Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Sal del Rey - Phalarope Follies - 2-16-2016

I went out relatively late today with the early morning fog.  I decided to go up to Brushline road to look for Wild Turkeys.  You know Turkeys - bigger than a breadbox, not exactly an identification challenge - and a relatively common bird here.  The catch is, I still haven't seen one for my 2016 Hidalgo Co. list.  So I headed up to the ranch country in the fog. 

I puttered around Brushline Rd south of 186 for a couple miles, not seeing much and not expecting Turkeys, but letting the fog burn off some (ha!) and looking for sparrows.  I didn't see many (except a Swamp Sparrow just to annoy Huck) and the ducks are declining in numbers, but there were a nice assortment of shorebirds to look through. 

As the fog started to clear I went north of 186 on Brushline and listened to the nonstop musical Bewick's Wrens singing in the brush.  I got to the Sal del Rey access and decided to walk in. I'm not sure why.  I just decided forget the turkeys, time to go for a walk. 

It was still so overcast I was a half mile down the road before I realized I'd forgotten a hat.  I put three in the car this morning, but no,  there I am walking in the fog and no hat.  And the fog started burning off just as I got to the lake. 

The fun started with three Snowy Plover on the near beach that flew off before I could point the scope at them and attach the phone.  There was a mass of shorebirds about as far south as I could see, and they seemed so very very white and active I thought they had to be Wilson's Phalarope, but hey, it's February!  That's crazy talk!  So I decided to leave them unidentified and I scanned across the lake. 

Counting Eared Grebes in small clusters across the lake to the west took me a while.  These birds were so spread out and so numerous that I went through them a couple times scanning with the scope.  The third time through I saw ... a small white thing bobbing between groups of grebes.  I stared at it until my eyes blurred.  It looked like a Phalarope.  It looked a lot like... a Red-necked Phalarope.  It took me a good ten minutes to get to where I could get the bird where I could see it on the phones screen after I attached the phoneskope.  That's a record, and not a good one. The pictures don't show much but they show a white blur. Squint really hard and maybe you'll see a bird in the picture. 

About this time a flock of shorebirds is flying through the scope, and I followed them.  They looked a lot like Phalarope.  They looked a lot like Wilson's Phalarope. About 120 of them.  Flying in evasive patterns with nothing pursuing them.  They ended up joining the Eared Grebe flocks.

At this time it's heating up, the heat haze is making the birds look like Salvador Dali painted them, and the sun is beating on my bare head.  I also forgot water.  Duh.  I've only lived in south Texas for ten and a half years, still haven't learned. 

So I hot-footed it out of there.  Sorry for not sending alerts, but the birds were so far off in the heat haze there isn't much sense going today.  Try early in the morning, take a good scope, and don't forget your hat. 

Maybe next time I'll find the Turkeys.