Saturday, October 31, 2015

Greater Pewee, Anzalduas County Park - October 31, 2015

I was headed home from the ranch country (NO Collared Plover in Hargill) when I got a call about a second hand report of a Greater Pewee at Anzalduas County Park.   I was nearly home, so it was easy to go to the park.  After a fruitless search near the maintenance yard, I heard the Greater Pewee calling near an orange picnic table next to the diagonal road that runs from the restroom to the dock.  I found it on a broken branch under the canopy of some taller trees.  Here's a photo.  I hope it sticks around for the winter!


Monday, September 7, 2015

Odd mix of migrants at NBC

Today at the National Butterfly Center (DON'T call  me NABA) I had a fun mix of migrants in the forest trail.  First up was a female plumaged Varied Bunting, with a nicely curved culmen and unstreaked breast.  The rounded blue tail was vigorously shaken in my direction before she headed back to the sorghum field that was being harvested next door.   Next was a female or immature MacGillivray's  Warbler with a nice split eyering.  Interestingly I didn't see a Mourning until the second pass through, and then I saw at least four along with a repeat appearance by the Mac's.  Last goodie of the day was a dull plumaged Tropical Parula, with no white crescents on the face, dark lores, and an extensive yellow breast lacking the dark crescent and apparently lacking the orange wash.

The most common migrants and others were Willow and Least Flycatcher, Canada Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Clay-colored Thrush (many juvs), Blue Grosbeak, Dickcissel, and more.  It was a fun couple hours since I couldn't get farther from home today.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Hermit Warbler at SPI Convention Center August 30, 2015

Thanks to those that found this lovely (if drab) female Hermit Warbler at the South Padre Island Convention Center.  This was a pop quiz I wasn't ready for right after the pelagic!  The intensity of the darker cheek was variable, but the birds overall plain plumage eliminated other similar species.  

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Birding "THE MAX" Max A. Mandel Golf Course, Laredo - August 23, 2015

Today I had the pleasure of birding at "The Max" or Max A, Mandel Golf Course in Laredo, Texas with Laredo birder Raul D.  Access could change, so call ahead or check for updates. At this time, birders are welcome, provided they are customers.  The Golf Course rents golf carts, which is a great way to see the natural ravines and Rio Grande overlooks.  For less than $20 you can rent a cart (room for two, niche in the back for a scope, pack, and water) and bird the golf course.  If you are hungry and don't have as much time to spend, you can eat lunch or dinner in the restaurant and bird out the back doors, overlooking the river.  There's no option to just park and walk around the course at this time.

Note that Red-billed Pigeons are secretive in the summer.  I'm more used to seeing them flying up and down the river at Salineno and similar areas.  The pigeons today were perching low in mesquite and other trees to feed.  They did perch in dead trees, but relatively small ones, not choosing exposed high perches like they do in winter.  I was also surprised to see one on a gravel bar in the river drinking.  Numbers of Red-billed Pigeons usually decrease markedly in the LRGV about Labor Day, so we don't know how long these birds will stay into fall.
Birders are expected to follow GOLFER's rules of etiquette, after all, this is a GOLF course.  This means that golfers have priority, so you need to park your golf cart and wait while golfers are playing, whether driving or putting.  Park, sit, wait quietly.  When the golfers are done, then it's OK to move on by them.

It's best to arrive early in the summer (check the website for the time the gates open  Park and you will be met by staff with a golf cart.  Take the cart and drive up to the store to pay for the cart before venturing out on the course.  Be sure to tell them you're birding and not golfing.  We headed out to the second half of the course first, working our way from hole 18 to the ravine between hole 18 and 14.  This is a good area in summer for Red-billed Pigeons feeding on Snailseed vine fruits.  We also had Clay-colored Thrush in this area.  Another good area for Red-billed Pigeons is near the tee at hole 9, at least summer 2015.
The areas looking over the Rio Grande provide great vistas.  After you have finished running around in your golf cart, be sure to stop back at the store and view the Rio Grande and the small ranch cemetery out the doors by the river and to the left behind the fence.
Other birds today included Upland Sandpiper, Groove-billed Ani, Audubon's Oriole, Hooded Oriole, Clay-colored Thrush, Gray Hawk, and many more.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Tern, Tern, Tern... Common Terns on Boca Chica today

Here's a first summer Common Tern, smaller than the Sandwich, with a dark carpal bar and heavy bill.   

This second bird is the same age but has a less distinct carpal bar and a more extensive black cap.  It never gave me good views, and when it flew it headed straight to the horizon.  Still, the  legs don't look overly short and the bill is about "middling" in length.

 Here's an adult, which had some dark red on the bill and a gray blush on the breast.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Melanistic Dove at the National Butterfly Center 6/27/2015

All indications are this is going to be a strange year.  I spent a few hours this morning looking and listening for Dan J's Yellow-green Vireo at the National Butterfly Center (don't call me NABA) in Mission.  While I didn't have any joy with the vireo, which was singing heartily for Dan, I did have a pair of Bullock's Orioles pass through the area of the feeding station and cross the levee twice before 9 AM.

By far the oddest bird was an apparently melanistic White-tipped Dove.  Now you might ask why "apparently" melanistic or "apparently" White-tipped, and those are both good questions.  The bird was "apparently" melanistic because it was black, however it was missing a lot of feathers on the neck and the bases of the feathers was pale.  The area seemed "greasy" as though perhaps the bird got into something, but other areas of the plumage didn't appear to be anything but normal feathers that happened to be jet black.  So why "apparently" White-tipped?  Well, it's hard to imaging identifying a black dove until you are faced with one.  This bird had a yellow-orange eye but lacked the shocking light blue eye skin of a White-winged.  The tail wasn't pointed like a Mourning Dove, and the bird was large.  The bird also left the feeding station by walking through the brush barrier at the back and not flying out of the area.
If you go to NBC keep your eyes open for this stunning bird, I'd love to see some better photos of it!  The bird landed behind the food can and walked rapidly into the feeding station, almost immediately going nearly out of view behind the water feature.  As I saw it out of the corner of my eye I though "pigeon" but the second look obviously wasn't.  I wish it had been more cooperative, or I'd seen it a second sooner.  But that's birding!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Gray Hawk nest with five chicks!

Here's a great shot by Bill Supulski of the Gray Hawk nest with a record five chicks.  This is the largest clutch documented for Gray Hawks.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Bully! - Martin Refuge

I had the great fortune to spend a few hours at the Martin Refuge, a premier photo ranch in south Texas.  I could fill the blog with the hundreds of images of just these three species, but I think I'll leave it at this.  It's a spectacular experience!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Rusty Blackbird at Santa Ana NWR

I don't have any photo editing software right now, so these are full frame and not enhanced.  It was a dull and dreary afternoon at Santa Ana NWR - at least weather-wise it was.  The rain held off, and we were able to relocate one of the Rusty Blackbirds reported yesterday and refound this morning.  The location was originally Willow Lake #1, the small pond on the tram loop.  After JD arrived, it moved to the dike separating Willow Lake #1 from Willow Lake #2.  

This bird has a pale eye, rufous fringes on the tertials and flight feathers, and a thin bill compared to a female Brewer's Blackbird.  Note also the habitat selection as the area is a brushy swamp, quite different from the typical Brewer's Blackbird habitat in the Lower Rio Grande Valley (feed lots and big box store parking lots).  

Thanks to those that found it and reported it!  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Thayer's Gull, Brownsville Landfill, 2/14/2015

I went to the dump (excuse me, the Brownsville Sanitary Landfill) on 2/14 mostly because I could. There are very few dumps that allow birders access into the landfill, and I always enjoy the time I spent sorting through the gulls.  Others had found a Thayer's Gull earlier in the week, so I had my eyes peeled for a large, Herring Gull-sized first winter gull.  Here's the Thayers as I first saw it.  It looks massive compared to the Laughing Gulls.  There are some Herring Gulls behind it, and it still looks larger than I would  have expected for an Iceland Gull.  This bird is on the pale end of Thayer's Gull, yet to me it is too large and the secondary bar is too dark for an Iceland Gull.  
 I was entertained by the Thayer's Gull flying around chasing other gulls and returning to the same area in good light.  Note the darker outer webs to the primaries.  It was fairly windy so the gull was flying slowly (almost at stalling speed into the  wind) which made in flight photos easier to get.
It ended up close to the car, but not  near any Herring Gulls.  I guess that would have been asking too much!  If you go to the dump, go when it hasn't rained recently, take a high clearance vehicle, and stay out of the way of the trucks - both the workers and the dump trucks.  It's a rare treat to be allowed into a working landfill these days.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Brownsville Sanitary Landfill, Brownsville CBC

I took advantage of the Brownsville CBC to bird at the Brownsville Sanitary Landfill (aka the dump).  Since I was asked for photos of the Lesser Black-backed Gulls and am temporarily unable to crop or edit pics I decided to post them here.  Here's a mob of hungry gulls.  

And here's two Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  I'm the first to admit one isn't 100% identifiable here, but the dark first winter to the right of the adult Lesser (that slaty colored bird on the left) is a Lesser as well.  
And here's another bird. I had five total individuals for the CBC, with distinctive plumage features or age differences from the other birds.