Thursday, February 22, 2018

Salineno and Falcon, 2-20-18

Spring has sprung in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas and that usually means lots of warm SE wind with low pressure up north and high in the Gulf.  The other day 45 mph gusts were reported in the area and it was so windy in our Progreso Lakes yard that I had to give up trying to get any yard work done.  So I decided to try to escape the winds by heading west up the river.  It turned out a good choice.  I planted my scope next to the river and waited for something to happen and this flyby Red-billed Pigeon made the trip worthwhile.

Then an unexpected Herring Gull cruised by, my 201st Starr County bird.  I'm sure they annually get a few on Falcon Reservoir.

I watched a few "mallard" type ducks and could not decide if the were Mottled Ducks or Mexican Mallards.  Then a really confusing pair flew by.  The female (lower) looks like a Mottled with the unbordered purplish blue speculum.  But the male has white edging on its speculum and looks to be a Mexican Mallard.  Others have seen this male previously and thought it might be a hybrid as the speculum is not blue enough. 

I missed the Zone-tailed Hawk I was hoping for and there was no sign of White-collared Seedeaters so I walked up the hill and watched the feeding station for a while.  Nothing fantastic up there but I liked this Altamira Oriole photo.  I earlier saw a couple of Audubon's Orioles along the river.

Lunchtime was approaching so I ran up to Falcon State Park to spend some time at the butterfly garden and eat lunch.  This Pyrrhuloxia begged me to be photographed.

While I was eating I remembered something about a Rock Wren being seen recently behind the rec building.  I asked inside about it and no one had heard anything.  But I got instructions on the location of the rocky outcrop back beyond the picnic area.  It took a little while but eventually the Rock Wren popped up.  I've seen this species a couple of times in the boulders along Falcon Dam but that was back before 9/11 when the area was accessible.  Turnsout this bird is actually in Zapata County as best I can figure.  The Starr/Zapata County line runs through the park at an angle making county birding a chore up there.

This morning (2/22) a cold front unexpectedly entered the Valley and pushed out the hot humid SE wind and replaced it with a cool northerly breeze.  I spent some time in the yard hoping the change of weather might "shuffle the bird deck" and I was rewarded with a flock of American Goldfinches.  They were species #195 for our yard.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Elegant Trogon in New Braunfels, 2/6/18

Back on January 27, someone was birding in Panther Canyon in New Braunfels' Landa Park when she found and photographed an unfamiliar bird.  She posted the photo on a Facebook group called "What's this bird?" and it turned out to be a female Elegant Trogon.  The local birding community finally heard about it on 2/4 and was able to refind the bird.  It was seen again yesterday.  So even though I saw the Frontera Elegant Trogan back in 2005, I decided to get up early for the four and a half hour drive.  After a couple of hours the assembled group found the bird and I got to photograph this 7th Texas record.  Great bird!

Elegant Trogon is a well known species that normally only occurs in SE Arizona in the United States.  But it's common in Mexico and the recent the cold weather probably forced this one down out of the mountains.  The 2005 trogon at Frontera Audubon in Weslaco also occurred after some very cold weather.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Early February stuff

I started out February with a trip to the National Butterfly Center.  The wintering Painted Bunting was easy to find.  I wonder if the green bird from last winter is this same male.

The wintering Western Tanager has not been easy to find.  It took me about four hours to finally encounter it by the water feature behind the visitor's center.  

Honey and I made a run over to Willacy County on Saturday.  A flock of about 400 Snow Geese made the trip worthwhile.

Searching through the flock I came up with a couple of Ross's Geese.

As we approached Port Mansfield, I glimpsed a brown sparrow-like bird sitting on the wire of a gated entrance to a ranch.  I made a quick u-turn and found my sparrow to be a Lark Bunting.  My first for Willacy County, #279.

We checked the coastal areas of Port Mansfield but not too much was going on.  Best bird was this Bonaparte's Gull in the boat basin.

This gull was troublesome for me.  I guess it's just a Herring Gull.  I caught a brief look at the primaries while it was in flight and they seemed to have the requisite pale patch but I would like better looks at it.

Back home we got our first Purple Martin of the spring.

And a female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker passed through the yard yesterday.  We didn't even get one last year for the yard list.

Allen's Hummingbirds in Harlingen, 1/31/18

A week ago Kelly Bryan was in the RGV banding hummingbirds at Stephanie Bilodeau and Justin LeClaire's place just outside of Harlingen.  Among the surprisingly large number of winter hummers was an Allen's Hummingbird.  This would be a new species for me in Cameron County so I made arrangements to spend some time in their yard watching the feeders.  It took a few hours but there was so much action that time passed quickly.  Here he is, #402 for me in Cameron County.

A second male Selasphours went unbanded by Kelly but I guessed it was also an Allen's Hummingbird.  Later Justin and Stephanie got good views of the spread tail showing the lanceolate R2 tail feather.

This female Selaphorus would normally be assumed to be a Rufous Hummingbird but apparently that assumption doesn't hold anymore.  I used to identify all the Selasphorus as Rufous but Allen's Hummingbird is turning out to not be that rare.  I don't know if anything can be gleaned from the spread tail shot.

Meanwhile there were also a couple of male Black-chinned Hummingbirds.

And a young male Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Not sure what this female Archilochus is.

Kelly banded four Buff-bellied Hummingbirds.

Pretty good hummingbird diversity for the Valley in January.