A week ago an amazing first Texas record of Yellow-footed Gull at Southeast Park in Amarillo was posted on the Texbirds Facebook group. Actually this first year bird has been present since early November and the local birders were passing it off as an immature Herring Gull. I've seen this species on the Pacific coast of Mexico and at the Salton Sea in California where a few show up every summer but that's been a few decades ago. This is not a species we were expecting in Texas although a young Yellow-footed Gull was seen in New Mexico just last year. As the bird had been present for over a month, I waited a few days and found a convenient time to make the 775 mile drive to Amarillo.
I woke up early the next moring and made the short drive from my motel to Southeast Park where a host of familiar faces were waiting for the Yellow-footed Gull. It was a beautiful but cold morning with most bundled up for the 28F early dawn. After a few minutes Petra yelled that the bird was flying in with the Ring-billed Gulls. I got on the bird quickly and managed some poor shots in the early morning light. The immature Yellow-footed Gull then landed on the railing of the fishing dock where it dwarfed the Ring-bills. I got a few more shots and then it took off and did a couple of laps and was gone. Martin and Sheridan had spent seven hours the day before without seeing the gull so I was happy with the view though better lighting would have been nice. Yellow-footed Gull was my 599th species for Texas according to eBird. This includes about eight species (four parrots, Egyptian Goose, Tropical Mockingbird, Striped Sparrow and the recent Cattle Tyrant) not accepted by the TBRC but don't get me started on that.
It was only 8:30am and I was greedy. The Nutting's Flycatcher at Big Bend would make a fantastic Texas bird #600. So rather than enjoy the very birdy park, I took off. Most of the other birders were off to see the Pine Grosbeak but I already had that one in the bag so I headed southwest. I only stopped to bird a city park in Lamesa and eat at a great Mexican restaurant in Fort Stockton, arriving in Alpine in the early evening.
I was up early the next moring and made to two hour drive to the Santa Elana Canyon overlook in Big Bend National Park where the Nutting's flycatcher had proven to be very reliable. Well for everyone except me. I spent over five hours scanning the brushy Rio Grande riparian vegetaion below and listening and got nothing. Actually I did see two distant Myiarchus flycatchers but the only calls I heard were from Ash-throated. Here are some poor photos that show a Myiarchus but not much more than that. Just a little more tail detail and I could make an ID.