Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Three Brothers One Love - Day 2 of LRGV (22Oct2017)

The Saga Continues.....

Saturday night I checked eBird to see what went wrong with our Aplomado chase from the previous evening and found that most sightings were on a stretch of road we completely missed on the way to Laguna Atascosa.  So the plan was to head back east from Brownsville and mop up that species.  But first we decided to hit the early morning passerines at nearby Resaca de la Palma State Park.  Resacas are old oxbow lakes or ponds that initially were a bend in a river but are cut off from the flow of the river.  This network of ponds used to be fed by the Rio Grande but the river took a big detour and now they are slowly drying up.

My brothers were harassing some birds nearby when I saw this Western Tanager.

These Green Parakeets were not IDed at the time but now I see the long tails make them Parakeets and Monk is eliminated by the lack of gray bibs.

Black-crested Titmouse is clearly a more dapper bird than our resident Tufted Titmouse.

Hmm... we had several confusing fall warblers and I think this might be an Orange-crowned but to be honest we did not get great looks.

Green Jay

Altamira Oriole - not a very smart looking one.  The black bib is pinched in the neck area compared to the Hooded.  The park was nice and the ranger that took us on a free tour was super cool but it was hot and the bird activity dropped quickly.  So off we went to look for our Falcon.

My brother spotted him first.  Keep in mind this bird was super high up and this image is cropped severely.

Aplomado Falcon!  He sat there for a while and we were in a bad place on a busy highway half on the shoulder so I had to be content with this sub par picture.  We turned on a nearby cattle road thinking we would see another but we never did.  I might have to come back some day to give this species a proper crushing.

Harris Hawks were crawling out of the wood work.

The White-tailed Hawks were ever present but never came close.

That is a windmill blade in the right of the frame.

Now that we had the falcon in the bank, we started our trek west with an eventual goal of Salineno which would be the furthest west we planned to go.  So a logical next stop was Estero Llano Grande SP.  It was still quite hot when we got there, in fact probably over 95 F.  So we hiked the trail going to the dikes overlooking the Rio Grande hoping to catch a glimpse of a Ringed Kingfisher but found out the wind actually dropped on top of the dike.  It was very strange and counterintuitive, a nice breeze down low and zero wind on top with the sun reflecting off the white gravel of the dike and causing us to sweat profusely just standing still.  I don't know how migrants can cross in such high heat and I guess many of them don't make it.  Thanks to Trump many more migrants will die trying to go to more and more remote areas to cross.

This Buff-bellied Hummingbird had the right idea and was nestled in the middle of a large bush taking solace from the brutal sun.

This Sora was spotted right from the Visitor's Center deck.

Least Grebe

Tropical Kingbird as confirmed by call and by the local bird guide also sheltering from the hot sun under the Visitor's Center veranda.

A Vermillion Flycatcher contemplating a dragonfly in the building clouds.  Eventually enough clouds moved in that venturing back out was possible and the park ranger told us about a resident Pauraque and Screech Owl so off we went into the ether.

This Common Pauraque was awkwardly positioned in the middle of a thicket so the shots were not what I imagined.  Yet another species I will have to return for....

This Eastern Screech Owl is a sub-species (McCall's) which may be split some day soon.

Quickly the weather turned for the worse and rain threatened so we hightailed it back to the veranda where the same ranger told us where we could easily pick up Bronzed Cowbird in some nearby fields.  It did not take long to find a large blackbird flock in the rain.

Great-tailed Grackles were everywhere.

Bronzed Cowbirds surrounded our vehicle while we waited out the rain and made hotel reservations for the night in McAllen. In hindsight we could have mopped up more target species if we had done our homework ahead of time but I had a couple crazy weeks of work right before this trip and had no time to plan a proper itinerary.  In the end I really enjoyed the fly by the seat of our pants strategy and stress free environment of hanging with my brothers and not worrying about what bird we needed to see next.  My brothers are not hardcore birders so they were more about taking our time and seeing the sights.

That night my older brother treated us to an awesome Argentinian Steak House in McAllen where we dined on grilled octopus and different steaks.  I had Flank Steak that was so tender it didn't require any chewing and I slathered on spoonfuls of Chimchirri sauce.  Soooooo Good!  Sorry to gross out all my vegetarian readers but when in Texas, steaks are on order.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Golden Day with a Cave ending (29Oct2017)

I spent several hours at the Fort Fisher Spit this morning in the rain and then a couple at the North end of Wrightsville Beach in the afternoon.  Both sessions were good.

A Pectoral in the rain warrants a close look.  Harry Sell had a Sharp-tailed SP at this spot in the not so distant past.  This bird just looked weird, but that might be just because it was soaked and don't be fooled by the size difference, it was further back than the plovers and slightly larger.

One of the reasons I don't fish anymore.  This Caspian was sporting some fishing tackle jewelry around his neck.  Hopefully not a death sentence.

It is an unusual event to find one American Golden Plover on the beach, but 7!!!  I ended up calling Sam and bringing him down to look at them too. We looked through them pretty hard hoping to find one that might be a Pacific or European but none of them were standing out enough.  One was obviously lighter colored than the rest and had more white under tail, but it was probably just natural variation within species.

The interesting one in center of frame.

Here you can see some white in the folded primary feathers.

And again some white but that might just be a lighting artifact.

All gray underwing means this is not a European Golden Plover.

All 7 in one shot which is not easy with a fixed 400mm lens.

Again some nice white in the underwing and on top but not enough to make really interesting.

Look at those long wings... A Pacific would have shorter primary projection.

Sorry folks for all the pics, but I am hoping an expert notices something I am not.

Then in the afternoon at the North end of Wrightsville Beach, a good 20 miles from the spit, the first interesting bird we run into is an American Golden Plover!!  WTF.

Garbled Modwit

10 or more Lesser Black-backed Gulls walk onto a bar......

I had to get going because I promised to drive my youngest to a pizza party and as I am running back into the parking lot at the north end, I notice a large group of swallows forming.

This Tree Swallow only had one wing and was flying in circles.

You are so gullible, his other wing is just hidden.

Another Tree - most of the swallows were Barn but I was focusing in on the square tailed birds hoping for a Cave or even a Cliff.


Cave Swallow!!!  Light buffy throat.  I have good recent experience picking these out as I was recently in the LRGV in Texas.  Cliff Swallows have a darker throat with a more defined break between throat and belly.

The money shot - the tawny rump, forehead and throat all visible.

Then the cherry on top right before leaving, a flock of 10 American White Pelican wheeling above the marsh.

For those of you tracking, that is one New Hanover bird (pelican) and one year bird for NC (Cave).  Unfortunately Sam got 3 today for NH so he is widening the gap and unless he drops dead tomorrow, he will retain the crown.  I need to remember to get his head size for a proper crown.  Next year Sam.... the crown is never safe in this game of thrones we play.