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.

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