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.