
Carolina Wren 10
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 2
Clay-colored Thrush 5
Northern Mockingbird 3
Long-billed Thrasher 1
Black-and-white Warbler 2
Prothonotary Warbler 1
Mourning Warbler 3
Tropical Parula 2
Yellow Warbler 23
Yellow-breasted Chat 2
Olive Sparrow 10
Summer Tanager 1
Northern Cardinal 5
Blue Grosbeak 1
Painted Bunting 5
Dickcissel 5
Red-winged Blackbird 30
Bronzed Cowbird 5
Orchard Oriole 3
Lesser Goldfinch 15
House Sparrow 100

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sugar House Pond, 8/3/11

Pat Heirs and I checked out the Sugar House Pond this morning in hopes of refinding the Red/Red-necked Phalarope but no luck. We did find this Willet which is only my third ever for Hidalgo county. Don't know if it's Eastern or Western.

Shortly after Pat left I found this distant Black-bellied Plover which was my 275th county bird of the year. I don't get Black-bellied every year in Hidalgo county.

The past week has produced 21 species of shorebirds at the Sugar House Pond. Here's todays list.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck 200
Fulvous Whistling-Duck 2
Mottled Duck 4
Blue-winged Teal 5
Northern Shoveler 1
Ruddy Duck 21
Least Grebe 8
Neotropic Cormorant 2
Snowy Egret 2
White Ibis 10
White-faced Ibis 9
Common Moorhen 1
American Coot 136 counted
Black-bellied Plover 1
Killdeer 10
Black-necked Stilt 583 counted
American Avocet 144
Spotted Sandpiper 3
Solitary Sandpiper 1
Greater Yellowlegs 2
Willet 1
Lesser Yellowlegs 250 estimated
Upland Sandpiper 1
Semipalmated Sandpiper 100
Western Sandpiper 4
Least Sandpiper 70
Baird's Sandpiper 35
Stilt Sandpiper 650 counted
Long-billed Dowitcher 13
Wilson's Phalarope 1000 counted
Laughing Gull 2
Black Tern 35
Mourning Dove 1
Horned Lark 1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 1
Bank Swallow 2
Dickcissel 1
Great-tailed Grackle 10

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Long-billed or Short-billed Dowitchers? 7/28/11

After I posted on Texbirds that I had three dowitchers that I wasn't too sure about at the Sugar House Pond, I received an email from Justin Bosler stating that because of the date these might be Short-billed as they migrate earlier than Long-billed. I'm leaning towards Long-billed because of the feather edgings on the back but I may be misinterpreting this character. There were four of these birds were at the Sugar House Pond today.

I also photographed these three today at the Bucy Road Pond near Hargill. I also think they are Long-billed.