Saturday, December 8, 2012

Salineno Update - 12/8/2012

The Valley Land Fund has closed their half-acre tract at Salineno, formerly the feeding station run by Pat and Gail DeWind.  Volunteers Cheryl, Lois, and Merle were ready to move in and open the site.

I ran into Lois and Merle today at the boat ramp at Salineno, and found they were provisioning feeders on the FWS tract next to the VLF site.  From the river, walk south down the trail parallel to the river and you will quickly see the feeders.   They said it took the Green Jays 30 minutes to find the food when they were putting it out the first day!  I saw a wide variety of birds at the feeders including Audubon's Oriole, many Altamira Orioles and Northern Cardinals, nearly 20 species in the area in less than half an hour. 

Here's the message at the VLF site, which leads me to believe that the site is closed to birding. The boat ramp and FWS site remain open.  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Lesser Black-backed Gull, Falcon Lake (Zapata Co. Texas/Tamaulipas)

Crappy digi-pic of the near-adult Lesser Black-backed Gull on the left with a Laughing Gull.  This bird was in Mexico across from Zapata County, Texas south of Zapata on a private ranch.  Thanks to my Laredo friends, Raul Delgado and Glenda Barrera for inviting me on this scouting trip!  The bird spent most of its time in Mexico. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Masked Booby with Color Band off SPI!

Troy Zurovec took these excellent photos of the Masked Booby with a coded color band - one of three individuals seen off South Padre Island on the August 25, 2012 pelagic trip. I'm working on finding information on where this bird was marked, right now we're looking into potential sources in Mexico. Stay tuned!Note that the bird has the stainless steel band on the right leg and a coded color band on the left leg . The color band here is a blue band with white codes, and the code is 216.  I'm hoping to hear back from the researchers on where and when it was banded, and I'll update this with that information when I get it.  Many thanks to Robin and Troy Zurovec for permission to circulate these very interesting photos!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Vaux's and Chimney Swifts - NMNH

Vaux's Swifts from above

Chimney Swifts from above
Chimney, note the longer tail and less contrasting rump. The wings are longer and the bird larger as well .
Vaux's, note the short tail and more contrasting rump.  This bird was mounted in an unnatural position with the wrists pulled back. 
Here's the two together.  Note the larger Chimney with the longer tail, and the smaller Vaux's with the shorter tail.  And the rump coloration, again more contrasty in the Vaux's.
Chimney Swifts from below
Larger Chimney, smaller Vaux's.  Not sure what subspecies these are, that may account for the browner coloration of the Vaux's. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Christmas Mountains Oasis - Lucifer Hummingbird Haven!

Here's a link to Carolyn Ohl-Johnson's Christmas Mountains Oasis Blog. This private ranch and bird habitat is a magnet for desert birds and migrants moving through the area. Be sure to make arrangements in advance, as with so many private properties spontaneity will leave you on the wrong side of a locked gate. This site hosts many Lucifer Hummingbirds all summer.  These little gems are aggressive, and the chasing is non-stop.  An American Kestrel flew over and was chased by a mob. 
Varied Bunting is the other bird I associate with the site. The adult males are stunning purple, pink, and blue. You'd think they would be unmistakable, but I thought one was an adult male Brown-headed Cowbird. It was a quick naked-eye glimpse, but still... it's funny what the mind can do.
I was surprised to see this juvenal plumaged Varied Bunting, more because the drab plumage is a contrast to the adult male. Varied Buntings wag their long, rounded tails much like a Painted Bunting or a cuckoo clock. One of the best field marks for this drab plumage is the lack of field marks. I wish these transient plumages were better illustrated in modern field guides.  

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Rose-throated Becard at Estero Llano Grande - June 13, 2012

Here are some snaps of the last time I saw the Rose-throated Becard at Estero Llano Grande State Park, on June 13. Here she is checking out her nest, a compact construction hanging high in a palm tree.
She spent a lot of time gleaning bugs off the tree trunk or from the old woodpecker holes.  It was hard to see what she was doing, but she ended up with a grub in her bill.  Note: she has only one tail feather, perhaps because of European Starlings pounding on her. 
I got a couple of snaps of her in flight, showing off that single ratty tail feather but more importantly the beautiful cinnamon wings.  You can see how rounded the wing shape is, and some interesting emarginations on the outer primaries. 
I've looked for her at high noon a couple of days since and haven't found her - and now she's been missing since July 1.  She's vanished before, who knows - she may turn up again in short order!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Thailand 3 - Nick Upton - Kaeng Krachen area - Water Drip Afternoon

I had two days free between the WINGS Spoon-billed Sandpiper extension and the Peninsular Thailand tour. I had arranged to go birding with Nick Upton of at Kaeng Krachen, a national park on the Burma border. Nick picked me up at 5 AM on March 2 and returned me to the airport hotel late on March 3. In between was a whirlwind trip that was a real highlight for the birds, food, and company. I wish I'd had another day.  I'll post more about Kaeng Krachen and Ban Maka when I get the chance.  Here's a collection of photos from the afternoon of March 2 at a water hole on private property with a blind nearby. We were the only ones in the blind and we were treated to a constant parade of birds and animals coming in to drink. Here's Nick (on the right) with the owner of the site.
Here's the hide, which is more expansive than it looked . There were several folding chairs on either side of the tunnel. We were fortunate to be the only ones present, as the animals were obviously aware of us.  Reservations are recommended, we were just plain lucky the blind was open.  The shade was welcome!
We had a constant circus of squirrels (Burmese Striped Squirrel, Gray-bellied Squirrel (below), Indo-Chinese Ground-Squirrel).
and this Northern Tree-Shrew. I was surprised at these size of these animals! A life family for me, the Tupaiidae - whether insectivores or primitive primates.
A pair of Streak-breasted Woodpeckers came in separately.
These Racket-tailed Treepies were comical! Something about those blue eyes, even without the bowing display. 
Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush
Black-crested Bulbul, the real bulbul extravaganza was on the Peninsular tour, but I got a headstart on some here.  Black-crested Bulbul was not an ID challenge.
Three bulbuls at the water hole - from left to right, Stripe-cheeked, Black-crested, Stripe-throated Bulbul.  At least these are the bright, colorful ones! This photo shows nearly the whole pond.  It was quite small compared to waterholes we make in the LRGV of Texas, but it was just as attractive to the wildlife. 
This stunning male Kalij Pheasant strolled out of the jungle.  It was hard to get the whole bird in the photo. What a stunning bird, what incredible plumage!
Several different Lesser Mouse Deer or Chevrotain came in to drink. 
Note the fangs peeking out from the lower lip.  Not much defense when the whole animal is the size of a large Chihuahua. This one has been in a fight - note the cuts on the back. 
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, showing off its long, twisted tail feathers.  The tips were in constant motion  in the breezeas this bird waited its turn in the water!  I'm surprised the birds didn't splash all the water out. 

White-crested Laughingthrush.  I was surprised how shy the Laughingthrushes were as a group, and how social. They normally arrived in droves and stayed until all had a turn in the water. 
Emerald Dove, one of my favorites from Australia is also found here.
Tickell's Blue Flycatcher
Bar-backed Partridge - the scattered grain was a bigger attractant than the water, or so it seemed. 
This Yellow-throated Marten was one of the highlights of the afternoon. It came out of the shadows to drink, watching us as it approached the water each time.
Another highlight, a Scaly-breasted Partridge that strolled into the clearing. Unlike the Bar-backed flock, the Scaly-breasted Partridge came in alone. We did well on the gallinaceous birds. This was one of the first birds to come in. 
The roadside sign for the hide.   You'd never find it if you didn't know it was there! Don't ask me where it's located - ask Nick Upton, or the owners at Ban Maka. I had to guess at the location in eBird, let me know if you know which road it's on.