Friday, July 31, 2015

Hargill Playa, 7/31/15

Early this morning I got a call from Marie Stewart saying that she was seeing Wood Storks at the Hargill Playa so I ran up there to tick them off for the year.  They were pretty easy to see.

A birding couple from Massachusetts were there hoping to see the Collared Plover but without a scope they weren't having much luck.  So I scoped around a bit and eventually found the little devil on the south side of the water.  That's the first time I've seen it over there this year.  The birders were happy to get some distant scope views.  After some time I refound it on the north side but it never came very close.  And then it flew back across to the south side.  I'm wondering if it's trying to avoid the mother Snowy Plover with her two new babies who have taken over the south shore.

Today wasn't nearly as hot as it's been.   But the past couple of weeks of 100+ temperatures and no rain is really drying out the playa and concentrating the fish and other organisms so that the birds are having a productive time feeding.

The Reddish Egret was using its wings to create some shade to make viewing its prey a little easier.

Normally I would have ticked my Wood Storks and moved on but there was a little cloud cover and not much wind so I thought I might wait it out and see if something else good might appear.  These two Cassin's Sparrows played on the fence while I was waiting.

Eventually my patience paid off as one more sweep of the scope found me my first Hidalgo County Willet for the year.  Mary Gustafson suggested it could be an "Eastern" Willet which is our coastal breeding subspecies but with the long skinny bill, I think it looks like a "Western" which could be an early migrant.  The ID of these two is not that simple in my opinion.

Here's an "Eastern" Willet I photographed up a Anahuac NWR last year.  The bill is much shorter and stouter.  But I think sex has something to do with it too.  Here's a link to an ABA Birding article about the two subspecies.

On my way to Hargill this morning I checked out flooded 13th Street on the south side of Hargill off of FM 493.  From a distance three brownish gallinule-looking things got my attention.  Closer inspection proved they were three young Purple Gallinules.

So it was a good morning.  My three and a half hours produce 46 species at the playa.

Fulvous Whistling-Duck  12
Northern Pintail  1
Pied-billed Grebe  1
Wood Stork  3
Neotropic Cormorant  20
Great Blue
Heron  1
Great Egret  5
Snowy Egret  30
Tricolored Heron  1
Reddish Egret  1
Green Heron  1
Black-crowned Night-Heron  1
White Ibis  2
Ibis  2
Roseate Spoonbill  7
Black Vulture  19
Turkey Vulture 1
Black-necked Stilt  50
American Avocet  6
Collared Plover  1 
Snowy Plover  10
Wilson's Plover  1   
Killdeer  6
Spotted Sandpiper 1
Greater Yellowlegs  1
Willet  1
Yellowlegs  7
Stilt Sandpiper  20
Least Sandpiper  30
Semipalmated Sandpiper 1
Western Sandpiper  5
Long-billed Dowitcher  1
Wilson's Phalarope 5
Laughing Gull  20
Least Tern  12
Gull-billed Tern  10
Black Tern 10
Common Nighthawk  10
Western Kingbird  1
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher 1
Loggerhead Shrike  1
Horned Lark  2
Cassin's Sparrow  2
Dickcissel 3
Red-winged Blackbird  50
House Sparrow  5

Monday, July 27, 2015

Glossy Ibises on Brushline Road, 7/27/15

A few days ago Mary Gustafson reported a Glossy Ibis from the big pond on Brushline Road about a mile south of TX 186.  I ran over there this morning and was surprised to find a beautiful adult Glossy Ibis hanging around with about 20 White-faced Ibises.  It's my first time to see a full breeding plumaged Glossy. In the second photo the Glossy is on the left.

After I got home, I discovered two younger Glossy Ibises in my photos.  In fact these two were cropped from the same photo.

Also present was this strange dark ibis with a white neck patch.  Mary says that's a what a newly fledged Glossy Ibis should look like but she wasn't sure if a new White-faced Ibis might be the same.  Maybe Glossies are breeding nearby.

My original purpose for driving out to Brushline road was to tick a Purple Gallinule for the year on my Hidalgo County list.  And on the fourth try I finally got one albeit a poor view.

I started the morning at the playa in Hargill where I got the Reddish Egret on my county year list.

And also a couple of Black Skimmers were .....uhm.....skimming.  Tough to get both of these species away from the coast.

And then there was the continuing star at the top of the Hargill Playa marquee, our little lovable Collared Plover who put on a good show.

Here's the list from the Hargill Playa including thirteen species of shorebirds.

Hargill Playa, Hidalgo, Texas, US
Jul 27, 2015 7:40 AM - 9:10 AM
Protocol: Stationary
32 species

Fulvous Whistling-Duck  1
Northern Bobwhite 1
Neotropic Cormorant  25
Great Blue Heron  1
Great Egret  1
Snowy Egret 10
Reddish Egret  1
White-tailed Kite  1
Black-necked Stilt  20
American Avocet 8
Collared Plover  1
Snowy Plover  3
Wilson's Plover  2
Killdeer  6
Greater Yellowlegs  2
Yellowlegs  2
Stilt Sandpiper  10
Least Sandpiper  50
Semipalmated Sandpiper 2
Western Sandpiper  4
Long-billed Dowitcher  4
Laughing Gull  40
Least Tern5
Gull-billed Tern  48
Black Tern 5
Black Skimmer  2
Western Kingbird  1
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher  1
Lark  2
Dickcissel  2
Red-winged Blackbird  1
House Sparrow  1

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

La Feria Nature Park, 7/22/15

I've been reading lately on Facebook about people seeing King Rails at the La Feria Nature Park.  Actually people have been seeing them there for several years so I figured today might be a good time to give it a try. It took a while but I eventually found them.  Or I should say they eventually came out when they felt like it. At least everyone is calling them King Rails but you couldn't prove it by me.  They could have easily been Clapper Rails but I guess since they're in fresh water we call them King Rails.  Or maybe there's stuff I don't know.  Ya think?

Honey and I are planning a trip to China in September and after researching for a good pocket point-and-shoot I settled on the Sony Cyber-shot DCS-RX100.  It's a new three year old model that costs half as much as the current model.  The camera came yesterday so I gave it a try on the Swarovski scope and it worked really well.  Much better than that piece of junk bulbous Swarovski  DSLR scope adapter.

When I first got there my camera settings were screwed up from yesterday's digiscoping of the Collared Plover so this young King Rail didn't come out so good.

Here's a shot of a Green Heron from the Sony handheld on the scope.

Here's one of a young Loggerhead Shrike from the Sony and scope followed by one with the Canon 7D Mark II with the Canon 100-400 IS II.  Colors are a little different and depth of field is different but the digiscoped image came out well.

I would have had some more photos but the photographer failed his equipment.  Anyway I really like the La Feria Nature Park and will have to check it out from time to time.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck40
Mottled Duck  5
Neotropic Cormorant  8
Great Egret  3
Snowy Egret 6
Green Heron  3
Roseate Spoonbill  6
King Rail  2
Black-necked Stilt  8
Killdeer  4
Lesser Yellowlegs  3
Sandpiper  23
Least Sandpiper  8
Semipalmated Sandpiper  2
Laughing Gull 3
White-winged Dove  3
Mourning Dove  3
Chimney Swift  1
Tropical Kingbird 1
Loggerhead Shrike  2
Purple Martin  1
Bank Swallow  2
Cave Swallow 1
Great-tailed Grackle  5

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Collared Plover at Hargill Playa.

This morning local birders, Mary Beth Stowe and Pat Heirs found a Collared Plover at the Hargill playa on 1st and Lincoln.  This is only twelve days earlier than when I found the one there last year on Aug. 2.  Pat and Mary Beth are members of the Birder Patrol who regularly check out less commonly birded areas across the Rio Grande Valley.  I knew they would find something good someday.  Congratulations to Pat and Mary Beth for finding this 3rd USA record.  I ran up right after I got the call from Mary Beth and was able to get a few photos.

Now the questions begin.  This is an adult bird.  Is it the same one as last year?  The playas has been covered many times since the last bird disappeared last August.  In fact I was out there just a few days ago and failed to see it.  Are they breeding somewhere in the area?   There's quite a few barren saline playas in the area.  There's lots of water in the playa so maybe this one will hang around a while.

Canada Goose at Estero Llano Grande, 7/3/15

 A couple of weeks ago Huck Hutchens and the gang found a Canada Goose right off the deck at Estero Llano Grande State Park.  This might not seem like a big deal but it was a new Hidalgo County bird for all of us who keep county lists.  "Canada" type geese are very rare in the Rio Grande Valley in winter and one in the summer is unprecedented.  I saw some Cackling Geese years ago at the Sugar House Pond but this was my first Valley Canada Goose.  Luckily it was a pretty big one and easy to ID.  Could it be an escaped bird? Hard to say but it only hung around that afternoon and was never seen again.

Yellow-green Vireo at National Butterfly Center, 6/24/15

I'm a little late in posting this one.  The spring and early summer has been great for butterflies so I was checking them out at the National Butterfly Center when I distantly heard the "viree-ee...viree-oh' song of a Yellow-green Vireo.  I chased it down several times before I finally got some poor shots of it in the tepaguajes west of the bird feeding station.  A couple of other birders got to see it but it was never reported again.  Since then another was photographed at Quinta Mazatlan and a third at the more expected Resaca de la Palma.