Saturday, October 31, 2020

Yellow-billed Loon at Lake Balmorhea, 10/30/20

When I moved to the Rio Grande Valley in 1994, I had recently seen Yellow-billed Loons in Arizona and New Mexico so I wasn't too interested when one was found in 2001 near Port Isabel in the ship channel.  But since then I started keeping state and county lists and I never got the opportunity to see aother Yellow-billed Loon in Texas till this week.  One was found 600 miles away at Lake Balmorhea this past Tuesday and I was looking at it on Wednesday evening.  The upturned straw colored bill and dark smudge behind the eye are good field marks on this scaly backed juvenile.

Also a bit unusual for the area was this Surf Scoter.  I've seen them at Balmorhea a few times.

This dark first winter gull was getting attention from the birders who had assembled to see the loon.  On the water below the dam where we were standing it looked small and it was thought to be a California of maybe a Thayer's Gull.  But you never rule out the most likely species which in this case is Herring Gull.  When it flew and I saw the pale window between the dark primaries and secondaries I knew it was a Herring.

I rarely get close shots of Buffleheads so it was a nice opportunity when this small flock passed by me on the dam.

Here's a late Franklin's Gull.

As usual there were many Clark's and Western Grebes on the lake.  Here's a Western Grebe and a shot of lots of Clark's Grebes.

I saw at lest fifty Scaled Quail in the little fisherman's community.

While at the lake I got word that Justin Bosler had refound the Yellow-eyed Junco in El Paso but it was in a gated country club and he had lost the bird and I didn't feel like driving to El Paso so I headed for home.  This Rock Wren at the overlook near Fort Lancaster in Crocket County was a poor substitute.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Hermit Warbler at South Padre Island, 10/20/20

Yesterday a Broad-billed Hummingbird was photographed at the Convention Center on South Padre Island.  I saw the alert on WhatsApp at about 4pm and decided it was too late to make the long drive ou there for this first Cameron County record.  Well I finally got over there at 9 this morning and missed the bird by a couple of minutes.  And then it failed to show over the next five hours.  I was about to give up when the WhatsApp dinged again and this time it was Javi Gonzalez over at the SPI Birding Center and he had just found a Hermit Warbler.  I saw the one at the Convention Center five years ago but I can't say no to a Hermit Warbler.  I guess this is an adult female.  So the string of lost western birds on South Padre Island continues.

Afterwards I returned to the Convention Center and found this late immature female Canada Warbler.  I don't know if I've ever seen this plumage before.

Yesterday I was looking for butterflies in our little brush patch at Progreso Lakes when I came across this plucky little Hooded Warbler.  It was only the second I've seen in our yard.  He made sure to keep a few twigs in the way to make photography difficult.

I'm still hoping that Broad-billed Hummer shows up at a feeder on the Island somewhere.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Scott's Oriole at South Padre Island, 10/6/20

This past Monday somebody found a Painted Redstart at the Birding Center on South Padre Island.  But being Monday the park's birders, Javi Gonzales and Britney Marchan, had the day off so the bird didn't get on the What'sApp alert.  I found found out Tuesday morning and promptly raced out there.  I spent a couple of hours observing Song Bird Alley with Javi and Britney where the Painted Redstart had been seen but no luck.  I also walked the board walk hoping to find it in the mangroves but it wasn't out there.  Maybe it had wandered to the nearby Convention Center.

So I drove over and planted myself by the water feature.  There were a few Gray Catbirds and Wilson's Warblers.  Then I noticed a bird overhead feeding on fiddlewood berries.  It was grayish green with big white wing bars and a fairly long sharp oriole bill.  What the.....?  A husky grayish green oriole with big white wingbars?  My brain quickly ran through the possible orioles and only one met that description.  It was an immature female Scott's Oriole!  Wow!  That's just as good or even better than a Painted Redstart.  In fact is was a first Cameron County record on eBird and my 414th species for the county.

I put the bird on the alet and Javi and Britney raced over and got ok looks at it but the bird was far from cooperative.  While seaching for the Scott's Oriole, Javi found a Brown Thrasher which is a pretty good bird for the Valley.  I've lost count of the number of Brown Thrasher's he has found through the years.

Next stop was the Valley Land Fund's lot on Sheepshead.  On the north side there were several Common Yellowthroats and then I spotted a little brown guy wagging it's tail.  I was pretty sure it was a Palm Warbler and eventually I got this interesting shot of it showing off its tail spots.

I haven't given up on the Painted Redstart yet.  I bet someone refinds it.  But for now I'm quite satisfied with a Scott's Oriole.