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February 1, 2017
I think I got up this morning about 7:30 or so, Texas time, which was 5:30 Kirkland time.† I felt ďoffĒ all day long, but I hope to adjust in a day or two.† I had the motel breakfast and was out of there by about 9:15 I think.† I had a lot of driving to do today, maybe four hours total, if I didnít stop or dilly-dally.† That doesnít sound like much, but I was eager to bird, not to drive, and as I get older, even four hours is a lot of driving for me.† I did fine, but I felt the time change (jet lag) all day long.† I managed it without coffee, anyway.
I had to be alert to speed limits all day.† On the interstates, it was 75, but on other highways, it could be anywhere from 40 to 75.† They donít usually give you any warning, just the one sign saying the new speed limit, so if you missed that, you could be screwed.† Off the freeways, it slowed down for towns, for junctions, and sometimes for no reason I could see.† I got a speeding ticket on one of my previous Texas trips, and Iíve read that they are very strict about the limits, especially for ďforeignĒ drivers. My rental car has Louisiana plates, so Iím ďforeignĒ here.
As I drove out of the motel parking lot this morning, I saw a little flock of NORTHERN CARDINALS.† I had my year-bird before I even left the motel.† There was a Northern Mockingbird there, too.† Two for Wednesday.
It was foggy as I got going, but it soon cleared.† There was a huge backup on the other side of the freeway, due to an accident in the fog, but my side was fine.† My first stop was at a rest area about 50 miles down the road.† As I pulled off, I saw a CRESTED CARACARA, a large falcon, land.† It is a very interesting bird, and I hope to get pictures before the trip is over.† I saw a couple more today, flying.
There were tons of TURKEY VULTURES today, maybe 3 or 4 dozen in all.† I tried to see if any of them were Black Vultures, and probably some of them were, but I couldnít stop to look at each one to see.† It takes a fairly good look to tell the difference.
I stopped south of Kingsville at a Subway and got a tuna sandwich, then stopped at the Sarita rest area to eat it.† I picked up Brewerís Blackbird there for my Wednesday list.† There were also a couple of GREEN JAYS there.† I think they are very attractive birds, so Iím showing three pictures today, of different views of Green Jay.† First, from underneath.
Here is my favorite shot, but unfortunately, the bird was blinking at the time, so the eye looks weird.† Green Jay.
Here is a front shot of a Green Jay.
Iíll probably show more pictures of Green Jays since I find them so attractive.† They are much shyer in April, when they are nesting, and I was only here in April before, so I didnít see all that many of them.
I pressed on and stopped at the local supermarket before checking into my motel.† I love H-E-B, which seems to be an independent Texas chain.† They are large stores, mostly, and the prices are really low.† I stocked up somewhat, although Iíll have to get dinners for the next two nights later.† They donít seem to sell hard liquor there, so I got a little wine and I need to scout out a liquor store.† I looked today as I drove around Brownsville, and I never saw a liquor store.
I got to my Holiday Inn Express (upscale for me; Iím moving up, in my old age) by about 3:15 or so.† In the parking lot I was surprised to see my first lifer of the trip Ė MUSCOVY DUCK.† I had hoped to see them in the resaca (a lake in an old riverbed) behind the motel, but I didnít expect to see them in the parking lot.† These are what are referred to as Muscovy Duck (domestic type) on eBird.† They are descendents of escaped domestic birds.† As such, they are sort of ďplasticĒ, in birder parlance, and I donít know if they are actually ďofficiallyĒ countable or not, but Iím counting them.† There are some ďwildĒ birds farther up the Rio Grande Valley, but they are hard to see.† Here is a male domestic (or feral) Muscovy Duck.
Heís not going to win any beauty contests, is he?† It turns out that the males have a crest they can raise, and here he is with his crest raised.
Is that a messed up face, or what?† The females are smaller, and look a little different around the face.† Here is a female Muscovy Duck.
I got checked in and moved in, and I headed out for Resaca de la Palma State Park.† I didnít have much time, but I wanted to check it out, to see if I wanted to go back there again in the next couple of days.† I paid my four bucks to get in, and I set out to walk the short trail from the Visitor Center, which was supposed to go to a couple of overlooks of a resaca.† There were some feeders at the Visitor Center, and there were a couple of Green Jays, a couple of Red-winged Blackbirds, and two or three Northern Cardinals coming to the feeders.† Here is a picture of a female Northern Cardinal.
I walked the quarter mile Ebony Trail, to the ďoverlooksĒ, and I saw absolutely nothing.† Nada, nothing, zilch.† No bird sounds, no birds sights.† It hurt to walk a half mile (round trip) on my poor abused torn Achilles tendon, and I had no reward at all.† Here is a picture of the ďresacaĒ at the end of the trail.
It was a waste of money and time, but I wanted to check it out, and now I know not to go back there in the next three days.† It is a big park, and there is a tram that runs around it every hour, which you can get on and off at designated stops, so there are no doubt places where it would be much more productive, but I donít think Iíll bother with it.† If I had half a day and I could walk, maybe I would go back, but as things are, no thanks.† I have some other ideas, at least for tomorrow, and after that, weíll see.
My last site of the day was Oliveira Park. There are 4 or 5 species of parrots that supposedly roost there, and they fly in at the end of the day.† I had the impression that if I was there at 5 oíclock, I could see them, so I went there.† It was pretty unpromising looking, but I figured I would stick around until 5:30 anyway, and see if any parrots showed up.
By 5:20 or so, I was getting discouraged.† I had driven around the park loop a couple of times, and on my latest round, I saw four guys with binoculars and a scope.† They looked like birders, so I parked and asked if they were birders.† They said yes, and I asked what they had seen.† It turned out they were from Ohio and hadnít ever been to Oliveira Park before, and they were looking for the parrots, too.† They had seen a couple of birds, though, and they showed me where they were.† The first one they got my onto was a TROPICAL KINGBIRD.† Here is a picture.
There is another kingbird species in the Rio Grande Valley as well, Couchís Kingbird.† They look very much alike, but their calls are different and they tend to live in different habitats.† I didnít hear this one call, but the habitat and the appearance make me call it a Tropical Kingbird.
They also showed me two male VERMILION FLYCATCHERS.† Here are a couple of pictures of one of the Vermilion Flycatchers.
Heís a very colorful little fellow.
I also got a nice picture of a Northern Mockingbird there, the Texas state bird.
There were LAUGHING GULLS flying around, too, another year-bird.† Year-birds are shown in ALL CAPS, you will no doubt remember.
I promised pictures of Great-tailed Grackles, the bird that saved my year-bird streak last night, and here is a distant, mediocre picture of a male Great-tailed Grackle.† It doesnít really do justice to the unusual tail, but here it is.
I saw a whole lot of them today Ė well over a hundred, Iím sure, but usually they were far away or I was driving.† Iíll get some better pictures later in the trip, Iím sure.
I gave up the parrot watch at about 5:40.† I wasnít sure if the parrots even still came to that park, and I didnít want to be any later getting back to my motel.† I had a lot of picture work to do and this report to write in this evening, and I didnít want to stick around longer.† I looked it up when I got back here, and it appears I need to be there later, like after 6 oíclock, to see the parrots.† Maybe Iíll see if I can manage that tomorrow and/or the next day.† The park is less than ten minutes from my motel, so maybe I can come back here and get started on my evening chores, and then bop over to the park at about 6:00 and try to see the parrots.† There are four or five possible species I could see, and three of them would be lifers.† They are somewhat ďplasticĒ also, like the Muscovy Ducks, because they are not native, and the three lifer species might not be officially countable, but I would still count them if I could see them and manage to identify them.
So, I left at 5:40, and on my way back to my motel, I saw a number of Muscovy Ducks at the south end of the resaca my motel is on, and also a small group of BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCKS, another one I want to get pictures of, because I think they are interesting looking ducks.
All in all, it was a disappointing birding day, although any day I get a lifer at this point canít be all that bad.† Resaca de la Palma State Park was very disappointing, and I was too early at Oliveira Park.† I had a lot of driving to do, and I ďwastedĒ a half hour of birding time at the supermarket.† Still, I managed to see 13 new Wednesday birds, to bring Wednesday to 73 species.† 9 of those species were new year-birds, to make my year total 126 now.† I even got my first lifer of the year, the plastic feral Muscovy Duck.† It wasnít a bad day, I guess, considering I had to drive 250 miles, and I did enjoy being on the road again.
I have some plans for tomorrow, and weíll see how that goes.
Thursday, February 2, 2017
Iím still adapting to the two hour time difference.† I always have problems with time changes, even the simple one-hour of DST.† Itís always harder for me going east, too Ė getting up earlier.† I got to bed at about 11 last night and was up this morning shortly after 7.† My poor old body still thinks that is 5 am, though, or somewhere in between.† I was feeling the jet lag all day long.
My first destination this morning was the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Park.† While navigating out of my hotel location, I picked up Great-tailed Grackle (I saw hundreds of them today) and Muscovy Duck.† As I approached the Palo Alto place, I saw this HARRISíS HAWK on a pole.
I drove through the parking lot for the park and saw some birds, including a couple of Northern Mockingbirds.† I couldnít identify anything else.† I drove out to the parking area for the battlefield overlook and saw a raptor hovering in the sky.† It was a WHITE-TAILED KITE, a bird I usually see in California.† I just missed getting a picture of it in the air overhead.
My next destination was Old Port Isabel Road, a well-known birderís destination.† It is unpaved and can be a mess, but it was in good shape this year, fortunately.† I was there twice before in April, and one year I could drive it, and one year I couldnít.
I saw some more mockingbirds, and then a meadowlark.† Both Western and Eastern Meadowlarks are around here in the winter, but this one sang for me, and it was an EASTERN MEADOWLARK, a good one to get, since you need to hear them sing to tell the difference.
A little farther down the road there were some Turkey Vultures and some Crested Caracaras eating something dead, in the middle of the road.† Here is a picture of a few of them.
Here is a picture of a Turkey Vulture landing between two Crested Caracaras.
Here are some Crested Caracaras taking off when something spooked them.
There was a gun range nearby, and the shots sometimes spooked the birds.
Farther along the road I saw a car stopped and a couple were outside of their car, looking at something with a scope and cameras.† That is always an encouraging sight.† It turned out they had a couple of APLOMADO FALCONS in their scope.†† The falcons were sitting on a power pole, pretty distant, but not too far for my trusty super-zoom camera.† I looked at the beautiful birds through their scope, and I took some pictures.† Here is my best shot of the pair of Aplomado Falcons.
That picture is kind of blurry, but considering the distance, I like it.† The Aplomado Falcon was just about extinct in this country, and someone who cared started a captive breeding program.† They released the birds into this area, and now they are breeding in the wild and re-establishing themselves.† It is one of the rare specialties of extreme southeast Texas, and I was very pleased to not only see two of them, but to get a recognizable picture of them.
Next I saw a couple of raptors in the sky, and I stopped and got my binoculars on them.† I got great looks at a couple of WHITE-TAILED HAWKS, a bird I had only seen 2 or 3 times before.† I spent so much time with the binoculars, being sure of my ID, that I didnít get any pictures.
A little farther along there was a sparrow-like bird on a fence wire, and I got this picture of my first SAVANNAH SPARROW of the year.
I didnít see anything else along Old Port Isabel Road, so I moved on to South Padre Island.† Crossing over the bridge to the island, I picked up BROWN PELICAN for my year list, and then OSPREY.
On South Padre Island, I stopped at a liquor store that I had found online and stocked up on bourbon for the trip.† After that crucial stop, I moved on to the beach north of the convention center.† Itís a big flat beach, and there were lots of people out there today, flying kites and having fun.† The sign at the entrance said 10 bucks admission, but no one was collecting on a weekday, I guess.
I drove down by the water and started adding year birds left and right.† I had counted Laughing Gull last night at the parrot park, but here is a picture of a Laughing Gull in its summer plumage.
Here is another Laughing Gull in its winter plumage still.
Here are a couple of ROYAL TERNS.
There is an unusual tern that I especially like, and here is a picture of a BLACK SKIMMER.
I saw what I thought was a dead one, but it turned out it was only resting.
I canít recall that Iíve ever seen a bird lie down like that to rest.† Since I like Black Skimmers so much, here is one more picture of a couple of them.
Here is a RUDDY TURNSTONE.
This is a WILLET.† There were a number of them there today.
There were three or four LONG-BILLED CURLEWS around.
I also picked up MARBLED GODWIT, SANDERLING, and BLACK-NECKED STILT for my year list, but no pictures of them today.† Are you getting the idea that this was a big year-bird day?
Here are a couple of FORSTERíS TERNS in their winter plumage.
That was it for the beach, and I next went over to the Convention Center, which is right next to that beach.† They have a nice little planted area for birds, and during migration it is a real hot spot.† I ate my humble lunch there (ham and cheese rolled up in flour tortillas, with some veggies) and I did see one bird I could identify, a Yellow-rumped Warbler for my Thursday list.
After I ate, I walked out onto the boardwalk that goes through a nice wetlands area.† I saw several COMMON GALLINULES, but never got a good picture.† I also saw my first BLUE-WINGED TEALS of the year, and I didnít get any pictures of them, either.† I did get a couple of pictures of a MOTTLED DUCK, though.
There were two or three SNOWY EGRETS there, and hereís a picture of one of them.
Hereís a picture of his big cousin, GREAT EGRET.
There were a couple of TRICOLORED HERONS around, too.† Here is one of them.
Here is another picture of a Tricolored Heron.
There were also some WHITE IBIS.
I heard a SORA calling a couple of times, and I had added it to my list as ďheard onlyĒ, but then I saw it briefly, so the ďheard onlyĒ appellation got removed.† It was too quick for me to get a picture, though.
I had a look at a LITTLE BLUE HERON, too, but didnít get a good enough picture to show.† I also added American Coot to my Thursday list.
There were at least two GREEN HERONS around.† Here is a picture of one of them fishing.† He just held that pose until he saw a little fish he could grab.† Green Heron fishing.
Here he is with his prize.
It wasnít a full meal, but it was a nice little tidbit.† You wouldnít know it from those pictures, but Green Herons actually have a fairly long neck, like other herons.† Here is a Green Heron with its neck extended.
That was it for South Padre Island for me today.† I might go back tomorrow, to get all those birds for my Friday list; weíll see.
On the drive back to Brownsville, I got this picture of an Osprey in the water.
It wasnít even three oíclock yet, but I was half an hour from home and I wanted to get back early, so I could start processing my pictures.† I also needed to stop at the store and get something for dinner.† My plan was to work on pictures for an hour or more, then head over to Oliveira Park to look again for the parrots.† I did most of my photo work, had a small drinkie, and headed out to the parrot park at about 5:30.† Last night I left at about 5:40, and I didnít see any parrots at all.† Tonight I got there about 5:40 and there were parrots around almost right away.† Success!
It was quite a spectacle.† Dozens of parrots flew in and perched on wires and then in trees.† They squawked all the time, making quite a din.† There were 10 or 12 birders there, with their scopes and binoculars and cameras.† (I wonder if I look as dorky as they do, when Iím birding.† At least I donít wear khaki shorts and shirts, like most of the other birders seem to do.)† We all had a great time looking at the parrots and trying to sort them out.† There are at least five species that show up there, I understand, and they look pretty similar.† Most of them are RED-CROWNED PARROTS, which is actually an officially countable species in several parts of the US, including here.† I think these are pictures of Red-crowned Parrots.
I think this is a LILAC-CROWNED PARROT, although Iím not 100% sure.
I have seen both Red-crowned Parrots and Lilac-crowned Parrots in San Diego in the past.
A new species for me was WHITE-FRONTED PARROT (lifer).
They were a little smaller than the Red-crowned Parrots, and they have a white forehead.
Also new for me was RED-LORED PARROT (lifer).
They have a yellow cheek and a red forehead, and their bills are dark, rather than orange.
By about 6:15, the uproar was dying down and it was getting darker, so I headed back to my humble room to have more drinkies and work on the new parrot pictures.
So, it was a banner day for new year-birds.† I added a whopping 30 species to my year list, to bring it to 156 now.† Two of those were lifers, too, and that makes three lifers on the trip so far.† I added 39 species to my Thursday list, to bring that list from 53 to 92.† Wow, what a day.† For my BAD bird, Iíll take Aplomado Falcon because it is such a great bird Ė rare and beautiful.
Iím not sure yet what Iíll do tomorrow. †I did so well today that I need to do some planning so I can get at least one new year-bird tomorrow, to keep that streak going.† I canít just repeat today, unless I happened to see something different along the way.
Friday, February 3, 2017
I slept fairly well last night, and I was up by about 7:15 this morning.† I felt less jet-lagged today, almost back to normal.† As I pulled out of the parking lot here this morning, I added White Ibis and Muscovy Duck to my Friday list, and soon thereafter I saw the first of hundreds of Great-tailed Grackles for the day.
I was heading for Sabal Palms Sanctuary, with the idea I would be sure to see some new year-birds there.† It is located on the Rio Grande River, on the south side of the border fence.† There was a Border Control car at the opening in the fence as I went in, and two of them as I left.† Trump has asked for 5000 more ICE personnel, but there are already so many of them that they must be stumbling over themselves.† Both here and in south Arizona, they are everywhere, so I imagine it is the same all along the border.
At Sabal Palms, as I drove in, I picked up Harrisís Hawk for my Friday list.† I went into the visitor center and paid my five bucks to go in.† I mentioned to the guy who took my money that I couldnít walk very far because of my torn Achilles tendon, and he kindly offered to open the gate so I could drive the couple of hundred yards to where the feeders are located.† I appreciated that.
At the feeding station, there were lots of Green Jays and several WHITE-TIPPED DOVES, my first year-bird of the day.† Here is a White-tipped Dove.
I also soon saw a GREAT KISKADEE, an attractive large flycatcher.
There wasnít a lot of action at the feeding station, so I decided to walk to the resaca overlook to see what I could find.† As I walked, there were lots of bird calls, but I didnít know what any of them were, of course.† Then I saw a large bird with bright white patches on its wings and tail fly across the trail.† I didnít have any idea what it was, but I looked into the jungle where it had gone, and I saw a nightjar of some kind sitting out in the open.† Before I could get a picture, it flew off again, with the white flashes of the wings and tail.† I guessed what it was from my brief look, and later I confirmed that it was a COMMON PAURAQUE, a great bird that I hope to see later in the trip as well.† This was the first time I had seen one flying.
There is a bird blind at the overlook, and I took up my post there and checked out the resaca.† Here is what the resaca looks like from the blind.
I soon added Pied-billed Grebe to my Friday list and LEAST GREBE to my year list.† Here is a mediocre picture of a Pied-billed Grebe, a bird I see frequently at home.
Here is a similarly mediocre picture of a Least Grebe.
Note the black stripe across the bill of the Pied-billed Grebe.† One reason the pictures are so poor is that the light was completely wrong, coming from behind the birds.† Nonetheless, here is a picture of the two of them together, Pied-billed Grebe and Least Grebe.
The Least Grebe is supposedly smaller, but you canít really see that in that picture.
There was an EASTERN PHOEBE fly catching over the resaca.† Here is a picture of the Eastern Phoebe.
A small flock of warblers flew through.† I saw what was probably a parula, but I didnít see it well enough to make the call.† There are two potential parula species there, one of them rare.† I was able to identify a BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER, though.† Here is a picture of that one.
There were also a couple of ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS in the flock, so that one went onto my year list.
A Northern Cardinal was calling repeatedly, although I didnít recognize the call, of course.† Here is a male Northern Cardinal.
There were also a couple of Mottled Ducks and a pair of Northern Shovelers there, for my Friday list.† A NEOTROPIC CORMORANT flew in and posed for me.
There were a few other ducks as well, including a pair of Gadwalls and a pair of Blue-winged Teals, both of which I needed for Friday.
On my walk back to the feeding station place, I saw a GOLDEN-FRONTED WOODPECKER in the woods, but too distant for pictures.† When I got back to the feeder place, the PLAIN CHACHALACAS had moved in.† Here is a picture of a Plain Chachalaca (I call them cha-chas for short when I talk to myself, which I do constantly).
There were also several BLACK-CRESTED TITMICE flying in for seeds.† Here is a picture of a Black-crested Titmouse.
They were really hard to get a picture of because they never stopped moving for long.† They would fly in and grab a seed, and be gone.† I caught this one as it grabbed its seed.
I love the Green Jays, and Iíll be taking a lot of pictures of them.† Itís difficult to get a good picture that shows the eye well, since it is surrounded by black feathers and there are blue feathers nearby as well.† Here is a picture of a Green Jay that shows its eye.
I have the same problem with the eye of Great Kiskadee.† Here is my best picture of the eye of a Great Kiskadee.
I didnít get a picture, but a couple of times an OLIVE SPARROW came in and got a drink of water and immediately left again.† Iíd love to get a picture of one, but weíll see.† I also got a brief look through the leaves of a LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKER, another one Iíll be trying to get a picture of.
It was after noon by then, so I decided to move on.† Before I left I availed myself of their convenient outdoor bathroom, and after taking care of that, I took one last look at the feeder area, and was surprised and pleased to see an oriole at the feeding table.† Here are a couple of pictures of an ALTAMIRA ORIOLE.
The Green Jays didnít let the oriole stick around long, though, and they soon reclaimed the table.† I had been sitting close enough to that table to discourage feeding there, obviously, because as soon as I left, the oriole showed up, and then the jays took over.† Here are five Green Jays feeding at the table right after I left.
I finally pulled myself away and headed out.† I could have gone over to South Padre Island and gotten a bunch more Friday birds, but I would only be stealing them from my April Texas coast trip and California trips later in the year, so I decided to head back to Old Port Isobel Road instead.† I hoped to find Northern Bobwhite, but also wanted to try to see the other birds I had seen there yesterday, especially White-tailed Hawk and Aplomado Falcon.
While I drove I ate my humble lunch Ė ham and cheese tortilla roll ups and vegetables (carrots, sugar snap peas, and mini-peppers).† My first success was a nice view of a LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE, a bird I usually see in California.† There wasnít anything else until I spotted a bird in a yucca tree near the road.† It turned out to be a lovely Aplomado Falcon.† I got pictures, and here is the best of the first batch.
I was much closer than yesterday, but the light wasnít good.† I moved on 20 or 30 feet and got more pictures through the yucca leaves.† Here is the one I like the best from that closer vantage point.
That was very gratifying, to get pictures of such a rare bird, but eventually I had to move on.† I saw a meadowlark, but it didnít call, and I couldnít tell if it was a Western Meadowlark or an Eastern Meadowlark.† Easterns are more common along that road, but in the winter, both species can be there.† Toward the end of the unpaved road I saw Crested Caracaras a few times.† None were close enough for good pictures.† I saw a couple more meadowlarks, and this time I watched one fly away from me.† I could see that three or four of the outer tail feathers on each side were mostly white, and that indicated that it was an Eastern Meadowlark, an excellent one for my Friday list.
I turned around when Old Port Isobel road hit Texas 100, and drove back.† You wouldnít think I would see much different on the return trip, but in fact, there were several new birds.† Here is a Savannah Sparrow, for my Friday list.
Here is a Northern Mockingbird.
I saw a whole flock of Long-billed Curlews flying as well.† At the point where the road crosses a watercourse, there was a Snowy Egret.† There were also a couple of Neotropic Cormorants, which I had already counted at Sabal Palms, and a Great Blue Heron, which I didnít need either.† A Belted Kingfisher flew up the watercourse, but I had seen that one at home on a Friday already.† Finally, there were a couple of Gull-billed Terns swooping over the fields, coming down to the ground regularly, presumably to catch some prey.
It was about 3:00 by then, so I headed back to the motel.† I looked out on the resaca behind the motel, and got this picture of a pair of Lesser Scaup, which I didnít actually need for Friday, but I like the picture.
I also got a picture of a Muscovy Duck in the water.† They might be a plastic species, but at least they do swim, and donít just hang out in the parking lots of motels.
I was back in my room by about 3:30, and I downloaded my pictures and started processing them.† I caught up on internet stuff and worked on my pictures until 5:30, enjoying a little libation along the way.† It was cooler today, and overcast, and it sprinkled from time to time as well.† Because it was darker out there than yesterday, I thought maybe the parrots would come to the park earlier today.† I got there at about 5:40 and indeed they were already there, in numbers.† I parked and got out to see what I could see.† There were other birders and also non-birder tourists there.† As I got out of the car, I heard someone mention a parrot species I wanted to see.† I looked where they were looking and got another lifer Ė YELLOW-HEADED PARROT (lifer).† Here is a picture.
My parrot pictures tonight are especially poor, due to the very low light level, with the overcast.† Still, you can see the birds, so Iím very pleased to have them, as evidence I saw the birds, if nothing else.
So, having gotten my main target out of the way (the lifer), I started looking at the other birds.† I soon saw another good one, Red-lored Parrot, and got this picture.
The yellow cheek and the dark bill are the markers for this one.
The birds were constantly squawking, making a heck of a din.† Here is a Red-crowned Parrot calling.
The birds had found a tree with some fruit, I think a persimmon tree, and many of them had fruits they were eating.† Here is a picture of a couple of Red-crowned Parrots eating what I think was a persimmon.
I still needed one species I had seen yesterday, and I spotted two or three pairs of smaller parrots on the wires, just watching all the action.† Here is a distant picture of a pair of White-fronted Parrots, with their white foreheads.
Their lower stomach areas and wings arenít really blue like that picture shows.† Thatís an artifact of the heavy processing I had to do, due to the very low light and the backlighting.† Getting any kind of recognizable pictures at all tonight was a challenge.
Here is another Red-crowned Parrot with a persimmon, if that is what they were.
Here is a shot of the parrot watchers, some of which were birders and some of which were simple tourists, come for the spectacle.
That picture makes it look lighter than it was.† It was getting pretty dark by then.† I left at about 5:50, which is still 20 minutes before official sundown, but the heavy overcast made it darker than you would think.
So, that was the end of my second full day of south Texas birding.† I didnít get nearly as many year-bird species as yesterday, but I did quite well, I think.† Most importantly, I had fun.† Iím just about completely adjusted to the time change now, I think.
I added 40 species to my Friday list, which is actually more than the 39 I added to Thursday yesterday.† Only 16 were new for the year, though, compared to 30 yesterday.† That brings Friday to 107 species and my year to 172.† For my BAD bird today, Iíll take Common Pauraque, since that is probably the ďbestĒ bird I saw today, other than the Aplomado Falcon, which I used for my BAD bird yesterday.
Tomorrow I move on to Alamo, Texas, which is a suburb of McAllen, Texas.† It is about an hour west of here, up the Rio Grande River.† I plan to spend the last seven nights of the trip there, visiting the many birding sights in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley.
Saturday, February 4, 2017
There were some mistakes in last nightís report.† I forgot to include the parrot expedition in my totals.† The correct totals were 107 species for Friday and 172 for the year.† I know that many of my readers are keeping detailed records, and I wouldnít want to mess you up.† My website has been corrected.
This morning was a ďpack Ďem up, load Ďem up, move Ďem outĒ morning.† I got out of Brownsville by about 9:30, I think.† A serious birder would have been on the road by 7, but Iím just a dilettante birder, of course.
My destination was Alamo, Texas, about an hour west of Brownsville.† I elected to go via the old Military Highway, US 281, rather than by freeway.† I was hoping to see either a Black Vulture or a Chihuahuan Raven along the way, but I didnít see either one.† I did see a little bit of stuff, though, and it was a much more relaxing drive than the freeway.† It was maybe 15 minutes more driving, but that wasnít a problem.
My motel parking lot Muscovy Duck was on post this morning, so that one went on my Saturday list.† I probably wonít see them again on the trip.† I saw tons of Great-tailed Grackles again today, as usual.† Here is a picture of a male Great-tailed Grackle that is a little better than the other one I showed.† It still isnít very good, but since Great-tailed Grackle saved my year-list streak on my travel day on Tuesday, I want to show a good picture of one.† When the light hits them right, they are iridescent.
Iíll get a better picture eventually.† As I drove away from the motel, I went around the block and got American Coot on the resaca behind the motel, for my Saturday list.† My route today took me through farmland and small settlements.† In one settlement I saw a couple of Great Kiskadees on wires.† There were a lot of American Kestrels today, too, and I needed that one for Saturday.† At one point I happened to turn off the highway into a side street to check something out, and I saw a lone Long-billed Curlew in the grassy field in front of a high school.† That was an excellent one for Saturday.† There were also White-tipped Doves all along the way.
At one point, I saw some large white birds flying, and I was stumped at first.† I thought maybe Snowy Egret, but the bill was yellow rather than black.† Aha Ė CATTLE EGRET.† I wasnít thinking about Cattle Egrets, but they do live in this area.† Here is a picture of a Cattle Egret.
I also saw flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds all along the way, another one I needed for Saturday.
By the time I got to my first actual birding venue, Frontera Audubon, I had 9 species for my Saturday list, and one of them was a year-bird.† Iím glad I took the scenic route.† By the way, when I got up this morning, everything was wet and there was a lot of standing water around Brownsville.† We must have gotten a fair bit of rain overnight.† It was very pleasantly cool today, low to mid 60ís.† It was overcast and I thought it might rain, but it never did.† Unfortunately, I heard that the cool weather is over and it is going to heat up into the 80ís in the next few days.† Bummer.† I liked the mid-60ís just fine.† It made the walking I did today much more pleasant.
Anyway, at Frontera Audubon I paid my four bucks (senior rate) and walked around.† It was very dead, no bird action at all to speak of.† I think Iím learning that even though the Rio Grande Valley special birds are here year-round, there are just a lot more birds around in April than in early February.† Maybe today was just a slow day, but it sure did seem birdless.
I did see a BUFF-BELLIED HUMMINGBIRD as I started my walk at Frontera.† I only got off one picture and it is terrible, for reasons I donít understand.† Here is my blurry picture of a Buff-bellied Hummingbird.
I walked the trails through the woods, and I heard birds (which I couldnít identify, of course), but I saw almost nothing.† The feeding stations were dead, with almost no birds at them when I went by.† I did see a couple of Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, which was nice.† Later I got some pictures of that species, but Iíll save them for later in the report.
I finally struck it lucky Ė very lucky.† As I started out on the boardwalk across their small lake/pond, I saw a lovely GREEN KINGFISHER.† It was an almost-lifer.† I only had seen that species once before, and it was only a fleeting look at a flying bird, as it whizzed past me.† This time the bird stayed put as I slowly approached, taking pictures.† Here is my best picture of a male Green Kingfisher.
He was the star of the day for me, even though I later saw a rarity that was also an almost-lifer.† There is another kingfisher species here in the valley that I really want to see, too Ė Ringed Kingfisher.† Iíve only seen that one once before, too.
I saw a Great Egret for my Saturday list, and then I found a bench under a tree, with a water feature and a feeder nearby.† I sat there for 20 or 30 minutes, and some birds did show themselves eventually.† First were House Sparrows, which worked their way slowly to the seed feeder.† Eventually some INCA DOVES came in as well, slowly and by stages.† Here is a picture of an Inca Dove.
A couple of Plain Chachalacas started to approach, but were scared off by my presence, I think.† They took to the trees, and I got this peek-a-boo picture of a Plain Chachalaca in a tree.
An Orange-crowned Warbler worked its way through the area and went onto my Saturday list, and a Black-crested Titmouse showed up but was discouraged by my close proximity to the seed feeder I think.
A pair of LESSER GOLDFINCHES approached the water feature.† It turned out they wanted to bathe.† Here is a male Lesser Goldfinch taking a bath.
The female joined him and really got herself wet.† Here is a female Lesser Goldfinch taking a bath.
Here is a picture of the water feature, the feeder, and my bench under the tree, where I sat for 20 or 30 minutes.
On my way out of Frontera I saw a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, another Saturday bird.
It was after noon by then, and I went over to Estero Llano Grande State Park, hereafter referred to simply as Estero.† I plan to go there just about every day in the next week.† I took my lunch with me into the park and paid my five bucks admission.† I looked around a little and added some birds.
I added Northern Shoveler to my Saturday list, and here is a picture of a male Northern Shoveler, with his goofy bill.
There were a number of Snowy Egrets around, another one for Saturday.† There also was a single White Ibis, and here is a picture.
I also had my first CINNAMON TEAL of the year, and hereís a picture of a male.
I also added Blue-winged Teal and Tricolored Heron to my Saturday list.† I got this picture of a male Golden-fronted Woodpecker at a grapefruit half.
There were several Least Grebes, and here is a picture of one of them.
Here is a picture of a male Green-winged Teal, which I didnít need, and a male Northern Shoveler.
I ate my humble home-made lunch about then, more ham and cheese tortilla roll-ups and vegetables.† I decided not to make the walk out to Alligator Lake to see the good birds I would probably see out there, in order to save my poor Achilles tendon.† I was walking well today, with only minimal pain, but I didnít want to push it.† I have a seat booked on the tram tour tomorrow at Estero, and I hope they will take me out to Alligator Lake.
I saw another Buff-bellied Hummingbird at a feeder, but I didnít get a picture because its back was to me.† I did get some pictures of an Orange-crowned Warbler eating on a grapefruit half.
A male Northern Cardinal came in to the seed table, and I got this shot.
Midwesterners and Easterners take Northern Cardinals for granted, but I find them very attractive and I enjoy getting pictures of them.
I decided to walk a little in what is called the Tropical Area of Estero.† In April it was loaded with birds, but not in February, at least not today, for me.† I saw some other birders in the distance, acting excited and calling to each other, so I hastened down there as quickly as I could go on my bum heel.† I caught up with them at the far extreme corner of the Tropical Area and I asked what they were looking for.† It was a rarity I had read about, but I hadnít expected to be able to see it.† I hung out with the gang and eventually it was spotted and everyone (maybe 6 or 8 people) got good views of a TROPICAL PARULA, a member of the warbler family that normally lives south of here.† The real birders, with their real cameras costing many thousands of dollars and weighing 20 pounds, were shooting lots of pictures.† I got very good looks at the bird through my binoculars, but when it came to getting a picture, I never could seem to find the bird in my viewfinder before it flitted off.† It was feeding and never stopped moving.† Here is the only picture I actually took, of the butt of the Tropical Parula.
Oh well, I can say I saw it, and I can say I got a picture of it.† It is an ďalmost liferĒ because I only saw the species once before, in the Texas Hill Country, southwest of San Antonio.
On my way back to my car, I saw a kingbird on a wire.† There are two species of kingbirds here, and they look almost exactly alike.† You are supposed to tell the difference from their calls.† This one didnít call, but I got this good picture.
I did some research online tonight, and Iím calling it a COUCHíS KINGBIRD.† There isnít any one feature that determines that, but the preponderance of the evidence says Couchís to me, rather than Tropical Kingbird.† The bill is short and thick, the tail has less of a fork in it, and the gray on the head is maybe different than on a Tropical Kingbird.† Also, the habitat was right for Couchís and not so much for Tropical.† Itís a controversial call, but Iím going with Couchís Kingbird.
I have one more picture to show tonight.† It is of a male Golden-fronted Woodpecker who found his own fruit to feed on, rather than one of the grapefruit or orange halves that people put up for birds.
I like the way his tail is spread out.
I stopped at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, and walked out to where the trails start, but I didnít have the time or the inclination to take even the shortest (one-half mile) trail today.† I will probably go back there sometime this week, but birding in the woods just isnít very productive for me, since I donít know the bird calls.† The feeding station there was very disappointing, although I did manage to get a brief view of a Green Jay there, for my Saturday list.† I also should mention that I saw Turkey Vultures several times today, and I needed that one for Saturday, too.
I made a stop at the local H-E-B grocery store to get some meal supplies, and then I checked into my new digs.† Iím staying at a place that caters to birders, one Iíve stayed at twice before.† I have a one-bedroom apartment with a full kitchen and it only costs $69 a night.† Itís a little more run down that it was a couple of years ago, but it is still an excellent value, and Iíll be very comfortable here. I really like having a full kitchen, although I wonít use the stove, probably, and a full sized refrigerator is more than I really need.† Iíll eat all my breakfasts and dinners here, though, and maybe make some of my lunches.† Itís nice to have the space, too, compared to a motel room.† The location is very central to the many birding venues in this area.
So, I traveled today, and the numbers arenít very impressive.† Still, I added 30 species to my Saturday list, to bring it to 94.† Not bad.† It is getting harder and harder to get new year-birds, of course, as I check off the local species.† I added 8 more species to my year list today, to bring the year to 180.† Itís going to be interesting to see if I can keep adding a new year-bird every day for the whole week that Iím planning to stay here.† That could be a real challenge.† For my BAD bird today, Iíll take Tropical Parula, I guess, since it is a true rarity and Iím not likely to see it again this year.† My favorite bird of the day is still the Green Kingfisher, though.
Tomorrow some of the local birding preserves are closed or only open half a day.† I have some plans, and weíll see how it goes.† In the morning I plan to go looking for a rarity that would be a lifer for me; itís been showing up regularly for the last several weeks, and I hope it is still around.† Tomorrow is the Super Bowl, so maybe that will hold down the crowds, but it probably doesnít start until the evening here in the Central time zone.
Sunday, February 5, 2017
It was foggy when I got up this morning, but I had a plan, and I executed it.† I got Great-tailed Grackle on my way to my first destination, McAllen Nature Center.† Once there, I checked in and got directions to the feeder station where a rare oriole has been seen.† On the way to the feeder station, I got this picture, through the fog, of a male Great-tailed Grackle.† It isnít the ultimate grackle picture, but it is a little better than the others I have shown so far.† Iíll keep working on it.† Here is a male Great-tailed Grackle, in the fog.
At the feeder station I soon added Northern Mockingbird to my Sunday list.† There wasnít much action at the feeders, as has been the case everywhere so far on this trip.† I had read about a leucistic female Northern Cardinal that has been there, and she came in and posed for me.
Leucism is a condition in which some pigments are missing in an animalís color scheme.† In that picture, you can sort of tell it is foggy still.† The fog gradually burned off, and it warmed up into the low 80ís today.
I got my first year-bird there, MOURNING DOVE, and here is a picture of a couple of them.
I also added Green Jay, White-tipped Dove, Orange-crowned Warbler, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, and Altamira Oriole to my Sunday list.† That sounds like a lot of birds, but I sat there for over 45 minutes, and I only saw one or two of most of those species in that time.† My pictures are crap, partly because of the fog.
After about 45 minutes, one of the two young women who were staffing the sign-in trailer came hustling down to tell me that the rare oriole had been seen up by the sign-in place.† I hustled back up that way, but was met by the other one, who told me that the oriole had flown toward where I was.† Then we heard the oriole singing.† I didnít recognize it, of course, but she did.† She played the song on her phone, and I could then recognize it.† I didnít want to count a rare lifer from sound only, though.† After a couple of minutes, I spotted the bird at the very top of a tree, singing away, sporadically.
It was a very tough shot, up into the bright foggy sky, from underneath the bird.† To make it worse, the bird has a black head, and I like to be able to get the eye in my pictures.† Here is one of my best shots of my lifer AUDUBONíS ORIOLE.
It was all puffed up for some reason.† After a couple of minutes, a Great Kiskadee (another one for my Sunday list) flew in and kept the oriole company.† Here is the Great Kiskadee and the Audubonís Oriole together.
Here is another shot of the Audubonís Oriole from a little different perspective.
Finally, here is a picture of the Audubonís Oriole with its neck stretched out.
Okay, thatís a lot of pictures of one bird, but I donít get lifers all that often these days, and I was stoked.† The go-to place for Audubonís Oriole in this country is a little town about an hour and a half up river from here, and this was only a 15 minute trip from my humble lodgings.† I donít think they show up anywhere else in the US, so itís a bird that all American birders want to see.† This one has been showing up here every day for a couple of months, I think.
On my way out of the park, I got this picture of a Harrisís Hawk, a good one for my Sunday list.
The fog was continuing to burn away, but wasnít gone yet.† Of course, my camera focused on the branches in front of the hawk, but it was close enough to the branches that the bird isnít that far out of focus.
I headed off to my next destination, Santa Ana NWR, and stopped on the way and picked up a Subway tuna sandwich and some chips.† I found a bench by a pond at Santa Ana and ate my lunch and enjoyed the peace and quiet.† I did add Northern Shoveler and Pied-billed Grebe to my Sunday list as I ate my lunch, and I got this rather distant picture of a Pied-billed Grebe.
Compare that picture of this next one of a Least Grebe that I took later at Estero Llano Grande State Park.
They are both small grebes, but the Pied-billed Grebe has a black band on its bill, and the Least Grebe has a yellow eye, among other differences.
Back at Santa Ana, I got this picture of an American Coot, which I didnít need for Sunday, but I like the picture.
After I ate my lunch, I checked out the feeders near the Visitor Center there at Santa Ana, but there was very little going on there.† I guess I did get my first Black-crested Titmouse of the day, there, though.
Next I moved on to the Progresso grain silos.† Trucks bring in grain to the silos, and some spills.† There are thousands of blackbirds that flock there to eat the grain.† The vast majority of birds are Red-winged Blackbirds, which I didnít actually need for Sunday, but I was looking for up to three other species that also show up there.† As it turned out, I saw all three Ė YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD, BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD, and best of all because I most likely wonít see it anywhere else this year, BRONZED COWBIRD.† I got a picture of a male Yellow-headed Blackbird, but not of the other two species.
The birds were flying around and making a racket, mostly waiting for me to leave, so they could get back to scarfing up the grain on the ground.† It was hard to get very close to them, and the sun always seemed to be in the wrong place for pictures.
After that I headed toward Estero Llano State Park.† I had a reservation to go on a two-hour tram tour of the park, at 2 PM.† I wasnít sure what to expect, but it was free, and I was hoping it would take me to some of the parts of the park that were too far away for me to walk to.† There were several species of birds I hoped to see on the tour.
On the way there though, when crossing over a river, I saw some birds of interest, and I did a U-turn and went back.† I saw a group of AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS, a great year-bird, and there was also a Great Egret for my Sunday list.† There was also a Neotropic Cormorant for my Sunday list and a single AMERICAN AVOCET for my year list.† That was a very nice stop.
I got to Estero early and after paying my five bucks admission, I checked off the birds I could see from the observation deck.† I added Snowy Egret, Blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, and Least Grebe to my Sunday list.† I also added WHITE-FACED IBIS to my year list.† I already showed the picture of the Least Grebe I took there, but here is a female Green-winged Teal.† I like the way her green wing patch is showing.
Here is a male Cinnamon Teal preening.
You can see his light blue wing patch showing.† Those last two pictures are actually two different crops of the same photo.† You can see the Cinnamon Tealís feet in the picture of the Green-winged Teal.† I was shooting the Cinnamon Teal, but when I noticed the female Green-winged Teal, I made a crop of her, too.
I got to the tram stop and almost all the seats were filled.† I ended up sitting next to the driver/guide, riding shotgun.† There were 8 customers, and I think I was the youngest.† I was the only one interested in birds, too.† The tour wasnít exactly what I had hoped for, but it was okay.† The young woman who led it did a fine job, but I just wasnít all that interested in all the trees and cacti of the park, which seemed to be the focus of the tour.† We did see a Little Blue Heron at one point, a good one for Sunday for me.† Here is a picture of the Little Blue Heron.
At that same place, there were some Least Grebes, and I got an interesting picture of oneís back end, with it looking back at its tail.
I keep seeing the same birds now, so Iím looking for unusual poses and angles.
The main point of taking the tram tour, for me, was the hope we would stop at Alligator Lake, thus saving me the walk out there and back.† We did indeed stop there, and we got to walk around.† Two of my target birds were on display, as I had hoped.† Here is a YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON.
I like the feathers flying off the back of its head in the wind.† In addition to about 7 or 8 Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, there were two BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS as well.† Here is a picture of one of them, through the reeds.
Our leader took us to where we could see two Common Pauraques (pronounced Pa-rackí-ee by most people), right next to the path.† Pauraques are members of the nightjar family, and they hunt insects at night and rest during the day.† These ones at Estero seem to be accustomed to having people walk right next to them and take pictures, because they didnít even open their eyes, and we were less than 8 feet away from them.† We werenít being especially quiet, either.† Here is a Common Pauraque, sleeping away the daylight.
Itís amazing how well they blend into their surroundings.† Can you see the long tail sticking out behind the bird?† Here is a close-up of the head, to show the little bill, which is right in front of the eye.
There was a Neotropic Cormorant out there, too, and hereís a picture.
That was on Alligator Lake, which is so-named because there are 4 or 5 alligators that live there.† Here is one of them.
That stop at Alligator Lake was the high point of the tour for me.† The rest was okay, but I would have spent my time in other ways.† Like I said, the tour leader did a fine job; it just wasnít my cup of tea.† Here is a picture of our little group and our tram.
At that stop I got this picture of an Orange-crowned Warbler.
After the tour, I walked a little in the woods.† I got onto a small flock of birds and added Ruby-crowned Kinglet to my Sunday list.† Then I got a good look at a BLACK-AND-WHITE-WARBLER, which is an excellent bird for this time and place.† A woman happened along then, and she saw the warbler, too, and we chatted a little.† She got me onto some CLAY-COLORED ROBINS, which I probably wouldnít have noticed if it werenít for her.† That was one of my target species for the trip.† She also noticed a group of three Cedar Waxwings, another good Sunday bird.† Finally, she pointed out a Ladder-backed Woodpecker, and I even got this distant picture, looking up into the bright sky.
During the day I had seen Turkey Vultures several times, too, for my Sunday list.
That was it for Sunday.† I got back to my digs about 5 oíclock, so it was an eight-hour day of birding for me.† I added 37 species to my Sunday list, to bring it to 105.† I got 12 more year-birds, which was great, to bring me to 192 for the year now.† I got one more lifer, which makes 5 lifers on the trip so far, and thatís outstanding.† For my BAD bird for today, I guess Iíll take Black-and-white Warbler.
Iím going to have to do some planning to be able to get another new year-bird tomorrow, let alone for the rest of the week.† As I see more and more of the local birds, it gets harder and harder.
Monday, February 6, 2017
I had three new places to visit today, and I got out of here about 9:00 or so.† My first destination was Anzalduas County Park, right on the Rio Grande River, which is the border with Mexico.† The Rio Grande has so many twists and loops in it that at one point in the park today, I was looking NORTH across the river into Mexico.† Weird.
As I approached the park, I realized I hadnít noticed a Great-tailed Grackle yet today, which was probably only because I wasnít paying attention or looking for one. †I did look for the last five miles or so, but didnít see one.† It was somewhat later before I finally got my first Great-tailed Grackle of the day.† I did see an American Kestrel on a wire for my Monday list.
Once in the park, I parked my car on the grass beside the road and walked out into the large grassy field there.† The idea was to flush an uncommon species that winters there.† Well, I did flush some birds, maybe 8 of them total, as I walked around.† The trouble was, they flew low and not too far, and they were flying away from me.† I got binocular looks at most of them, and based on what I saw, Iím going to count SPRAGUEíS PIPIT (lifer).† I heard one call once, and it sounded like the call on my phone.† The birds looked like pipits, and the other possible Pipit, American Pipit, has white on its outer tail feathers, and I didnít see any white on the tails of these birds.† It wa a most unsatisfactory sighting; Iíd give it a grade of D, barely passing, but Iím going to take it.† It was a lifer, but not really very satisfying.† One consolation is that the views I got are probably as good as can be expected.† I had a similar experience in Australia in 2004, when I got Ground Parrot in a similar manner, flushing the birds and seeing them very briefly as they flew away from me.
So, with my grade D lifer under my belt, I drove on into the park.† It was quite windy today, which was a hindrance, and the trees were sparse and most of the park was mowed grass, which limits the species you might see.† There were a few Mourning Doves, for my Monday list.† I saw a couple of Green Jays at one point, which was good, because I want to ďcompleteĒ Green Jay Ė that is, see one on each day of the week.† So far, so good Ė two more days to go, Tuesday and Thursday.
I drove all around the park, but didnít see anything else worth mentioning.† Back near the entrance, I saw a male Vermilion Flycatcher for my Monday list, and I turned around to try for a picture.† As I turned around I saw another flycatcher, and I chased it instead.† I was sure it was a Black Phoebe, based on good binocular looks, but I got a couple of poor pictures of what I thought was the Black Phoebe, and the pictures are of an Eastern Phoebe, I think, not a Black Phoebe.† Maybe both species were there, but Iím only going to count Eastern Phoebe, based on my pictures.† Here are my two poor pictures of what I think is an Eastern Phoebe.
Black Phoebes are uncommon here, but they do live at that park.† Eastern Phoebe is certainly possible, too, and I think that is what my picture shows Ė certainly the photo is not a Black Phoebe, anyway.
I ended up driving around the park again, and Iím glad I did.† I stopped at one point because I saw a guy with a camera taking pictures.† It turned out he was taking pictures of House Finches, which are uncommon around here, but common as dirt at home.† While I was talking to him I saw a LARK SPARROW, though, one for my year list.† I got distracted and didnít try for a picture because the guy said he saw a woodpecker.† It turned out to be a Golden-fronted Woodpecker, another one I have a chance to complete, if I see one on each of the next three days.† I also saw an Osprey on that second pass around the park, for my Monday list.
I stopped before leaving the park to use the rest room, and afterwards I saw my buddy I had talked to earlier. There were some birds on the ground, but they turned out to be more House Finches, and then some Yellow-rumped Warblers, which I didnít happen to need for Monday.† Then I saw a male EASTERN BLUEBIRD, one of the common species in that particular park.† Here is a male Eastern Bluebird.
Here is a front view of him.
Eastern Bluebirds look just like Western Bluebirds to me, but they are distinguished by range, and their ranges donít overlap, or at least not by much.
I also got a good look at a Black-throated Green Warbler, a fairly common bird around here, but one I was glad to add to my Monday list.† I also saw a CHIPPING SPARROW and a Ladder-backed Woodpecker at that time.† The second pass around the park was quite successful.
Incidentally, I have been thinking that birding is much slower than what I expected, and the guy this morning told me that he has been coming to the valley in the winter and birding for 13 years, and this is the poorest year yet, by far.† I had been thinking that my expectations were simply too high, but maybe it is more than that.† Maybe this is just a poor year for birds here.
I pulled out of there about 11:40 and headed for the Old Hidalgo Pumphouse, another birding venue.† I didnít have great expectations for it, but it was more or less on my way, and I wanted a place to sit and eat my lunch, which I had bought at Subway this morning as I left Alamo.
[Iím cooking my humble dinner as I write this. I got a frozen chicken tortilla casserole thing in family size, to have for two nights, and it barely fit in the little microwave I have here.† I ended up cutting off the corners of the rectangular plastic dish itís in, so it could freely rotate in the microwave.† I have to get up and check it every few minutes because sometimes it hangs up.† What a riot!† When it finishes, I will cook some broccoli and add some chicken breast pieces to it to raise the protein level.]
I ate my sandwich and vegetables at the pumphouse place, but I didnít see much there.† I did add Great Kiskadee, Northern Mockingbird, and Great-tailed Grackle to my Monday list.† I also saw a Turkey Vulture soaring overhead, and that is another one that I can complete if I see one tomorrow.
I continue to try to get pictures that do justice to Great-tailed Grackle.† Here is my latest attempt.† Male Great-tailed Grackle, taken on my way back to my car at the Old Hidalgo Pumphouse.
Thatís a pretty good depiction, and it does sort of show the tail.† Then the bird called and the tail was shown in all its glory.
I may get other pictures, but that one is approaching ďgood enoughĒ.† You will remember that Great-tailed Grackle is my hero-bird because I saw them last Tuesday night after sundown, as I got on the freeway in San Antonio.† That kept my ďnew year-bird every day this yearĒ streak alive, and Iím still working on the streak.
My next stop was Edinburg Wetlands, north of McAllen.† I hadnít been to this site before.† I paid my two bucks (senior rate) and took a look.† There are a couple of large ponds or lakes, and the North Pond was the one I looked at.† I soon added three egrets to my Monday list Ė Great Egret, Snowy Egret, and Cattle Egret.† I also saw some Neotropic Cormorants, which I needed, as well as some Double-crested Cormorants that I didnít need.† Here is a picture that shows the size difference between those two species.
The cormorant with its wings spread is a Double-crested Cormorant, and the smaller one beneath it is a Neotropic Cormorant.† The colors at the base of the bill are different, too, and thatís what I normally look for, since there are rarely two of them together for a size comparison like this.
As I scanned around the pond I saw one of my main targets for Edinburg Wetlands, an ANHINGA.† Here is a picture of a juvenile Anhinga with its wings spread.
Itís related to cormorants.† Here it is with its wings folded up.
Anhingas have very long necks.† Note that this bird has its neck folded up near its body.
There wasnít anything else on the water for me, so I headed back to my car.† It was 82 degrees and humid, and more importantly, I had walked quite a bit on my torn Achilles tendon already today, so I took it very easy and strolled through the butterfly garden on my way back to my car.† Since it was designated as a butterfly garden, I took this obligatory picture of a butterfly.
I saw two or three Inca Doves, for my Monday list.† Then I saw a Northern Cardinal at a feeder, again for my Monday list.† I sat at a table to rest and add my sightings to my Monday notebook, and a LONG-BILLED THRASHER popped up in a tree across from me.† It went down again before I could get a picture, but since I knew it was in the area, I played its song briefly.† It called back to me from the bushes, and eventually went up into a tree and sang to me, if you can call the cacophony that a thrasher produces a song.† Here is a picture of the Long-billed Thrasher singing to me.
Here it is with its mouth closed.
That was pretty thrilling, especially since it was a year-bird, but then a group of five Plain Chachalacas moved through.† I am always amazed when I see these large birds (about the size of a pheasant without the long tail of the male pheasant) in small trees and bushes.† Here are three pictures of Plain Chachalacas in small trees.
Plain Chachalaca is one of the Rio Grande Valleyís specialties, as they donít occur anywhere else in the USA.
It was only about 2:30 or 3:00 by then, but I called it a day.† I stopped at H-E-B and stocked up on food for the rest of the week, and I got back to my humble rooms at about 4.
It was a low-bird day, and it felt pretty slow as it went along.† I added 27 to my Monday list, to bring it to 93.† Only 6 of those were year-birds (as I said, it is getting harder and harder to add year-birds, as I see more and more of the valley species), and that brought me to 198 species for the year so far.† One was a lifer (the grade D Spragueís Pipit), to make 6 lifers for the trip.† It is very unlikely I will get any more lifers on this trip now, but 6 is at the top of the range I had hoped for.† For my BAD bird, Iíll take Anhinga, I guess.† That is one I especially wanted to see, and today I finally did.† This was only the second time I had seen Anhinga, and that made it an ďalmost liferĒ.
I need to do some research and planning tonight.† Iíve now visited most (but not all) of the local birding sites, and I need to figure out how to get another new year-bird, to keep that silly streak alive another day.† I also want to complete as many species as I can here Ė especially the ones I wonít see anywhere else this year.
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
I overslept this morning, and it was 8:15 when I got up.† I guess my body just doesnít like the Central time zone.† I took care of my morning duties, including making a lunch, and I headed out by about 9:30.† I had a plan, and my first stop was Estero Llano Grande State Park, which is my ďgo toĒ place for numbers.† On the way I drove by the river to the south of the park, to see what might be there today, and I got American White Pelican, Great Egret, American Avocet, and Little Blue Heron for my Tuesday list.† There were also some small shorebirds, but I was looking from my car, stopped on a bridge where I probably wasnít supposed to stop, and I hadnít brought my scope along today, anyway Ė so I couldnít identify them.
At the park I saw a Northern Cardinal on the way in, and then picked up the normal ones from the observation deck Ė Blue-winged Teal, Green-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shoveler, Least Grebe, Snowy Egret, and Neotropic Cormorant, all for my Tuesday list.† There was a park guy there who was an expert, and I asked him about Mottled Duck, and he pointed out a couple of those for me, too.† For some reason, I have a hard time picking them out from a group of ducks.
While getting all those ďregular birdsĒ, I discovered that my camera had broken.† The image stabilization had quit working.† The camera uses electronics to maneuver several small lenses to compensate for the normal shaking that any person has.† Without it, the higher zoom levels are pretty much worthless, especially in low light, when the shutter speeds are slower.† You get blurry pictures in any light, and super-blurry ones in low light.† Big bummer.† Oddly enough, the same thing happened to me with my last Sony super-zoom camera (which had a 40X optical zoom, as I remember), and it was on my last Texas trip in 2014 that it happened.† I bought this current camera (50X optical zoom) when I got home, and I took over 16,000 pictures with it before it failed, in the same way the old one failed.† When the old one failed in 2014, I called Christina and had her overnight my old 30X optical zoom camera to me at my next destination, which happened to be the exact place Iím staying now, the Alamo Inn.† I was without a worthwhile camera for two or three days.
Well, having had that experience, I now travel with my old 30X optical zoom camera as a back-up.† Of course, it was in my room, and I was at Estero when I discovered the problem.† I decided to press on and worry about the camera later.† My current 50X optical zoom camera still works, it just makes blurry pictures, and the less light there is, the more blurry they are.† I decided to see how bad it was, and Iím glad I did, because some of the pictures are marginally useable.
My heel has really been doing well (knock on wood), and I decided to make the hike out to Alligator Lake, to pick up some good birds.† It is probably close to a mile round trip, but I thought I could do it.† As I left the visitor center, there was a CURVE-BILLED THRASHER at one of the oranges, and I got this picture.
That picture isnít bad because it wasnít zoomed all that much and there was quite a bit of light.† So, the camera wasnít completely worthless.† I also got a brief look at a Green Jay, which was excellent as it turned out, because I didnít see another one all day, and I want to see one on each day of the week.† Now I just have to be sure to see one on Thursday to accomplish that.
On the way out to Alligator Lake I got a quick look at a SPOTTED SANDPIPER.† Thatís one Iíll see at home later in the year, so it is an example of how the birds I see on my trips can ďstealĒ ones from later in the year.
Out at Alligator Lake I saw the Yellow-crowned Night-Herons right where they were on Sunday, and a single Black-crowned Night-Heron across the water.† The two Common Pauraques were in the same general area today.† It is very interesting that they roost in the same area day after day.† Here are a couple of pictures of Common Pauraques from today, with my broken camera.
Here is a picture that demonstrates the camouflage that they have.† The bird is in the middle of the picture.
Here is a close-up of the bird.
A little further along there was a male Anhinga across the water.† The picture is blurry because of the camera malfunction, but here is a male Anhinga.
The picture isnít terrible, but it would have been much better before the camera broke.† Out at the end of the trail, I could see a RINGED KINGFISHER across the water.† That was another ďalmost liferĒ, as it was only the second Ringed Kingfisher I have ever seen.† I wish my camera had been working right, but here are my best two shots of the almost-lifer Ringed Kingfisher.
Blurry, blurry, blurry.† It bugs the heck out of me, but that is the best I could get with the broken camera.† It was still great to see the bird, though.
I also saw Northern Mockingbird and Great Kiskadee out at Alligator Lake, for my Tuesday list.† Here is a picture of the lake in front of the visitor center at Estero.
Back on the observation deck at the visitor center, I got this decent picture of a male Golden-fronted Woodpecker at an orange half.
Considering how far away that bird was, this isnít a bad picture, even with the broken image stabilization.† I must have happened to hold the camera especially steady as I took that one.
A White Ibis had come in while I was gone, so that one went on to my Tuesday list.† As I left the visitor center, I heard a commotion in the bushes.† It was obviously a bird, and it was loud and went on and on.† Then a Plain Chachalaca scurried across the path at great speed, and another large bird flew up into a tree.† I got this picture of a Cooperís Hawk, which must have gotten its claws on the chachalaca, but the chacha escaped.
The chachalaca was at least as large as the hawk, so it was an ambitious project for the hawk to try for it, but the chacha went free today, anyway.† Both of them went on to my Tuesday list.
I stopped at the drip at the start of Green Jay trail, and watched for a while.† A Long-billed Thrasher came in and took a bath, but all of my pictures are much too blurry to show, because there wasnít much light, and without the image stabilization, my camera just couldnít handle it.† It was still a good bird for my Tuesday list, though.† I wandered over to the fig tree where the Clay-colored Robins had been feeding the other day, and sure enough, they were there today, too, so that one went onto my Tuesday list.† I saw a small bird high in a tree and got a good look, but I couldnít figure out what it was.† I thought about it and looked it up, and I decided it was a WHITE-EYED VIREO, a fairly common bird that I hadnít identified before, if I had seen it.† Iíd like a better look at one, but I believe thatís what it was.† On my way to my car I added Inca Dove to Tuesday, too.
It was lunch time, but I went back to my room to get my back-up 30X zoom camera.† On my way, I saw a group of House Sparrows, another one for Tuesday.† I ate most of my lunch on the way to my room.† I had ham and cheese tortilla roll-ups and Fritos, so it was easy to eat while driving.† Back at my room, I found that the battery in my old camera was completely dead, which was not a surprise, and the extra battery was also completely dead.† I guess that lithium ion batteries donít hold a charge for three years.† I plugged the charger into the wall, with one of the batteries in it, and went out again to look for birds.† My plan was to go to the McAllen Nature Center, where I had seen the lifer Audubonís Oriole on Sunday, and then go on to Quinta Mazatlan, a place I hadnít gotten to yet.
As I pulled out from my room, I saw a Cattle Egret on the grass across the road.† That was an excellent Tuesday bird.† At the McAllen Nature Center, I made my way to the feeder station, after signing in.† On the way I saw a Mourning Dove feeding in the grass.† Then I noticed that near it was a smaller dove, a COMMON GROUND-DOVE.† That was one of the birds I was hoping to see there, as it has been reported there recently.† There were also a couple of Curve-billed Thrashers there, which I had just seen this morning for the first time this year.
There was a guy at the feeder station, but he said neither of the two orioles had come in while he was there.† I took a seat in the partial shade and watched as well.† I noticed a dove in a tree, and it was a WHITE-WINGED DOVE, another target for me there today, because that had also been reported there.† Interestingly, I got four doves today, and not the most common one around here, White-tipped Dove.
Here is the White-winged Dove, still with my old, broken camera, since the battery for my backup camera was still charging, back in my room.
Eventually an oriole came in to one of the feeders, but it was the Altamira Oriole, not the rare Audubonís Oriole.† Here is a blurry picture of an Altamira Oriole.
I was getting pretty hot by then.† The official high in the area was 93 today, although my car never indicated more than 83.† I think I believe the official number.† I had changed to my shorts when I was at my room, and I was still plenty hot.† On my way out, I saw some Lark Sparrows feeding in the grass, and I sat in the shade until I could get pictures.† Here is a Lark Sparrow, with the blurry camera.
I also had Black-crested Titmouse there.† I had noticed when I got to the McAllen Nature Center that I had accidentally left my cell phone back at my room, when I changed to my shorts, and as I got into the car when I was leaving, I noticed I had also left my wallet behind.† It was a good thing that the McAllen Nature Center was free, but the next place I planned to go had an admission charge, so I had to abandon that plan and head back to my room.† It was a day of changing plans.
It was after 2:00 by then, but I wanted to get more birds, so I picked up my cell phone, my wallet, and my old camera (with the now-charged battery), and headed back to Estero, mainly to try out the old 30X zoom camera.† On my way I stopped by the Progresso grain silos to look for blackbirds.† It was much more difficult than it had been on Sunday because there was a constant coming and going of huge trucks, which raised dust on the unpaved roads.††† I managed to get Yellow-headed Blackbird and Brown-headed Cowbird, but I missed the one I really wanted, Bronzed Cowbird.† Oh well, two out of three for my Tuesday list, although I was only stealing those two from later in the year, while the Bronzed Cowbird wonít be likely seen anywhere else this year, unless maybe in Arizona in August.
So, onward to Estero, to try out my old camera.† Here is my first picture with that camera in almost three years, a female Northern Cardinal at a grapefruit half.
Here is a juvenile White Ibis.
I hadnít realized that they had brown wings and back in their first year.† This bird would have been hatched in 2016, in the spring.† Here are two pictures of Snowy Egrets.† I couldnít decide which picture I liked better, so Iím showing both of them.† I wanted to show the plumes that they get as breeding season approaches.
Iím quite surprised and pleased with the quality of pictures from my old camera.† It doesnít have as much optical zoom, but I find I can crop the pictures more, which is another way of saying that the digital zoom qualities are very good.† All in all, the 30X zoom camera gives me almost as much ďreachĒ as the 50X zoom one did.
While I was standing on the observation deck of the visitor center, a Green Kingfisher flew through and perched momentarily quite close.† That was wonderful for my Tuesday list, but it flew on before I could get a picture.† It did stop across the way, so I took some distant pictures.† With only 30X zoom, I didnít get what I would have with my 50X zoom camera, but they came out surprisingly sharp, which allowed me to crop them more.† Here are two pictures of the distant Green Kingfisher, cropped heavily.
The first of those is poor, but Iím quite pleased with the second one, considering the distance.
Here is a picture of a male Green-winged Teal, with the light coming from the wrong direction.
A second juvenile White Ibis had come in since this morning, and here is a picture of it.
That one has gotten a bit more of its white feathers than the other one I showed.† By this summer they both will be all white, like the adults.
As I was getting ready to leave, I heard one of the guys on the deck call a woman who was leaving by the name of Mary Beth.† I followed her out to the parking lot and asked her if she was Mary Beth Stowe, and she was.† I have been exchanging emails with her, trying to decide if I want to hire her bird guiding services.† She actually works for the Alamo Inn, the place Iím staying.† We talked about it.† My biggest concern about hiring her was that she normally starts at 7:00 AM, like all real birders, and I donít do mornings well.† After discussing it, we have tentatively decided that Iíll hire her on Friday to go out looking for sparrows and other dry country birds to the north of here, and that weíll start at 9:00 and finish late, in order to try for the parrots that roost in McAllen.† There are two possible parrot species I could get, but one is much more likely than the other, I think.† Neither one would be a lifer, but either one would be the second time I had seen the species, an ďalmost liferĒ.
I saw at least one Turkey Vulture today, too, to complete that species.† Same with American Coot.† I saw Northern Mockingbirds all day long, and Iím not sure I mentioned them here.† I completed that species today, too.† I donít think I mentioned Orange-crowned Warbler either, and I saw them a few times.
I got back here to my room at about 4:30 and started the evening proceedings, meaning photos, drinkies, dinner, updating my spreadsheets, and writing this report.† I still have to plan tomorrow, after I finish this and send it off.
Despite all my running back and forth to my room, and my late start, I managed to add 45 species to Tuesday, to bring Tuesday to 99 species.† As expected, getting new year-birds is getting very tough, and I only added 6 more today, to bring me to 204 for the year.† Each day is more challenging in that area, and I need to make some plans for tomorrow, and then get lucky.† That streak could end any day now.† For my BAD bird today, Iíll take the almost-lifer Ringed Kingfisher, which was also my favorite bird of the day.
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
I got up this morning shortly after 7, so maybe Iím back on Central time.† I had a plan for the day, and it was focused on this silly streak of a new year-bird every day so far this year.† My first destination was Santa Ana NWR.† I had read of shorebirds there, and any one of several would take care of my need for a year-bird.† I asked at the visitor center, and I was assured that if I took the Chachalaca Trail I would see some shorebirds, along with other water birds.† The Chachalaca Trail is a half mile round trip, and it was about another half mile round trip from my car to the trailhead where the Chachalaca Trail starts.† I felt up to it, so I set out.
It was remarkably un-birdy, as far as I was concerned.† At the first overlook of the water, there was nothing.† Nada, zilch.† At the second overlook, it was better.† I had a Great Kiskadee, the first of several today, and out in the water were Snowy Egret, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Cinnamon Teal, and Least Grebe for my Wednesday list.† There were also three Black-winged Stilts out there, and here is a picture of a couple of them.
I was using my old camera with the 30X optical zoom, of course, since my new 50X optical zoom camera failed yesterday, in the same way my 40X optical zoom camera had failed on me here in Texas on my 2014 trip.† Today was an experimental day with my old 30X zoom camera, and I spent the day re-learning it, and getting used to it again, after almost three years.† That picture of the stilts was okay, a good grade for the camera.
I also saw one of my year-birds I was looking for, GREATER YELLOWLEGS, so my streak was alive.† Here is a picture of the Greater Yellowlegs that kept my new year-bird streak alive today.
There was also a White-faced Ibis out there, for my Wednesday list.
You might have noticed that the last two pictures are actually cropped from the same image.† Or, maybe you didnít notice, and quite likely, you donít care.
I continued on the Chachalaca Trail, and I ran into the morning bird walk people, coming the other way.† Some of them were looking into the brush, and I asked what they were looking at.† It turned out to be a couple of Plain Chachalacas, and I added that one to my Wednesday list.† There was a volunteer along on the bird walk, and he asked if I wanted to see a pauraque, and I said yes.† He showed it to me, very close to the trail, and that one went onto my list as well.† I was lucky to run into them at just that point, because I would have missed both of those species there otherwise.
I continued on, but the bird scarcity continued.† I didnít see anything else there.
Next I headed for Estero, with the idea of picking up some easy numbers quickly, for my Wednesday list, since I had taken care of my need for a new year-bird.† Along the way I saw a couple of Red-tailed Hawks on poles, but I didnít need that one for Wednesday.† At one stop there was a meadowlark, and it was singing.† Eastern Meadowlark, as it turned out, a good one for my list.
I stopped at the river just south of Estero, and got the American White Pelicans that seem to always be there.† Here is a picture of a group of them fishing.
They locate a school of fish, gather around the school in a circle, and then they put their heads down and scarf up the fish they have trapped.† Here is a single American White Pelican.
Today was a test day with my old 30X zoom camera.† It did well with the pelicans.† I also added American Avocet at the river.
At Estero, I checked out the drip at the start of the Green Jay Trail, and I saw an Orange-crowned Warbler there.† I checked the fig tree where the Clay-colored Thrushes have been feeding, and I picked up that species.† There was also a Ruby-crowned Kinglet flitting around, for my Wednesday list.
Over at the observation deck, I saw a Black-crested Titmouse come in to the feeding table.† On the water were White Ibis and Mottled Duck, along with other species I didnít need. †A Golden-fronted Woodpecker came to the orange halves, and that was good, because I want to see them on each day of the week, and now I only need to see one tomorrow.† Back at the drip, on my way back to my car, I got a good look at the head of a White-eyed Vireo, through some branches.† Iíd still like a better look at that bird, but Iíve counted it twice now.
It was getting close to lunch time by then, and on my way to my next destination, I stopped at my room and left my scope there, so I wouldnít have to leave it in my car.† I have only used my scope once or twice on the trip, and I guess I should have just left it at home.† Binging it meant I had to check two bags, but since Iím flying first class on frequent flyer miles, the bags are free, so it didnít cost anything to bring it along, just in case I needed it.
I ate most of my home-made lunch while driving to my next destination, Quinta Mazatlan, and I finished it in the parking lot there.† By that time, it was darn hot.† The official high was 93 today, and they said it felt like 97, due to the humidity.† The a/c in my rented Jeep Grand Cherokee is pretty inadequate, if you ask me.† It is only supposed to be 77 tomorrow, which sounds like a huge improvement to me.
I paid my 3 bucks (it should have been 2, senior rate, but the clerk made a mistake and didnít know how to correct it) and I wandered into the grounds.† Quinta Mazatlan is only 20 acres, but itís good habitat for birds.† I got Inca Dove on my way in, and after paying, soon saw a couple of Curve-billed Thrashers.† Here is a picture of a Curve-billed Thrasher.
I found my way to the bird feeding station, but it was overrun with House Sparrows.† I saw BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHERS three different times, which was great, after missing them everywhere else so far this trip.† They never stayed still for pictures, and Quinta Mazatlan was tough for pictures because the brush was so thick.† A Great Kiskadee flew in and posed, though.
Three White-winged Doves showed up eventually, and I got this picture of one in an odd pose.
The blue around the eye is actually a lot more subdued than what that picture shows.† The birdís head was in the shade, while its body was in the sun, so it was a difficult picture, and I had to process it heavily.† That made the blue around the eye come out too dark and vivid.
I was hot, but I moved on.† I saw my first CAROLINA WREN then, but it didnít stick around for pictures.† Iím not as fast with this camera as with the one I am used to.† Iím re-learning about it, but itís taking time.
I slowly walked around the grounds, and I was impressed by how many birds there were in a small area.† This was more like what I was expecting, but not finding, on this trip.† This late in the trip I had most of them, of course, but it was still nice to actually be seeing birds.† I saw Clay-colored Thrushes several times, and one posed for me.
That was a tough picture because the background was so bright and the bird was in the shade.† The thrush turned around and posed the other way, too.† Clay-colored Thrush from the back.
While I was taking those pictures, a male Ladder-backed Woodpecker flew through, and I got one quick picture.
There was nothing interesting around the pond, and I was hot, so I headed for my car.† On the way there were some Great-tailed Grackles, and I took a couple of pictures as a test for this camera.† A black bird with a bright background is a good challenge.† I had to process the picture a bit, but it came out fairly well, I think, considering the conditions.
I saw a small bird flitting around overhead, and it turned out to be a male WILSONíS WARBLER, one that wasnít even on my radar, and an excellent year-bird.† I also saw a Long-billed Thrasher (to go with the Curve-billed Thrasher I had seen earlier), and I got this picture, under difficult conditions again.
Not only did I have to deal with the bright background, I had to deal with the branches in the foreground and focus on the bird.† I was learning about my old camera all over again today Ė things like how to change the ISO, how to set things for manual exposure, etc.† Many of the shots at Quinta Mazatlan were difficult because of bright backgrounds, but the camera did well, once I figured out how to compensate.
Here is another picture that was difficult because of the strong backlight.† Here is an Inca Dove.
The bird turned around, and here is an equally difficult front shot of it.
The dove was in the deep shade, and I had to do a manual exposure and then process the image to make the bird visible.
Right at the exit gate there was a Plain Chachalaca getting a drink of water, and I got this picture.
It was only about 2:40 by then, but the heat had done me in, and I headed for home.† I did a little spreadsheet work when I got back, and some computer stuff, but I found I was exhausted from dealing with the heat. †30 minutes in bed, not really sleeping, but relaxing nicely, revived me.† The air conditioning here is great, and it is a constant 68 degrees in here.
As I mentioned, tomorrow is supposed to only be 77 degrees for the high, which is a relief for me.† I have a plan worked out, involving visiting places I have been before.† It will be tough to get a new year-bird, but it is possible.† I have one good back-up in mind, if I miss everything else, so I have my hopes.† Friday will be another story, but I have hired a guide for Friday, and I hope she will show me some new year-birds, as we will be visiting different habitat than I have been in so far.† One day at a time, though.† I need to focus on tomorrow, to see what I can see.† Since I was here in the valley a week ago, it will be much harder to add Thursday birds, but Iím bound to get some.† The real issue is to get a new year-bird to keep that silly streak alive.
Thursday, February 9, 2017
Before I get into today, I need to add a paragraph that I forgot to write last night Ė my summary of the day.
On Wednesday I saw 30 new species for Wednesday, to bring me to 103.† I added 4 new year-birds, to bring my yearly total to 208.† For my BAD bird I chose Plain Chachalaca for Wednesday.†† I also forgot to mention that I had three special targets for Thursday Ė Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Great Kiskadee, and Green Jay.† All three are common Rio Grande Valley specialties, and I only needed to see each of them on Thursday to ďcompleteĒ that species Ė to see it on all seven days of the week.† I love challenges, and here was another one Ė to see those three species today.
So, last night I managed to get to bed by 10:15, and I was up at about 6:45 this morning, so Iím getting the hang of this Central time zone thing.† Of course, I head for home in two days, and then I can get used to West Coast time again.
I got out of here by about 8:30 and headed for Quinta Mazatlan, where I had seen a lot of birds yesterday, in the heat of the afternoon.† I figured if I saw that many on a hot afternoon, when birds are usually quiet, I would do great in a much cooler morning, when they are supposedly active.† It was only supposed to be a high of 77 today (compared to yesterdayís 93), and it was in the 60ís when I got to Quinta Mazatlan.† Well, maybe the birds like it hot, even if I donít, because it was much slower this morning.† Go figure.
I didnít take any pictures at all at Quinta Mazatlan this morning, although I did see some birds.† I got Great Kiskadee right away, one of the three valley specialties that I wanted to complete today.† I saw the same pair of Curve-billed Thrashers I had seen yesterday, but they were in the shade under some bushes, so I didnít even try for pictures.† There were some Northern Cardinals around, for my Thursday list.† I havenít completed that common species, but I only need it on Saturday, when I have to drive to San Antonio.† I have some spare time, though, as my flight doesnít leave until after 6:30 PM, and it is less than a four hour drive, plus stops.† Iíll be looking for a cardinal on Saturday.
There were White-winged Doves around at Quinta Mazatlan, and also Inca Doves.† I needed both of those for Thursday.† I first heard, then saw a Golden-fronted Woodpecker, which was another of my three valley specialty species I wanted to complete today.† Two down, one to go Ė Green Jay.
I saw Blue-gray Gnatcatchers two or three times, and also Orange-crowned Warblers, so it wasnít completely birdless, just slower than yesterday.† I also saw a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, which happened to complete that one, too, although I saw them on some of the days back home and some here in Texas.
After a couple of hours, I decided to move on.† It had been pleasant to slowly stroll through the gardens, but I needed to get a year-bird, to keep that darn streak alive.† On my way out I talked with the resident bird naturalist, and while we were talking birds, I saw my first Black-crested Titmouse of the day.† That one will end up short of completion this year, as I missed it on Monday.† My third Buff-bellied Hummingbird of the trip flew in briefly to a feeder while we were talking, too.† I expected them to be easy to see, but I only saw them three times so far, and two of those times were on the same day.
OK, thatís the end of the boring words-only part of the report.† My next destination was the National Butterfly Garden, and one reason for going there was that I thought I could get some pictures there.† There were also a couple of good chances at a year-bird.
I picked up a tuna sandwich at Subway on the way, and after paying my 10 bucks to get in, I ate my humble lunch in the shade Ė the tuna sandwich, some vegetables, and some low-sodium Fritos.† While eating I saw a Green Jay, so that completed my third valley specialty species for the day.† Later I got this picture of a Green Jay that I like.
Here is a male Golden-fronted Woodpecker.
An Altamira Oriole flew in 3 or 4 times, but never stayed long.† Here are my best two pictures of Altamira Oriole.
A Black-crested Titmouse would come in and grab a seed or a bite of suet from time to time, but it didnít stick around long either.† Here was the only shot that wasnít terrible, of Black-crested Titmouse.
A Curve-billed Thrasher came in several times, and I got pictures.† That was the species of thrasher that I had seen in the morning at Quinta Mazatlan.† Here is a picture that happened to catch the thrasher just as it hopped.† I call it Hopping Curve-billed Thrasher.
Here is a more normal pose for Curve-billed Thrasher.
Later I got this frontal view of a Curve-billed Thrasher on the ground.
All day I was re-learning things about my old camera.† I now remember some of the things I didnít like about it Ė they are now irritating me all over again.† When I get home I need to seriously research super-zoom cameras.
There was supposed to be an Olive Sparrow around, and all the birders (only maybe 3 or 4 besides me) wanted to see it.† We heard it sing several times, but it never showed itself to anyone while I was there.† I counted it, though, because the song is quite distinctive, and I count ďheard onlyĒ birds now.† I had expected to see Olive Sparrow fairly easily, but everyone says this is a poor year for them, and this was only the second time I recorded the bird on the trip so far.† There is a new invasive species of ant here in the valley, called Crazy Ants, and one naturalist said that Olive Sparrows nest close to the ground and the Crazy Ants take over the nests, and the parents either abandon the nest or if the baby birds hatch, the ants do them in.† Google Crazy Ant if you want to read a horror story about an invasive species.† They showed up here about 15 years ago, and they are really something.† I saw them at Estero.† Anyway, no picture of Olive Sparrow, and I didnít see one, but it went onto my list for Thursday anyway, since I clearly heard it several times.
I still needed a year-bird, and my big hope was Eastern Screech-Owl.† Most eBird reports from the National Butterfly Center in the last week or two have had the owl on them, and I saw a picture of an owl in the opening of a nest box.† I had asked at the check-in place, and the guy marked my map to show where a couple of nest boxes were.† I went looking for them, and eventually found both nest boxes, after doing more walking than I really wanted to do.† Unfortunately, no owls were in evidence, so that plan went south on me.† I also looked everywhere for a flycatcher called Black Phoebe - again one that everyone seemed to have on their eBird report, but I never saw one.
Back at the feeder station, I kept taking pictures.† Here is a male Northern Cardinal.
Here is a female Northern Cardinal, grabbing a seed.
I got another valley specialty there, Plain Chachalaca.† 4 or 5 of them came through.
Thatís another valley specialty that I only saw on 6 days, having missed it on Sunday.
I checked out the owl boxes again, but still no owls.† My year-bird streak was in serious jeopardy.† I decided I should take at least one butterfly picture, since this was a butterfly place, after all.
Butterflies arenít easy to get pictures of when they donít settle down somewhere, and this one kept on the move all the time.
It was after 2 oíclock by then, and I still needed a year-bird.† My last ditch plan was to try Anzalduas County Park, where Black Phoebes are reported a lot, and there was also the chance that a Black Vulture might fly over.† I drove around the park several times, and I stopped in the two places I had been told were good for Black Phoebe, but I saw very few birds at all.† On one time circuit of the park I did get this picture of an Osprey, which I didnít need for Thursday.
On another circuit I got this picture of an American Kestrel, which I also didnít need for Thursday.
I was getting ready to give it all up and say good-bye to the year-bird streak, when I noticed some swallows flying overhead.† Bingo!†† I hadnít seen any swallows at all yet this year, since they donít come back to the northwest until spring, and there arenít many around here in the winter either.† The problem was Ė what species of swallow were they?
They only came flying over intermittently, anywhere from one of them to maybe 5 at a time.† They really flew fast, and it was hard to get a good look at them.† I didnít know what species of swallows might be here in the winter, because I hadnít thought of trying to get a swallow for my year-bird.† I consulted my book, and when I got back to my room I consulted eBird, and I feel satisfied they were NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOWS, to keep my new year-bird every day this year streak alive for another day.† By the time I had seen the swallows it was time to head for home, and I got back here at about 4:45.
I ended up getting only 16 new species for Thursday, which isnít surprising since I was here in the Rio Grande Valley last Thursday and I had a big day.† That brought Thursday up to 109 species.† My Northern Rough-winged Swallows, which came as a complete surprise to me at the last minute, brought my yearly total to 209 now.† For my BAD bird today, Iíll take Green Jay because I like them a lot.
Iíve visited just about all the birding venues here around McAllen, and tomorrow is the last full day of birding for the trip.† Iíve hired a bird guide to take me up north tomorrow to look for sparrows and other dry country birds.† She is going to pick me up at 9:00 (dilettante birder that I am) and weíll stay out until dark, trying for Green Parakeet where they roost in McAllen at sundown.† It is going to be a very long day for the Old Rambler, but at least I donít have to drive, and Iíll just nod off it gets to be too much for me.
What a life!
Friday, February 10, 2017
Today was an excellent day of birding, and a very long one.† I had hired a bird guide for the day, and she picked me up at 9 this morning.† I got back here to my room at 7 PM, so it was a ten hour birding day for me today.† It was somewhat overcast this morning, which held the heat down.† It got up into the low 80ís by the end of the afternoon, but I did pretty well with the heat.† Our plan today was to be in the car most of the time, with frequent stops to get out and listen and look for birds.† My guide, Mary Beth, is excellent at hearing and recognizing bird calls, and she heard about twice as many birds as I counted.† That is, two times as many species Ė probably ten times as many individual birds or more.
We headed north out of McAllen into the boonies and started our day along Brushline Road.† Here is a picture of one part of Brushline Road, to give an idea of the habitat we were in.
It was very dry for the most part.† To finish setting the scene, here is my guide, Mary Beth.
One of the birds I had wanted to see was PYRRHULOXIA, a relative of cardinals.† We saw them a number of times, and this was the best picture I got a female Pyrrhuloxia.
I had only seen that species 2 or maybe 3 times before, and Iím sure I saw more today than all the ones I had ever seen previously.†
We saw a lot of Crested Caracaras today, and here is a picture of one that posed for us.
I didnít need it for Friday because I had seen them a week ago over near Brownsville, but I think they are a handsome bird, so I like getting pictures of them.† Here is another Crested Caracara that we saw later in a field.
So, there you have the front view and the back view of Crested Caracara.
We saw dozens of Mourning Doves, and I needed that one for Friday.† We heard and saw HOUSE WREN several times, which I liked, but I never got a picture.† As a reminder, when I show a species in ALL CAPS, it means it is the first time Iíve seen that species this year.
A bird I have struggled with has been White-eyed Vireo.† I recorded it twice, but I really wanted a better look.† We never saw one today, but Mary Beth heard them a number of times, and one time I heard it sing very clearly, several times.† It is a distinctive enough song that I counted it as a heard only bird today.† We also heard CACTUS WRENS several times, and one time I heard one very clearly, several times.† It is a distinctive song that I know, so that one went onto my year list as ďheard onlyĒ.
At one stop we heard and saw three SANDHILL CRANES flying over the road.† I wish I had been able to get a picture, but Iím using my old 30X zoom camera and Iím not used to it, so it takes me a long time to get ready to take a picture.† I missed my broken 50X zoom camera today.† When I get home, a new camera is high on my list.
Another bird I really wanted to see was White-tailed Hawk.† I had only seen that species three times before today, and we saw them several times today.† Here is a picture of one overhead.† White-tailed Hawk.
Mary Beth heard thrashers at various stops, and I saw both Long-billed Thrasher and Curve-billed Thrasher before the day was over, both excellent Friday birds.† We had Lark Sparrow several times and a couple of American White Pelicans flew around ahead of us and gave us good views.† At a pond Mary Beth spotted a Greater Yellowlegs, so that one went on my Friday list.† On our way back, by that same pond, I spotted my first HERMIT THRUSH of the year, and got this picture of it.
I think the blurry line down through the picture to the left of center was due to the wire in a fence, way out of focus.† Either that or it was a branch.
We saw a GREATER ROADRUNNER run across the road ahead of us, thus fulfilling its name.† Another of the species I had especially wanted to see was BLACK VULTURE, and finally we got onto a group of 4 or 5 of them.† I got one mediocre picture of one overhead, good enough to identify the species, anyway.
We saw WILD TURKEYS three separate times Ė two groups of about a dozen and one smaller group of 3 or 4.† Here are some of the Wild Turkeys.
We saw Loggerhead Shrikes 3 or 4 times, and here are the two best pictures I got, front and back.
I missed my broken 50X zoom camera today, but this old one did a satisfactory job as a backup.
Mary Beth had heard of a report of a flycatcher out on one of the roads we were on, and it is uncommon to rare out here.† We actually found it and got pictures of the SAYíS PHOBE.
We had a group of Western Meadowlarks at one or two points, and I needed that one for Friday.† We also had a RED-SHOULDERED HAWK give us a good close flight view, but there wasnít time for a picture before it was gone.
We saw and heard Yellow-rumped Warblers a number of times, and Mary Beth heard a Couchís Kingbird at one point, and eventually we were able to entice it to fly in closer and I got an excellent look at it.† We also saw a couple of Common Ground-Doves at one point, so that one went onto my Friday list, too.
So, that was most of our long day of birding.† It was about 5:15 by then, and we needed to head for the parrot roost, so I could get an almost-lifer.
At the McAllen parakeet roost we got there just in time to see the GREEN PARAKEETS lining the wires near the intersection where they were supposed to be.† There must have been 5 or 6 dozen of them, and more nearby.† The light was poor by then, and we were looking up into the sky at a distance, because the wires they were on were high ones, but I took some pictures.† The pictures are pretty crappy, but at least they show this almost-lifer that I only saw once before, and that was a quick fly-by.† Here are my best two pictures of Green Parakeet in the fading light.
Those two were kind of cozying up to each other, and I thought it was cute.
In addition to the parakeets that were gathering for their nightly roost together, there were thousands of Great-tailed Grackles congregating in the area.† Here is one small part of the Grackles gathering on the wires.
There were at least ten times that many around the area, and they made quite a racket, as they call very loudly.† Here is a closer view of that telephone pole in the middle of the picture above.
It was getting dark by then, so we headed back.† The birding wasnít over yet, though.† As we waited at stop lights in the heavy rush hour traffic, I saw several Bronzed Cowbirds on the wires with the grackles.† That was an excellent one for my Friday list, and my last bird of the day.
So, it was an outstanding day of birding, and I saw much, much more than what I would have seen on my own today.† It was also nice to have company all day, after nine days of birding alone and talking to almost no one
I added 24 birds to my Friday list, to bring it to 131, which puts it way ahead of all the other days.† A whopping 11 of those birds were new for my year list, too, to bring me to 220 for the year.† If youíll remember, yesterday I barely eked out one new year-bird, by a fluke at the end of the day (the Northern Rough-winged Swallows), and today Mary Beth was able to show me 11 more.† Outstanding.† For my BAD bird today, Iím going to take Olive Sparrow.† I didnít mention that one before because it wasnít a Friday bird Ė I had seen one briefly last Friday at Sabal Palms Sanctuary.† Today I got great, though brief, looks at two of them, so Iím taking it as my BAD bird today.
It was a long day, and I probably overlooked something here, but itís late, and I want to get this out tonight.† Tomorrow I fly home from San Antonio, and it is a four hour drive to get to the airport from here.† The flight doesnít leave until 6:40 PM, so I have all day, but Iím sure the time will fly by.† Iíll have to get all packed up in the morning, and I want to at least make a token effort to get a new year-bird tomorrow.† As it turns out, Mary Beth was able to tell me where a parakeet that I have only seen once before nests, and I plan to stop by that area tomorrow morning on my way out of town, and maybe I can get that one for my new year-bird tomorrow.† If not, then tomorrow will almost certainly be the day my streak ends.
Whatever happens with the silly streak, tomorrow I head for home after an excellent trip, and it will be very good to be home, as always after a trip, no matter how long.
Saturday, February 11, 2017
I slept well last night and was up at 6:30.† I packed up, had a little brekkie (all I had left was three turkey sausages and a Greek yogurt, but I figured that would hold me until I could get to a fast food place), loaded up the car, checked out by phone, and hit the road.
My ultimate destination today was home, but first I had to get to the San Antonio airport, about four hours up the road to the north.† But, even before that, I had to make my stab at a year-bird.† I found my way to the town of Hildago and found the cross streets that Mary Beth had told me about, and I looked for parrot nests.† I found a large nest, but there werenít any parrots around, only House Sparrows going in and out of the nest.† I wondered if the nest had been abandoned.† I turned around at the end of the street and came slowly driving back, figuring I would drive around the neighborhood, looking and listening for parrots.
A guy came out to the street and waved me down.† He asked if I was looking for the parrots.† I said yes, and he gave me the whole history of when they had moved in and he pointed out all six of the nests in the neighborhood.† He said the birds come out of the nests at about 7:30 am at this time of year, stage on the wires around the neighborhood, then fly off to feed.† He said they come back at about 9 or 9:30, and it was almost 9 by then.† He suggested I park and watch for them to come back.
I drove on a block, checking out where to park, and I hit the jackpot.† I saw a couple of green birds fly into a grassy school field and land.† I pulled up and noticed that there were two or three dozen green birds feeding in the grass.† Bingo!†† I had my year-bird, MONK PARAKEET.† I call it an almost lifer, because I had only seen the species twice before, on my 2012 and 2014 Texas trips.† Here are some pictures of Monk Parakeets.
Firsts, here is one taken through the chain link fence from the car, just to be sure I had a picture, in case they suddenly flew away.
I got out of the car and approached the fence slowly, but it spooked the birds near me.† I went up to the fence and got some more distant shots through the fence openings.† Here is one Monk Parakeet on the ground.
I went around the side and one of them flew up onto the fence and posed for me.
I tired to get closer to the bulk of them, but it spooked them and they flew around and landed on a wire overhead.† Here are a dozen of them lined up on the wire, looking at me.
Here are two of them on the wire, closer to me.
And, finally, here is one directly overhead.
I included so many Monk Parakeet pictures because I liked them, and also because I have nothing else today to show.†
I hit the road about 9:30, and after stopping at a Jack in the Box for my second breakfast, I drove in a leisurely manner up to San Antonio.† I knew I had plenty of time, but I decided I might as well go to the airport and set up my computer, to process my pictures and send out my report.† On the way I added Crested Caracara to my Saturday list.† The parakeet and the caracara brought my Saturday list to 96 species.† The parakeet kept my new year-bird streak alive for another day and brought my yearly total up to 221.† For my BAD bird today, Iíll take Monk Parakeet.
I got to the airport without incident, having filled the gas tank just before I got here.† The Alaska Airlines ticket counter opens at 3:30 PM, so I needed a place to use my computer while I waited, and I was also hungry.† The San Antonio airport is a small one Ė I had noticed when I arrived that there are only three baggage carousels, for example.† I asked and found my way to the only place to get anything to eat outside of security.† It is actually a book store with a deli nook, and I got a pretty good ham and cheese sandwich.† They also had a nice place to sit and use my computer, and the airport has very fast free wi-fi.
It was a good trip.† I would have preferred it to have been 10 or 15 degrees cooler, and it was about 10 degrees over normal while I was here, on average Ė sometimes 15 degrees.† The birding was slower than I expected, and I think it is a poor birding year here, for some reason.† My expectations were also too high, I think.† It was still a good trip, though.† I did well with birds, I kept my streak alive, I visited some places I hadnít been before, I got 6 lifers, and most importantly, I had a good time.† I added 105 species to my year list, which is excellent.† I liked my accommodations, and that always helps.† It will still be nice to get home, though; itís always nice to get home after a trip.
Now I have to do some planning to see if I can extend my streak another day or two at home, and I need to get back into my DOTW birding and BAD birding around home.
Sunday, February 12, 2017
I'm catching up on things and researching cameras, in order to replace my 50X zoom Sony that broke on the trip.† This morning my goal was to find a new year-bird, to keep my dumb "new year-bird every day" streak alive.† It's going to be a relief when it finally ends, but in the meantime, I'm seemingly a slave to trying to extend it.
I headed up to Edmonds this morning, mainly with the hope of getting one of the two uncommon (for this area and date) gulls that have been seen up there this past week - Western Gull and Bonaparte's Gull.† I went to the fishing pier, but there were very few birds around.† I did get a single Western Grebe for my Sunday list, so that was something at least.† I tried Sunset Avenue and Marina Beach, but neither one produced either of my gulls.
I had another option in Edmonds, and I went to Edmonds March and played the call of a wren that I know lives there, but they are usually not responsive to calls and don't show themselves in the winter.† There had been a report a couple of days ago that said one had called, although it wasnít seen, so I was hoping maybe it was getting close enough to breeding season that one might respond.† All I needed to do was hear one, as the call is pretty distinctive.† I tried it at each of the three overlooks, and saw and heard nothing in response.† On my way back to the car, I tried again at the first overlook, but again, no response.† I was ready to leave (I would have been gone in another 10 seconds), when a MARSH WREN popped up to the top of a cattail 15 feet away and looked around.† I got my binoculars on it (not that I needed them to identify it at that distance), and it posed for me for about 30 seconds and then disappeared again.
I wouldn't have had time to get a picture of the Marsh Wren today anyway, but I had accidently left my camera at home today, so I couldn't even try.† Since there are no pictures from today, here are a couple of Marsh Wren pictures I got last year in February up in northern Snohomish county.
Here's one I like from 2014, too.† Marsh Wren singing its heart out.
So, against all odds and at the last minute, I got my year-bird, and the streak is alive.† The two new Sunday species today brought Sunday to 107 species.† The Marsh Wren brought my year total to 222 species.† For my BAD bird today, I'll take Western Grebe, as Marsh Wren should be easy to see in the spring and summer.† Can I find another year-bird tomorrow?† We will see.
Monday, February 13, 2017
I was up shortly after seven this morning, and after taking care of some business, I hit the road at about 9:30.† I was headed up to Skagit county, to finish off several species for all seven days of the week.† Along the way I had three possibilities for a year-bird, and if I didn't get one, then I planned to go down to Juanita Bay Park when I got home and try for Pacific Wren again.† That's the one I missed on the day I flew to Texas, which caused me to have to get the Great-tailed Grackle down there, to my great surprise.
I didn't need Short-eared Owl for Monday, so I went straight up to Conway and started across Fir Island.† I saw some swans and stopped and got out my scope.† They all turned out to be Trumpeter Swans, which I did need for Monday, but I also needed the other swan species, Tundra Swan.† I completed Trumpeter Swan today, meaning I now have seen them on each day of the week.† From looking at eBird, the Tundra Swans take off for their breeding grounds a little before the Trumpeter Swans, and they are supposedly already leaving.† While checking out those Trumpeter Swans, I got this picture of a couple of Trumpeter Swans landing.
They don't look very graceful when landing or taking off.† They were calling as they landed, too.
I moved on to Wiley Slough and got out and walked in the trees a little, playing the songs and calls of a year-bird.† After a minute or two, I heard an answering call, and then spotted a little PACIFIC WREN flitting around near the ground.† I had my year-bird, and the streak was alive!† There was very little light in there under the trees, but I got these two mediocre pictures of the little darling.† Pacific Wren, a little fat guy with a short tail.
Is he a little cutie, or what?† Too bad the pictures are so poor.† I miss my broken camera.† By the way, I have just about decided what camera to buy to replace the broken one, and I hope to be trying out a new one by the end of the week.
I got this picture of a Belted Kingfisher at Wylie Slough, and that completed that species for me this year.†
Here's a picture of Wylie Slough, with the Olympic Mountain Range in the background.† As you can see, it was a beautiful day today.
Trumpeter Swans kept flying over, usually in pairs or families, giving their trumpeting call that gives them their name.† Here are a couple of flying Trumpeter Swans.
I went on to the Hayton Preserve, but I didn't see anything new there.† Here is a picture of Mount Baker, taken from Hayton Preserve across the fields.† I had the Olympics to the west and the Cascades to the east.
I backtracked to Dry Slough Road, which I had never actually driven before.† I was looking for Tundra Swans.† I kept checking swans and eventually I found this lone Tundra Swan in with some Trumpeters.
I probably looked closely at 30 or 40 swans before I found this Tundra Swan.† That completed Tundra Swan for the year for me.† Here is a Trumpeter Swan for comparison, part of the same group.
Having gotten the two swans, my next target was Snow Goose.† Where were they today?† Were they all gathered together somewhere in one large flock, or were they dispersed in smaller flocks today?† After checking out the feeders at the house on Valentine Road and finding they were empty today and there were no birds around, and checking out Dodge Valley Road, I found the geese.† They were all together today, to the north of the road to LaConner.† That completed Snow Goose for me this year.† Here is a picture of some Snow Geese with Mount Baker in the background.
Here is another picture of part of the flock flying around and part of it on the ground.
Here is a picture that shows the extent of the huge flock.† I'd guess there were several thousand Snow Geese gathered there.†† I never did see any others today, anywhere else.
Here is a closer shot of some of them in the air.† I think they are striking looking birds, with their black wingtips.
Next I moved on to March Point, to look for a couple of species there.† I stopped at the gas station at the Swinomish casino and filled my tank at an excellent price, and then stopped briefly at the lagoon to the west of the casino.† The tide was out and I saw three Greater Yellowlegs there, for my Monday list.† As I started out on the drive to March Point, I added Northern Pintail to my Monday list, too.† I ate my Subway tuna sandwich at March Point, then drove to the other side of the point and scanned the water for birds.† I ended up seeing 8 or 10 Long-tailed Ducks, an excellent Monday bird.† I missed seeing White-winged Scoter today, the only one of my target species I missed.† I saw a number of Brant there, too, for my Monday list.
I had two target species left, and I backtracked and headed up to the Samish Flats.† Just north of Highway 20 I saw a group of ducks out in a field, and I pulled off the road as best I could and got out my scope.† There were several dozen American Wigeons feeding in the field, and I sorted through them† Eventually I found a male Eurasian Wigeon, another target for the day and another species completed for the year.
I was looking for my last target species, Rough-legged Hawk, but there weren't any along the way to the West 90, like there usually are.† At the West 90 I saw a single Western Meadowlark for my Monday list, and just up the road toward Samish Island I saw a couple of Common Ravens by the road, another species I needed for Monday.† Then I spotted my final target, a rather pale Rough-legged Hawk.† It was on a pole, but when I pulled up to get a picture, it flew to a fence post a bit farther away.† Here is my Rough-legged Hawk from today, and it completed still another species for me.
It flew a little farther along and landed in some brambles, showing its front.
That was about the palest Rough-legged Hawk I can remember seeing.
I had seen all my target species except White-winged Scoter, so I headed for home.† At the East 90 I had another bird to take pictures of, though.† Here is a Short-eared Owl on a piling.† The first picture shows it looking straight ahead.
It kept swiveling its head back and forth.† Here is a picture of it looking over its shoulder.† The wind was blowing its neck feathers up behind its head.
Here is one where it is looking in my direction.
There was still one more picture to take after that.† There was an eagle on the nest at the "eagle house", as I call it.† There are usually anywhere from 3 to a dozen eagles around the house in the trees, but today there were only two - the one on the nest and one standing guard.† It is obviously nesting season now, and the rest of the family have been sent away so the two who own the nest can do their thing.† The nest is really huge.† Bald Eagles are very large birds, but the nest makes this one look small.
I'm sure that nest has been being built for many years.† I wonder how it is determined which pair of eagles uses it each year.
I got home about 3:30, after six hours of birding, including the two hours of driving, round trip.† I saw 13 species for my Monday list, to bring that to 106.† 6 of those species were completed today, making a total of 38 species completed now.† The cute little Pacific Wren brought my year list to 223 species.† For my BAD bird today, I'll take Tundra Swan.
So, the streak goes on for one more day - 44 days in a row now.† I have a small handful of possibilities for tomorrow, but none are likely, and I expect this will be the end of the streak.† The weather is supposed to be good again tomorrow, though, the last good day before a week of rainy weather, so I'll be out there giving it a try.† The real challenge this week is going to be to get a new Day Of The Week bird each day, when its raining.† Finding birds on rainy days is a challenge.† One day at a time, though.† I'll see what I can do tomorrow when the weather is supposed to be good.
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Well, today was the day my streak finally ended.† I went up to Edmonds to look for the two gulls that might extend it, but there was very little to see, and neither of my gulls.† I added Brandt's Cormorant to my Tuesday list, and I got these two pictures of a female Red-breasted Merganser, a species that I didn't need for Tuesday.
That's quite a hairdo she has, isn't it?
A pair of Harlequin Ducks flew by, a good one for my Tuesday list.† I saw three Pigeon Guillemots for Tuesday, too.† I took this picture of a European Starling in its winter plumage.
On my way back to my car, I got this picture of a Great Blue Heron.
That was it for today.† I tried from Sunset Avenue, but there was nothing interesting to be seen from there, either.† I also stopped at the fish hatchery, just on the long chance of seeing a Red-breasted Sapsucker or Hairy Woodpecker, but neither one presented itself.† Perhaps the best news of the day is that my heel is hurting less each day.
I managed to add three species to my Tuesday list, to bring it to 102 species.† My year list stays at 223 and my new year-bird streak is over, capped at 44 days in a row.† For my BAD bird today, I'll take Harlequin Duck.† Now I can concentrate on getting a good BAD bird each day, as well as adding a new Day Of The Week bird each day.† With the rainy days coming up now, those will be enough of a challenge.
I ordered a new camera today, and it is supposed to arrive on Thursday.† I'm going to have a lot to learn, including using new software to process my pictures, I think.
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
It was supposed to rain pretty much all day today, but the morning looked better than the afternoon.† I drove up to Edmonds and it was only barely drizzling when I got there.† I left my scope in the car and walked out onto the fishing pier.† I soon got Pelagic Cormorant, Red-necked Grebe, and Horned Grebe for my Wednesday list.† Back at home I saw a Northern Flicker at our feeder, in the afternoon.† Those four species brought my Wednesday total to 107 species.† For my BAD bird, I chose Pelagic Cormorant.
Thursday, February 16, 2017
Today was supposed to be dry in the morning, so I drove out to the Snoqualmie River Valley.† There are several sites out there that I visited regularly last winter, but I hadn't been out there much this year yet, and I wanted to see how it looked after all the rain we have had this month.† My first destination was the pond at the old Monroe prison farm.† The pond dries up in the summer and they graze cows on it, and I wanted to see if it was filled again.† The water level was quite high, but there was little on the pond today.† There were about a dozen swans and two Northern Pintails - nothing else on the water that I saw.† As it turned out,† I needed Northern Pintail for Thursday, so I had my bird for today.† I drove through Duvall and down to Carnation, where I visited the house with feeders there.† There was nothing at the feeders except a couple of squirrels.† Next I drove to Chinook Bend and then on to Sikes Lake.† There were some ducks on Sikes Lake, but nothing I needed.† In the field to the north of Sikes Lake there were some ducks, and I added Northern Shoveler to my Thursday list.† That was it for the day, although I stopped by the Redmond Retention Ponds, just to see how they looked.† I completed both Northern Pintail and Northern Shoveler today, and that makes it 40 species that I've completed now; that is, I've seen those 40 species on all seven days of the week.
My two ducks today brought me to 111 species for Thursday.† I chose Northern Pintail for my BAD bird today.† I didn't have any photo ops either Wednesday or Thursday, but I'm supposed to get my new camera this afternoon or evening, so I'll be trying to get some pictures tomorrow.
Friday, February 17, 2017
The weather was great today - sunny and in the low 50's by this afternoon.† I took my brand new camera down to Juanita Bay Park this morning and gave it a test drive.† My initial reaction is WOW!!!† I should have gotten this camera long ago, if I had only known.† Right now I'm thinking it was a blessing in disguise to have my old one break.† It's early days yet, but my initial reaction is that it is head and shoulders above my last two broken Sony cameras.† The zoom is a little higher, which is a good thing, but it's much sharper as well, which means I'll be able to crop my pictures more heavily and still have them look at least as good as with my old camera.† I'm not speaking as a photography geek now - a true photo geek would no doubt be judging the two models on different criteria - but as a bird photographer, this camera is way better for my purposes.† As I said, it is early days yet, but I think I'm gonna like it.
Anyway, down at the park, I walked out on the east boardwalk to see what was around.† There was lots of birdsong and a number of birds around.† Nothing special, but birds, at least.† A Black-capped Chickadee was perching on old cattails and presumably getting seeds out of them to eat.† I got what I think might be the best picture I've ever gotten of a Black-capped Chickadee.
The camera is fast to turn on, it focused quickly, and I liked the pictures it took today.† The conditions were excellent, so it might not be a fair test, but in these great conditions, it performed great, I think.† Here is a female Red-winged Blackbird.
I didn't need either of those species for Friday, but I was concentrating on taking pictures, to test the camera.† Here is a picture of Juanita Bay Park from the end of the east boardwalk, looking west.
On the beach on the point in the middle of that picture, across the little bay, I saw my first Friday species of the day, a group of Wilson's Snipe.† I was very pleased with how well I could get pictures of them at that distance.† I was hand-holding the camera at a 35mm equivalent foal length of over 1300mm.† Here is a group of four Wilson's Snipe.
Just to test the camera, I made an extreme crop of the center of that picture and got this.
That is far better than my old camera would have done.† Far, far better.
Here is a picture of two Wilson's Snipe with their bills tucked under their wings.
Here is another picture of a pair of Wilson's Snipe.
As I said, conditions were excellent this morning, but that sequence of shots tells me that I'm gonna like this camera a lot.
Here is a picture of a Bald Eagle in the fir tree on the right, across that small bay.† The eagle was in shadow, so it isn't great, but I'm still satisfied with it.
Here is a picture of a female Green-winged Teal.
A pair of Gadwalls flew in and landed in that little bay, so I shot them, too.† Here is a female Gadwall.
Here is the male Gadwall.
The copies of the pictures that I put in these reports are low resolution, highly compressed versions.† The larger sized, higher resolution versions are what I was really impressed with.
Here is a picture of Juanita Bay looking north from the end of the East boardwalk at Juanita Bay Park.
Here is a picture of some people walking on the dock across the bay, about one-third of a mile (1600 feet) away (I measured the distance on Google Maps).
My old camera wouldn't have done nearly that well on that shot.† Not even close.†
Here are some Double-crested Cormorants that are about a quarter of a mile away.
I couldn't even see them with the naked eye.
A male Common Merganser flew in and landed about a hundred feet away.† That was the second species I needed for Friday, and it gave me a chance to try out the new software that came with my new camera, as well as a feature of my new camera that my old one didn't have.† My old camera only shot JPEG's, which is a compressed file type for photos.† This new camera will shoot JPEG's, but it will also shoot what is called RAW files, which are uncompressed images.† The file sizes are larger and you have to do processing on the images to convert them to JPEG's, but there is more information in the file.† As a result, you can process a better picture from the RAW file (if you know what you're doing).† This was the first time I have shot RAW images, and I have zero experience with the software, which is much more complicated and sophisticated than the primitive old software I have always used to process my pictures.† I have the camera set up to take both JPEG's and RAW at the same time - that is, I get two image files for each shot I take - one JPEG and one RAW.† For the rest of this report, I simply used the JPEG files and processed them with my old software, like I have always done.† I did the same with my best picture of the male Common Merganser.† The result was a bit unsatisfying, largely because the bright white of the duck's back threw everything off.† I decided to make my first attempt at processing the RAW file of the same shot, just as a test.† I had to try it someday, why not today?† Here are the two images I ended up with.† First, the JPEG image of the male Common Merganser, processed as best I could do with my old software.
Not bad, but not as good as I had hoped it would be.† Here is my maiden effort at processing the RAW file into a JPEG with the new software (which was free, by the way).
OK, not a huge difference, maybe, but to my eyes, the second one is much more satisfactory.† Keep in mind that I don't have any experience yet with this new software, and the nature of image processing is that you make a whole series of changes, and each one takes judgment and decisions.† I have great hopes that once I learn to use this new software that I'll be able to produce much better pictures.† It'll be much more time consuming at first, but I hope to get much faster as time goes on.† I'll enjoy the learning process, too.† I think most of the differences between the two pictures are due to the new software, as opposed to using a RAW file as the original, but having a RAW file to start with certainly helps.
So, the Common Merganser was my second Friday bird, and on the way back to the car I saw some American Robins, and that completed that species for the year.
I saw a European Starling near the top of a tall tree, and I took this shot as another test of the camera.
I'm satisfied with that shot, considering the distance.
I added three species to my Friday list, to bring me to 134 for Friday, which is my highest day at this point.† I'm still at 223 species for the year.† Completing the American Robin makes 41 species that I have completed now.† For my BAD bird today, I'll take Common Merganser.
Tomorrow is supposed to be rainy again, so I need to plan something I can do in the rain and still get some Saturday birds.† There could be some breaks in the rain, too.† We'll see how my new camera does under more difficult conditions.
Saturday, February 18, 2017
It was drizzly and gray all day today.† The drizzle never let up and it was a light rain some of the time.† I drove over to the Carnation area, to see what I could find for my Saturday list.† Along the way I saw several groups of Canada Geese, and that completed that species for me.† As I approached Sikes Lake a bird flew across the road, and when I stopped to check it out, it turned out to be a White-crowned Sparrow, another one I needed for Saturday.
I made my way to the house with feeders in Carnation.† There was nothing there when I arrived, but I parked my car where I could watch the yard, and after a short while, birds started coming in.† There wasn't anything exciting, but eventually some Mourning Doves flew in, and that was one I needed for Saturday.† Here is a picture of a Mourning Dove with a seed in its bill.
A pair of finches flew in to the feeding table, and I got this picture of the female.
I think it might be a Purple Finch, which would be a year-bird for me, but it might just be a House Finch, so I'm not counting it.† I wish I had been able to get a good picture of the male, but they both flew off before I could do that.
There were a lot of Red-winged Blackbirds coming to the feeders, and I got this picture of a male Red-winged Blackbird.
I was fairly satisfied with that picture, but I thought it might be a good one to experiment with, using the RAW file of the image and the new software I have from Canon.† Here is what I got out of that experiment.
I like the second picture better, but they aren't all that much different.† Keep in mind that this is only the second image I have ever tried to process with this new software (Digital Photo Professional 4.5), and it is quite complicated.† We'll see how my pictures look after I've done a hundred of them, or better yet, a thousand.† I have done thousands of pictures with my old software (Paint Shop Pro 9), and I'm still learning new things about using it.† I expect I'll enjoy the learning, and I expect that eventually I'll have better images after processing.
I got three more species for my Saturday list today, to bring it to 99, the lowest of the seven days of the week.† I completed Canada Goose today, to make 42 species completed now.† For my BAD bird, I'll take Morning Dove.
It is supposed to be wet again tomorrow, but it looks like there could be a break in the morning, so I'll see what I can find for my Sunday list.
Sunday, February 19, 2017
It had rained a little overnight, but it seemed to be stopping as I headed out for Marymoor Park this morning.† There had been reports of an uncommon bird (for Western Washington) there, for the last two days.† I decided to try for it, and if I missed it, there were other species to look for at Marymoor as well.
The rain did indeed let up, and there was even some sunshine a little later in the morning.† When I arrived at Marymoor, I immediately saw three people near where the uncommon bird had been reported, and one was walking back toward his car.† I asked him if they had the bird, and he said yes.† He was getting his scope out of the car, and we walked back to where the other two people were.† They showed me the HORNED LARK, an excellent year-bird and a new one for my King county list.† The bird was feeding continuously, and it was hard to get pictures, but here are three pictures of the Horned Lark this morning.
It never stopped moving for more than a fraction of a second.† There wasnít very much light, and that made getting pictures difficult.† I tried shooting a movie clip, to capture the movement, and that worked great.† I figured out how to edit the movie a little and reduce its file size, but I haven't been able to figure out how to insert it into a Word document.† I can attach it to an email, but not insert it into the body of the email, as far as I can see.† It was still good experience to shoot a little video with my new camera.
I like my new camera very much, but there is one problem - shutter lag.† I think I mentioned that before.† With my Sony cameras, if a bird was moving, I could press the shutter button and the image would black out for a second or so, and then the image would display.† The image captured was basically the same as the last thing I saw in the viewfinder before the viewfinder blacked out.† This camera has a longer shutter lag, though, and the image captured is taken a fraction of a second later than what I last saw in the viewfinder.† As I result, I think I've gotten the bird as it has its head up, but in fact, the image I capture is a fraction of a second later, and the bird has lowered its head - or turned it to the side, or made some other movement.† I'm trying to learn to anticipate the movements of the birds better, so I can capture a good image of them.† It will always be a problem, but maybe I can learn to compensate somewhat.† That is the only shortcoming of the camera that I've found so far.
After I got the Horned Lark, I drove around looking for the Northern Shrike that has been hanging out there, but I never found it, despite making the rounds of its territory several times.† I stopped at one point and walked up onto the viewpoint hill to the north of the East Meadow and took a picture of the off-leash dog park at Marymoor.† It's a huge area and it's very popular.† I counted well over 100 cars in the two parking lots as I was leaving this morning.† That's a lot of owners and dogs using the park.† Here is a picture of part of the dog park from the viewpoint hill.
I wasn't really satisfied with that picture, but it was the best I could do with my old image processing software, Paint Shop Pro 9.† I tried out my new software, Digital Photo Professional 4.5, and got this result, editing the RAW version of the file.
I like the second one better, but it could use improving, too.† This is only the third image I have ever processed with this software, and I'm still stumbling around in the dark, trying to figure out how to use it.† It will take dozens of pictures, maybe hundreds, before I'm anything like proficient at it.† I learned more today, though, and that learning will continue, I hope.
I wanted to try to get some more pictures with my new camera, so I parked at the west parking lot for the dog park and walked along the slough a little.† The water level in the slough was higher than I've ever seen before and there were a lot of dogs, so I went north, outside the dog park†† I found some sparrows feeding on the ground, so I took pictures of them for practice with my new camera.† Here is a Golden-crowned Sparrow in its winter plumage.† Note the head especially.
Here is another Golden-crowned Sparrow that has already gotten its summer plumage.† Compare the heads of the two birds.
Here is a male Spotted Towhee that showed up briefly.
There were a couple of Fox Sparrows around, too.
I didn't need any of those species, but I saw a Yellow-rumped Warbler hawking insects over the slough, and I did need that one for Sunday.
So, I ended up getting two more species for my Sunday list, to bring me to 109 species.† The Horned Lark brings my yearly total up to 224.† For my BAD bird today, I'll take the Horned Lark.† It was good to get out and about for a couple of hours, and it was also good to get some more practice with my new camera, including shooting some video.
Monday, February 20, 2017
It was drizzling in the morning, but I saw a Chestnut-backed Chickadee at the feeder in our yard.† I needed that species for Monday, so I had my Monday bird. †I wanted to get a good BAD bird, though, so I set out looking for ducks or Cackling Geese.† Most of the ducks will be heading north in a month or so, and part of my strategy for Bird-A-Day is to be sure to take each duck species as a BAD bird before they head north and we don't see them for months.
I tried Sixty Acres soccer fields first, hoping for Cackling Geese, but no luck there.† There was a field full of water along 124th in the Sammamish Valley, so I pulled over to check it for ducks.† There were a few mallards, a few Green-winged Teal, and a couple of Northern Pintails.† I already used Northern Pintail for a BAD bird (not allowed to repeat), I want to "save" Mallard for later because they donít migrate and will be here all year, and I was hoping for a less common duck species than Green-winged Teal.† I'll take Green-winged Teal sometime in the next month or two, but they are easy to find.
I drove out toward the Snoqualmie Valley, but I detoured to Cottage Lake.† I found what I was looking for there, a couple of Ruddy Ducks.† I didn't need that species for Monday, but it was a good BAD bird to take, as they aren't very common around here.
There was an eagle on the shore across the lake, and it had a large fish that it was eating.† It was much too far for a decent picture, but I was testing my camera out, and I took some shots, including some using digital zoom, to see how it would work.
Here is a picture taken in the RAW format, full frame, at full zoom (which is about 40X).
The conditions were terrible, of course.† Not only was it too far away, it was raining, there wasn't much light, and I was hand-holding the camera.† Here is a full frame picture taken in the JPEG mode with 2X digital zoom (you can't use digital zoom with RAW images, it turns out).
Here is one with 4X digital zoom, which makes a total of 160X (4x40).
It isn't a usable picture, by any means, but at least you can identify the bird.† If there had been more light, if it hadn't been raining, and if I had had the camera on a tripod, it would have been considerably better.
Just to finish off the experiment, here is the center cropped out of the first picture, the RAW image at full optical zoom of about 40X.
I learned some things from trying the digital zoom.† I doubt I'll use it for pictures, but I found I can use it like I would use my scope.† If I look through the camera's viewfinder, I get a decent 160X zoomed picture for the purpose of identification.† It could mean that I wouldn't always have to lug my scope with me; I could use the camera in lieu of the scope.
That was it for me for the day.† The Chestnut-backed Chickadee at our feeder was my only Monday bird, to bring me to 107 species for Monday.† I chose Ruddy Duck for my BAD bird for the day.
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
It was raining lightly again this morning, and I headed out to look for ducks again - both for my Tuesday list and for a BAD bird.
My first stop was Waverly Park, located on Lake Washington just north of downtown Kirkland.† There wasnít much around, but there was a single female Common Merganser, and that was a new one for Tuesday for me this year.† There were also a couple of Common Goldeneyes, and that was a decent BAD bird.† While I was there a Bald Eagle made a pass at a couple of Mallards in the little protected harbor area, but it missed and the Mallards took off.† I think they saw it coming and took off before it got there.
The Common Merganser brought me to 103 species for Tuesday, and I took Common Goldeneye for my BAD bird for the day.
The weather is supposed to get better now for several days, so maybe I can do some real birding.† This is already the 4th wettest February in Seattle's records, and there are still 8 days more to go in the month.† It will no doubt end up being either the rainiest February on record or the second rainiest.
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
It was dry this morning, with sun breaks.† I headed up to the Edmonds waterfront to see what I could find for Wednesday and my BAD bird.† I went straight to Sunset Avenue today, partly because the tide was high enough that I thought it would be unlikely I would see the Surfbird from the fishing pier.
When I got to Sunset and got out, I discovered that I had left my warm coat at home.† Oopsie.† It was 39 degrees and breezy, and it felt darn cold standing out there in my flannel shirt.† I took a quick look, but I didn't think I'd be hanging around for long.
There was a row of eleven Dunlin standing on a log offshore, with their heads tucked under their wings.† I needed that one for Wednesday, so I was done.† Here are the Dunlin.
I looked around a little more, for as long as I could stand the cold, and I added Pigeon Guillemot to my Wednesday list as well.† That was it for the day for me; I'll try not to leave my coat at home again.
The Dunlin and Pigeon Guillemots brought my Wednesday total to 109.† For my BAD bird, I'll take Dunlin, since they will soon be heading north and I don't see them very often.
Thursday, February 23, 2017
I went up to Edmonds again this morning, but this time I remembered to take my coat along.† Not only that, I put on a pair of sweatpants over my jeans.† It was 39 degrees again, but this time I wasn't cold.
I walked out onto the fishing pier at Edmonds.† Here is a picture of it.
I saw a female Red-breasted Merganser right away, one for my Thursday list.† I must not have been up to Edmonds before on a Thursday this year, because there were lots of easy ones I needed.† I got Pigeon Guillemot, Red-necked Grebe, and Horned Grebe easily.† Here is a picture of a Horned Grebe.
Notice how far back his legs are.† Grebes can barely walk when out of the water because their legs are so far back on their body.† I can only remember seeing a grebe out of the water once, and that was a Western Grebe that seemed sick or very tired.† It would get up on its legs and stagger a few steps and flop on its stomach.† Eventually it made it back to the water and swam away.† That was down on the Oregon coast a number of years ago.
I went back to my car and drove to Marina Beach, a little south of the pier.† I saw a Surf Scoter there, for my Thursday list.† I'm still testing out my new camera, and I took some pictures of a crow.† Crows are a challenge because they are all black, and this one was an even bigger challenge because he was silhouetted against the bright sky.† I processed these next two pictures a lot, both with my older software and with my new software.† Here is the better of the two pictures of an American Crow.
He called several times, and this was the best I could do of him calling.
That was it for Edmonds for the day, but I felt like trying for more pictures, so I stopped at Wallace Swamp Creek Park in Kenmore, which was right on the way home.† There were a lot of American Robins feeding in the grass, and I got this picture of one.
I saw a Ruby-crowned Kinglet high in a tree, flitting around.† It was a long way away and the light was terrible, but I got this recognizable picture.
I'm slowly learning to use my new Canon software to process my RAW files.† Here is a male Spotted Towhee, again backlighted, making the photo more difficult.
I didn't get anything for my Thursday list at the park, but I had a nice little walk and got some photo practice with my new camera.
Back at home I took this picture of a Song Sparrow at our feeder.† It is redder than usual for a Song Sparrow, and it's kind of scruffy looking around the head.
Here is a male Red-winged Blackbird at the feeder.
I like this picture of a female Dark-eyed Junco on the sidewalk.
So, that was it for Thursday.† I added five species to my Thursday list, and all five of them were completions - that is, I've now seen all five of those species on each day of the week this year.† That brings my Thursday total to 116 and my completed species list to 47.† I'm still at 224 species for the year.† For my BAD bird today, I'll take Ruby-crowned Kinglet.
I thought tomorrow was going to be a big challenge for me because it was supposed to rain and/or snow all day, but they have completely changed the forecast, and now it looks pretty good.† Now Sunday looks to be the big challenge, with rain and/or snow, but we'll see.† One day at a time.
Friday, February 24, 2017
There were a few wet snowflakes as I headed out this morning, but they soon let up.† I went to Marymoor, hoping to see the Northern Shrike and maybe Cackling Geese.† I needed both for Friday, and I wanted to get Cackling Goose for a BAD bird before they left for their summer breeding grounds.
At Marymoor, I didn't see the shrike in the first area I looked, but when I stopped at the end of the east parking lot for the dog park, I saw it in the distance at the top of a tree.† I got out my scope to get a better look, but it had flown off by then, and I never found it again.† I drove back and forth two or three times and looked in all the usual places, but never could catch another glimpse of it.† I'd have liked a better look, but I'm sure I saw it, so it goes onto my Friday list.
I wanted to get a good BAD bird (meaning a winter species - one that would be heading north in the next month or two), and there were no geese at Marymoor, nor anything else of interest.† I decided to go out to the Snoqualmie River Valley to look for ducks, and I took a new route.† I went up 196th Ave NE, a road I had never been on before.† It was interesting because it was an old brick road for over a mile.† A sign said the road had been paved in 1913, and the bricks did indeed look very old.
It was an interesting semi-rural area, and the road went past Evans Creek Natural Area, which I had read of but never visited.† There weren't many birds, but it might be interesting in the spring or summer.† As I neared the end of the brick road I saw a flock of Cackling Geese in a field - score!† That's the species I wanted today for my BAD bird.† Here are the Cackling Geese, with two or three larger Canada Geese mixed in with them.
Here is a closer shot of one of the Cackling Geese.† Note the stubby bill and the short neck.† It is much smaller than a Canada Goose, too, although that's hard to tell with no comparison.
That was it for me today.† I had no desire to pump up my Friday total as it is already the highest day of the week, and I don't want to make it any more difficult to add more Friday birds on subsequent Fridays.† The shrike and the goose bring me to 136 species for Friday.† For my BAD bird today, I'll take Cackling Goose.
Saturday, February 25, 2017
This morning I headed up to the Edmonds waterfront.† I hoped to see the Surfbird or one or two other species I needed for Saturday, but I also figured I'd pick up a good BAD bird.† Several of the winter saltwater species will be heading north soon, and I want to be sure to take them as BAD birds before they leave.
I walked out onto the fishing pier.† My Achilles tendon might be healing itself; my heel hurts less all the time, and I'm walking better than I have for many months, with less of a limp and less pain.† Driving is less painful, too.
In the small boat area there was a female goldeneye, a type of duck.† There are two species it might have been, and I got a good close look at it, including pictures.† I decided it was a Barrow's Goldeneye, which is the less common of the two species, and one I needed for Saturday.† It was also one of the winter species I was hoping to see today.† Here is a picture of what I believe to be a female Barrow's Goldeneye.
The differences from Common Goldeneye are in the head.† The bill is orange, rather than dark with an orange tip, the forehead is steep, and the bill is shorter that on a Common Goldeneye.† Here is another view of the female Barrow's Goldeneye.
By the way, I processed all of today's pictures with the new Canon software.† I'm starting to get the hang of it, I think, although I'm sure that it's possible to do a lot more than I know how to do yet.
Out on the pier I spotted some loons way out there.† I hadn't brought my scope with me because I wanted to try using my new camera as a scope.† I turned the setting to Auto so I could use digital zoom, and I looked in the viewfinder.† It worked great.† I could see that the loons were Pacific Loons, the loon I needed for Saturday.† I snapped a couple of pictures, just to see how they would come out, and here is one result.
It's useless as a picture, but it does show the identification of the species.† The image was even clearer in the viewfinder.† That bird was a very long distance away, and I was hand holding the camera with about 160X zoom, which is equivalent (in 35mm terms) to about a 5000 mm lens, I think, if I've done the math right.† This camera is an amazing little machine, in my opinion.
After taking that picture, I saw a Bald Eagle off the end of the pier, swimming toward the breakwater.† I figured it had caught a fish that was too big to take off with.† I hustled up the pier to the end just in time to see the eagle reach shore.† I started taking pictures.† Here is the Bald Eagle still swimming, about to reach the breakwater.
Here it is emerging from the water with its prey.
It kind of hopped and flew up the rocks to the top of the breakwater, in several steps, carrying its fish.
Here it is at the top, with its fish.† The bird was pretty wet.
It ruffled its feathers to dry out a bit.
Here is another view of the Bald Eagle with its fish.
It continued to eat the fish for as long as I was there.
The fish didn't seem all that big to me, and I'm surprised that the eagle couldn't fly with it.† I've seen Ospreys fly with bigger fish than that.
Out in the water I spotted a Pigeon Guillemot in summer plumage.† I didnít need it for Saturday, and it was pretty far out, but I wanted to test out my camera.† Considering the distance, I'm happy with the result.
Likewise for this Red-necked Grebe.† I didnít need it, but I'm happy with the picture, considering the distance.
After that I drove down to Marina Park, but I didn't see anything new there.† Then I drove up to Sunset Avenue, along the bluff north of the ferry terminal and got out my scope.† I saw a couple more Pacific Loons, much closer this time, but nothing else interesting.
I got two more Saturday birds today, to bring Saturday to 101 species.† I'll take Barrow's Goldeneye for my BAD bird for the day.
Tomorrow will be interesting.† It's supposed to snow in the morning, turning to rain eventually.† I'll have to see what I can do about getting a new Sunday bird and a decent BAD bird.† I suspect it won't be as bad as the news makes it out to be, because that's usually the case.
Sunday, February 26, 2017
The snow never showed up today, at least not around here.† It was raining lightly, but I planned to go over to Marymoor and look for a Sunday bird, then out to the Snoqualmie Valley to find a decent BAD bird (meaning a duck, most likely).† As it turned out, though, I saw a Bewick's Wren in our yard from my bedroom before I could leave, and that took care of my Sunday bird.† It completed Bewick's Wren for me, too.† With that under my belt, all I needed to do was to find a good BAD bird for the day.
I decided to head up to Edmonds, as there are still 3 or 4 good species up there for BAD birds.† On my way I stopped off at Lake Ballinger, though.† I hadn't ever birded there nor been there since the mid-70's, when I sold real estate up in that area.† I thought there might be ducks on the lake, and it was right on my way.† I like to visit new places, too.
I found my way around to the park on the east side of the lake, with the help of my phone and Google Maps.† There were a few ducks around - Mallards, Buffleheads, and a couple of Common Goldeneyes.† I wanted to do better than that, though, so I started to leave.† As I was turning around, I noticed a couple of ducks out on the lake in the distance.† I stopped and took a look.† I could see they were scaups, but there are two species of scaup.† I took this distant picture, and from it I could tell they were Lesser Scaup.
Lesser and Greater Scaup are very similar, but the head shape is a tiny bit different.† I think these were Lesser Scaup, so that's what I put them down as.† I needed that one for Sunday, and it was also a good BAD bird, since they will be heading off north in a few weeks.† I didn't feel like doing any more birding in the rain, so I called it a day after that.
The Bewick's Wren and Lesser Scaup brought me to 111 species for Sunday.† I took Lesser Scaup for my BAD bird for the day.
Monday, February 27, 2017
Yesterday it was supposed to snow, and we got none.† Today was supposed to be a little rainy, but I woke to maybe 3/4 of an inch of snow on the ground, with more falling fast.† Go figure.† Here is a picture of our house in the snow, when the snow let up.
One of our camellia bushes thought it was spring and had started to bloom.† Here it is in the snow this morning.
I liked the look of the weather vane on the garage in the snow.
My grandpappy, who lived here for 40 years, made that weather vane.† He was an actual horse and buggy doctor in Iowa, back about 1910.† He named the property (Bedside Manor), and the joke in the family was that he really had a terrible bedside manner, being very gruff and blunt.† He was a good guy, though, and had lots of friends.† He was one of the founding members of the Northwest Orthopedic Society, back about 1920 or so, and was a prominent doctor in Seattle into the 70's.† He died in 1986, a couple of weeks short of his 100th birthday, and we bought the property from the family.
Anyway, after that little trip down memory lane, I revised my birding plans for the day and headed over to Logboom Park in Kenmore, looking for a duck for my Monday bird.† It had stopped snowing at home, but it was snowing in Kenmore when I got to the park.† I bundled up and walked out onto the boardwalk anyway, to see what I could see.† There were a few ducks around, but I didn't see any of the ones I needed for Monday.
Then I noticed a hawk on the beach.† It turned out to be a Cooper's Hawk, and it had a coot that it had presumably killed.† A coot is a large bird for a Cooper's Hawk, although this hawk was quite large.† It must have been a female, which are larger than males in most hawk species.† Here is the Cooper's Hawk on the beach in the snow, with her breakfast, an American Coot.
The hawk couldn't fly with the coot, but she sort of hopped and flapped up away from the water, toward some bushes.† She would go 6 or 8 feet at a time and then rest for a minute or so.† Here is another picture of her, moving the coot away from the water.
Here she is at one of her rest stops.
The local crows noticed and flew around cawing loudly, but she ignored them, and they didn't approach her.† Eventually she got her prey into the bushes, and I hope she enjoyed a hearty breakfast.
I continued to scan the water for ducks, and I saw a Wood Duck finally, down the beach.† I had to look for a while to confirm the identification, since it was snowing.† The snow would let up a little from time to time, and I gradually saw enough field marks to confirm it was a Wood Duck, which was one for my Monday list.† I could have taken either Wood Duck or Cooper's Hawk for my BAD bird, but I was hoping to see something "better" later in the day.
I went to lunch with my friend, Chris, and after lunch we went to Phantom Lake in Bellevue, as usual.† There was a light rain and it was in the high 30's, but we're both real men, so we braved the wet and cold and walked to the lake.† There were a lot of birds today, despite the weather.† Among the several duck species on the lake was this male Greater Scaup, which was an excellent Monday bird.
As I explained in yesterday's entry, the differences between Greater and Lesser Scaup are pretty subtle, but the head shape of this bird said Greater Scaup to me.† Compare it to the blurry picture from yesterday (scroll up) of the Lesser Scaup.† Greater Scaup has a more rounded head, with a "long" appearance, while Lesser Scaup had a higher head with a peak at the back behind the eye, giving it a more "tall" appearance.† For years I couldn't really tell them apart, but I think I have the hang of it now, although I always forget which one is which and have to look them up.
We also saw a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, which I didn't need, having completed that species this year.† When we were almost back to the car we were treated to really close views of a Golden-crowned Kinglet, and that was one I needed for Monday.† I had my camera ready, but the bird never stopped moving, and I never even got off a shot.
So, I added three species to my Monday list, to bring it to 110.† For my BAD bird today, I'll take Greater Scaup, since they will be heading north in the next month or so.
Tomorrow I plan to head over to the Olympic Peninsula, with the goal of bring my Jefferson county list up to 50 or more, from the 42 where it is now.† Washington county birding - just one more little game I play.† I got myself to 39 species in each of the state's 39 counties, and now I'm working on getting them all up to 50.† It will just be a two day (one night) trip, and it should be pretty easy to get the birds I need to get Jefferson county to 50 (knock on wood, no jinx).† I plan to stay in Sequim tomorrow night, and I plan to visit some sites I have only been to once or twice, as well as one that I have never been to.
Tuesday, February 28, 2017
I was up shortly after seven this morning, and I got on the road by about 8:50.† Pretty good for me.† I caught the 9:40 ferry in Edmonds and was on the Kitsap Peninsula shortly after ten.† I got a tuna sandwich at Subway, taking advantage of their continuing six dollar foot-long sub promotion, and headed for Jefferson county.† I planned to try to get my Jefferson county total up to at least 50 today, and it was at 42 when I started today.
I got my first Tuesday bird at the ferry terminal in Kingston, actually Ė Barrowís Goldeneye.† I was figuring on that, as they are always around that ferry dock, at least in the winter.
I crossed the Hood Canal floating bridge by 11:00.† I stopped at Shine Tidelands State Park, just across the bridge, but didnít see anything I needed for either list (Tuesday or Jefferson county).
I drove up Beaver Valley toward Port Townsend and picked up Trumpeter Swan and Canada Goose for my Jefferson county list.† I crossed over to Indian Island and stopped at Indian Island county park.† I got Black Oystercatcher there, but my pictures are so distant that Iím not even going to show them.† That was good for both lists.
I crossed the isthmus to Marrowstone Island and drove up to Fort Flagler State Park.† As I drove through the forest to the campground and day use area, I saw two or three Varied Thrushes, a good one for both of my lists today. †They all flew away before I could get a picture, unfortunately.
I stopped at the boat ramp at the campground and didnít see anything interesting out on the water.† I did see some shorebirds along the shore, though, and added Sanderling and Dunlin to both lists.† They were too far away for pictures, and I didnít feel like walking to try to get closer, which turned out to be a good decision.
At the other beach access at the campground, I saw a small group of people with scopes.† Aha, I said to myself Ė birders.† I parked nearby and went up and joined them.† They turned out to be on an Audubon Society day trip from Snohomish county, which is the county just north of where I live.† Here is a picture of them with their scopes.
They told me that there were great views of some shorebirds on the beach, and I took a look.† Here is a picture of a BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER, my first one of the year.
That was also good for my Jefferson county list.† There were some Brant (a small goose) offshore, and I got this picture.
I didnít need Brant for either list, but I like the picture.† Here is a picture of a couple of Sanderlings, which I did need for both lists.
I understand there was a movie called Piper last year, and it won some kind of Academy Award.† It is my understanding that Piper was a Sanderling, although the movie took liberties with Mother Nature, as Piperís parents are shown in winter plumage, not the summer plumage they would be in when they were breeding.
Here is a Sanderling and a Dunlin, another shorebird that I needed for both my lists today.
Note the longer, slightly down-turned, bill on the Dunlin, as well as the different coloration.
Here is a picture of all three species together Ė Black-bellied Plover, Sanderling, and Dunlin.
I like to get pictures that show relative size differences among species.
It was getting on for lunch time, so I drove through the campground and found a good place to pull off and eat my sumptuous lunch, which included mini-peppers and peas that I brought from home, as well as some Cheetos from Subway.† Yum.
On my way I saw some robins, and a couple of them were having a bath.† Here is a picture of a couple of American Robins having a bath.
After a while, another one joined them.
While I was eating my lunch I heard a bird calling.† I thought it might be a woodpecker, so I got out to look.† I didnít see the bird that had been calling, but I did pick up Dark-eyed Junco for my Jefferson county list.† While I was out of the car I saw a little bird up high, and it seemed to be a chickadee, although I wasnít sure which chickadee species it was.
I thought it was a Chestnut-backed Chickadee, so I played the songs and calls of that species, and a little group of them flew in to check me out.† I got this picture of a Chestnut-backed Chickadee, which was good for both of my lists.
Here is another one.
By that time it was almost 1:00 and I had 51 species on my Jefferson county list, so technically, I could go home.† I had booked a motel for tonight, though, so I kept on looking for birds.† I stopped at Mystery Bay State Park, and there were a couple of Greater Yellowlegs there, among the ducks.† That was good for my Tuesday list, although I had seen them in Jefferson county before.† Here is a rather distant picture of a Greater Yellowlegs.
That bird was a long distance away; I continue to be quite pleased with this new camera.
Along that same road on Marrowstone Island there was a farm pond with a lot of wigeons in it.† Most of them were American Wigeons, of course, but there was one male Eurasian Wigeon, which was a good one for my Jefferson county list.
Oak Bay county park is just south of where you come back onto the mainland from Indian Island, and I decided to check out Portage Way, which runs right along the water for a short distance.† I didnít get anything for my lists there, but I got this picture of a male Common Goldeneye.
He was with a first winter male Common Goldeneye, and I got a picture of the youngster, too.
He had been scratching himself with his foot, which is why his orange leg is showing.
I drove up through Port Townsend and stopped at Hudson Point.† I saw the same three shorebird species there that I had seen over at Fort Flagler Ė Black-bellied Plover, Dunlin, and Sanderling.† There were a few other birds around, but nothing I needed, other than Mew Gull for my Jefferson county list.
I drove back through Port Townsend, looking specifically for pigeons or House Sparrows, since I needed both of those for Jefferson county, but never saw either one.† At one point I did see a male Spotted Towhee, though, which I needed for Jefferson county.† Here is a picture of a male Spotted Towhee from the front.
He turned around and gave me this rear view.
It was getting time to be heading for the barn by then, but I made one more stop on my way to Sequim from Port Townsend.† I stopped at Gardiner Beach, which is right on the western edge of Jefferson county.† On my way there I saw a couple of Red-winged Blackbirds fly across the road, and I needed that one for Jefferson.† At Gardiner Beach I got out and took a look.† There were a few birds out on the water, but nothing interesting.†
Before I left some crows flew in and were foraging along the beach.† The crow situation is interesting over here on the Olympic Peninsula.† There are two local crow species, American Crow and Northwestern Crow.† They look exactly the same, although Northwestern Crows are a little smaller on average, I guess.† Mostly, birders determine the species by where they are.† Up in British Columbia, Canada, they are assumed to be Northwestern Crows. ††In the Seattle area they are assumed to be American Crows.† In between there is a lot of debate among birders.† To make matters even worse, the two species can interbreed and so there are hybrids.† It would take a DNA analysis to determine which species you had, other than the location.† Many birders think there is a difference in the calls of the two species, though.† The birding software that I use has calls for both species, and I can tell the difference when I listen to one right after the other.† Anyway, today the crows on the beach were small, and they called.† I though it sounded like the Northwestern Crow call, and everyone agrees that some of the crows in this area are Northwestern Crows.† They also tend to hang out on beaches.† I counted NORTHWESTERN CROW for my year list, today, anyway.† I already had it on my Jefferson county list.
There is a lagoon there at Gardiner Beach, and I saw Gadwalls and a Hooded Merganser there.† The merganser was good for both lists, and the Gadwalls were good for my Tuesday list.
I headed for my motel in Sequim, but before I got out of Jefferson county I saw a flock of geese in a field.† It turned out to be a mixed flock of Canada Geese and Cackling Geese.† Cackling Goose is a small version of Canada Goose, and I needed it for Jefferson county.† Here is a picture that shows a couple of Canada Geese (the larger ones in the back) and a couple of Cackling Geese.
That was it.† I got checked into my motel and settled down to an exciting evening of processing my pictures and writing this report.
So, it was a good day of birding and I got out and about, visiting some new places.† I added 15 species to my Jefferson county list, to bring it to 57.† I added 11 species to my Tuesday list, to bring that one to 114.† My two new year-birds brought my year list to 226.† Finally, I completed one species (Gadwall) to make it 49 species that I have now seen on all seven days of the week this year.† For my BAD bird for the day, Iíll take Black-bellied Plover.
Tomorrow all I have to do it go home, in addition to picking up a Wednesday bird and getting a BAD bird.† I might go back to some of the same places to get some of the birds I saw today for Wednesday.† I also could look for other year-birds, like California Quail, which live around here.† Weíll see what I feel like doing in the morning.