Sunday, April 7, 2013

Brownsville Area, East and West, Friday, April 5; 300+!!

I started birding at Oliveira Park in Brownsville at 6:50 am to look for Red-crowned Parrot, before the birds left their roost for the day.  I should have arrived at about 6:30 am, but wanted some breakfast to start the day.  However, if I had arrived at 6:30 am, the light would have been so poor that I probably could not have identified the birds anyway.  When I arrived, some of the parrots were flying around and a few groups flew off to the east or south.  However, there were still about 25 to 30 birds present, and I was able to see them quite well, if not photograph them well in such low light.  Sunrise was at 7:17 am.  I was able to identify Red-crowned Parrot flying by the solid yellow band on the tail in flight.  All  the birds had vacated the roost by 7:30 am.  Later a large parrot returned to the area and landed on a power line.  However, this is a Lilac-crowned Parrot, not an official bird on the ABA list, because it is an escapee from captivity.  See photo which shows the entirely green central tail feathers that are not present on Red-crowned Parrot.
I also heard a Common Nighthawk call several times.  The local Northern Mockingbird was not mimicking a Common Nighthawk.  This was probably a migrant Common Nighthawk moving through the area.  As I was about to leave the area, a kingbird showed up at the tennis court.  It landed on a light and gave a twittering "pip-pip-pip-pip" call of Tropical Kingbird, unlike the local Couch's Kingbirds.  I stayed for a while to study the Tropical Kingbird.  I was able to find a pair on Viking Lane near Oliveira Park and got a few photographs, which show the notched tail, the darker face patch and the longer thinner bill than for Couch's Kingbird shown in the next photo.   At close range the tips of the primaries for Tropical Kingbird are unevenly spaced for adults, which can be seen on this photo.  Note the thicker bill to the tip for Couch's Kingbird

(second photo) and the less distinctive face patch.  Despite these details in photos examined in close-up, this Couch's Kingbird was identified by the shrill rolling "breeeer" calls. 

After Oliveira Park, I headed to Old Port Isabel Road to look for Cassin's and Botteri's Sparrows and maybe an Aplomado Falcon.  It was a bit of an adventure to get to the eastern good birding part of Old Port Isabel Road.  There is a new bridge over FM-511, which is still closed.  To get to Old Port Isabel Road east of FM-511 coming from the west, I had to go south on FM-511 and then go north to make a right turn onto Old Port Isabel Road.  I added quite a few birds on Old Port Isabel Road--Cassin's Sparrow, Cactus Wren, Verdin, Whimbrel, Chihuahuan

Raven, Lark Sparrow, Curve-billed Thrasher (by the two noted whistled call), Vesper Sparrow, and White-tailed Hawk.  I also found a migrant Magnolia Warbler, gray winged with white wing bars, yellow under-parts with dark streaking on the side.  I was able to get a photograph of the Chihuahuan Raven showing the key identification field mark, the white bases to the feathers on the neck, the reason why this bird once was named White-necked Raven.  See photo.   I was also able to photograph a Cassin's Sparrow (last photo) singing from a perch using my car as a blind and lowering the passenger side window.  More often Cassin's Sparrows sing
on the wing and while returning to a perch or to the ground.  I did not find the Aplomado Falcon, but it is not a countable ABA bird.   Perhaps, there will be a later visit.  I met a birder friendly land owner, who told me that they show up near the railroad tracks in the evening.  Hopefully, he is not seeing the local Harris's Hawks.  While I was in the area, I drove east to the end of Old Isabel Road and back to the western end at FM-511.  There are a lot of Cassin's Sparrows, but I found no Botteri's Sparrows.  I can also get
Botteri's Sparrow in Arizona when the rains start in July, and there are other reasons to be in Arizona then.    The pictures of Cassin's Sparrow were obtained on my way back west, the second pass through the area, a testament to keep on trying.  I also heard and saw a Northern Bobwhite along Old Port Isabel Road.  I only heard Northern Bobwhite back in January while looking for Great Prairie Chicken in Illinois. There was enough time to try for Snowy Plover at the boat ramp on Route 48 west of Port Isabel or if not there, the bay access area just north of the Convention Center on SPI.  I did not find any Snowy Plover at the boat ramp on Route 48, but found at least four Wilson's Plovers; therefore, I continued to SPI and the beach access area north of the Convention Center.  There were no sail kite surfers present like there were before when I tried this area.  In about 15 minutes of driving the hard sand on the beach, I found two Snowy Plovers, a small very light colored plover with a black bill and dark legs.  There were two very cooperative Sandwich Terns at close range.  I couldn't resist a photo.  Just for fun, I stopped at the Convention Center to check on what birds are being seen.  When I arrived at the water feature, a Northern
Parula, was taking a bath.  This is a new bird for the year, which had previously eluded me at the Convention Center.  I stopped for a late lunch of a southwest grilled chicken salad at McDonalds.  Then, I headed to the World Birding Center at Estero Llano Grande State Park.  There were roosting Pauraques  there that can be seen in daylight, instead of seeing them at night when they are active.  Pauraque is a southern relative of our northern Whip-poor-will in Ohio.  When I arrived I inquired about Fulvous Whistling Duck on the bird list.  It was in Dowitcher Pond, which was on the way to the Pauraques.  At Dowitcher Pond, I found seven Fulvous Whistling-Ducks, at least eight Stilt Sandpipers, which are new for the year, as well as both Short-billed and Long-billed Dowitchers, which are no longer new for the year.  It was a short walk to the Pauraque roosting site at Alligator Lake.  I found one Pauraque (see photo) quickly, but did not spend a  great deal of time to find the second one. 
The Pauraque photo was very dark and needed substantial modification.  While at the Pauraque spot, Greg Lavaty, whom I met at SPI, walked up with a birding client.  They had not looked for/seen the Solitary Sandpiper, so I told them where it was.  I walked back to Dowitcher Pond again, just in case I had missed something, and on my way there, I found three birders looking at a Great Egret and two Yellow-crowned Night-Herons along Alligator Lake.  At Dowitcher Pond on the way to the parking lot, I found two Spotted Sandpipers, new for the year.    Greg Lavaty was headed toward the parking lot to look for a Cerulean Warbler that had been seen today.  I was headed that way, and joined them in the search, where we meet John from Massachusetts, a birder I had met several times at SPI.  The Cerulean Warbler had been first found by the park host right near his trailer.  Greg found the bird almost immediately, and we all got great looks at a Cerulean Warbler.  It was very slow moving, thus very visible and showed the cerulean blue head and the dark chest band and very white under-parts.   This was probably the best view I have had of a Cerulean Warbler, which breeds in southwest Ohio and spends most of its time in the canopy of tall beech trees.  There was still daylight available, so I drove to nearby La Feria Sod Farm fields to look for Buff-breasted Sandpipers and Upland Sandpipers previously reported there.  I found up to six Buff-breasted Sandpipers but no Upland Sandpipers.  There were distant American Golden Plovers with their heads raised, giving them a small headed look but upon close inspection in the telescope they were American Golden Plover.  Buff-breasted Sandpiper is a great spring addition to my year list.  Buff-breasted Sandpipers are rare in Ohio in the spring and usually only seen during the fall migration and then only a few birds.  There were a lot of American Golden Plovers, Pectoral Sandpipers, a few yellowlegs and at least one dowitcher and a Black-necked Stilt present in some pooled water.  I checked for Baird's Sandpipers but could not find any.  There was a flock of about 30 plegadis ibis present.  In the late day sun, the light was nearly horizontal and showed the facial features very well in telescope views at 30X.  The eyes of all these ibis were red, and the facial skin was red.  At least two of these plegadis ibis were developing the white border to the red faces.  These were White-faced Ibis approaching if not quite in breeding plumage.  I did not see any birds that looked like hybrids between Glossy and White-faced Ibis.

This was a very productive day, adding twenty four species.  I added Red-crowned Parrot, Tropical Kingbird, Common Nighthawk, Magnolia Warbler, Cassin's Sparrow, Cactus Wren, Verdin, Lark Sparrow, Whimbrel, Chihuahuan Raven, Curve-billed Thrasher, White-tailed Hawk, Vesper Sparrow, Snowy Plover, Northern Parula, Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Stilt Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Pauraque, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Spotted Sandpiper, Cerulean Warbler, Buff-breasted Sandpiper and White-faced Ibis.  The total list is finally now over 300 at 315!

1 comment:

  1. Great Photos Jay. Nice meeting you and best of luck finding great birds. Hopefully I'll see you on another exciting birding adventure. It will take me eons to go through all the photos. You should add a webpart that allows us to follow your adventures as you continue your Big Year. I can't wait for reports from Attu!