Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sabine's Gull, Brown Booby at Boca Chica Jetty, 10/26/14

I missed yesterday's pelagic birding trip out of South Padre Island yesterday mostly because it filled up so fast and I wasn't on the ball.  But I didn't mind as I had a really good butterfly day at Resaca de la Palma. Still I was feeling a bit of angst after Mary called me to say they had seen a Sabine's Gull right off the South Padre Island Jetty as the boat returned last night.  Wow, that is a fantastic Cameron County bird!

So this morning I decided with stable weather and lots of bait fish off the jetties that the gull just might hang around a while.  I got a late start as I knew the light would be better for scoping in the afternoon.  I also figured that the Boca Chica Jetty across the water from SPI might be just as reliable and a heck of a lot easier to walk.  I reached Boca Chica Beach a little before noon and found the driving conditions such that I could have left the truck at home.  I checked out the gulls, terns and shorebirds along the five mile drive and spied plenty of offshore feeding action as I approached the jetty.  The jetty on the Boca Chica side is much easier to walk and much shorter as years of south east winds have deposited much sand along the structure.

I easily walked to the end of the jetty and shared it with a few fisherman as I scoped for the Sabine's Gull.  There were a few young Laughing Gulls just off the jetty and floating on the weed line that separated the cloudy water of the ship channel from the clear gulf water.  I kept scoping and then noticed the closest Laughing Gull had a more petite bill and some scaly feather edging on the back.  Was this the Sabine's Gull?

You bet it was!  Cameron County bird #377!

The Sabine's Gull flew to the north and I failed to refind it. It could have easily mixed in with the the dozens of young Laughing Gulls bobbing up and down in the waves.  No sooner had I stopped patting myself on the back when this big brown bird flies by and joins in the feeding frenzy.  Holey smokes!  It's a Brown Booby!

Not such a big deal this year as I had earlier seen Scarlet's adult Brown Booby in the ship channel this summer.  There's been several at Corpus Christi this year and there's four right now up by Houston.  None the less, this is my first self-found Brown Booby and normally would be the bird of the day.  Here's a photo of the feeding action.  All the action is where the dirty ship channel water meets the clean gulf water.

Along the beach there were plenty of the expected shorebirds.  I was happy to get my first Red Knots of the year.

This Franklin's Gull was easy to pick out among the Laughing Gulls.

This first winter Herring Gull was in very fresh plumage.  It shows the classic dark primaries and pale secondaries.

So, with a Sabine's Gull, a Brown Booby and lots of gulls and terns I wound up having my own personal pelagic trip.

Boca Chica Beach (LTC 043)-- USA side, Cameron, US-TX
Oct 26, 2014 11:50 AM - 3:00 PM
Protocol: Traveling
5.0 mile(s)
Comments:     Drove from FM 4 to Boca Chica Jetty and walked jetty.
22 species

Brown Booby  1
Neotropic Cormorant  1
Double-crested Cormorant  1
Brown Pelican  175
Great Blue Heron  2
Snowy Egret  1
Black-bellied Plover  3
Piping Plover  4
Willet  8
Ruddy Turnstone  55
Red Knot  11
Sanderling  300
Least Sandpiper  1
Sabine's Gull  1
Laughing Gull  300
Franklin's Gull  1
Ring-billed Gull  10
Herring Gull  15
Caspian Tern  1
Common Tern  1
Forster's Tern  600
Royal Tern  2

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sal del Rey, 10/15/14

This morning I ran up to the Sal del Rey unit of the Lower Rio Grande NWR to check on the water conditions.  There's now plenty of water and plenty of birds.  This big white-tailed buck greeted me as I walked in from Brushline Road.

Walking in I saw a small flock of Nashville Warblers and a couple of sparrows but not a lot else.  Upon arriving at the glassy calm lake I was afraid there was nothing on the water.  But some careful scoping started turning up stuff.  A flock of White-fronted Geese flew over with a lone Ross's Goose bringing up the rear.

I whistled my poor Snowy Plover call and a flock of Least Sandpipers with a single Western Sandpiper flew in , followed by a lone Snowy Plover.

Scoping across the lake I found a tight raft of American Coots, 35 Eared Grebes and a hundred Wilson's Plovers.  I'm hoping the phalaropes will stay for the CBC like they used to before the lake dried up.

A flock of Northern Shovelers flushed and were soon joined by three Northern Pintails.

Other shorebirds were Greater Yellowlegs, Long-billed Curlew and American Avcocets.  A flock of 40 Laughing Gulls were joined by two young Herring Gulls.  Herring Gulls are hard to find in Hidalgo County.

On the way out the harks started rising.  Two flocks of Swainson's Hawks totaled 112.  Here some of the diverse plumages.

On the way back to Weslaco I drove down Brushline Road where there were plenty of flooded fields.  It should be good birding this winter.  I then ran over to Hargill where the Collared Plover playa was as full as I've sever seen it.  There were tons of birds but they were very distant, mostly Least and Western Sandpipers with a lone Wilson's Phalarope.  Driving east along FM 490 there was more standing water. Here's the Sal del Rey list.

LRGV NWR--La Sal del Rey (LTC 005), Hidalgo, US-TX
Oct 15, 2014 8:40 AM - 10:55 AM
Protocol: Traveling
2.5 mile(s)
54 species

Greater White-fronted Goose  25
Ross's Goose  1
Gadwall  15
Blue-winged Teal  6
Northern Shoveler  30
Northern Pintail  3
Eared Grebe  35
Neotropic Cormorant  20
Great Egret  1
Snowy Egret  1
Cattle Egret  12
Turkey Vulture  6
Cooper's Hawk  1
Harris's Hawk  1
White-tailed Hawk  1
Red-shouldered Hawk  1
Swainson's Hawk  112
American Coot  60
Sandhill Crane  2
American Avocet  2
Snowy Plover  
Killdeer  1
Greater Yellowlegs  3
Long-billed Curlew  6
Least Sandpiper  47
Western Sandpiper  1
Wilson's Phalarope  100
Laughing Gull  40
Herring Gull  2
Common Ground-Dove  6
Mourning Dove  10
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  2
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  1
Crested Caracara  1
Eastern Phoebe  2
Great Kiskadee  1
Couch's Kingbird  2
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher  2
Green Jay  1
Barn Swallow  50
Cliff Swallow  1
Black-crested Titmouse  4
Verdin  1
House Wren  3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Northern Mockingbird  3
Orange-crowned Warbler  1
Nashville Warbler  4
Cassin's Sparrow  1
Lark Sparrow  5
Lincoln's Sparrow  2
Pyrrhuloxia  1
Red-winged Blackbird  40
Great-tailed Grackle  15

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pine Canyon Trail, Big Bend National Park, 10/11/14

I finally got an opportunity to get out to Big Bend this past weekend.  My goal was to check out the butterflies on the Pine Canyon Trail on the east side of the Chisos Mountains.  Of course some mighty fine birds have been seen through the years in this canyon in the moist area below the pour off;  including Fan-tailed Warbler, Flame-colored Tanager and Northern Pygmy Owl.  Well I didn't find anything of that caliber but it was still a nice day.  Red-breasted Nuthatches are showing up in the state this winter so it wasn't a big surprise to find one in Pine canyon.

Migrants are still passing through.  Here's a Cassin's Vireo.

My only warblers were a Black-throated Gray Warbler and four Townsend's Warblers.

When visiting west Texas during the cool season, I always hope to find a Red-naped Sapsucker.  This one may spend the winter.

Canyon Wrens like the acoustics in the narrow canyon.  It's a great place for singing.

Another treat out west is getting to study western Empidonax flycatchers.  This little cutie is a Hammond's Flycatcher.  Notice the small dark bill and eye ring that is wider posteriorly.  The long primary projections are hard to make out in this photo.

I'm pretty sure this is a Dusky Flycatcher.  The bill is too long and narrow for a "Western" type Flycatcher and it doesn't match any eastern empids.

Texas Madrone is fruiting and that's just fine with wintering Hermit Thrushes.  Now let's hope an Aztec Thrush or an Elegant Trogon wanders up from Mexico to enjoy the berries


Here's the days list.

Big Bend NP--Pine Canyon (FWTX 43), Brewster, US-TX
Oct 11, 2014 8:40 AM - 3:40 PM
Protocol: Traveling
3.0 mile(s)
Comments:     Two miles on trail and one mile below trail on road.
28 species

Red-tailed Hawk  1
Broad-tailed Hummingbird  3
Acorn Woodpecker  2
Red-naped Sapsucker  2
Northern Flicker  3
Hammond's Flycatcher  2
Dusky Flycatcher  2
Plumbeous Vireo  1
Cassin's Vireo  3
Hutton's Vireo  1
Mexican Jay  6
Black-crested Titmouse  12
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
Rock Wren  5
Canyon Wren  4
House Wren  1
Bewick's Wren  5
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  10
Hermit Thrush  5
Black-throated Gray Warbler  1
Townsend's Warbler  4
Green-tailed Towhee  1
Spotted Towhee  1
Rufous-crowned Sparrow  1
Canyon Towhee  1
Cassin's Sparrow  1
Clay-colored Sparrow  1

Friday, October 3, 2014

South Padre Island, 10/3/14

A cold front was scheduled to arrive today so Honey and I ran out to South Padre Island to see what it might bring.  Well it wasn't much of a front and birds seemed to be leaving during the afternoon rather than arriving.  But I still saw a dozen species of warblers and enjoyed the afternoon.  Best was this uncooperative Blue-winged Warbler at the Convention Center.

There were quite a few pools of water around from the rains of the past few weeks.  I  bet there were more than just the five Northern Waterthushes I saw.

Magnolia Warblers really look different in the fall.  The gray back, wing bars, tail patches and faint streaking identifies them.

But Wilson's Warblers always look pretty much the same.

The first bird I saw at Sheepshead was this sharp male Hooded Warbler.  I never saw another.

I never get tired of Black-and-white Warblers.

I was hoping that some of the sparrows advertised up north would come with the front, but not yet.  My only sparrow was our local Olive Sparrow which is quite uncommon SPI.

Here's the list for today.

South Padre Island, Cameron, US-TX
Oct 3, 2014 12:30 PM - 3:30 PM
Protocol: Traveling
5.0 mile(s)
Comments:     Sheepshead, Campeche, Oleander and Convention Center
55 species (+1 other taxa)

Blue-winged Teal  2
Neotropic Cormorant  1
Brown Pelican  3
Great Blue Heron  2
Great Egret  3
Snowy Egret  1
Little Blue Heron  2
Tricolored Heron  1
Cattle Egret  1
Osprey  2
Black-bellied Plover  8
Semipalmated Plover  8
Piping Plover  15
Willet  X
Lesser Yellowlegs  1
Marbled Godwit  15
Ruddy Turnstone  1
Sanderling  X
Western Sandpiper  X
Short-billed Dowitcher  X
Laughing Gull  X
Gull-billed Tern  5
Caspian Tern  1
Common Tern  1
Forster's Tern  X
Royal Tern  X
Eurasian Collared-Dove  5
Inca Dove  2
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  2
Belted Kingfisher  1
Eastern Wood-Pewee  2
Least Flycatcher  2
Empidonax sp.  2
Eastern Kingbird  1
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher  1
Blue-headed Vireo  1
Barn Swallow  5
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Gray Catbird  1
Northern Mockingbird  4
European Starling  2
Ovenbird  1
Northern Waterthrush  5
Blue-winged Warbler  1
Black-and-white Warbler  1
Nashville Warbler  1
Common Yellowthroat  3
Hooded Warbler  1
American Redstart  3
Northern Parula  1
Magnolia Warbler  2
Black-throated Green Warbler  1
Wilson's Warbler  4
Olive Sparrow  1
Great-tailed Grackle  5
House Sparrow  2

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Olango Island, 9/21/14

Every time we visit Honey's family in Cebu, I like to spend a day on Olango Island chasing shorebirds around the 940 hectare Ramsar declared shorebird sanctuary.  Even though I saw nothing new on this trip, my newer T4i got better photos than my old T1i so it was a productive day.  Here are Honey and I on the outrigger on the way to Olango Island.  It costs about 25 cents each for the two mile ride.

The most common passerine on Olango has got to be the Golden-bellied Gerygone and their thin whistled song seems to come from every mangrove tree.  Gerygones are primarily found in Wallacea with the Golden-bellied being the only species found west of Wallace's Line.

I heard a harsh scolding coming from mangroves at the edge of the water line for high tide.  It reminded me of the Clamorous Reed-Warbler I heard hear once before.  I managed a couple of quick photos and I guess it was just another one.  The Acrocephalus warblers are a hard bunch to ID.

Finally the tide started to recede and I located a large group of shorebirds a couple of hundred yards to the north of the viewing area so I slogged across the inundated coral flats to get a better look.  Along the way a couple of Pacific Swallows refused to give me an open shot.

I finally made it over to the shorebirds where I eventually was able to identify fourteen species.  Here is the Common Greenshank.

The Brits are pretty creative when it comes to naming birds.  This is the Common Redshank with it's distinct wing pattern.

One of my favorites is the strange looking Terek Sandpiper.  It's like a peep with an avocet bill.

Usually I'm doing well to find a couple of Great Knots.  This time I counted 37 of them.  The breast and flank spots and longer bill make them easy to separate from Red Knot which is also possible here.

I estimated 200 Gray-tailed Tattlers.  They are less dependent on rocky shorelines than our Wandering Tattler.  Notice the Terek Sandpiper.

I usually see a few of the endangered Asian Dowitcher but thirty was unprecedented.  Notice the blacklegs.

The Bar-tailed Godwits on Olango Island are of the east Asian bauri subspecies.  They lack the white underwings of the European lapponica which we had stay a spell recently in Corpus Christi.

The east Asian Whimbrel has a white stripe up the back which is quite different from our American ones.

I like these flight shots containing several species.

When it was time to return the tide was out so our boat could not make it to the pier.  So they sent out a flat bottom boat to pick out the hundred or so passengers.  But it ran aground also, so we had to wade in.

Here's the list for the day.

Little Egret  8
Striated Heron  5
Black-bellied Plover  4
Greater Sand-Plover  6
Terek Sandpiper  15
Common Sandpiper  1
Gray-tailed Tattler  200
Common Greenshank  12
Common Redshank  50
Whimbrel  150
Eurasian Curlew  2
Bar-tailed Godwit  10
Ruddy Turnstone  20
Great Knot  37
Red-necked Stint  100
Asian Dowitcher  30
Gull-billed Tern  5
Whiskered Tern  3
Spotted Dove  6
Zebra Dove  2
Common Kingfisher  2
Collared Kingfisher  6
Golden-bellied Gerygone  15
Brown Shrike  2
Philippine Pied-Fantail  1
Pacific Swallow  2
Yellow-vented Bulbul  1
Oriental Reed-Warbler  1
Asian Glossy Starling  10
Olive-backed Sunbird  8