Thursday, December 20, 2018

Black Scoter at Boca Chica Part II, 12/19/18

A couple of days after my brief sighting of the male Black Scoter at Boca Chica, Justin LeClaire found a male in the ship channel between the jetties.  I had a feeling that would be the place to find one.  And after he saw it again a few days later I figured I should try for a better photo.  So I drove over today and found the Black Scoter with little effort.  It was actively feeding not far out from the riprap that lines the ship channel a few hundred yards inland from the Boca Chica jetty.  I would not be surprised if it's the same bird I found ten days earlier.

Black Scoters are being found in good numbers along northern half of the Texas Coast this fall, but the sightings at Boca Chica are the only one reported south of Aransas County so far.

Well that was easy so why not drive over to South Padre Island and look for the Black-headed Grosbeak at the Birding Center.  I have seen several in Hidalgo County and one in Cameron County but they have all been in juvenile plumage.  This one was a nice adult feeding on fiddlewood berries in front of the South Padre Island Birding Center.

It's been a great fall and I haven't even been over for the Roadside Hawk or Golden-crowned Warblers yet.  Hope they hang around.

Fork-tailed Flycatcher at LosFresnos, 12/14/18

Back in October a Fork-tailed Flycatcher was seen by many as it spent a few days east of Rio Hondo.  I had visiting in-laws at the time and had already seen the Southmost Preserve bird years ago so I didn't make the effort to go over and see it.  Well another (or possibly the same one) was found by Bobz World just east of Los Fresnos so I figured I had better see this one before it was gone.  I took a half dozen passes along Share 27 Rd and saw calling Tropical and Couch's Kingbirds but not their tropical cousin.  But I thought it was probably hang out with kingbirds so I kept trying and eventually found the Fork-tailed Flycatcher low in a mesquite.

It is thought that most of the fall Fork-tailed Flycatchers found across North America are of of the nominate South American subpecies savana and are reverse austral migrants.  Meaning that instead of flying south to their breeding areas after the austral winter (our summer), they have gone north instead.  But this bird has pale edges to the wing coverts indicating a fresh molt and a pale mantle.  According to Steve Howell's "Rare Birds of North America" this would then be the Mexican subspecies monachus which is found south of the Isthmus into Central America.  Most ornithologist say the two subspecies can only be truly separated by examining the primary emarginations.  Maybe they will figure it out someday.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Black Scoter at Boca Chica Beach, 12/9/18

This fall several dozen Black Scoters have been seen hanging out around the seawall in Galveston.  while many have been reported in Florida also.  So when Justin LeClaire found one at Boca Chica Beach yesterday, I was not surprised although there are no previous Cameron County records on eBird.  Well if Justin can find one, why not me?  So this morning I took off in the old Tacoma 4x4 to drive the beach at Boca Chica.

As my truck gets older, each trip I wonder if it will come home safely.  This morning after a brief stop on TX 4 just a few miles from the beach, I put my foot down on the brake pedal while I put it in drive and the brake made this funny "sploosh" sound and my the pedal went down to the floor.  Woops.  Well something broke and I had just lost most of my brake fluid and had precious little braking ability left.  Should I turn around and try to make it home?  Hmmm.....I wouldn't hurt to drive slowly to the beach and look around for scoters.  So I did.  I drove up to the jetties and saw precious little and every stop was an adventure.  I learned I could put it in neutral and it would slow fairly quickly in the sand.

Nothing at the jetties.  So I headed back down the beach and decided I should head for home while the truck still had a few stops left in it.  And just before I left the beach, this little flock of four American Wigeons passed by over the surf.  A fifth duck was following and it was coal black.  Just like a Black Scoter!  So I stopped the truck as best I could and jumped out and fired away with the camera.  The feeble cropped shots sure seem to show a black duck with yellow/orange on the bill and gray undersides to the primaries.  I would have to call it a male Black Scoter.

Well, pretty cool but not very satisfying.  I may have to go back out and find a good place to watch the duck pass by and try for another.  BTW, I drove back home on the freeway but had to stop a few time at lights before I got there.  I learned I could put the truck into 2nd and then into 1st to stop at lights.  Really fun.