Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Finally nailed that darn Evening Grosbeak! 3/1/14

Well, I was reading David Bakewell's really good blog about birding in Malaysia and it inspired me to try to get my own blog going again.  So here goes....

Evening Grosbeak is a pretty hard bird to see in Texas.  Several were seen in Dog Canyon in the Guadalupes last spring but I couldn't make it up there.  I chased after one this fall in the Guadalupes at Pine Springs Campground but missed it.  Another appeared in Lubbock at Clapp Park in November and I went after it but came up empty again.  Well that bird was seen several times during the winter and after not being seen for a while was found again last Wednesday 2/26 by Lubbock birder Peter Keyel.  I told Honey I wanted to make one more try and she kindly consented so I drove the 650 miles to Lubbock again.

I got to the park at 8 AM the following morning only to be greeted by a howling dirt filled wind.  I spent a couple of hours, holding on to my hat, and hoping to get lucky searching the junipers where the bird was know to hang out .  I did get a brief look at the wintering Townsend's Solitaire but not much else was going on.  The ponds that were filled with ducks and geese back in November were completely dry.  Well, this was getting me nowhere so I ran out to Levelland to look for the Tundra Swan seen a few weeks ago.  Not too much there either but I did see some "Canada" type geese.  After discussion on the Texbirds Facebook page it was decided that the photo below shows a Lesser Canada Goose flanked by two Clacking Geese.  In this case head and bill shape is more important than overall size.

Then I ran over to Muleshoe NWR, a place I had always wanted to visit.  The wind wasn't quite as bad so I had hopes of seeing something, maybe even the Long-eared Owl reported this winter.  Well my first bird in the picnic area was an owl but not the right one.  It was the common Great Horned Owl.

I worked the area over and found Northern Juncos, White-crowned Sparrows, Northern Cardinals, a Spotted Towhee and Curve-billed Thrasher.  Checking the lakes on the refuge, I found them all to be dry.  A small flock of Sandhill Cranes drifted overhead, a far cry from the flocks of thousands that Muleshoe is famous for.  

I drove back to Lubbock for another attempt at the Evening Grosbeak and the first person I run into at Clapp Park was"Fat Tony" Anthony Hewetson, the king of Texas county listing.  And though I was happy to finally meet him, I was even happier that he had just seen the Evening Grosbeak a few minutes earlier.  The wind was almost gone and my hopes were high, but the bird was not seen again that afternoon.  So I spent another night in Lubbock.

The following beautiful morning I was back at the park and checking the junipers again.  At least there were birds around and the wind was gone.  Got to see my first Blue Jay for the year.  After an hour I ran into Peter Keyel who had found the bird a couple of days earlier.  We wandered around a bit and finally saw the Townsend's Solitaire atop a nearby juniper.  The bird seemed to be ranging widely around the park and we discussed the possibility that there may be more than one of them.  Then I see a similar sized bird with wing patches chase the solitaire off its perch and I said "There's a second solitaire."  And Peter replied "No.  That's the grosbeak."

We watched for a few minutes as it looked around and chirped.  She was definitely looking for something.  Then she took off and flew several hundred yards to the southwest.  I wonder if she heard another grosbeak.  Anyway, after three attempts in the last five months and over 4000 miles driven, I finally can tick Evening Grosbeak on my Texas list.

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