Monday, December 25, 2017

Hammond's Flycatcher at Estero Llano Grande State Park, 12/25/17

I was over in Cameron County today looking for Burrowing Owls when I got a call call from Mary Gustafson telling me she and the Sniders had just found what was either a Hammond's or Dusky Flycatcher.  Well either one would be a new Hidalgo County bird for me so I rushed right over.  When I arrived at the the spot in the Tropical Zone, no one was around which was fine by me.  I either want folks there looking at the bird or no one there so I can find it on my own.  It only took me a few minutes to find a flock of wintering passerines and there was our little empid with them.  After taking a few photos I could they this bird had a tiny narrow bill and looked like a Hammond's Flycatcher to me.  I called Mary to tell here I had found the bird and she said Mark Lockwood had looked at the photos and pronounced it a Hammond's.  A little later I refound the bird and it was giving the distinctive Hammond's Flycatcher "beek" call. 

I think this may be a first Hidalgo County record and for me was Hidalgo County bird #392.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Violet-crowned Hummingbird at Sanderson, 11/15/17

When Lee Hoy moved to Sanderson out in Terrell County I knew he would come up with some good stuff.  An oasis in the desert, just far enough west and now with a resident birder, it was just a matter of time.  A couple of days ago, long time birder Mel Cooksey was in the area and checked out Lee's yard only to find a Violet-crowned Hummingbird.  Though the 20th record for the state, it was one I still needed for my Texas list.  They always occur way out west and often are in someone's yard and not reported till after the fact.  I missed the one at Frontera Audubon that was found while people were looking for the Blue Mockingbird years ago.

Anyway, I left made the long eight hour drive yesterday and arrived in the afternoon.  When I got there Joe Hood already had the bird on a platter for me.

Walking around the neighborhood turned up a few more birds like this Cactus Wren.

And this scolding Bewick's Wren.

The Rock Wren wasn't as cooperative.

Joe and I discussed the calling ravens overhead.  To me they sounded like Chihuahuan but it was a close call.  The photo shows long rictal bristles and what looks like exposed white underfeathers on the neck so I'm sticking with Chihuahuan Raven over Common.  Also I think the tail is not wedged out enough for Common Raven.

I decided save my motel resouces for another trip (I hear the Panhandle calling) so I turned around and headed for home.  I stopped ten miles to the east to check out the Sanderson Canyon wash and pished in a couple of Black-tailed Gnatcatchers.

I got back home just after midnight, 18.5 hours and 940 miles after leaving home in the morning.

Delta Lake, 12/14/17

After forty years of doing Christmas Bird Counts I've been getting a little tired of them lately.  But J.D. was short-handed with the La Sal Vieja count so I agreed to go and cover my old area at Delta Lake.  Turned out to be a cool, windless, cloudy day; great for birding but crappy for photography.  I spend nine hours covering the county park and the resort and finished with a respectable total of 82 species.  Nothing fantastic but fun none the less.  I got my usual Yellow Warblers, the only reliable wintering location I know of in the country.

Yellow-throated Warblers always winter here but my total of thirteen seemed unusually high.

My best bird was probably this Clay-colored Thrush.  I don't ever recall seeing one up here before.  I don't know if it was new for the count.

Plenty of Vermillion Flycatchers as usual in the park.

It's always a treat to get a Merlin.

Here's the list.

Delta Lake (LTC 008), Hidalgo, Texas, US
Dec 14, 2017 7:30 AM - 4:30 PM
Protocol: Traveling
3.0 mile(s)
Comments: 8 hrs on foot, 1 hr by car, 2 miles by foot, 1 mile by car
82 species (+4 other taxa)

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (fulgens) 150
Snow Goose 25
Muscovy Duck (Domestic type) 1
Blue-winged Teal 10
Northern Shoveler 4
Gadwall 4
Mottled Duck (Gulf Coast) 28
Northern Pintail 40
Canvasback 21
Redhead 22 yup
Ring-necked Duck 100
Lesser Scaup 300
Bufflehead 1
Ruddy Duck (Ruddy) 8
Pied-billed Grebe 2
Neotropic Cormorant 100
Double-crested Cormorant 50
Anhinga 4
American White Pelican 3
Great Blue Heron (Blue form) 16
Great Egret 7
Snowy Egret 2
Black Vulture 6
Turkey Vulture 75
Osprey (carolinensis) 2
White-tailed Kite 1
Northern Harrier 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Cooper's Hawk 1
Harris's Hawk 1
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 4
Sora 1
Common Gallinule (American) 3
American Coot (Red-shielded) 94
Sandhill Crane 1
Killdeer 20
Spotted Sandpiper 3
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Laughing Gull 20
Ring-billed Gull 10
Caspian Tern 3
Eurasian Collared-Dove 8
Inca Dove 8
White-tipped Dove 1
Mourning Dove 8
Ringed Kingfisher 1
Belted Kingfisher 2
Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Northern) 15
Ladder-backed Woodpecker 5
Crested Caracara 3
American Kestrel 3
Merlin 1
Black Phoebe 2
Eastern Phoebe 7
Vermilion Flycatcher 5
Great Kiskadee 15
Couch's Kingbird 3
Tropical/Couch's Kingbird 1
Loggerhead Shrike 1
White-eyed Vireo 3
Blue-headed Vireo 2
Green Jay (Green) 2
Tree Swallow 150 Blue above, white below wheeling over the lake. Counted and estimated
Black-crested Titmouse 2
House Wren (Northern) 27
Marsh Wren 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 8
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 30
Clay-colored Thrush 1
Northern Mockingbird 12
European Starling 34
Orange-crowned Warbler 50
Common Yellowthroat 50
Yellow Warbler (Northern) 3 Three different birds photographed.
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 54
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's) 2
Yellow-throated Warbler 13 Amazing total. Ten on west side and three on east. About twice my normal CBC total.
Wilson's Warbler 1
Lincoln's Sparrow 5
Swamp Sparrow 3
Northern Cardinal 2
Red-winged Blackbird 10
Great-tailed Grackle 100
blackbird sp. 200
House Sparrow 40

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Great Day at South Padre Island, 11/19/17

A good cold front blew in last night and deep down I knew I should be out at South Padre Island looking for rare birds.  But I got up a little late and decided it might be good to stay in our yard and hope for something good.  Well, I spent an enjoyable morning with lots of raptors and TV's and a Yellow-throated Warbler but nothing outstanding.  Then at 11:30 I discovered I had missed a text saying Brad McKinney had just found a Dark-eyed Junco at the Convention Center at South Padre Island.  Dang!  I should have found that bird.  And being that I needed that one for my Cameron County list, I raced right out there.  And when I arrived, there was the group looking at it in the water feature.  Dark-eyed Junco was my 399th Cameron County bird.

Also present at the same time was this Pine Siskin, only my second for the county.

And down below the siskin, scratching around in the dirt for seeds was this young White-throated Sparrow.  I see one of these almost annually at the Convention Center.

One more good out of range bird was this Brown Thrasher that has been around for a few weeks.

So my intuition was right and I should have gone to the Island.  And another cold front is approaching so we'll see if I learned anything by this.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Falcon State Park Butterfly Garden, 9/24/17

Yesterday I was going to go birding out on South Padre Island.  But as I left our road to Progreso Lakes and turned east on the Military Highway I decided I did not want to go east with the sun in my eyes.  So I headed west with the idea of checking out butterflies at Yturria Brush west of La Joya.  But it was extremely dry and fried after a very hot summer.  So I got back in the car and kept going west to Falcon State Park.  It was really dry out there too but the butterfly garden was being watered and full of blooms and butterflies.  And this brought in birds.

I saw this greenish thing fly low into a bush and I figured it would be an Mourning warbler.  Boy was I wrong!  It was a friendly Yellow-bellied Flycatcher who was hunting caterpillars.  I'm not sure how common they are this far west.

Also allowing close approach was this White-eyed Vireo who had it's own battle with a leaf-footed bug.

My last visit to Falcon was back in June and at the time the butterfly garden looked like it had not been watered in months.  I mentioned this at their office at the time and yesterday was glad to see the problem had been fixed.  They also had a couple of hummingbird feeders up that were getting a lot of business.  Though I've visited Starr County dozens of times this was my first county Black-chinned Hummingbird.

This Black-throated Green Warbler was also a county first for me.  During migration I tend to stay in Cameron and Hidalgo County.

A skulking Yellow-breasted Chat refused a good photo per usual.

A couple of quail zipped around the corner and gave me hope for a Scaled Quail.  But they proved to be the more expected Northern Bobwhite.

Inca and Common Ground-Doves flushed thoughout the morning.

Resident Northern Cardinal and Pyrrhuloxia are regular year around in the butterfly garden.

As are Olive Sparrows.

But butterflies were my focus.  Nothing too rare but there was plenty with my favorite being the big Brazilian Skippers with their super long proboscis.

The weather forecasters are waffling about a cold front coming down later in the week.  It's time for a major onslaught of birds!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Sugar House Pond, 9/5/17

After Ron Weeks turned up Short-billed Dowitcher and Ruddy Turnstones at the Sugar House pond last weekend, I figured I had better get over to check things out.  I arrived to find broad mudflats all around the 40 acre impoundment and thousands of shorebirds.  Bird of the day goes to this Red-necked Phalarope.  At first I was not sure that it wasn't a Red Phalarope so eventually I hiked around to the backside where I got a better view.  I've seen Red-necks here several times in the past but it's always a good bird the the RGV.

In the SE corner was a flock of six Ruddy Turnstones, a species that I had only seen twice before in Hidalgo County.

In the same corner were five Short-billed Dowitchers.  They are much more common along the Laguna Madre.  The gold edges on the scapulars and tertials make the ID easy on the juveniles.

Semipalmated Plover is also hard to find in the county.

I found a total of sixteen species which is pretty good for this inland site.  Here are Western Sandpipers in basic and juvenile plumage.

Here's a Western with a Least.

I did not photograph any Semipalmated Sandpipers today although there were plenly around so here's one from my visit two weeks ago.

And here's a Willet shot from two weeks ago.  I only saw one distant one today.

I estimated the total number of Stilt Sandpipers to be 2000 based on my count of 500 Wilson's Phalaropes.  I like the dark edgings on the rectrices on the juvenile bird.

Just a fraction of today's birds.