Saturday, April 25, 2015

Frontera Audubon Thicket, 4/25/15

I ran into Mary Gustafson over at Frontera Audubon Thicket in Weslaco and we walked the trails and did pretty good.  Between the feeding stations we heard a "coo-coo-coo" and I suggested Black-billed Cuckoo. Mary spied it in the top on a tree but I missed it.  Luckily I found it again and got a photo by the visitor's center.  I probably average about one Black-billed Cuckoo every three years.

Earlier in the morning we heard a bubbly song which I thought was a House Wren but Mary said was a Mourning Warbler.  Ugh!  My spring warbler songs need a lot of work.  It was my first for the year.

When I visit South Padre Island, I start thinking I'm a pretty good bird photographer because the birds are so easy to approach.  But the brushy confines of Frontera jolt me back into reality.  Here's a Chestnut-sided Warbler.

And a Black-throated Green Warbler.

Any day you get a Black-billed Cuckoo is a very good day!

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck2
Plain Chachalaca  8
Green Heron  2
Turkey Vulture  2
Mississippi Kite 7
Inca Dove  2
White-tipped Dove  6
White-winged Dove  20
Black-billed Cuckoo  1
Chuck-will's-widow  3
Chimney Swift  5
Black-chinned Hummingbird 1
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  1
Green Kingfisher  1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker 6
Green Parakeet  2
Least Flycatcher  3
Great Crested Flycatcher 1
Brown-crested Flycatcher  2
Great Kiskadee  1
Couch's Kingbird 1
White-eyed Vireo  3
Blue-headed Vireo  1
Warbling Vireo  1
Titmouse  2
Carolina Wren  2
Swainson's Thrush  1
Long-billed Thrasher 3
Northern Mockingbird  1
Black-and-white Warbler  3
Tennessee Warbler 2
Nashville Warbler  10
Mourning Warbler  1
Hooded Warbler  1
Northern Parula  1
Chestnut-sided Warbler 1
Black-throated Green Warbler  4
Yellow-breasted Chat  8
Olive Sparrow 3
Clay-colored Sparrow  1
Summer Tanager  1
Northern Cardinal  2
Bunting  7
Great-tailed Grackle  X
Orchard Oriole  1
Baltimore Oriole 2
Lesser Goldfinch  1
House Sparrow  2

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

South Padre Island, 4/21/15

Another visit to South Padre Island proved very productive yesterday.  Yes I missed both the Golden-winged and Cerulean Warblers but I saw 19 other warbler species along with tanagers, buntings and orioles so it was a very nice day.  I've been trying to decide what I think about my new Canon 100-400 mm IS II lens and it got me some very good photos this time despite cloudy weather.  This Indigo Bunting came out really good.  There had to be well over fifty of them.

Painted Buntings are hard to get close to during the summer but they can be photogenic out on the Island during migration.

My cameras always seem to struggle with exposure on black birds and red birds.  It really had a hard time with this Scarlet Tanager.  This is as close as I could get to the color but it still doesn't seem right to me.

This male Summer Tanager is trying his best to redden up.

And then there were the warblers.  This was my first Magnolia Warbler for the year.

And my first Chestnut sided.

And my first Bay-breasted.  I just could not get a good photo of this bird.  Either it was backlit and underexposed or good lighting but not sharp or properly exposed and sharp but with a poor pose.

Blackpoll Warblers seem early this year.  

Got this decent Worm-eating Warbler shot through a little hole in the vegetation.

Best bird of the day for me was this stunning White-throated Sparrow.  We get very few of them down here and it's unusual to see one in breeding plumage.

We still have a couple more weeks of busy migration before things slow down.  I guess I'd better get outside and see what's going on.  Here's my list.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  2
Mottled Duck  2
Sora  1
Willet  2
Laughing Gull  X
Royal Tern  4
Sandwich Tern  6
Eurasian Collared-Dove  20
Inca Dove 2
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  6
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  1
Acadian Flycatcher 1
Myiarchus sp.  1
Western Kingbird  1
White-eyed Vireo  2
Warbling Vireo  1
Barn Swallow  X
Veery  1
Swainson's Thrush  2
Wood Thrush  1
Gray Catbird 6
Ovenbird  2
Worm-eating Warbler  2
Northern Waterthrush  3
Warbler  1
Black-and-white Warbler  6
Swainson's Warbler  1
Tennessee Warbler 25
Nashville Warbler  1
Kentucky Warbler  1
Common Yellowthroat  5
Hooded Warbler  5
American Redstart  2
Northern Parula  5
Magnolia Warbler 2
Bay-breasted Warbler  2
Yellow Warbler  3
Warbler  1
Blackpoll Warbler  3
Black-throated Green Warbler  4
Clay-colored Sparrow  1
Lincoln's Sparrow  3
White-throated Sparrow  1
Summer Tanager  4
Scarlet Tanager  1
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  6
Blue Grosbeak  3
Indigo Bunting  50
Painted Bunting  6
Dickcissel  2
Blackbird  X
Great-tailed Grackle  X
Orchard Oriole  20
Baltimore Oriole 25
House Sparrow  X


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

South Padre Island, 4/13/15

With more unsettled weather around south Texas and Honey having a day off, we ran out to South Padre Island once again.  It was an average but interesting day.  An Acadian Flycatcher played around the Sheepshead lot all day long.  These are common around the eastern US during the summer but we only see a few each year during spring migration.

During the afternoon a Swainson's Thrush showed well but I only got a brief glimpse of the Wood Thrush.

Yellow-breasted Chats were visible chasing each other around.

Still at Sheepshead, I found two nightjars that got the visiting birders excited.  The first was an easily identifiable Chuck-will's-widow.

The second was gray like most Eastern Whip-poor-wills are but seemed to be the size of a Chuck.

No doubt about this guy's ID.

At the Convention Center things seemed to about the same as a couple of days ago.  The two Prothonotaries popped in now and then.  This Black-throated Green Warbler seemed unusually dark to me.

Both Great Crested Flycatcher and Brown-crested Flycatcher were seen.

Here's the day's list.

South Padre Island, Cameron, US-TX
Apr 13, 2015 11:20 AM - 5:40 PM
Protocol:  Traveling 5.0 mile(s)
Comments:     from entrance to SPI to Convention Center
58 species

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  2
Great Blue Heron 1
Snowy Egret  1
Black-bellied Plover  4
Greater Yellowlegs  1
Willet 5
Whimbrel  2
Marbled Godwit  3
Ruddy Turnstone  1
Stilt Sandpiper 2
Sanderling  5
Dunlin  3
Short-billed Dowitcher  13
Laughing Gull X
Herring Gull  1
Royal Tern  X
Black Skimmer  X
Eurasian Collared-Dove 10
Inca Dove  2
White-winged Dove  2
Mourning Dove  2
Common Nighthawk 1
Chuck-will's-widow  2
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  1
Acadian Flycatcher 1
Great Crested Flycatcher  6
Brown-crested Flycatcher  2
Great Kiskadee 1
White-eyed Vireo  2
Blue-headed Vireo  2
Warbling Vireo  1
Barn Swallow 3
Cave Swallow  8
Swainson's Thrush  1
Wood Thrush  1
Northern Mockingbird 2
Northern Waterthrush  2
Black-and-white Warbler  2
Prothonotary Warbler 2
Nashville Warbler  2
Kentucky Warbler  1
Common Yellowthroat  2
Warbler  3
Northern Parula  3
Black-throated Green Warbler  2
Chat  8
Savannah Sparrow  2
Lincoln's Sparrow  3
Summer Tanager 2
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  1
Indigo Bunting  6
Painted Bunting  1
Blackbird  5
Great-tailed Grackle  X
Brown-headed Cowbird  1
Orchard Oriole 5
Baltimore Oriole  2
House Sparrow  X

Saturday, April 11, 2015

South Padre Island, 4/11/15

A cold front stalled to the north of us last night, so with some unsettled weather I thought today might be a good day to look for migrants on South Padre Island.  Birding turned out to be not great but pretty good with a nice selection of southern warblers.  This Worm-eating Warbler was very cooperative at the Convention Center.

As was this pair of Prothonotary Warblers.  I think I missed them last year.

The other good warbler at the Convention Center was a Blue-winged Warbler/

I liked getting two good ones in the same photo.

Among the more common warblers were Northern Parula and Nashville, Tennessee, Black-and-White and Black-throated Green Warblers.

Meanwhile things were a bit more mundane at the Valley Land Fund's Sheephead lot.  The best was a Kentucky Warbler that refused to come out in the open.  Other warblers were Louisiana Waterthrush and the above common warblers.

A couple of Indigo Buntings, Orchard and Baltimore Orioles and a Western Kingbird were the only other migrants passerines I saw.  I forgot there were a couple of singing Sedge Wrens behind the Convention Center but they did not give very good views. Here's today's list.  

South Padre Island, Cameron, US-TX
Apr 11, 2015 9:00 AM - 2:20 PM
Traveling5.0 mile(s)
Comments:     from entrance of SPI to flats behind convention center
58 species

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  2
Brown Pelican 10
Great Egret  6
Osprey  1
American Avocet  4
American Oystercatcher 1
Black-bellied Plover  10
Semipalmated Plover  2
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Willet  X
Marbled Godwit  6
Sanderling  X
Dunlin  X
Dowitcher  10
Laughing Gull  X
Franklin's Gull  100
Ring-billed Gull 1
Herring Gull  1
Least Tern  15
Forster's Tern  1
Royal Tern  25
Tern  4
Black Skimmer  100
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  5
Collared-Dove  30
Inca Dove  1
White-winged Dove  6
Mourning Dove 5
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  3
Great Kiskadee  1
Western Kingbird 1
White-eyed Vireo  2
Warbling Vireo  3
Barn Swallow  8
Sedge Wren 2
Northern Mockingbird  2
Worm-eating Warbler  1
Louisiana Waterthrush 1
Blue-winged Warbler  1
Black-and-white Warbler  2
Prothonotary Warbler 2
Tennessee Warbler  2
Orange-crowned Warbler  1
Nashville Warbler 7
Kentucky Warbler  1
Common Yellowthroat  2
Hooded Warbler  7
Parula  4
Black-throated Green Warbler  1
Lark Sparrow  2
Savannah Sparrow 2
Lincoln's Sparrow  2
Indigo Bunting  2
Red-winged Blackbird X
Great-tailed Grackle  X
Orchard Oriole  4
Baltimore Oriole  1
HouseSparrow  X

Thursday, April 9, 2015

West Texas, 4/6-7/15

Finally there was a break between storm systems so thought I might make a quick trip out to west Texas. My plan was to go to Big Bend and pick up a few year birds and look for butterflies.  But after a late start and spending the night in Sanderson, I thought I might just run over to Marfa and try for Baird's Sparrow.  I reached RR 2810 in Marfa at 9 AM and headed south and a couple of miles out of town I found lots of sparrows in the grasslands.  I stopped and gave a blast of Baird's Sparrow song from my iPhone and immediately a Baird's Sparrow flew up to the fence to investigate.  Wow, that was easy.

The grasslands were loaded with sparrows.  Grasshopper, Cassin's, Vesper, Clay-colored, Brewer's, Chipping, Black-throated and White-crowned lined the roadsides.

I guess Green-tailed Towhee counts as a sparrow also.

Sparrows weren't the only vertebrates enjoying the grasslands.

I've seen about all parts of Texas and I feel without a doubt the Ranch Road 2810 and Pinto Canyon Road as it is called after it turns to dirt has the most beautiful scenery in the state. 

Ranch Road 2810 ascends through the grasslands to a crest where the pavement stops and Pinto Canyon Road descends to the south through rugged desert country.  At the crest I picked up Rufous-crowned Sparrow.

A pair of Ash-throated Flycatchers may have been migrants or may have just arrive on their breeding grounds.

The afternoon was spent looking at butterflies and driving the Camino del Rio to Big Bend National Park. The butterflies will be reported on my other bog.  It was almost dark when I made it to the Basin campground which was infested with campers.  So I decided to drive on over to the primitive campsites along the road to Pine Canyon.  Under a million stars, the only sounds were the wind and an occasional Common Poorwill.  Here's a shot of my camp site.

The next morning I broke camp and dove on up to the Pine Canyon Trail head.  Plenty of birds were in song along the way.  Here's a Scaled Quail.

Flowers were putting on a spectacular display all over west Texas.

Hiking up the trail I heard the flutey sounds of a Scott's Oriole, probably a new spring arrival.

Up in the more wooded part of the canyon, I imitated the Mountain Pygmy Owl whistle to call in birds.  It worked really well.  This Red-breasted Nuthatch may have been the same one I saw up here last fall.

A few Black-crested Titmice, Hutton's Vireo's, Bewick's and Canyon Wrens were attracted but not the hoped for migrant western warblers.  I guess I was a little early in the season.  However the Blue-throated Hummingbird was on territory and did not like my owl calls.

Then one more bird joined the angry flock, a nice Hammond's Flycatcher.  Seems a little early for one.

So it was a pretty good day in the canyon for birds.  It was even better for butterflies.which you can see by clicking here (after I make the blog post).  As I said it was a short trip and it was time to head for home. Here's a couple of eBird lists.

Presidio Co.- RR2810, Presidio, US-TX
Apr 6, 2015 9:05 AM - 11:57 AM
Traveling31.5 mile(s)
Comments:     From Marfa to end of pavement.

Mallard (Mexican)  1
Scaled Quail  3
Turkey Vulture  4
Harrier  1
Swainson's Hawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Mourning Dove  25
Kestrel  2
Say's Phoebe  1
Ash-throated Flycatcher  1
Loggerhead Shrike 1
Common Raven  1
Verdin  1
Bewick's Wren  1
Curve-billed Thrasher 1
Northern Mockingbird  5
Green-tailed Towhee  6
Canyon Towhee  7
Sparrow  30
Chipping Sparrow  30
Clay-colored Sparrow  30
Brewer's Sparrow 30
Vesper Sparrow  60
Black-throated Sparrow  6
Lark Bunting  20
Sparrow  14
Grasshopper Sparrow  7
Baird's Sparrow  2
White-crowned Sparrow 8
Western Meadowlark  4
Eastern Meadowlark  3

Big Bend NP--Pine Canyon (FWTX 43), Brewster, US-TX
Apr 7, 2015 6:00 AM - 2:40PM
Protocol: Traveling3.0 mile(s)
Comments:     from campsite 3 to pouroff.
31 species

Scaled Quail  9
Turkey Vulture  2
Band-tailed Pigeon 1
Common Poorwill  1
Blue-throated Hummingbird  1
Acorn Woodpecker 2
Red-naped Sapsucker  1
Hammond's Flycatcher  1
Flycatcher  2
Cassin's Vireo  1
Hutton's Vireo  5
Mexican Jay  6
Raven  1
Black-crested Titmouse  4
Verdin  1
Canyon Wren  3
Bewick's Wren 4
Cactus Wren  5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Hermit Thrush  2
Mockingbird  1
Orange-crowned Warbler  1
Green-tailed Towhee  1
Towhee  5
Rufous-crowned Sparrow  5
Canyon Towhee  6
Cassin's Sparrow 2
Black-throated Sparrow  6
Lark Bunting  12
Scott's Oriole  1
House Finch 1