Monday, January 29, 2018

Rose-throated Becard at Santa Ana NWR, 1/27/18

My longtime friend Mike Wertz was in the Valley this weekend to do some AP Environmental Science prepping in a couple of local high schools.  After his morning sessions were completed, we made a run over to Santa Ana NWR to get a little exercise and maybe see a few birds.  We had just arrived at Willow Lake when I received the WhatsApp alert that longtime RGV birder and Estero Park Superintendent Javier DeLeon had just found the Rose-throated Becard.  I knew one was present but thought our chanced of seeing it were pretty slim.  We walked quickly to the old manager's residence area and there was Javi photographing the becard.  I've seen quite a few of these through the years but I never tire of them.

The becard reported earlier in the fall was a female so I guess we now have a second.  Maybe it's the start of a winter invasion from Mexico.

Snowy Owl at Odessa, TX, 1-25-18

When I moved to the Rio Grande Valley back in 1994, I had recently seen Snowy Owls on the southern coast of Vancouver.  In fact I saw about ten of them wintering on the wind blown beach.  So when one showed up up in north Texas shortly thereafter I did not chase it.  And then I started working on my Texas list and there were no Snowy Owls.  I waited and waited.  I wasn't able to chase the one in Dallas in 2012.  So when one was found outside of Odessa and reported a day later on eBird, I jumped in the car and made the 590 mile drive.

The next morning I ran into Dennis Cooke and we started searching the area.  We could not find it where it had been seen the day before so I started exploring.  It didn't take long.  The big beauty was in the big field, along the freeway frontage road just east of the church parking lot where it had been the day before.  All I can say is "Wow!"  Texas bird #573.

It's in kind of a weird area where Odessa condos and shopping malls are expanding out into the prairie with a big freeway passing by.  So far lots of people are getting to see this Texas rarity.  I hope it survives to winter to return to the arctic tundra.

Yesterday the sun popped out.  It's been a cold winter so I took advantage and made a run over to Cameron County.  It wasn't too birdy but I was able to add the Los Fresnos Burrowing Owl to my new year list.

And the day before I was out in the yard here at Progreso Lakes when I head the purring trill of our local Eastern Screech-Owl.  With my hearing fading a bit in one ear, my sense of direction for calling birds tends to be off a bit.  So I just kept following the sound as best I could.  It was not as close as I thought.  After a bit I realized it was in the big hackberry just across the fence in the neighbor's yard.  Luckily it kept calling and I finally spotted it.  Now that I know it's roost site I was able to find it again this morning.

So with the Long-eared Owl from earlier in the month, owl wise, my new year list is off to a pretty good start.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Progreso Lakes, 1/12/18

It was a cool and breezy but fantastic day to be out in our Progreso Lakes yard.  And as I had to wait on a FedEx delivery, I made the most of it.  This sharp Wood Duck was yard bird # 194.

Otherwise a quick flyby Gray Hawk and our first Northern Cardinal for the year were nice.  The American Pipits made another appearance but I decided to wait till after breakfast and missed a photo opp.  Eight Lark Sparrows have been coming to the seed I throw out in the lane.  Hope they bring some of their cousins.

Otherwise it was just the usual guys.  62 species for the day.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (fulgens) 4000
Fulvous Whistling-Duck 3
Greater White-fronted Goose 30
Wood Duck 1
Blue-winged Teal 5
Northern Shoveler 1
Mottled Duck (Gulf Coast) 2
Plain Chachalaca 2
Pied-billed Grebe 2
Neotropic Cormorant 12
Double-crested Cormorant 8
American White Pelican 60
Great Blue Heron (Blue form) 1
Great Egret 2
Snowy Egret 5
Cattle Egret (Western) 8
Green Heron 1
Black-crowned Night-Heron 6
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 5
White Ibis 4
Roseate Spoonbill 9
Black Vulture 8
Turkey Vulture 100
Northern Harrier 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk (Northern) 1
Harris's Hawk 1
White-tailed Hawk 1
Gray Hawk 1
American Coot (Red-shielded) 3
Least Sandpiper 10
Spotted Sandpiper 1
Caspian Tern 1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 80
Eurasian Collared-Dove 5
White-tipped Dove 1
Mourning Dove 1
Ringed Kingfisher 1
Belted Kingfisher 1
Green Kingfisher 1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Northern) 2
Crested Caracara 1
American Kestrel 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
Black Phoebe 1
Eastern Phoebe 1
Vermilion Flycatcher 1
Great Kiskadee 3
Tropical Kingbird 1
Loggerhead Shrike 1
Tree Swallow 25
Northern Mockingbird 1
European Starling 10
American Pipit 5
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 3
Lark Sparrow 8
Savannah Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 1
Red-winged Blackbird 15
Great-tailed Grackle 2
House Sparrow 4

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Happy New Year and some catching up, 1/7/18

Happy New Year!  I guess I need to be a little more regular in making posts this year so here's some catching up from the last few weeks.  I had thought about driving up to Warbler Woods north of San Antonio this weekend to check out the Golden-crowned Sparrow but decided at the last moment to stay home.  It was the right decision.  Yesterday a Long-eared Owl was found at the Edinburg Scenic Wetlands and I was glad I was home so I could race over to twitch this longtime nemesis Texas bird.  Not great shots but I'm happy to get Texas bird #572 and Hidalgo County bird #393.

And on Saturday I got a great new bird for our yard.  I was scoping the openings in the carrizo across the water from our back yard when I glimpsed a bird that I had hoped I would one day find for our yard list.  There in the dark opening stood a small rusty rail with black barring below....Virginia Rail!  Problem was my camera was lying on a chair on the back porch.  So I ran like crazy to the porch, grabbed the camera and returned to where I had been standing at the edge of the water.  I could not see the bird but shot photos anyway at the opening where I had seen it.  The image in the camera was too dark but it looked like I had missed the bird.  Then I looked in the scope and there stood a Sora in the same opening.  Ugh!  Had I imagined the Virginia Rail?  I watched the opening and others nearby for a half hour but saw only the Sora.  Disappointed I went back into the house and plugged my SD card into the computer.  I had only one last hope.  Maybe I had captured the Virginia Rail after all.  And what a relief!  There in the photo was the fuzzing mage of the Virginia Rail and Sora standing side bye side.  Yard bird #193 was a good one.

This morning I was checking out the ducks in the resaca bordering our back yard hoping for something new.  Gadwall, Blue-winged Teal and Northern Shoveller have been regular lately along with thousands of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks.  Then I head the calls overhead of Snow Geese.  After a few seconds I spied about ten of them and started firing away on the camera.  It was pretty evident that one was smaller.  It's the third time I've seen a Ross's Goose from our yard.  The difference in bill size is evident even in these photos.

I've also see a couple of good birds over in Cameron County recently.  A Zone-tailed Hawk had been photographed several times over Laguna Vista and I decided to make an attempt to see this species I had missed numerous times in Cameron County.  I waited on the nature trail on 12/12/17 and it didn't take long for the Turkey Vulture mimic to pass nearby.  Cameron County bird #400, well at least by eBird standards.  I have some illegal Browsville parrots that are not countable according to ABA rules.  My ABA list would be 396.

Another expected bird that I've not seen in Cameron County is Burrowing Owl.  Well, that is no longer the case.  Mary Gustafson found one by Los Fesnos and was kind enough to share the spot with me.  So on 12/29/17, I got Cameron County bird #401!  Woops I had a a great photo and I guess I didn't save it.  Yes I did.  It's on eBird so I ran over and got a copy.

Well, it's been a good winter in the Valley so far.  And with the recent super cold weather I think we are due some altitudenal migrants from Mexico.  Stay tuned.