Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sugar House Pond, 8/25/14

I checked out the Sugar House Pond this morning hoping to find some good Hidalgo County stuff.  The pond is a 40 acre impoundment for the effluent from the sugar refinery located on FM 1425 north of FM 107, and is just north of the railroad tracts.  It is located on the left but is not visible from the highway.  You have to climb the grassy berm and then this lies before you.

I estimated 4000 Wilson's Phalaropes but there may have been twice that many.

Nothing too exciting among the fifteen species of shorebirds present.  With the recent Collared Plover, I've been a bit plover-sensitive lately.  I tried to turn a distant one into a Lesser Sand-Plover but the closer it got, the more it looked a like a Wilson's Plover.  This is the first I've seen at this site.

Sugar House Pond (FM1425), Hidalgo, US-TX
Aug 25, 2014 8:10 AM - 10:30 AM
Protocol: Stationary
38 species

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  200
Fulvous Whistling-Duck  20
Mottled Duck  1
Blue-winged Teal  50
Northern Pintail  1
Ruddy Duck  6
Great Blue Heron  4
Great Egret  1
Snowy Egret  2
Little Blue Heron  2
Cattle Egret  2
White Ibis  12
Roseate Spoonbill  4
American Coot  4
Black-necked Stilt  490
American Avocet  140
Snowy Plover  2
Wilson's Plover  1
Semipalmated Plover  2
Killdeer  6
Willet  5
Lesser Yellowlegs  80
Stilt Sandpiper  500
Baird's Sandpiper  5
Least Sandpiper  800
Buff-breasted Sandpiper  1
Semipalmated Sandpiper  5
Western Sandpiper  80
Long-billed Dowitcher  160
Wilson's Phalarope  4000
Laughing Gull  1
Black Tern  20
Mourning Dove  6
Bank Swallow  2
Barn Swallow  6
Cave Swallow  4
Dickcissel  2
Great-tailed Grackle  X

Santa Ana NWR, 8/26/14

A warm walk around the Pintail Lakes area of Santa Ana NWR turned up quite a few birds.  After being hard to had most of the year, 82 Least Grebes on the far southeast lake was an exceptionally high total.  The rest of the Pintail Lakes were dry.

Warblers are on their way south.  I think both of these are Mourning Warblers.

I saw four Black-and-whites.

Lots of flycatchers around though not many insects on the wing.  I didn't see a single mosquito.  Here's an Olive-sided Flycatcher.  I didn't get any good empid photos.

Groove-billed Anis have had a good year.  I counted thirty of them.

A lone Green Kingfisher was on Willow 1.

I think my best sighting of the day is this dragonfly which may prove to be a rare Caribbean Dasher.  (Woops, it's just a common Spot-tailed.  I didn't even consider that species.)

Here's the list.

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Hidalgo, US-TX
Aug 26, 2014 8:10 AM - 11:30 AM
Protocol: Traveling
2.0 mile(s)
61 species (+1 other taxa)

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  110
Ruddy Duck  1
Plain Chachalaca  6
Least Grebe  82
Pied-billed Grebe  10
Little Blue Heron  1
Green Heron  2
Turkey Vulture  2
Common Gallinule  2
American Coot  2
Inca Dove  2
Common Ground-Dove  4
White-tipped Dove  3
White-winged Dove  300
Mourning Dove  20
Groove-billed Ani  30
Eastern Screech-Owl  1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  1
Green Kingfisher  1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  7
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  7
Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet  1
Olive-sided Flycatcher  2
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher  1
Alder Flycatcher  2
Alder/Willow Flycatcher (Traill's Flycatcher)  10
Least Flycatcher  1
Great Crested Flycatcher  1
Brown-crested Flycatcher  2
Great Kiskadee  5
Tropical Kingbird  1
Couch's Kingbird  6
Eastern Kingbird  1
White-eyed Vireo  6
Green Jay  1
Barn Swallow  12
Cave Swallow  25
Black-crested Titmouse  10
Verdin  3
Carolina Wren  8
Bewick's Wren  2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  11
Long-billed Thrasher  1
Northern Mockingbird  6
Black-and-white Warbler  4
Mourning Warbler  4
Common Yellowthroat  2
Yellow Warbler  4
Canada Warbler  1
Yellow-breasted Chat  3
Olive Sparrow  6
Northern Cardinal  6
Painted Bunting  1
Dickcissel  3
Red-winged Blackbird  300
Orchard Oriole  3
Hooded Oriole  1
Altamira Oriole  2
Baltimore Oriole  4
Lesser Goldfinch  6
House Sparrow  6

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Eastern Hidalgo County wet spots, 8/20/14

This morning I ran over to Hargill to see if I could find the Collared Plover.  It was not seen yesterday and another birder and I had no luck this morning.  So our little second record bird may be gone.  There were still lots of birds on the playa.

I drove around the area some hoping maybe the Collared Plover had relocated somewhere nearby but I couldn't find any water.  There is a nice wet spot with shorebirds to the east of Hargill on FM 490 but no small plovers were present.  So I ran over to the pond on FM 1015 on the east side of Delta Lake.  Here I found a couple of Black Skimmers which were Hidalgo County year birds for me.  Here's a digiscope shot from about 80 yards.

At this point the wind was howling and blowing lots of dirt, but I thought I should checkout the Sugar House Pond.  I parked along FM 1425 and walked up near the northeast corner on the pond.  Wow!  What a lot of birds!

I estimated the number of Wilson's Phalaropes at 2500 and didn't really try to get numbers for anything else as I could hardly stand on the dike because of the intense wind.  I shall return.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Collared Plover at Hargill, Day 13, 8-15-14

This morning I ran up to check on the Collared Plover in Hargill.  A group of about eight 
birders were on the plover when I arrived.  I tried to get some better photos trying the 2x 
with the 300mm on my camera and trying to digiscope.  Not too successful.  I'm thinking abou
getting a bigger lens or a new scope (or a closer bird!).

Lots of birds on the playa with the water starting to recede.

Here's the Reddish Egret next to a Snowy.

Three migrant Orchard Orioles landed nearby.

Here's a poor digiscope shot of the Collared Plover.

Hargill Playa, Hidalgo, US-TX
Aug 15, 2014 8:10 AM - 9:30 AM
Protocol: Stationary
24 species

Neotropic Cormorant  50
American White Pelican  14
Great Egret  13
Snowy Egret  30
Tricolored Heron  8
Reddish Egret  1
White Ibis  6
Roseate Spoonbill  25
Black-necked Stilt  80
American Avocet  10
Collared Plover  1
Snowy Plover  3
Greater Yellowlegs  3
Least Sandpiper  20
Semipalmated Sandpiper  5
Western Sandpiper  20
Wilson's Phalarope  2
Laughing Gull  40
Gull-billed Tern  3
Common Ground-Dove  1
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher  3
Verdin  1
Cassin's Sparrow  1
Orchard Oriole  3

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sugar House Pond, 8-14-14

Thought I would run over to the Sugar House Pond this morning to work on my county year list.  It was absolutely loaded with birds.  Water is down a bit leaving a narrow shoreline and that is being taken advantage of by shorebirds and families of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks.  Best bird was this distant young Willet which is uncommon in Hidalgo County.

The most abundant bird was the 2000 Wilson's Phalaropes.  I counted up to 800 and then estimated.

Black Terns are on the move.

The 369 Black-necked Stilts I counted is about normal for this time of year.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  400
Fulvous Whistling-Duck  22
Blue-winged Teal  20
Ruddy Duck  25
Pied-billed Grebe  2
Neotropic Cormorant  2
Great Egret  2
Snowy Egret  1
Roseate Spoonbill  6
American Coot  4
Black-necked Stilt  369
American Avocet  46
Semipalmated Plover  4
Killdeer  3
Greater Yellowlegs  2
Willet  1
Lesser Yellowlegs  40
Upland Sandpiper  1
Stilt Sandpiper  500
Least Sandpiper  200
Semipalmated Sandpiper  15
Western Sandpiper  6
Long-billed Dowitcher  10
Wilson's Phalarope  2000
Laughing Gull  3
Gull-billed Tern  3
Black Tern  25
Tree Swallow  1
Barn Swallow  1
Cave Swallow  8
Yellow Warbler  1
Dickcissel  2
Great-tailed Grackle  1

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Bar-tailed Godwit at Oso Bay, 8/10/14

Yesterday, while we were still enjoying the Collared Plover at Hargill, that darn rarity finder Mel Cooksey found the first state record of Bar-tailed Godwit up in Oso Bay in Corpus Christi.  It was just a few yards from where he found a Curlew Sandpiper a few years ago.  So I woke up early this morning and called Mary Gustafson to come along with me to look for it.  After the three hour drive, we pulled into the Texas A&M Corpus Christi campus and walked down to the mudflats only to find Martin Reid and others looking at the bird.  Over the next two hours we enjoyed great scope views of the birds.  This is a molting male of the European nominate subspecies of Bar-tailed Godwit, lapponica, as indicated by the white rump and underwings.

These fuzzy photos were digiscoped as the birds were a bit too distant for my regular 300 mm lens.  I definitely need to work on my digiscoping skills.  There were hundreds of other shorebirds to look at, but we headed for home anyway.  Hope someone finds something else rare up there.  I'll make the trip again.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Collared Plover is a hit! 8/3/14

I actually didn't spend that much time observing the Collared Plover when I found it.  I was in a state of denial and still trying to convince myself that it was a Wilson's Plover even though it looked like a Collared Plover.  And after racing home to make sure on my ID and then get the word out (Sorry I don't have a smart phone.  I seem to do OK without one.) I realized I was too tired and hot to go back out and enjoy it some more.  So I made a run out the next morning.  Cars were lined up along Lincoln but it wasn't as busy as I thought it would be.

Here comes a happy Sue and Tad.  They made the long ride down from Lake Jackson where they work for the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory.

Lined up for a view of ABA's second Collared Plover.

I didn't spend much time trying to get photos.  I spent more time visiting with birders I don't get to see very often and watching the little Collared Plover raising hell as it battled with Snowy and Wilson's Plovers.  So here's a token poor photo.

Like I said not that many birders out to see it but word is more have been out the past two days.and if this bird decides to stay a while, it could turn out to be viewed by hundreds.  I guess I'll get up there again in the next few days and checkout the circus.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Collared Plover at Hargill or I'm back Baby! 8/2/14

I did very little birding during the month of June after the spring migration and absolutely none during July. For the past four weeks I've been undergoing treatment for facial actinic keratosis and having a lot of work done on our house so I just didn't get out at all. But today with my face doing better and my handyman off for the weekend I decided I was going to get out and either look for birds or butterflies. Mary Gustafson told me there were lots of shorebirds up at Sugar House pond, so my decision was to go birding. Turned out pretty good.

 I'll skip to the good part. At 11:40 I got my scope out at the Hargill Playa on 1st and Lincoln. Lots of water and shorebirds. I was happy to find my first county Baird's Sandpipers for the year. Then I saw a Snowy Plover which is pretty good. And then I was surprised to find a Wilson's Plover still present. Except it looked weird. The bill seemed too narrow, not a typical fat Wilson's bill. And it had a big gleaming white forehead with a black band going across the head from eye to eye. And it looked too small headed for Wilson's Plover. I considered other possibilities. Bill too long for a Semipalm. It wasn't a Snowy or Piping. What's left? I knew the only other alternative but dared not get too excited. I managed to get some not too great photos and the bird still just looked wrong for Wilson's. Then I got distracted by a white morph Reddish Egret which is a great county bird in its own right. At this point I decided I needed to head for home and check my photos with photos online. And I was right. My little plover is the second record of Collared Plover for the ABA area. The only other record of this neotropical shorebird was one seen in Uvalde Texas in May of 1992. I've seen a few in Mexico and farther south but I didn't remember the black lores being a field mark. Collared Plover is a bird I've hoped to encounter for years and I finally found one!

And here's the white morph Reddish Egret with his buddy the Snowy Plover.

I started the day at the Sugar House pond on FM 1425 north of FM 107 where I ran into Mary G. There were lots of whistling ducks and shorebirds but nothing unusual. I need to be checking this place every few days.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck 600 Fulvous Whistling-Duck 400 Mottled Duck 4 Redhead 1 Ruddy Duck 52 Eared Grebe 1 Great Egret 1 Snowy Egret 1 Little Blue Heron 1 Roseate Spoonbill 6 American Coot 2 Black-necked Stilt 250 American Avocet 6 Killdeer 4 Lesser Yellowlegs 25 Stilt Sandpiper 40 Least Sandpiper 50 Semipalmated Sandpiper 20 Long-billed Dowitcher 4 Wilson's Phalarope 275 Laughing Gull 2 Gull-billed Tern 2 Black Tern 25 Bank Swallow 5 Dickcissel 1 Red-winged Blackbird 10 Great-tailed Grackle 30

 A run up FM 1015 to the pond on the west side of Delta Lake produced my first county Wood Storks and Least Bittern for the year.

Then I stopped by Delta Lake and found the water was pretty high with just a narrow shoreline exposed along the highway on the west side. Nothing great but if the water goes down a bit this place should pick up. So I headed west on FM 490 and found a wet place with quite few birds including 60 Fulvous Whistling-Ducks. This was in Willacy County. 

My next stop was Hargill and, wow, did it ever produce! Snowy Egret 1 Tricolored Heron 2 Reddish Egret 1 Black-necked Stilt 33 Collared Plover 1 Snowy Plover 1 Killdeer 1 Lesser Yellowlegs 1 Stilt Sandpiper 10 Baird's Sandpiper 4 Least Sandpiper 20 Semipalmated Sandpiper 3 peep sp. 30 Laughing Gull 22 Gull-billed Tern 2 Caspian Tern 2 Western Kingbird 1 Scissor-tailed Flycatcher 8 Horned Lark 1 Verdin 1 Northern Mockingbird 2 Dickcissel 1 Red-winged Blackbird X Great-tailed Grackle X

 So I headed for home but just couldn't resist a run into Delta Lake County park where 65 Wood Storks were on the pond near the entrance.

So my first time out in over a month netted five Hidalgo County year birds, my 380th Hidalgo County bird my 550th Texas bird and my 673rd ABA bird. Gee I should get out more often.