Saturday, April 7, 2012

Allen Williams - Crimson-collared Grosbeak - April 7, 2012

I went to Allen William's backyard today to look for his long-staying Crimson-collared Grosbeak. This bird has been present with some gaps since November. I was pleased to see the bird shortly after I arrived, and surprised to see and hear the bird singing. I thought this bird was an adult female when it turned up in the fall, as the wing coverts lacked the "spangles" of birds with reduced and poorly defined black cowls, the black head, face, and breast were sharply defined and extensive, and the bird had some brighter yellow tones especially near the black cowl. Here's the bird singing rather quietly while buried deep in brush.
She hung around the yard for at least 30 minutes. The black streaks on the breast are new or different since February (see links to others' photos below).

I birded around the yard until nearly 11 AM and finally got to see her again, singing away. I was able to see her back and rump better and was surprised to see body molt in progress with black feathers molting in on the rump and lower back. Males have black in this area, but not females. So I'm left with many questions and few answers. Is this the same bird that was present earlier? It was absent in early March for at least 3 weeks. I hope this bird sticks around a while longer, and continues to molt.
Here's an image of the bird from 2010-2011. Note the reduced hood.

Here's an image from earlier in 2011-2012. Larry Ditto took this in late January.

And one from February from Tom Johnson

I'd be interested to see any photos of Allen's Crimson-collared Grosbeak from late February or early March.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Packery Channel - Red Phalarope, Surfbird

April 1 (no foolin') I drove from Mission to the Packery Channel Jetties east of Corpus Christi, departing at 4:30 AM and arriving sometime after 8 AM. I immediately found the Surfbird with its admirers (fellow birders) already in tow. The Surfbird was on the north jetty on the inside, and passing boats usually had enough wake to flush it, but it always returned to the same general area.

I was watching the birders on the south side of the south jetty, and one couple kept working the sargassum on the beach and in the water. I tried to peek around the cars parked at the jetty to see what they were looking at, but I finally gave up and drove around to the south side, suspecting they had something interesting. Turns out it was Greg R. Homel ( and he'd found a Red Phalarope! Here's a few of my pictures, mere instamatic shots compared to Greg's great photos. The Red Phalarope even did a little surfing, but mostly it was actively swimming in the pond in the sargassum wrack line. At times it was hard to see behind clumps of sargassum or other birds.

Here's Greg's excellent flight shot of the Red Phalarope, (c) Greg R Homel. Posted with permission. Thanks again Greg!

I ended the day with the Prairie Warbler at Paradise Pond, a rare treat in the spring.