Thursday, April 4, 2013

Sabal Palm Sanctuary and South Padre Island, Wednesday, April 3

After picking up breakfast and on the way driving east from Pharr on 83, I had Black-bellied Whistling Ducks fly over the highway, my first new bird for the day.  I arrived at Sabal Palm Sanctuary and while I was paying my entry fee, Long-billed Thrasher (see photo) appeared right outside the office window, Clay-colored Thrush (see next photo) and my target bird, the immature Crimson-collared Grosbeak (see next two photos).  These photos were taken in automatic mode (T)and the lighting has been adjusted in the photos shown.  Thanks to Steve from UK on the tip about using the "T" mode on Cannon cameras to be able to focus in the low light conditions early.  It was cloudy and the birds loved to sit in the shaded areas, causing poor light for photography. 
A goldfinch came in to the feeder and was a Lesser Goldfinch due to the dark markings on the sides as it was changing into breeding plumage.  I arrived at about 10:00 am and over the next three hours, I added 19 new species for the year.  At the feeders by the current visitor center I added Yellow-breasted Chat, heard Ladder-backed woodpecker (seen later on the trail), Hooded Warbler, Plain Chachalaca, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Black-crested Titmouse, Hooded Oriole, Golden-fronted Woodpecker and Altimira Oriole not necessarily in that order.  Between 12:00 or 12:30 pm, I left the feeders to walk the trails and headed to the blind on the resaca to look for Least Grebe.   Thanks to a tip from a lady birder at the feeders.  I found several Least Grebes and one came very close to the blind.  See next photo.  As I was photographing the Least Grebes, a Green Kingfisher flew by from west to east and disappeared.   On my way back to the visitor center on the Resaca Trail, I heard a Great Crested Flycatcher giving its "wheeep" call and as I

approached the area where the call was coming from, I saw the Great Crested Flycatcher.  I left Sabal Palm at about 1:30 pm and decided to go to South Padre Island (SPI).  The volunteer lady at the desk said that a fall-out was expected due to the approaching front.  I drove to Route 48 and decided to stop at any spot where there were gulls, terns and shorebirds.  I stopped at a spot with a bridge across a waterway, where there was a congregation of gulls and terns.  Very quickly at this spot I added, Brown Pelican, Royal Tern, Caspian Tern, Least Tern
and Sandwich Tern.  In addition, there was a Cattle Egret and a two Neotropic Cormorants.  The Neotropic Cormornat was about two thirds the size of the few Double-crested Cormorants also present and with a light yellow throat pouch, not the bright orange facial skin and throat pouch of the Double-crested Cormorant.  The Neotropic Cormorant had the very pointed posterior part of the bill in the back corner of the "grin."  That was a quick addition of seven more species to make the daily new bird count 26.  Little did I know what was in store for me on SPI.
I arrived at the SPI Birding Center and Convention Center at about 4:00 pm and paid the entrance fee.  I checked the bird list and noted a lot of new birds for the year on that list! I grabbed my camera, telescope and tripod and started walking the boardwalks.  On the boardwalks I added, Least Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher,

American Golden Plover, Barn Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Black-necked Stilt, Reddish Egret (see photo) Tri-colored Heron, Little Blue Heron, Common Moorhen, Clapper Rail (calling), Roseate Spoonbill, White Ibis and Marsh Wren (at first by song, later also seen).  I walked over to the Convention Center to join the many birders there.   The list kept growing until it got too dark to see any birds except to look for nighthawks.  At the Convention Center I added Yellow Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Black-throated green warbler, Black-and-White Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Painted Bunting, Indigo Bunting and finally my last two new birds of the day, Worm-eating Warbler and Swainson's Warbler.

I met Greg Lavaty, who now has his own business leading birding tours.  I remembered his name from reading TexBirds.  Greg suggested that we watch the
water at the Convention Center just before dark.  he predicted, very accurately that the Swainson's Warbler would come in to the water as the last activity before dark...and it did!

At the end of the day, I had added fifty new species for the year and several south Texas specialties as well as my target rarity, the Crimson-collared Grosbeak.  The total is now 273. 

Below I have added a few more photos of some of the special birds--Hooded Oriole (left), Altamira Oriole (right), Green Jay, Reddish Egret and Olive Sparrow.



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