Thursday, April 19, 2018

West Texas, 4/14-16/18

The Nature Conservancy's Davis Mountains Preserve was open this past Saturday so I thought it might be a good time to go west and see some migrants.  It was a 31 chilly degrees when I arrived but the sun was out and it was a beautiful day.  Driving up Madera Canyon Road I ran into a couple of strutting Wild Turkeys.

Like most of the state, they've had little rain and the creek crossings were all dry.  This made it an easy drive up to the Tobe Canyon trail head.  Serious Texas birders like to hike to the springs and search for good vagrants.  Last year a Slate-throated Redstart was the star.  I didn't find anything great on this hike but there was still some nice western birds to be seen, like this Grace's Warbler.

Migrant Cassin's Vireos and resident Plumbeous and Hutton's Vireos were easy to find. 

I got my Mountain Chickadee for the year but struck out on Stellar's Jays and Montezuma Quail.

A migrant Hammond's Flycatcher and several Gray Flycatchers were my only Empidonax.  Grays are resident up there.

The day passed quickly and I had to be out by 4 pm.  This gave me an opportunity to check out the feeding station at Davis Mountains State Park.  The wintering Cassin's Finches were still there.  It's been a good year for them in Texas.

After the enthusiastic birder next to me identified a Lesser Goldfinch as a Scott's Oriole, I decided it was time to head into Fort Davis and find some good Mexican food.  And then it was a race down to Big Bend.  When I arrived, I found all the campsites were full so I snuck into one of the primitive sites and spent a cold night on the ground.  After waking up and paying my entrance fee, I drove up to the Pine Canyon trail head.  No. it's not as good as Boot Springs but a four mile walk beats the heck out of a ten mile trudge up and down the mountain.  Though dry it was pretty birdy.  Mexican Jays were noisy.

I saw some of the same birds as in Tobe Canyon, like the three vireos, Bushtits and Spotted Towhees.  But Hermit Thrushes were different.  This is the gray Rocky Mountain race.

I had almost given up on the Blue-throated Hummingbird but then the male popped up inexactly the same place where I saw it last year, on the last bit of steep trail before the opening below the poor off.

Walking down I head the weeju-weeju of a Painted Redstart.  It's pretty easy to find them in Boot Canyon but I don't see them much in Pine Canyon.  Here's a poor photo.

Nice birds but nothing fantastic, so I headed back down and drove over to Terlingua for some dinner.  This was a tactical mistake as I missed my chance at a campsite at Cottonwood Canyon by just a few minutes and every thing else was full.  To hell with this.  Rather than steal another night at a primitive campsite, I decided to just head for home.

After a night in Sanderson, I stopped at Lee Hoy's place and ticked his Cassin's Finch and Yellow-headed Blackbird for my Terrell County list.

A nearby fruiting mulberry  proved to be the place to photograph Cedar Waxwings.

The cemetery added Chipping, Lark, Vesper and White-crowned Sparrows to my list.  And just down the road was a Phainopepla.  I only got a couple of shots and they weren't good.

A stop at the roadside rest area on the east side of town gave me a lucky view of a flock of American Avocets flying over the locked sewerage ponds.  Shorebirds are hard to come by in dry Terrell County.

Under the bride were nesting Cave and Cliff Swallows.

I still had some morning left and decided to spend it on Mile Five Hill Road.  Nice desert birds included Black-throated and Brewer's Sparrows and Scott's Oriole.  My favorites are the Black-tailed Gnatcatchers.

In one of the brushy draws I managed a shot of a Bell's Vireo.

And then I added an unexpected Vireo to the list.  The road ran down into a canyon with limestone bluffs and thorny vegetation.  A Vireo was singing and although there was no junipers to be found, I was pretty sure it was a Gray Vireo.  I played a blast of the song and he zoomed right in.

So I picked up 34 new species for the year, mostly western stuff.  Not a bad trip.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Swallow-tailed Kite at Progreso Lakes, 4/11/18

Everyday during spring migration,when I'm home at Progreso Lakes,  I walk out to the lane in front of the house and scan the sky for raptors.  The one I would most like to see is Swallow-tailed Kite.  They pass through the Valley each spring in small numbers and I figure if I give it enough tries one will eventually pop up some day.  Well today was the day!  Yard bird #197.

Despite getting 54 species during the morning it seemed like kind of a slow day.  The Osprey put on a show.

I spent some time with the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds who were enjoying the red Salvia in our garden.

Here's the list for the morning.

Jones yard, Progreso Lakes, Hidalgo, Texas, US
Apr 11, 2018 7:00 AM - 10:30 AM
Protocol: Stationary
54 species (+2 other taxa)

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (fulgens) 600
Muscovy Duck (Domestic type) 4
Mottled Duck (Gulf Coast) 3
Plain Chachalaca 6
Neotropic Cormorant 2
Double-crested Cormorant 1
Anhinga 1
Great Blue Heron (Blue form) 1
Great Egret 1
Snowy Egret 3
Tricolored Heron 2
Cattle Egret (Western) 15
Green Heron 4
Black-crowned Night-Heron 3
White Ibis 1
Osprey (carolinensis) 1
Swallow-tailed Kite 1
Cooper's Hawk 1
Harris's Hawk 1
Broad-winged Hawk 1
American Coot (Red-shielded) 4
Killdeer 1
Spotted Sandpiper 1
Eurasian Collared-Dove 2
Inca Dove 1
White-tipped Dove 2
White-winged Dove 1
Mourning Dove 5
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 5
Green Kingfisher 1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Northern) 4
Ladder-backed Woodpecker 1
Black Phoebe 1
Brown-crested Flycatcher 1
Great Kiskadee 4
Tropical Kingbird 1
Couch's Kingbird 1
Tropical/Couch's Kingbird 2
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 90
Purple Martin 1
Tree Swallow 8
Bank Swallow 3
Barn Swallow 1
Cliff Swallow 3
Clay-colored Thrush 1
Northern Mockingbird 3
European Starling 5
Orange-crowned Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 1
Lark Sparrow 1
Hooded Oriole 1
Altamira Oriole 1
Red-winged Blackbird 2
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
Great-tailed Grackle 25
House Sparrow 2

Friday, April 6, 2018

South Padre Island, 4/6/18

I wanted to drive up the beach again at South Padre Island today but I got up too late.  So I decided to just head out to the Island and hope some migrant passerines might be about.  It was pretty slow but patience paid off and I would up seeing some good birds.  Justin Le Claire was kind enough to post on the hotline that a Swainson's Warbler was being seen at the Convention Center.  It took some work but I finally managed a fair photo.

I had given up on seeing the Worm-eating Warbler seen much earlier in the day.  But finally it made a brief appearance at the water feature.

This Painted Bunting seems to have a wing injury that is maybe why it was so photogenic.  My photo is of the good side.

Female Hooded Warbler.

Myrtle Warblers are starting to thin out.  They go back north early.

A Summer Tanager in the bottle brush.

This nighthawk swooped around several times but I could not tell which one it was.  However after checking the photo and reading Sibley, I guess it's a Lesser Nighthawk.  The white patch on the primaries extends past the tertials on this bird.

Earlier in the day I had stopped at the Valley Land Fund's Sheepshead lot and not seen much.  Another stop gave brief glimpses of a Blue-winged Warbler and two cooperative Palm Warblers.  I don't think I have ever seen more than one at a time.

So overall I saw eleven species of warblers.  Spring is off to a good start.