Saturday, November 23, 2013

To Laredo for White-collared Seedeater, Then Back Home, November 14

After a warm meal and a good night of sleep, I left Mission before first light for the 2.5 hour drive to Las Palmas Trail in Laredo to try for White-collared Seedeater.  I got a boost from free coffee at my motel and planned to stop to pick up breakfast on the way.  I stopped in Rio Grande City at a convenient McDonalds along the way to pick up my fruit and maple oatmeal and a two burrito breakfast meal with orange juice.  Soon I was on my way again, and arrived soon after sun-up, which occurs just before 7:00 am, and entered the Las Palmas Trail from the Zacate Creek side and walked toward the International bridge at the western or northern entrance of the trail.  There were more birds active than when I last visited this location in late October just before going to Louisiana for that successful trip.  Back in late October, it was still quite hot and bird activity was low.  This morning with the cooler temperature, bird activity was higher and with more migrants present.  I saw several Nashville Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers and Orange-crowned Warblers as well as House Wrens quite active along the trail near the cliffs.  A small finch flew over me from the west or north and headed back toward the International Bridge.  I suspect that it was a seedeater but could not get a good look at it.  The trail had been maintained since my previous visit and the high grass that I had been concerned about walking through had been cut on the trail.  Some dead snags had been cut and removed.  I had seen a request on-line by the local Audubon Society for help to maintain the trail.  The maintenance was successful in my opinion.  I walked the whole way to the trail head by the International Bridge at the end of I-35.  Just before breaking out of the trees, I found two Clay-colored Thrushes and got good looks at them.  I was nice to see this bird again after first seeing it at Sabal Palm Sanctuary at the feeders back in late March-early April.  Just after exiting the trees near the International Bridge, I encountered a group of 4 to 5 small, buffy colored birds with long dark tails in the bushes near a fenced in facility that looked like a pump.  There were flitting around in the bushes and the high grass and would disappear down into the grass and then fly up again to sit in the open.  At first, I thought that they were warblers because they were so small.  However, then I studied their bills, and discovered that this was a flock of 4 to 5 White-collared Seedeaters, primarily because of the unusual bill shape.  The upper mandibles were quite curved on a very short and stubby bill.  Then I noticed the white wing-bars on several birds, that were the shape of the wing bars on White-collared Seedeater.   This may have been a family group, because there were young birds and at least one male and a female.  I managed to get quite a few good photos.  See below.  This was the most number of White-collared Seedeaters that I had ever seen together.  Previously, I felt lucky when I found only one at a time on several occasions in the past.
White-collared Seedeater, first winter male,
darkish cap, buffy collar, distinct white wing bar
White-collared Seedeater, apparent adult male
blackish cap, white crescent below eye, white collar, dark smudge on breast

White-collared Seedeater, apparent female
buffy color, no cap, no collar
White-collared Seedeater, female
buffy color, thin pale wing bars, no collar 
These were the best views I have ever had of White-collared Seedeaters.  And good pictures too.  Awesome! least in my opinion.  Great addition to a Big Year.

I headed back to the Zacate Creek end of the trail to my rental vehicle.  I ensured my reservation for a flight to Dayton, Ohio and headed back to San Antonio.  I celebrated a bit for my good fortune in Texas and Louisiana where I had great birds and got good photographs.  I bought a first class ticket, actually the only one remaining, and enjoyed the luxury on my way back home.  I needed the rest and relaxation as well as a good meal.  Tomorrow would be a 10 hour drive to Delaware to be on the pelagic trip with Paulagics out of Lewes, Delaware.  How's that for becoming part of the jet set?!!

White-collared Seedeater is new for the year, raising the total to 697 +2.  Onward and upward! 


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