Thursday, July 28, 2022

Snail Kite at Lake Somerville, 7-27-22

This past Saturday the fifth Texas record of Snail Kite was found at Flag Lake in Lake Somerville State Park in Lee County.  Most ABA birders know them from the Florida population know as Everglade Kites.  But Snail Kites also occur from central Veracruz in Mexico ranging far south into South America.  I've seen many in Mexico but have always wanted to get one for Texas.  I didn't hear about it till Sunday morning so I loaded up the car and got off about 10:30.  After geting as far as Odem, about 150 miles, I saw post on Facebook that the Snail Kite had soared up the with vultures and had disappeared at about 9 am.  Why the experienced birders on site waited so late to post this is beyond me and it really pissed me off.  That combined with the fact that past couple of Snail Kites have been one day wonders moved me to turn around and go home rather than continue the hot 350 mile journey.

I felt a little better on Monday as the Snail Kite was not seen.  I had saved myself a lot of driving and money!  But Houston birders, David Sarkozi and John Berner, didn't give up so easily and refound the bird on Tuesday.  So I got up dark and early Wednesday and was off by 3 am.  I arrived at the site at a little after 9 as hot but happy birders arrived back at the parking area with Snail Kite added to their life lists.  I made the hot one mile walk accompanied by a fellow retired high school AP teacher.  He taught AP Biology whereas I taught AP Calculus but we still shared a lot of positive thoughts on the College Board AP program.  When we arrived at the northern side of Flag Lake, a few birders wer still present and put us on the distant Snail Kite.  It was great to finally see one in Texas but the distant views were underwhelming.

As the small group started leaving to beat the worst of the heat, a pair of late birders showed up and I stayed to help them find the bird.  My good deed was rewarded with much better views.  The birders were happy and left.  I stayed by myself a bit longer to chase dragon flies and was the recipient of the best view of all.

Also present at the site was a family group of Mississippi Kites, adult above and youngster below.

Keeping with the kite theme, this morning I was checking out the birds in our Progreso Lakes yard and guess what I found.  This very distant south bound Swallow-tailed Kite was our first ever for July and seventh record overall.

It may be hot and nasty but there are birds out there to be found.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Teniente Tract, Lower Rio Grande Valley NWR, 7-23-22

Last Saturday I headed up north to check the local bodies of water in eastern Hidalgo County.  There was some good mudflat conditions at the Sugar House Pond and Delta Lake with lots of birds but nothing unusual.  By noon I had made it up to the Teniente Tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley NWR north of TX 186 to check out the butterflies.  It was pretty dry with few flowers and few butterflies but the birding was surprisingly good.  My whistled immitation of Northern Pygmy-Owl was really drawing in the birds, especially the youngsters.  Bird of the day was this surprise Bell's Vireo, a Willacy County first for me.  We start getting a few migrant passerines in July but we're right on the edge of the range of Bell's Vireo so this may well be a summering bird.

Some birds were obviously migrants like this Black-and-white Warbler.  The temperatures in the 90s was really giving the autofocus on my old lens some problems.  So this is all I could get.

Orchard Oriole is also a migrant.

I saw four Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and thought they might be migrants till I heard one singing.  They are pretty uncommon summer residents in the lower RGV.

Summer Tanager is another species at the southern end of its breeding range.  This scruffy youngster is pretty good evidence of local breeding.  An adult male was not too far away.

Least Flycatchers were obvioulsy migrants.  I found three of them.

This newly fledged Common Ground-Dove was in a plumage I've never seen before.

Young Brown-crested Flycatchers were looking pretty ratty.  They responded really well to the pygmy-owl calls.  So much so that I suspect they hear them regularly up there.

Here's a young Pyrrhuloxia feeding on prickly pear tunas.

At this point it was getting really hot so it was time to head home.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Sugar House Pond, 7/14/22

A brief stop today at the Sugar House Pond on FM 1425 north of FM 107 yielded quite a few shorebirds.  Just a narrow stip of shoreline around the pond but it was being used by hundreds of postbreading adults on their way south in every kind of ragged breeding plumage imaginable.  Peeps were represented by rusty Western Sandpipers with their long bills.

Short billed grayish Semipalmated Sandpipers.

And brown Least Sandpipers with their yellowish legs.  But they were so muddy leg color was hard to determine.

I didn't have time to count so I went with a rough estimate of 100 Stilt Sandpipers.  Notice the Long-billed Dowitcher photo bomb.

And I went with a 100 Lesser Yellowlegs also.

A flock of four Wilson's Phalaropes contained a juvinle plumaged bird along with some funky worn males.

Here's some mixed flight shots.  They make for great opportunities to compare plumages.

So it's time to hit the mudflats in 100 plus degree temps and find something good.  The famous birder who penned "Real birder's don't wear white" was sitting in the shade watching hummingbirds and not plying the flats in stifling heat.  Yes we do wear white!

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Sweatin' at Santa Ana NWR, 7/10/22

I wanted to go birding this morning but I slept a little late so I decided to see what butterflies and odes might be about at Santa Ana NWR.  I got there at 10:30 and it was already 90 F.  The Rio Grande Valley has had little rain and daily temperatures around 100 so I wasn't surprised to find dry conditions and little going on.  But birds were definitely active.   So after walking a bit of the tour road and getting my first Black-and-white Warbler for the fall, I decided to make the switch from bugs to birds.

Walking the Pintail Lakes trail in reverse, I stop to whistle a pygmy owl call and birds responded so vigorously I wonder if there may be a Ferruginous Pygmy Owl in the area.  One of the first to fly in was the first Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet I have seen since last year's February freeze.  It was a scruffy little bugger.

Along with some mobbing titmice, Couch's Kingbirds and Brown-crested Flycatchers, a young Verdin voiced his displeasure at my whistled owl call.

As did a White-eyed Vireo.

Along the river were several family groups of Groove-billed Anis.

A young Yellow-billed Cuckoo responded to my call.  It was so buffy below it had me thinking of Mangrove Cuckoo.  However the Mexican Mangrove Cuckoos that rarely show up in the Vally are much darker buff, almost orange, below.  And this one has the white edge to underside of the base of the tail.

I heard a Common Ground Dove calling so I whistled back and he immediately proceeded to copulate with his partner.  I guess he was trying to prove something.

Water was very low at Pintail Lakes making for some good mudflats with lots of waders and a few migrant shorebirds.  

Sorebirds included Killdeer, Lesser Yellowlegs, and Solitary, Least and Western Sandpipers.  Might be good to check it again in a couple of days.

Santa Ana NWR (LTC 059), Hidalgo, Texas, US
Jul 10, 2022 10:30 AM - 12:50 PM
Protocol: Traveling
1.5 mile(s)
49 species

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (fulgens)  3
Common Ground Dove  7
White-winged Dove  60
Mourning Dove  6
Groove-billed Ani  12
Greater Roadrunner  1
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  10
Chimney Swift  1
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  1
Black-necked Stilt (Black-necked)  40
Killdeer  7
Least Sandpiper  31
Western Sandpiper  2
Solitary Sandpiper  1
Lesser Yellowlegs  2
Neotropic Cormorant  15
Great Blue Heron (Great Blue)  1
Great Egret (American)  40
Snowy Egret  8
Little Blue Heron  2
Cattle Egret (Western)  2
Green Heron  1
White Ibis  8
Roseate Spoonbill  13
Black Vulture  1
Turkey Vulture  20
Harris's Hawk  1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Northern)  8
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  1
Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet  1
Brown-crested Flycatcher  10
Great Kiskadee  3
Tropical Kingbird  1
Couch's Kingbird  20
White-eyed Vireo  2
Green Jay (Green)  1
Black-crested Titmouse  3
Verdin  6
Carolina Wren (Northeast Mexico/South Texas)  2
Long-billed Thrasher  2
Northern Mockingbird  10
Olive Sparrow  3
Altamira Oriole  1
Red-winged Blackbird (Red-winged)  13
Bronzed Cowbird (Bronzed)  1
Brown-headed Cowbird  1
Great-tailed Grackle (Great-tailed)  2
Black-and-white Warbler  1
Northern Cardinal (Common)  1