Monday, February 25, 2019

Cameron County has been hot lately, 2/25/19

Yesterday I got the my eBird needs report saying that Martin Reid and Willie Sekula had seen two California Gulls at the Brownsville landfill.  So I ran over this morning and put in a few hours picking through the thousands of gulls.  The first California Gull to show was a second winter bird.  County bird #408.

The second was this first winter bird.

We  get a Glaucous Gull ever few winters.  This is the whitest I've ever seen.

I spent a lot of time studying this dark mantled gull.  It was the size of the nearby American Herring Gulls but much darker.  I never got a good look at the leg color but they seemed pinkish.  Eventually it flew and the spots on the primaries make it look like a Vega Herring Gull.  Willie and Martin Reid have had one here in the past.  Vega is a NE Asian form of Herring Gull that has yet to be split.

Finished with seven species of gulls at the dump.  Then I made a run over to the nearby Rio RV Park where I got the stake out Monk Parakeets.  I saw at least ten and I think there were more.  They had several nests in the palms as opposed to the birds nesting on the power poles in Hidalgo. This was Cameron County bird #409.

A couple of weeks ago someone found a Common Black Hawk on the resaca at the UTRGV campus in Brownsville.  I had a nasty case of stomach flu but made the trip anyway and got a poor photo.  This is a species I've been waiting a long time to see in the Valley.  I need to get over there again for some better shots.

And a couple days before that, a Cackling Goose was reported from Adam's Reservoir south of La Feria.  It was with a big mixed flock of geese.  Unfortunately the dike was cabled off so I had to walk in about 3/4 of a mile and even then the geese were still distant.  But I found the little bugger.

So I've picked up four new Cameron County birds this month.  Someone reported a Ferruginous Hawk over by the landfill.  I missed it today but may have to give it another try.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Yellow Grosbeak at Concan, 2/19/19

A couple of weeks ago, a photo of a Yellow Grosbeak taken at a private residence near Concan, surfaced on one of the Facebook Texas birding groups.  Yellow Grosbeak is a very rare summer visitor from Mexico to Southeast Arizona and New Mexico and there are no accepted Texas records.  The fact that the bird had atypically first been seen in late January and that the residence owner was not allowing visitation had caused me to lose interest in seeing it.  Problems with provenance and access was causing a "sour grapes" reaction on my part.

But the very nice residence owner soon realized that most birders were not as bad as he had heard.  He let a few visit to see the bird and was so taken by their passion and joy in seeing his Yellow Grosbeak, that he opened his house up to a controlled visitation by the birding public.  Another very kind gentleman in Concan took on the responsibility of taking a small number of reservations each day, accompanying the birders to the secret location and then overseeing their visit.  Word got out slowly about how to make contact and reservations and eventually I landed a spot on Feb 6.  Mary Gustafson and I along with a half dozen other birders waited over five hours for the Yellow Grosbeak in the nice owner's living room without success. We enjoyed his active feeding station with lots of goldfinches and Pine Siskins and even a Red-breasted Nuthatch but could not stay forever.  So Mary and I left at 4pm and on our way home got word the grosbeak showed up an hour later.  Arg!!!!

After this failed attempt I had pretty much given up hopes of seeing this potential first state record.  But Mary was more persistent and secured us another reservation for the 19th.  We met the other birders at a nearby restaurant as before and caravaned over to the secret spot.  No sooner than we had arrived but the kind owner burst through the door was excitedly motioning for us to come into the house.  Upon entry we knew why.  There was the Yellow Grosbeak feeding in his back yard!

When this bird comes up before the Texas Bird Records Committee, provenance will be the deciding factor.  Apparently Yellow Grosbeaks are occasionally kept in captivity.  The fact this bird was first seen is in late January is in contrast to most of the Arizona and New Mexico records which span from spring to fall.  There is a previous winter record from New Mexico.  However, Howell and Russell in Rare Birds of North America bring up that many of the Streak-backed Oriole Records in the US occur during winter and Yellow Grosbeak with a similar range in Mexico and similar migration period could easily wander at the same time of year.  I am still contemplating my vote.  Lots more study to do I'm sure.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Crimson-collared Grosbeak at Quinta Mazatlan, 2/2/19

A couple of weeks ago someone photographed a Crimson-collared Grosbeak at Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen.  I figured with the lush native vegetation, and in particular the numerous Potato Trees which they enjoy, this bird would hang around a while and be easy to see.  I made a couple of tries without success as did others.  But the bird was finally refound yesterday and today was brazenly feeding at the amphitheater feeding station.  This used to be a mega rarity in the United States but is now pretty much annual during winter.  I've lost track of how many of this Northeast Mexican endemic I've seen but it's always a treat.  This one has a few missing feathers like the Quinta bird had back in Feb. 2010.  Is it molting or maybe it's out of a cage?

Last weekend a lost Cape May Warblers was also photographed at Quinta Mazatlan but it has remained a no show.  Frankly I would rather see it than the grosbeak.