Saturday, December 17, 2011

Eastern Towhee at Quinta Mazatlan

I went to Quinta Mazatlan after lunch today with the idea of taking a quick look around in the rain and then heading home quickly. One of the first flocks that I encountered had 3 Spotted Towhee (a male and two females) and this Eastern Towhee.
It was great to hear this bird "chewink"-ing near the mansion later in the afternoon. The towhee flock moved off and this Tropical Parula came in with a flock of Orange-crowned Warblers. At one point it nearly landed on me! Later I saw it feeding on the orange bars by the amphitheater. The yellow breast is very extensive, extending to the legs rather than ending on the upper breast as in Northern Parula; the yellow breast is lacking a crescent (again as in Northern) but rather has an orange wash across the breast. The pale around the eye is more visible in the photo than it was in the field. I have noticed other Tropical Parulas here losing the pale edgings through the winter. This bird sang a few times in a large live oak near the amphitheater.
A quick call to Dan Jones and he came over to look for the Eastern Towhee with success. As we were birding around, this Broad-tailed Hummingbird appeared at one of the feeders at the mansion. Not the greatest photos here in the rain, but the tail had broad blue-green central tail feathers and rusty edges on the outer tail feathers. The throat lacked color in the gorget, and the lores lacked any rufous. It seemed to duck into the feeder when the Buff-bellieds were away.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Eating Crow - Royal Tern in Hidalgo County

I'm known for being a cynic - I may not be from Missouri, but I like to see photos or descriptions when I'm told about rare birds. There are a few species that I hear reports of, but never see documentation. I've come to question the status of these birds within Hidalgo County, an inland county in Texas.

One such species is the Royal Tern. It's common on the coast, but that's an hour away. I have heard many reports of Royal Terns in Hidalgo County but never seen one myself. I had no idea I was in excellent company - long time local birder Dan Jones had a similar hole in his county list. Today, I called Dan Jones about a Bonaparte's Gull at the Donna Reservoir - and he paid me back with a call about a Royal Tern that he found when he went to look for the Bonie. I still think many reports of Royals in the county are begging juvenal Caspian Terns. Juv Caspians are still peeping and following adults in fall and winter when most Royal Terns are reported.You can see the long, narrow, orange-yellow bill; white forehead with black extending from eye to eye across the back of the head; clear white wingtips with a narrow black border on the trailing edge below; narrow wings throughout their length; and more forked tail compared to Caspian Tern.
Directions to the Donna Reservoirs - from US 83 on the west side of Donna, take FM 1423 (Val Verde Road) south to Business 83. Follow 1423 east to its continuation on Valley View Road south, which bisects the Donna Reservoirs. This is a good area for diving ducks, herons, egrets, swallows, and gulls and terns in winter.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Surf Scoter at SPI - Until the Alligator ate it...

I was sitting at observation platform 7 watching the Pied-billed Grebes and ignoring the alligator this morning, when I saw a Surf Scoter swimming down the channel towards me. I was shocked to say the least as I was sitting in a fresh water marsh. I snapped off a few photos and my card filled up - just too many photo ops on the boardwalk! So I went to delete some images to free up space as the scoter kept swimming right at me. I looked down to delete another less than sharp Reddish Egret when I heard a loud splash. I looked up - no scoter. Also no alligator. I waited, and the alligator came to the surface with the scoter in its mouth. Now why couldn't it have grabbed a coot instead?
And the Hammond's Flycatcher was still at the Convention Center too.