Friday, April 28, 2023

A First Ever Cape May X Magnolia Warbler Hybrid? 4/24/23

For a number of years I have been the king of Willacy County birding.  It's been pretty easy as most local birders have better places to bird than Willacy County.  But I've been feeling the heat lately as graduate ornithology student Evan Fareese has been doing a lot of work in the county and more recently Ron Weeks, one of the top birders in Texas, had been hitting Willacy County hard in an attempt to add one more county to his amazing total of sixteen Texas counties with 300 species seen.  That's insane.  Anyway after the last front passed through they both found some really good stuff that I need for the county so I headed up there to see what I could find.

A stop at the Raymondville Cemetery turned up a needed Wood Thrush and Acadian Flycatcher.

Then I drove towards Port Mansfield making stop along the El Sauz Ranch.  A Golden-winged Warbler was another I needed for Willacy County list.  As I was trying for a photo another warbler stole my attention.  Bay-breasted Warbler!  Getting photos in the thick brush was tough.  I failed on the Golden-winged and managed poor images of the Bay-breasted.

A Yellow-throated Vireo was nice but I had that one already.

A Northern Waterthrush out in the brush seemed out of place.

Least Flycatcher was more expected.

The Port Mansfield Nature Trail seem dead when I arrived but a little work turned up a Swainson's Thrush and a Warbling Vireo.

Earlier in the day a Cape May Warbler had been reported from south Padre Island.  They are uncommon but we get a couple each year.  So when a Cape May popped up in front of me on the trail I was pleased but not shocked.  That's a nice bird for Willacy County.  My poor old camera struggled to focus on the bird as it moved through the brush so my photos were not very good.

I posted the photos on my eBird list and on our local Facebook group.  A little latter I get an email from Ron Weeks stating he thought the warbler looked like a hybrid of Cape May Warbler crossed with Magnolia Warbler.  My first thought was "Damn I don't want a hybrid.  I need a Cape May."  I had only seen the bird a few seconds and with the yellow scarf, chestnut cheek patch and black streaked yellow underparts Cape May Warbler was a pretty easy call.  But looking at the photos and the field guides I noticed a few discrepancies.  This bird has a white eye brow.  And the black streaking does not go up on the throat leaving the throat a bright yellow like on a Magnolia.  And the black streaks are much thicker like on a Magnolia and notthe the finer streaks of a Cape May.

A search on the internet turned up nothing on Cape May X Magnolia Warbler.  There was also nothing on eBird.  It's till early but apparently this hybrid pairing has never been recorded.  I posted the photos on the North American Hybrid Birds Facebook Group.  The few responses so far have been favorable.

So an inpromptu run up to Willacy County netted four new species for my Willacy County list running it up to 291 species.  I'm going to retract the 292nd, Cape May Warbler, on my eBird list and replace it with what may be the first ever Cape May X Magnolia Warbler hybrid.  We will see what happens.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

South Padre Island, 4/19/23

I got up early today and decided to drive to South Padre Island.  Turns out it was not a particularly good day for migrants numbers wise but there was some colorful stuff to photograph.  I was hoping the Townsend's Warbler was still at the SPI Birding and Nature Center.  It was gone but there was plenty of good stuff to see like this colorful Western Tanager, maybe the brightest I've ever seen.

The tanager was feeding on oranges near a water feature that attracted some other good stuff like this female Cerulean Warbler.

And this Blackpoll Warbler.

Nearby was a Swainson's Thrush.

And an Orchard Oriole.

Word was there was a Purple Gallinule out on the boardwalk in one of the alligator enclosures.  Didn't take long to find it.

Next it was time for the Convention Center.  For me the bird of the day was this surprise Swamp Sparrow.  It was coming into seeds that were put out for the buntings.  I think it's the first I've seen at the Convention Center.  Maybe I've had one in the cattails on the boardwalk but I don't think so.

Plenty of Blue Grosbeaks today.

And Indigo Buntings.

A stop at the Valley Land Fund's Sheepshead lot turned up more migrants.  This Kentucky Warbler was hoping for some privacy.

Other warblers were more obtrusive like this Wilson's Warbler.

And Tennessee Warbler.

And Northern Parula.

Back at Progreso Lakes I was drinking my morning coffee and looking out the window day before yesterday when I saw a distant red spot.  Binocs proved it to be a Scarlet Tanager so I made a mad dash for the camera and got some poor shots.  This Scarlet Tanger is the 248th bird species to be seen from our yard.

Still at least four more weeks of spring migration so here's hoping for more good stuff.

Monday, April 3, 2023

Surfbird at South Padre Island, 4/3/23

This morning my wife and I were trying to decide what to do for the day when the Whatsapp dinged.  New birder Danny Salinas reported "Surfbird on the flats north of the Convention Center on South Padre Island."  And he had a photo.  Wow!  As far as I know this will be the first record for the Rio Grande Valley and only the 13th for Texas.  Surfbirds winter regularly on the rocky Pacific coast of the United States and Mexico.  It is though that the birds we get in spring on the Gulf Coast are wintering birds from Mexico that have crossed the relatively narrow Ithmus of Tehuantepec to the Gulf side on their northward migration.  So I dropped Honey off at the gym in Harlingen and I raced out to the Island where I found Father Tom and other long time friendly faces looking at the Surfbird.

I had been thinking it was time for a Surfbird and was planning to make a beach drive in seach of one.  But now I 've got this one as my 426th species on my Cameron County list.  Maybe I can get one for Willacy County!  Anyway South Padre Island never ceases to amaze.