Monday, January 27, 2020

New Yard Bird at Progreso Lakes, 1/27/20

My yard's sprinkler irrigation system has been a real pain lately.  The back yard would spray but not the front or vice versa.  But I finally tracked down my valves and decided today was the day to clean them out.  Well, after a morning's work I got the system working a little better so I decided I deserved an afternoon nap.  As I was pulling the blinds in the bedroom I saw something through the window in the bird bath.  Wow!  A beautiful male Pyrrhuloxia!   I grabbed the camera and ran outside being careful to not slam the door.  I came out firing just as the sprinkler sprayed at the bird bath.  Not much of a shot but at least I got something.  Yard bird #222.

This winter has been very dry locally and the brush country is experiencing some severe drought.  As a result many people are finding birds in their yards that would normally only be seen out in the south Texas brush.  We've been hosting as many as ten Northern Cardinals in our yard when usually we have a pair at the most.  We've also have a Verdin and an Olive Sparrow hanging around.  I'm sure the Pyrrhuloxia was attracted by the water was happy to find my lush native patch.  Audubon's Orioles are are also popping up all over the Valley so I'm hoping maybe I'll get one of them next.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Fork-tailed Flycatcher caps a great day, 1/12/19

I got up earlier than usual today with my plan being to drive our old truck to Brownsville to look for the returning Common Black Hawk at the UTRGV campus and then head out to Boca Chica beach.  The hawk took a few minutes to find as I scanned the resaca south of the Biology building where it wintered last year.  I was hoping for closer views but I'll take it.

The Black Phoebe was another campus target for the Cameron County year list.  This species was restricted to the western end of the RGV not that many years ago.

Warblers were hard to come by so I was glad to find this Black-throated GreenWarbler which was my first of the year.

I missed Green Kingfisher and House Finch but decided it was time to head for the beach.  After a straight run without birding stops I made it to the beach by noon.  A high tide made driving on the sand a bit dicey.  Birds were sparse, just the usual Laughing and Ring-billed Gulls, very few Herring Gulls, a few Sanderlings and one Willet.  Once I arrived at the jetty, I grabbed the scope and made the quarter mile scramble out to the tip.  Not much going on our here either.  I did get a brief look at a Common Loon but could only get a photo of the head.  Then it was gone.

My main quarry were Northern Gannets.  During the ninety minutes I spent scoping from the jetty tip I saw only five distant immatures, all headed north.

Closer activity consisted of only common birds like this Forster's Tern, Brown Pelican and Double-crested Comorants.

So I headed back south along the beach with plans to visit the mouth of the Rio Grande.  There were a few more shorebirds along the way, a couple of hundred Sanderlings, twenty Western sandpipers and a Dunlin.

I had just driven past the entrance and was wondering how I would make it through the cut with the tide so high when I got word that John Yochum had just found a Fork-tailed Flycatcher south of the Sugar House pond.  Dang!  That's a bird I need for Hidalgo County.  Well, it was 3:30 PM and the drive would take about an hour so off I raced.  Mary Gustafson, Huck Hutchens, Father Tom and a few others had the bird staked out when I arrived.  Hidalgo County bird # 406.  Pretty good day.

Steve Howell et al in Rare Birds of North America state the majority of the many Fork-tailed Flycatchers found in North American are not of the monachus subspecies from Mexico but are actually austral migrants from the nomimate savana subspecies from South America.  Either way, we sure have been getting more of them in Texas the past few years.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

American Woodcock at Santa Ana NWR, 1/11/20

Yesterday I ran over to Santa Ana NWR to work on my new year list and to get some exercise.  Birding was really slow.  There were ducks on Willow Lake but passerines were almost nonexistent with just a few orange-crowns and gnatcatchers.  So I was walking the Willow Lakes trail and had gone past the three overlooks and the overlook with the water inlet and berm and had picked up no new birds for the year.  Then I headed along the trail into the wooded area and I saw a movement under the trees along the water.  I could not believe what I saw in my American Woodcock!  I had only seen five of them previously in the RGV in 27 years and had never seen one along water.  And this was my first self found American Woodcock in the Valley so it was special.

Continuing along the Willow Lakes trail I saw precious little.  A brief stay on top of the tree tower netted nothing but Harris's Hawks.  But I could see birds in the distance on Pintail Lake so I headed off in that direction.  A couple of female Buffleheads were a nice find.

And then I saw a drake duck with a head of the most unusual green I've ever seen on a duck.  First thing I though of was the Eurasian Falcated Duck.  The green head had a chestnut tinge to it.  The sides of the duck were gray and it had a rump and black vent.  Then it came to me.  I was looking at a hybrid Mallard x Northern Pintail.  It even had a bit of chestnut on the breast with a faint neck ring.  Pretty cool.

Here's the list for the day.

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Hidalgo, Texas, US
Jan 11, 2020 8:10 AM - 1:30 PM
Protocol: Traveling
2.5 mile(s)
Checklist Comments:    Pintail Lakes and around Willow Lake
57 species (+3 other taxa)

Blue-winged Teal  25
Cinnamon Teal  2
Northern Shoveler  25
Gadwall  150
Mottled Duck (Gulf Coast)  10
Northern Pintail  25
Mallard x Northern Pintail (hybrid)  1
Green-winged Teal (American)  15
Lesser Scaup  2
Bufflehead  2
Least Grebe  14
Pied-billed Grebe  20
Inca Dove  1
White-tipped Dove  1
American Coot (Red-shielded)  80
Black-necked Stilt (Black-necked)  35
American Avocet  1
Least Sandpiper  20
Long-billed Dowitcher  70
American Woodcock  1
Greater Yellowlegs  12
Lesser Yellowlegs  2
Caspian Tern  1
Neotropic Cormorant  10
American White Pelican  4
Great Egret (American)  1
Snowy Egret  4
White Ibis  16
White-faced Ibis  26
Turkey Vulture  4
Harris's Hawk  7
Red-shouldered Hawk (lineatus Group)  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Green Kingfisher  1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Northern)  6
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  3
Crested Caracara  1
American Kestrel  1
Black Phoebe  1
Eastern Phoebe  3
Great Kiskadee  8
Tropical/Couch's Kingbird  1
Loggerhead Shrike  1
Green Jay (Green)  10
Black-crested Titmouse  4
Tree Swallow  5
swallow sp.  5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (caerulea)  4
House Wren (Northern)  1
Carolina Wren (Northeast Mexico/South Texas)  2
Long-billed Thrasher  1
Northern Mockingbird  2
House Sparrow  4
Olive Sparrow  1
Savannah Sparrow (Savannah)  1
Red-winged Blackbird  60
Orange-crowned Warbler  10
Common Yellowthroat  4
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)  1