Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Yard bird #220 at Progreso Lakes, 11/26/19

With warm windy weather forecast for today, I figured it might be time to get some yard work done.  Did'nt look good for birds and butterflies have been disappointing lately so at least I could accomplish something.  So I put in a couple of hours and was going to work a bit more when visiting butterfly watcher Billy Weber and his parents showed up.  I got Billy his first Double-dotted Skippers last year.  Well, this was a great excuse to quit working and have some fun.  Good butterflies were on the wing and we we doing great when Billy casually mentions "There's a Black-throated Gray Warbler."  Dang!  That's one I've been expecting.  Took me a while to get on it but eventually I got some shots.  Yard bird #220!

More lepidophiles arrived and we wound up seeing 48 species of butterflies including yard butterfly #115, this stonking Mexican Silverspot.

I'm hoping my little Black-throated Gray shows up again tomorrow so I can spend some quality time with it.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Great Day at Progreso Lakes, 11/16/19

After a few days of rain and cold north winds I decided to invest a day in our yard at Progreso Lakes.  All I can say is "Wow!"  The day started with ducks in the resaca behind our house.  Here's Northern Shovellers, Ring-necked Ducks, Lesser Scaups and a Fulvous Whistling-Duck among the 1500 of so Black-bellies.

Late migrating Turkey Vultures numbered 310.  A Sharp-shinned Hawks was among them.  This flyby Stilt Sandpiper was a first for the month.

Yesterday we got our first White-crowned Sparrow.  I looked for it today but it seemed to be gone.  They are a pretty uncommon winter resident in the brush country down here.

But I put some more seed out and two Chipping Sparrows came in with a couple of Lark Sparrows.  We got our first just two days ago.  Immatures are a bit different from the red-capped adults.

Then a flock of Plain Chachalacas invaded my brush patch to feed on Potato Tree and Fiddlewood berries.

I was maneuvering for more shots when I got one of those serendipitous endorphin releasing surprises that make birding so addictive.  A sparrow flushed up ahead of me and I instantly realized I had a very good bird.  White-throated Sparrow!  I thought it might be years if ever before we saw one of these in our yard.  A wisp of vegetation prevented a perfect shot.

So I threw out some more seed and it didn't take long for the little devil to find it.  White-throated Sparrow is pretty common a few hundred miles north and east of here.  But most years go by without me seeing one in Hidalgo County.

Then our first Lincoln's Sparrow for the year popped out to feed.

Then another ventured out.  The streaking was pretty faint and something didn't seem right.  In the shade I wasn't picking up the chestnut wings.  But I saw the pale throat and then it clicked....Swamp Sparrow!  Gee I figured my only shot at getting this for our yard was to scope the resaca edges and hope to get lucky.  I didn't expect to get on right off our porch.  This immature Swamp Sparrow raises our yard list to 219 species.

The friendly Yellow-throated Warbler came by for a visit.  It was one of seven species of warblers on the day.

And lastly how about a bathing White-eyed Vireo.  This is the first time I've actually seen one go into the water.  Usually it's just a quick belly splash.

Jones yard, Progreso Lakes, Hidalgo, Texas, US
Nov 16, 2019 7:40 AM - 2:10 PM
Protocol: Stationary
57 species (+3 other taxa)

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (fulgens)  1500
Fulvous Whistling-Duck  1
Muscovy Duck (Domestic type)  2
Northern Shoveler  7
Ring-necked Duck  2
Lesser Scaup  40
Plain Chachalaca  9
Mourning Dove  1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Black-chinned Hummingbird  1
Buff-bellied Hummingbird (Northern)  2
Stilt Sandpiper  1
Spotted Sandpiper  1
Caspian Tern  1
Neotropic Cormorant  5
American White Pelican  14
Cattle Egret (Western)  3
Black-crowned Night-Heron  3
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron  6
Turkey Vulture  310
Sharp-shinned Hawk (Northern)  1
Red-shouldered Hawk (lineatus Group)  1
Belted Kingfisher  1
Green Kingfisher  1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Northern)  2
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  1
American Kestrel  1
Peregrine Falcon  1
Eastern Phoebe  1
Great Kiskadee  2
Couch's Kingbird  1
Tropical/Couch's Kingbird  2
White-eyed Vireo  1    bathing!
Loggerhead Shrike  1
Green Jay (Green)  1
Black-crested Titmouse  2
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (caerulea)  1
House Wren (Northern)  1
Carolina Wren (Northeast Mexico/South Texas)  1
European Starling  6
Northern Mockingbird  3
House Sparrow  2
Chipping Sparrow  2
Lark Sparrow  2
White-throated Sparrow  1
Savannah Sparrow (Savannah)  1
Lincoln's Sparrow  1
Swamp Sparrow  1
Red-winged Blackbird  30
blackbird sp.  100
Orange-crowned Warbler  2
Nashville Warbler  1
Common Yellowthroat  1
Northern Parula  1
Yellow-throated Warbler  1
Black-throated Green Warbler  1
Wilson's Warbler  1
Northern Cardinal  2

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Harris's Sparrow at South Padre Island, 11/2/19

I spent all day yesterday scouting for the upcoming butterfly and bird festivals which start on Sunday.  So today I was going to stay home and get some stuff done, but a Harris's Sparrow was discovered at the South Padre Island Birding Center.  That's a bird I've been wanting for Cameron County for a long time.  So to hell with work and I got my 411th species for the county.  And it's a beautiful adult!

It was cavorting with a flock of Indigo Buntings and a young White-crowned Sparrow.

Meanwhile a few feet away, a first fall female Cape May Warbler was found.  I think this plumage is a first for me.

In the same clump of trees was this Bewick's Wren.  I don't remember ever seeing one of these on SPI.  It seems browned than the ones I normally see out in the brush country.  I wonder where it's from.

And under that group of trees was a skulking Curve-billed Thrasher.  What's up with that?  Another species that I only see out in the dryer parts of the brush.  This is consistent with the large number of Long-billed Thrashers that have been seen on the Island lately.  Not to mention Pyrrhuloxias.  A Green-tailed Towhee was also seen at Sheepshead last week.  Something is going on this fall.

Well I'm off leading trips for the Texas Butterfly Festival for a couple of days and then it's the RGV Birding Festival.  I bet more cool stuff will be found.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Fulvous X Black-bellied Whistling-Duck at Progreso Lakes, 10/31/19

A strong cold front blew in last night bringing in some overdue birds this morning.  After a high of 90 yesterday it didn't make it to 60 today.  But that's good weather for ducks and we had eight species today.  Duck of the day goes to the returning Fulvous X Black-bellied Whistling-Duck.  The plumage seemed crisper to me than our previous bird with no pink on the bill, so it could be a different one or maybe just a year older.  Basically it looks like a Fulvous but without the dorsal scaling and more maroon plumage on the upper back and sides.  Here's some distant photos.

And here's a regular Fulvous Whistling-Duck for comparison.

The morning started when I looked out the back window and saw our first Northern Shoveller of the month.

And our first Lesser Scaup with four Ring-necked Ducks.  Photo leaves a bit to be desired.

Our first Common Gallinule of the month was a juvenile.

And lastly I saw a distant floppy-tailed black bird sitting on the carrizo out of the wind.  It's getting late for Groove-billed Ani.

Finished the month with 123 species seen from our yard, an all time monthly high.  It broke our previous record of 121 from Oct 2017.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Progreso Lakes yard, 10/26/19

After the cold front roared though yesterday, morning low temperatures were in the 40's.  But that didn't keep Birder Patrol from making their appointed visit.  So I got up out of my nice warm bed to greet them and enjoyed our back yard birds with them for a couple of hours.  Wood Storks passing overhead got everyone excited.

And a few minutes later this small flock of White-fronted Geese was a fall first for everyone.

Everyone is always impressed with the large flock of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.  They just arrived a few days ago.  My current estimate is 1200.

We even got lucky with a flyby Fulvous Whistling-Duck.  I got this poor photo later.

After two hours the group up and left for more birds at nearby Estero Llano Grande State Park.  Shortly after their exit a couple of gulls flew by.  I got on them late and assumed they were the usual Laughing Gulls.  But a bit later one returned and I was shocked to see it was a Franklin's Gull.  They are hard to find inland in the fall.

And then five American Avocets were my first for the fall.

Several local sugar cane farmers were burning nearby fields in preparation for harvest.  This fire was across the river in Mexico.

And burning sugar cane brings in the raptors hoping for roasted rodents.  There were two White-tailed Hawks.

And several Black Vultures with the Turkey Vultures.  Here's one of each.

Here's today's list.

Jones yard, Progreso Lakes, Hidalgo, Texas, US
Oct 26, 2019 9:00 AM - 2:00 PM
Protocol: Stationary
61 species (+2 other taxa)

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (fulgens)  1200
Fulvous Whistling-Duck  2
Greater White-fronted Goose (Western)  11
Muscovy Duck (Domestic type)  1
Plain Chachalaca  2
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  20
Eurasian Collared-Dove  2
Inca Dove  2
White-winged Dove  3
Mourning Dove  5
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  2
Buff-bellied Hummingbird (Northern)  1
American Coot (Red-shielded)  1
American Avocet  5
Killdeer  1
Spotted Sandpiper  2
Franklin's Gull  2
Caspian Tern  1
Wood Stork  14
Anhinga  1
Neotropic Cormorant  5
Great Blue Heron (Blue form)  1
Great Egret (American)  1
Green Heron  2
Black-crowned Night-Heron  2
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron  3
White-faced Ibis  3
Black Vulture  6
Turkey Vulture  300
Osprey (carolinensis)  1
White-tailed Kite  2
White-tailed Hawk  2
Swainson's Hawk  1
Ringed Kingfisher  1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Northern)  4
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  1
American Kestrel  1
Black Phoebe  1
Eastern Phoebe  1
Vermilion Flycatcher  1
Great Kiskadee  4
Tropical Kingbird  2
Tropical/Couch's Kingbird  2
Loggerhead Shrike  1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  70
Barn Swallow (American)  30
Cave Swallow (Texas)  1
House Wren (Northern)  1
Carolina Wren (Northeast Mexico/South Texas)  1
European Starling  5
Northern Mockingbird  4
Clay-colored Thrush  1
House Sparrow  1
Savannah Sparrow (Savannah)  2
Western Meadowlark  3
Altamira Oriole  1
Red-winged Blackbird  200
Bronzed Cowbird (Bronzed)  1
Great-tailed Grackle  6
Nashville Warbler  1
Common Yellowthroat  1
Yellow-throated Warbler  1
Northern Cardinal  1

Thursday, October 24, 2019

South Padre Island, 10/23/19

Today I finally decided to get out of the yard and check fall migration at South Padre Island.  It was warm with a southeasterly breeze but passerine migrants were a plenty.  One of the first I saw at the Valley Land Fund's Sheepshead lot was this Philadelphia Vireo.  There was also a Red-eyed and a White-eyed Vireo.

Bill Beatty and I were discussing maintenance of the lot when we stumbled across this Acadian Flycatcher.  Note the long primary extension and the green back.

There was a nice mix of warblers including this friendly American Redstart that spent hours foraging along the wooden railing on the north lot.  

And this Magnolia Warbler.

But after two hours I decided it was time to check out the Convention Center.  It also had a nice mix of migrants like this bathing Wood Thrush.

The best warbler was this Bay-breasted.  We normally see few of these in fall though last fall they were more common.  I've heard that an increase in the spruce bud worm population in the Northeast has resulted in an increase in Bay-breasted Warblers among others.

American Redstarts searched for insects while pretty much ignoring me.  But they are so hyperactive it's difficult to get a good photo.

Several times I encountered a an unlikely trio of a Hooded Warbler, an Ovenbird and a Woodthrush.  I don't know if there was more than one trio or if they were just covering a lot of ground.

About 2 PM it seemed like passerinces were dropping in.  I was whistling my crude Wood Thrush song hoping to get one to maybe move into a better position for photos when a flock of Gray Catbirds flew in.  I counted eleven!  Several more were feeding in the firecracker bushes.

Then I found a late Yellow-throated Vireo.

And two more Philadelphia Vireos.

Ruby-crowned Kinglets are starting to show.

I love the bright green fall Tennessee Warblers.

Well, it was time to give Sheepshead one last check.  Another Yellow-throated Vireo was nice and I got a poor look at a late Worm-eating Warbler.

And lastly there was this one.  I guess it's an axanthic (lacking yellow and orange pigments) American Redstart.  It kind of reminded me of the female Taiga Flycatcher I saw in Sichuan, China but American Redstart is a little more likely.

It was a good day.  And a powerful cold front is due tomorrow so I may have to make another trip soon.