Sunday, January 29, 2012

Tropical Parula - Quinta Mazatlan

I initially found a Tropical Parula at Quinta Mazatlan on December 17, 2011. I went to Quinta looking for a Tropical Parula, I admit, because one has wintered there the last couple of years, feasting on the oranges at the feeding station. I presumed the Tropical Parula was a male because it was singing, and an adult because the head was blue and not green. Here it is, from that day: Today as a part of regular research at Quinta Mazatlan, the Tropical Parula was captured and banded. Lo and behold, it's an adult female. The age of the bird was determined using Pyle (1997). The primary coverts are broad, in good condition, and edged with blue. The tail feathers are broad. The bird was sexed as a female by the dark blue cheek and lores, not the black of a male. It looks from reports as though there has been a Tropical Parula at Quinta since it was initially found. So if this is the same bird that appeared on 12/17 why was it singing then? It's a very pretty bird, and it will be interesting to see if she comes back next year. I sure hope so!
Thanks to Mark Conway, the Master Bander operating this station, for allowing me to band with him, and Mary from Minnesota for loaning me a Nikon battery when both my cameras died!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cheryl Delashmit's Photo - Purple Sandpiper, Port Mansfield, TX, January 23, 2012 - Willacy County

Here is a photograph taken by Cheryl Delashmit of the Purple Sandpiper she and her husband found at Port Mansfield, TX (Willacy Co.) on 1/23/2012. This is a first for Willacy County, and one of fewer than 25 records for Texas. I've taken the liberty of cropping the photo, and I provide the crop below the full size image.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

RGV Tracks and Signs - La Sal del Rey, December 20, 2011

Here's some photos of tracks and signs at La Sal del Rey, USFWS NWR tract. I took these pictures while covering the area on the La Sal Vieja Christmas Bird Count. The salt lake was nearly dry, but was still heavily used for roosting by Sandhill Cranes, Greater White-fronted and Snow Geese. A freshwater spring held the skeleton of a nilgai, an introduced and established ungulate native to India. Nilgai can be more readily observed elsewhere; I've seen more dead animals at La Sal del Rey than live animals. Nilgai are common throughout south Texas.
The skull was partly broken. It was not nearly as heavy or large as a cow skull, but larger and stouter than a white-tailed deer.
Nilgai tracks were all over the lake shore.
Here's the tracks of a coyote on the beach. I watched a pair playing on the sand in the distance. A freshwater spring is the focus of wildlife activity in that saline and arid environment.
The coyote and nilagi tracks were overlapping on the beach. Nilgai are far to large to be prey for the omnivorous coyote, but all the animals were using the spring as a water source. Nilgai use communal feces piles. These are small fecal piles, but the largest I saw on the beach. They are always at the center of a web of tracks of nilgai coming and going. There were a lot more nilgai tracks, with calves skittering and bucking near cows. And yes, I did look up and find some birds, too!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Mountain Bluebird - Santa Ana NWR

Here's a couple of photos of the female Mountain Bluebird at Santa Ana NWR. The long winged profile (compared to Eastern Bluebird) is evident here, as is the sky-blue rump and tail. This is the first winter with Mountain Bluebirds in Hidalgo County since I moved here in 2006. The first birds found were a pair in San Juan that did not remain. There are several in western Hidalgo County as well.