Sunday afternoon I had just finished exercising and was eating dinner and watching football when the WhatsApp dinged. Evan Farese had just found a Downy Woodpecker at the Convention Center on South Padre Island. Wow! That's a bird I've been wanting to see in the Valley for a long time. But gee I didn't want to drive out the SPI so late in the afternoon and after a long treeless journey down the coast I was sure that Downy would be there come the next morning. Then "ding" again. Evan had just found two juvenile American Flamingos at Laguna Atascosa. How did he get over there so fast?
Well Monday morning I got up early and ran out to the Convention Center on the Island and there was Brad McKinney looking for the Downy Woodpecker. His logic was the same as mine and he had not gone over to the see it the evening before though he lives close by. Well we looked and looked and couldn't find the Downy. I went over to the Birding Center and gave it a go but nothing. Arg!!!! Meanwhile the American Flamingos were being observed at Laguna Atascosa.
I had seen a juvenile American Flamingo many years ago out on the flats off TX 48 not far from Port Isabel. But I didn't have any photos so I thought I would give up on the woodpecker and go for the flamingos. When I got there the WhatsApp dinged and Mary Volz reported she was at the spot near the Alligator Pond and no flamingos. Arg!!! Well they got to be somewhere so I set up my scope at Osprey Overlook and bingo! Two scruffy young American Flamingos were feeding with the thousands of ducks, waders and shorebirds in the shallow receding waters of the Laguna Atascosa.
Early in September Hurricane Idalia passed over the breeding grounds of the American Flamingos on the northern coast of the Yucatan and apparently a large number of them were caught up in the hurricane. First larger than usual numbers were reported in south Florida where they are very uncommon. Then little groups of two to a half dozen were were found in locations scattered across the eastern United States. Eventually a couple were found near Galveston, and then at Port Aransas and now at Laguna Atascosa. The habitat at Laguna Atascosa is quite similar to the shallow lakes in southern Argentina where I recently observed many Chilean Flamingos. So I think these youngsters will be able to find plenty of small crustaceans to eat and maybe they will hang around a while. I'm not sure what will happen to the birds up north as the powerful cold front approaches. American Flamings are not normally migratory so the question is "Will they know to go south when it gets cold?" Anyway lots of birders have found their lifer American Flamingos this fall and I'm sure the story isn't over.
Meanwhile I bet that Downy Woodpecker is still on South Padre Island and hopefully it will be refound.