Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Finally.... Pinyon Jays in Texas! 1/4/23

Pinyon Jays staged a near historic invasion of west Texas this pastfall.  Actually, according to the Handbook of the Birds of Texas, there were regular incursions of the species in the Trans-Pecos in the 70's and 80's.  The last big occurence I can remember was not long after I moved to Texas in 1994.  At the time I wasn't particularly interested in the size of my Texas list so I didn't chase them.  Since then there have been very few seen in Texas so I still needed Pinyon Jay for my Texas list when the invasion started this fall.  My only run out there to the Guadalupe Mountains in November was unsuccessful.  But since then two large flocks, one in the Pine Springs Campground  in Guadalupe Mountains National Park and another in a residential area at Limpia Crossing near Fort Davis have proven reliable so I made another attempt to twitch the species last week.

My goal was to see them at Limpia Crossing as they were coming in to a feeder and were about 200 miles closer than the Guadalupe birds.  So after spending the night in Fort Davis I got out to Limpia Crossing at first light and it turned out a bit anticlimactic.  I mean I drove up and there were a bunch of Pinyon Jays scarfing up seeds at the feeders.  They weren't lifers as I had seen Pinyon Jays decades ago in Arizona and New Mexico, but they were a first for my Texas list and the first I had ever seen at a feeder.  Pinyon Jays normally feed on the seeds of Pinyon Pines but wander widely when seed crops fail.

Afterwards I ran down to Davis Mountains State Park to check out the feeding stations.  Not too much going on but there were several of the expected Woodhouse's Scrub-Jays.

I spent the rest of the day wandering along TX 118 looking for year birds.  It was cold and windy and slow going.  A stop at a normally productive stock tank was disappointing but did turn up a couple of Grasshopper Sparrows.

For some reason Acorn Woodpeckers were more common than usual.  This one was at the Lawrence E. Wood Picnic Area.

And just a few feet away was a sapucker which I hoped would be my Red-naped for the year.  But it proved to be much more locally uncommon Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Other than a few juncos, not a lot was happening so I returned to the State Park and scored my only Painopepla of the trip.

The next mornining I headed north toward Balmorhea with plans to check out the lake, but I couldn't resist a trip down the Boy Scout Ranch Road, RR 1832.  There were tons of sparrows, mostly White-crowns, Vespers and Brewer's.  Best was a brief look at a White-throated near the end of the road before the scout ranch.  But the best bird was a really out of place Northern Parula.  That would be rare even in summer.

Balmorhea Lake was procuctive as usual with lots of grebes and a flock with all three species of megansers.  Unfortuanately wrestling with the camera in the car caused me to inadvertently change a camera setting so my photos came out pretty poor.  But I got my Pinyon Jays so I can't complain.

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