Wednesday, February 18, 2015

White-throated Thrush at Estero, 2/18/15

A White-throated Thrush was found about ten days ago at Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslco.  I missed seeing it the first day and then left the next for NE Texas.  The thrush was seen the next day but then disappeared till I got a brief glimpse of it this past Satuday.  Meanwhile yesterday someone reported seeing an all black thrush with a yellow bill and yellow eye ring.  Could this have been the first US record of the Mexican Black Thrush?  I thought it was worth a search.  I put in four hours but nary a trace.  However I did get to see the White-throated Thrush.  This is the fifth I've seen in the RGV.

The White-throated Thrush has been feeding lately in a large fruiting Banyan (Ficus religiosa).  Several Clay-colored Thrushes were also taking advantage of the small figs.

It's not every day one can see three Turdus species in the same location.  Here's an American Robin.

Identification of soaring hawks has become more complicated this winter by the presence of Broad-winged Hawks across the Valley.  This one has been hanging out at Estero.

This Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet has been a lifer for many visitors to the park.

A Black Thrush in the RGV would be really neat.  Let's hope there is one and that someone can photograph it.  Namely me!

Friday, February 13, 2015

NE Texas, 2/8-11/15

Even though eBird shows no reports for Henslow's Sparrows in Texas this winter, Bodclau Wildlife Management Area near Shreveport, Louisiana has had a bunch of them.  So I thought I would make a run over there to see some and maybe use my experience to find some in Texas.  On the way I found a likely looking field, tall grass and sedge bordered by pines, on US 59 and FM 357 in Polk County so I gave it a try.  I couldn't find any Henslow's Sparrows but I got some great LeConte's Sparrow photos.

A bit up the road at the Alabama Creek WMA I found a trail wandering through a nice stand of pines and was rewarded with three Red-cockaded Woodpecers and a Brown-headed Nuthatch.

I spent the night in Marshall and drove over to Bodclau Dam 60 miles to the east in Louisiana where as many as 26 Henslow's Sparrows were reported over a two day census on the grassy spillway of the the dam.  I think it helped that they had prior experience and a half dozen people to chase down sparrows when they were flushed from the tall grass.  It took me three hours but I finally found one which flew from the grass to land under a shrub at the edge of the field.  I almost got some pretty good photos of the green-headed little beauty.  It had been 35 years since I had seen some on their breeding grounds in SW Missouri on the Niawatha Prairie Reserve.

That afternoon I checked out the Caddo Lake NWR where Henslow's Sparrows have been reported through the years but I could not find any good looking habitat.  It was nice seeing a few Eastern Towhees. The next morning I drove up to Olney Road where Henslows had been seen two years ago.  I couldn't find any there either and the habitat looked a bit degraded.  Henslow's Sparrows are choosy with regards to their habitat.  A field that they find suitable can quickly regenerate with shrubs and soon not be to their liking.

So I decided to just enjoy the day of birding and not be so obsessed with Henslow's Sparrows.  I soon found a wonderful little park I was unfamiliar with, Dangerfield State Park.  Old tall pine trees surrounded a peaceful lake and campground.  Here I found a cooperative Brown-headed Nuthatch and some Red-headed Woodpeckers.

After a couple of hours at the park I decided to go farther north and found myself in Red River County not far from the Oklahoma Border.  I randomly chose a county road leading north from the small town of Avery and scored a much wanted bird, Hairy Woodpecker.  I heard the call first and was fortunate to get a diagnostic photo.  My previous sightings of the species in Texas were a bit iffy so I'm glad to get this one cleaned up.  The long bill and unspotted outer rectrices rule out Downy Woodpecker.

And soon a female Purple Finch landed over my head, my first self found one for Texas.

I spent the night in Paris (it's not as great as it sounds) because Henslow's Sparows have been reported in the past at Camp Maxey.  Even though I could not enter the National Guard base, I hoped to find suitable habitat in the area.  I didn't find much at Pat Mayse WMA and was really disappointed with the Caddo National Grasslands.  It has a few nice lakes and some fine stands of pines, but not the tall prairie grasslands I had hoped for.  At least I couldn't find any.  So I had to settle for a few Harris's Sparrows.

At this point I was not that far from Dallas so I decided to just head for home.  And if I made good time, I might get south of Temple in time to make a run for the much maligned Striped Sparrow which has been present for several weeks east of Granger.  Striped Sparrow is a nonmigratory species from the arid high county of western and central Mexico with no history of wandering, even in Mexico.  So there's a high probability this bird received human assistance with its 600+ mile journey.  But it's still a beautiful bird and I've never seen one despite lots of birding in Mexico.

I arrived at the intersection of CR 428 and CR 361 east of Granger in Williamson County at 4:40 PM and parked.  After walking around the bend, I saw a flock of birds feeding on seed that had been put out by birders the past couple of weeks.  I was about a hundred feet from the flock while five other birders were about the same distance down the road on the other side of the flock.   After just a few minutes the Striped Sparrow joined the crowd.  I later heard that a couple of those birders had been waiting for ten hours!

Even though I failed in my goal of finding a Henslow's Sparrow in Texas, I still got to see one in Louisiana plus I got to see some neat Texas birds.  So it was a very successful four day birding trip.  Now I need to head out to west Texas and try to get some photos of the Henslow's Sparrow's cousin, Baird's Sparrow.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Parrot Insanity in Weslaco, 2/4/15

This evening, a little before 6 PM, I drove into our carport and stepped outside to be welcomed by the raucous screams of Red-crowned Parrots.  The past week there has been a flock of about twenty flying over the house at about this same time and a couple of days ago the flock had grown to forty.  But this was a lot more than that.  I ran into the house for the camera and back outside and started shooting.  It was a little dark for good photography.  If I had been smart I would have bumped up the ISO.

I was not surprised to find a couple of Red-lored Parrots in the bunch.

At first I thought this was a Lilac-crowned Parrots but now I think it's a young Red-lored.  Comments are welcome.

I think this is a Lilac-crowned but I'm not sure.  Maybe it's a young Red-lored.  The ID of Red-crowned and Lilac-crowned Parrot in Mexico is not a problem as Red-crowns occur in NE Mexico while Lilac-crowns occur on the west coast. But here in the RGV they can occur in flocks together which makes things confusing as female Red-crowns have the red crowned reduced to just the front with a blue crown.  I think a lot of these birds go misidentified as Lilac-crowned Parrot.

I counted 120 in the neighbors budding cottonwood and then saw others coming in while more were feeding in a fruiting palm.  At about 6:10 they decide it was time to go and the whole flock exploded from the trees with a cacophony of screams and squawks.  They circled overhead a couple of times before heading west.  I counted 192 in this photo.

Sizzlin' Estero, 2/4/15

I was going to do something good today.  Maybe a Willacy County big day or Sabal Palm and Boca Chica or maybe go to McCook and wait for the Goden Eagle.  But it was cold, damp and windy this morning so I just ran over to Estero Lllano Grande State Park here in Weslaco.  I figured if I didn't see anything, I could always go home and take a nap.  Well, it turned out to be a darn good morning.  The Gray-crowned Yellowthroat continues to show nicely.  I thought I was only going to get hidden grass views.

But then it popped up several times and always called to show where it was.

With a good dose of yellowthroat, I walked towards the Tropical Area and heard an off key "peeyerp". And there was a Northern Beardless Tyrannulet.

My goal in the Tropical Area was to find some county year birds that the other Hidalgo County year birders have been seeing.  The south end near the gate was swarming with Turdus thrushes feeding on anacua berries and digging in the dirt.  There were at least eight and maybe a dozen Clay-colored Thrushes and three American Robins.

And one of my target birds, first county Gray Catbird for the year.

I ran into a German couple I had met the other day at Salineno and they had just seen a Cedar Waxing. Only one of them, but I'll take it.

The south end of the Green Jay trail delivered my first Hermit Thrush for the year, but unfortunately no photo.  Despite the morning being dark and gray, this Black-and-White Warbler turned out pretty good. Love the new camera!

A return to the south gate gave me brief views and bad photos of the wintering Western Tanager.

I missed the Orchard and Hooded Orioles but I did get this young male Ruby-throated Hummingbird on the way out by Rick and May's trailer.  A very nice morning!

Woops, I forgot the obligatory Common Pauraque photo.

Estero Llano Grande SP, Hidalgo, US-TX
Feb 4, 2015 8:00 AM - 12:20 PM
Protocol: Traveling
1.5 mile(s)
56 species

Gadwall  6
Blue-winged Teal  10
Cinnamon Teal  8
Northern Shoveler  10
Northern Pintail  2
Green-winged Teal (American)  20
Canvasback  1
Ring-necked Duck  4
Ruddy Duck  2
Plain Chachalaca  8
Least Grebe  1
Pied-billed Grebe  1
White-faced Ibis  1
Turkey Vulture  6
Common Gallinule  3
American Coot  30
Killdeer  1
Inca Dove  5
Common Ground-Dove  1
White-tipped Dove  7
Common Pauraque  1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Black-chinned Hummingbird  1
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  6
Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet  1
Great Kiskadee  8
Tropical Kingbird  1
Couch's Kingbird  2
White-eyed Vireo  1
Green Jay  5
Black-crested Titmouse  2
Carolina Wren  2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  2
Hermit Thrush  1
Clay-colored Thrush  6
American Robin  3
Gray Catbird  1
Curve-billed Thrasher  1
Long-billed Thrasher  2
Northern Mockingbird  6
European Starling  10
Cedar Waxwing  1
Black-and-white Warbler  1
Orange-crowned Warbler  5
Nashville Warbler  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)  1
Olive Sparrow  2
Lincoln's Sparrow  5
Western Tanager  1
Northern Cardinal  5
Red-winged Blackbird  100
Great-tailed Grackle  5
Altamira Oriole  2
House Sparrow  30

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Painted Redstart at Falfurrias Rest Area, 2/1/15

This morning I ran up to the Falfurrias Rest Area on US 281 to get some photos of the wintering Painted Redstart.  For the third consecutive winter this little warbler has found the large live oaks with night lights that attract insects much to its liking.  Where it goes over the summer is anyone's guess, but the nearest breeding population is in the Sierra de Picacho about 150 miles to the southwest in Mexico.  When I arrived Richard Liebler and his wife were there looking for it and they soon found it on the south end of the rest area.  Here's some shots of the little beauty.

Eastern Bluebirds do not breed in the Rio Grande Valley but they always seem to be present at the Falfurrias Rest Area which is about 60 miles north of McAllen.  I need to spend some time up here in the summer to see what's going on.

Most winters a Yellow-throated Warbler can be found with the Orange-crowns and Yellow-rumps.

A couple of Blue-headed Vireos turned out to be my first in Brooks County.  Not sure how I've missed them in the past.

Audubon's Warbler seems to be regular here in winter.

On the way up I stopped at the old picnic area on US 281 right before the Brooks County line.  I found a few sparrows, including this Grasshopper Sparrow, but not the Field Sparrows I had hoped for.

And a nice female Pyrrhuloxia.

Falfurrias Rest Area (LTC 004), Brooks, US-TX
Feb 1, 2015 9:15 AM - 11:00 AM
Protocol: Traveling
0.2 mile(s)
24 species (+1 other taxa)

Black Vulture  6
Turkey Vulture  1
Eurasian Collared-Dove  3
Mourning Dove  1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  2
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  2
American Kestrel  1
Eastern Phoebe  3
Great Kiskadee  1
Blue-headed Vireo  2
Green Jay  2
Black-crested Titmouse  3
House Wren  1
Carolina Wren  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  2
Eastern Bluebird  3
Northern Mockingbird  1
Orange-crowned Warbler  3
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)  3
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's)  2
Yellow-throated Warbler  1
Painted Redstart  1
Eastern Meadowlark  2
Lesser Goldfinch  5
House Sparrow  20