Friday, September 30, 2016

South Padre Island, 9/28/16

Now prior to the Variegated Flycatcher incarnation, I was having a pretty good day on South Padre Island.  I arrived at the Valley Land Fund's Sheepshead lot at about 11 AM  and immediately found a Magnolia Warbler and then more common things like Black-and-white and Wilson's Warblers and American Redstarts.

Across the street on the north side the was an Eastern Wood-Pewee and a couple of Indigo Buntings.

I was joined a other birders as the morning turned to noon.  A beautiful Blue-winged Warbler gave me the poorest of shots and I got nothing on the Worm-eating Warbler.

I was alone when the Crimson-collared Grosbeak popped up for a few seconds.  It called several times afterwards but this was all I could get of it.  Nothing else around here has a big, black, glossy, curved culmen like a Crimson-collared Grosbeak.  This bird has been present for several weeks.

Two Groove-billed Anis were a surprise.  I think they've produced a lot of babies this summer.

My first Vermillion Flycatcher for the fall.

I passed this silent Traill's Flycatcher off as a Yellow-bellied.  Just a few weeks away from my Empidonax studies and I'm already losing ground.  The breast doesn't contrast with the white throat as it normally does in Traill's but the thin eyering  and bill shape seems right.

After racking up twelve species of warblers I figured it was time to check out the convention center.  Wilson's Warblers were easy to see.

And there were two Northern Waterthrushes.

Magnolia Warblers are much duller in the fall but still exquisite.

Black-and-white Warblers are one of our most common migrants but I still love them.

An then I glimpsed what I thought was going to be a Black-throated Green Warbler but upon further review morphed into a surprise Townsend's Warbler.  Seems like we get a couple of these north western warblers every year.  One of the great things about living in the RGV means we are far enough west and close enough to the Sierra Madre Oriental in Mexico to get some western stuff.

One of the Northern Waterthrushes was back at the water feature.

Other than Hermit Thrushes we see few Catharus thrushes in the fall.  This one is a Swainson's.

Then came another surprise, my first Ruby-crowned Kinglet for the fall.

A Painted Bunting was feeding on guinea grass and being very timid.

I finished the day with thirteen species of warblers and was quite pleased.  And then on the way home I got the call about the Variegated Flycatcher.  Ahh..the serendipity of birding!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Variegated Flycatcher at SPI, 9/28/16

Wow, what a day!  Honey and I returned home from the Philippines about a week ago and since then I've been battling a head cold and and a colossal case of jetlag that has left me unable to sleep.  But with a cool front flowing in from the northeast and rainy weather out on South Padre Island, I decided to say "to hell with it" and go birding anyway.  The day went well with lots of migrants, including some pretty good stuff that I will go over later.  I was on my way home, about halfway to Los Fresnos, when I got the call from Mary Gustafson that Javi Gonzalez had posted a photo online of a streaked flycatcher at the South Padre Island Birding Center that was obviously not a Sulphur-bellied and didn't look right for Piratic either.  Variegated Flycatcher?  Well, I made a u-turn and arrived at the birding center at 6 PM and a few birders were looking through scopes and then running to a new location and then running back.  I joined them just in time to get great views of the first Variegated Flycatcher ever seen in the state of Texas and only the seventh ever for North America.

Variegated Flycatcher is a South American species whose southern race migrates north to northern parts of the continent during the austral winter and then fly south for the austral spring.  This bird being present during our North American fall, as have four of the previous six records, represents a reverse migrant, i.e. one that has migrated at a path 180 degrees from its proper route to its breeding grounds.  It is hypothesized that the many records of Fork-tailed Flycatcher during fall in the USA are also reverse migrants.  Here's some more shots.

An overdue addition to the state list.  Who knows what will show up next on the amazing South Padre Island?