Monday, January 30, 2017

Western Hidalgo County, 1/28/17

Every winter I like to make at least one trip out to western Hidalgo County to look for stuff for my county year list and maybe even an Hidalgo County lifer.  There's a quartet of birds I've not seen that are possible in the arid part of the county; Scaled Quail, Common Poorwill, Chihuahuan Raven and Black-tailed Gnatcatcher.  Chances are slim but I always hope.

I started my day on FM 2221 (AKA Sparrow Road) on the west side of La Joya and got lucky on my second stop, a gate along the highway with great visibility down two long senderos. Here I always stop and look for Black-throated Sparrows, Pyrrhuloxias and Lark Buntings.  Through my scope I was enjoying a group of Pyrrhuloxias and who should run out of the brush and into the open but a covey of four Scaled Quails.  Hot dang!  Hidalgo County species #390.

The second best bird of the day had to be the male House Finch at the same spot.  This was the first I've seen in the Valley away from Anzalduas County Park and the UTRGV campus in Brownsville.  It was nice to see one in the brush like they occur in the desert of west Texas. 

With the big score so early in the day I was going to be happy even if I failed to find anything else interesting. The first bird on Mile 7 Road was this sentinal White-tailed Hawk who dared me to take its picture.

 A bit down Mile 7 road I tuned up the expected Black-throated Sparrows.

And common Bewick's Wrens and White-eyed Vireos.

But the hoped for sparrows were pretty much absent in the extremely dry brush.  I got a few Black-throated, Cassin's and Savannah Sparrows and that was it.

The seven miles of Jara China Road were pretty barren.  I played recordings of Black-tailed Gnatcatcher  in appropriate habitat but got no responses.  A few Western Meadowlarks were the best I could muster.

A brief run west on Mile 14 turned up a nice flock of Lark Sparrows.

Then it was time for the plowed agricultural fields southwest of McCook and the search for Mountain Plovers and Prairie Falcons.  I did not see either but did manage to dig out a Say's Phoebe on FM 490 west of McCook.

The return home took me through Hargill where I found little on the playa and Delta Lake which had great mudflats for a change.  The good bird there was a Dunlin hanging out with the Least Sandpipers and Long-billed Dowitchers.

Ten Canvasbacks were the most I've ever seen in the RGV.

 A very satisfying day indeed!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

South Padre Island, 1/18/17

Thought I would take the truck out to South Padre Island today and drive the beach looking for gulls.  After crossing the causeway onto the Island, I pulled over to scan the mudflat and was pleased to get a Whimbrel.

The tide was low and I got the idea I could cross along the edge of the mudflat and checkout the mangroves for Seaside Sparrow.  I gave it a few pishes and got a Myrtle Warbler.  A couple of more pishes and in flies this little yellow bird with a chestnut head.  My goodness.  It was a Mangrove Warbler, the first I've seen on the Island.  Wonder if they will ever split these guys from Yellow Warbler.

Sheepshead had nothing and the Convention Center had only an Eastern Phoebe and Orange-crowned and Myrtle Warblers.  The flats to the north were loaded with birds and I added shorebirds, gulls and terns to my year list.  But nothing was close enough for photos.  So it was on to the beach.

The beach was in great shape for driving after being scoured by the recent high winds.  Unfortunately the birds must have been blown away also.  The only gulls were the expected Ring-billed, Herring and Laughing. I liked this strongly marked Ring-billed Gull.

And the only terns were Royal and Forster's.  It seem a little early to me for this oil smudged Royal Tern to be in breeding plumage.

The only shorebirds were Willets, a couple of Long-billed Curlews and lots of Sanderlings.

But it's winter and Northern Gannets are always a possibility so I kept scanning the sea periodically.  At mile four I saw some distant long-winged birds flying over the water and then dropping head first like a rock.  The scope gave me better looks but the Northern Gannets were a little distant for photos.  I saw twelve at this stop, had another at mile ten and two more were way out from the jetty at the Port Mansfield cut in Willacy County.

Nothing exciting at the jetty.  They was a flock of Ruddy Turnstones foraging among the rocks.

And a few Red-breasted Mergansers bounced in the surf.

There were lots of Brown Pelicans around and this one was particularly sharp in its new breeding dress.

All of the above was just the icing on the cake as I had already picked up a new bird for my Cameron County list first thing in the morning.  The day before, Mark and Joanie Hubinger had found a flock of Brewer's Blackbirds on FM 506 just north of the Military Highway.  I was happy to finally tick this not so rare bird for my Cameron County list, #394.

Progreso Lakes, 1/17/17

Put in several hours today working on the yard list for our new house at Progreso Lakes.  Actually I don't know if you can count sitting by the resaca as working but it was pretty productive.  Best bird was a surprise Franklin's Gull.  I thought I might get a migrating flock in the spring but not a lonely fly by in January.

Otherwise ducks were the order of the day with ten species.  Mary G. stopped by with a couple of birding clients and they were happy to twitch a lifer, Fulvous Whistling-Duck.

A male Redhead was new for the year list.

The American Wigeons were still hanging around.

A flash of orange flying across the water signaled another new species for the yard.  But all I could get was this poor photo of the Altamira Oriole.  I'm sure I'll get other chances to photograph one.

Otherwise it saw the same old gang.  I don't get tired of the Ringed Kingfisher.

Osprey on the prowl.

Spotted Sandpiper bobbing on a rock.

And golden-slippered Snowy Egret flapping past.

The yard list is up to 108.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Happy New Year, 1/1/17

Spent the morning in our yard at Progreso Lakes getting the new year list off to a good start.  Most interesting bird was another duck hybrid.  This time it was the common Blue-winged Teal x Cinnamon Teal cross.  There's been one up at Estero for the past few weeks.  I wonder if it's the same bird.

Had a big flock of Snow Geese go by but I could not pick out any Ross' Geese.

There's a little spot of exposed shoreline where I've seen the Sora a couple of times.  It popped out again this morning.

It was mostly a cloudy morning and I did not really try for photos much.  Here's one of our regular Yellow-crowned Night-Herons.

I finished with 59 species for the day.

Jones yard, Progreso Lakes, Hidalgo, Texas, US
Jan 1, 2017 7:00 AM - 1:30 PM
Protocol: Stationary
59 species (+3 other taxa)

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (fulgens)
Greater White-fronted Goose (Western) 1
Snow Goose 120
Muscovy Duck (Domestic type) 5
Mottled Duck (Gulf Coast) 19
Blue-winged Teal 17
Blue-winged x Cinnamon Teal (hybrid) 1
Ring-necked Duck 3
Lesser Scaup 45
Plain Chachalaca 2
Pied-billed Grebe 1
Neotropic Cormorant 8
Double-crested Cormorant 14
American White Pelican 4
Great Blue Heron (Blue form) 1
Great Egret 4
Snowy Egret 3
Cattle Egret (Western) 5
Green Heron 2
Black-crowned Night-Heron 4
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 8
Roseate Spoonbill 2
Turkey Vulture 70
Osprey (carolinensis) 1
White-tailed Kite 2
Cooper's Hawk 1
Harris's Hawk 1
White-tailed Hawk 3
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Sora 1
American Coot (Red-shielded) 6
Spotted Sandpiper 2
Caspian Tern 2
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 50
Eurasian Collared-Dove 5
Inca Dove 2
White-winged Dove 1
Mourning Dove 5
Ringed Kingfisher 1
Green Kingfisher 2
Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Northern) 6
Crested Caracara 1
American Kestrel 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Eastern Phoebe 2
Vermilion Flycatcher 1
Great Kiskadee 6
Tropical Kingbird 2
Loggerhead Shrike 2
Green Jay (Green) 1
Black-crested Titmouse 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Northern Mockingbird 2
European Starling 10
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 15
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's) 1
Northern Cardinal 2
Red-winged Blackbird 200
Great-tailed Grackle 4
House Sparrow 2