Thursday, December 31, 2015

Weslaco CBC, 12/30/15

With all the crazy hairstreaks at the National Butterfly Center, I have not birded too much lately so I thought I write a post about yesterday's Weslaco Christmas Bird count.  As usual I was covering the flood channel between FM 88 and Mercedes.  And for the third year in a row it was muddy making access difficult.  But I fired up the old truck and slip-slided around the muddy fields and wound up doing pretty good for the day.

It looked pretty grim to start with.  The access to the flood channel from FM 1015 was locked but luckily the area between the bridge and the gate had been mowed.  So I was at least able to scope the west end of the lagoon by the highway and got some shorebirds in the rain and even a Green Heron.  However I could not get into the flood channel and it was wet anyway so the muddy tracks were probably impassable. Changing my usual route, I ran over to Mercedes to check the cemetery but it  was rainy, windy and absolutely birdless.  Well at this point I decided I would just do what I could and try to bird any open levee roads.

So I headed west on the levee out of south Mercedes, still seeing very little, but the gate I reached was open and in minutes there I was at the Short-eared Owl field.  Things were looking up!  I started wading through the thigh high wet grass, trying to avoid the two feet tall fire ant mounds, and scared up a Grasshopper Sparrow.  Pretty good bird.

And a little bit later I flushed my primary quarry, Short-eared Owl.  That makes nine years in a row I've been able to find one at this spot.  Here's a link back to the first one I found in 2007.

The gate here was also open so I finally able to get into the flood channel and got a Sprague's Pipit on the levee in the usual area.  

Then I ran into twenty White-tailed Kites perched low on the leeward side of the levee.  I usually see a couple here but never this many.  I have heard about people seeing large communal roosts.

Pishing up Lincoln's Sparrows, Orange-crowned Warblers and Common Yellowthroats from the ditch along the levee, I was happy to have this Nashville Warbler respond.

The mud on the dirt tracks around the fields and along the water south of Estero was only an inch deep so it was slippery but I didn't have to worry about getting stuck.  But it was a mucky mess with big clods flying out from my tires.  It was fun!  Even more so when I pished up this rare in winter Yellow Warbler.

With the flood channel now pretty much covered and the rain having stopped, I decided to use my last bit of light at the Los Ebanos Cemetery in Mercedes.  It was still slow but I finally got some Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Northern Cardinals.  Then a flash of orange over my head.  Turned out to be a Bullock's Oriole.  Not a great photo but it will do.

I finished the day wet and tired with 89 species.  Not too bad. 

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