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2012 Big Year - January
January 22 - South Padre Island & Frontera Audubon Thicket
This day I was joined by Mary Jane Syvertsen, Pat Heirs, and Joyce Davidson (aka the Birder Patrol) to try for the rarities being seen on South Padre Island, which included a very confiding Black-legged Kittiwake (Joyce's non-birding husband had poured salt in the wound by showing her a picture of said kittiwake seen on a fishing trip), so we headed out there first. Other birders had observed that the bird wasn't necessarily there first thing in the morning, and that proved to be the case, although we saw some nice Red-breasted Mergansers and a pair of Sanderlings on the rocks. A Merlin came shooting in and landed in a palm tree, so that was wonderful to get him taken care of for the year! After scouring the jetty area Pat showed us a little alcove that was just filled with ducks and gulls--just not our gull!
Red-breasted Merganser at Isla Blanca Park
From there we decided to check the bay beach access before it got too crowded, but the flock was still way out there, with a lot of wet, muddy sand between us and them, so we decided caution was in order and headed straight for the Birding Center. While we dipped on all the rarities reported there, the photo ops couldn't be beat with point blank looks at the usual herons, ducks (mainly Redheads), shorebirds, and "swimming rails". One Clapper Rail called and showed himself briefly while dashing from one clump to another, but that was the extent of rail activity (at least of the skulky kind). A pair of Black Skimmers showed off their feeding skills right in front of us, however, as a Forster's Tern tried unsuccessfully to compete! A Gull-billed Tern in the larid flock was good for the year, and we were all surprised that there were no Sandwich Terns in the mix! A little LBJ fluttered up out of the reeds and then back in again, the jizz of which sure made me think Ammodramus sparrow, but it never gave another look. The non-avian prize most definitely went to not one, but two huge Alligators basking on the banks!
Alligator #1 delights the crowds right outside the Birding Center building!
Lesser (left) and Greater Yellowlegs
A photographer's dream!
Clapper Rail races between clumps...
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Roseate Spoonbill, with an American Wigeon in the background
Fearless Great Egret
Stretching Common Gallinule
Forster's Tern looking for lunch
The Great Blue Heron has moved from the post to the mangroves...
A much smaller Tricolored Heron
A Black Skimmer notices a fish frenzy and wheels in to take advantage of it!
He dips the razor-sharp lower mandible into the water...
...which automatically snaps shut when it comes in contact with a food item!
A little fuzzy, but this shows how thin that bill really is!
The Great Blue Heron sails in to join the feeding frenzy!
"Here I am!"
He loses no time in searching for lunch!
A Snowy Egret does the same, his "golden slippers" visible in the shallow water!
Black-bellied Plover (without the black belly in winter...)
Alligator #2 basking closer to the Convention Center...
Meandering over the Convention Center bagged us a female Selasphorus hummer at the water feature, but nothing else of interest. From there we decided to return to Isla Blanca Park, but we could find no kittiwake, even though the guy at the bait shop encouraged us to hang around as it had come in the day before. By that time it was getting close to 1:00 and I was antsy to try for the Golden-crowned Warbler and Crimson-collared Grosbeak at Frontera, so after admiring a fancy pigeon in with the rest of the flock (I think Pat referred to it as a "White-runner" or something like that), we headed out and over to Weslaco.
We can't find the kittiwake, so we settle for some fancy Rock Pigeons...
As we walked in the gate a lady came up and said she had just had the warbler, so the girls shooed me after her (along with Terry and Marci Fuller who had been looking long and hard for it) while they checked in, and we caught up with the rest of the crowd waiting expectantly along the trail by a small water feature along the north side of the area. Presently the rest of the Birder Patrol showed up, and we waited for a good while until I got antsy again (we only had an hour before I had to start getting home), so while Joyce manned the main water feature out front, the rest of us went back to the shack area and made a whole loop, looking and listening, picking up a flock of Field Sparrows by the boardwalk. We spent a little while at the feeding area where the grosbeak had been seen, but I think all we had coming in were titmice and chachalacas. We finally gave up and made our way back to the front where Joyce had seen a Blue-headed Vireo, but nothing else exciting (Pat was worried that Joyce might greet us looking like a Cheshire Cat...). Those who had stood vigil at the original spot reported that the warbler never did reappear...
Called it a day after that, but felt rotten this morning reading the Texbirds reports as someone from San Antonio evidently saw the silly kittiwake right after we left!! :-( Oh, well--as Pat said, yas pay yer money and yas take yer chances! ☺
Bird List (new species are in CAPS):
American Wigeon Anas americana
Mottled Duck Anas fulvigula
Northern Pintail Anas acuta
Redhead Aythya americana
Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis
Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator
Plain Chachalaca Ortalis vetula
Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps
Double-crested Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus
American White Pelican Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
Brown Pelican Pelecanus occidentalis
Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias
Great Egret Ardea alba
Snowy Egret Egretta thula
Little Blue Heron Egretta caerulea
Tricolored Heron Egretta tricolor
Reddish Egret Egretta rufescens
Roseate Spoonbill Platalea ajaja
Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura
Osprey Pandion haliaetus
Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus
Harris's Hawk Parabuteo unicinctus
White-tailed Hawk Buteo albicaudatus
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
American Kestrel Falco sparverius
MERLIN Falco columbarius
CLAPPER RAIL Rallus longirostris
Common Gallinule Gallinula galeata
American Coot Fulica americana
Black-bellied Plover Pluvialis squatarola
Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus
Killdeer Charadrius vociferus
Black-necked Stilt Himantopus mexicanus
American Avocet Recurvirostra Americana
Willet Tringa semipalmata
Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes
Long-billed Curlew Numenius americanus
Marbled Godwit Limosa fedoa
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Sanderling Calidris alba
Dunlin Calidris alpina
Laughing Gull Leucophaeus atricilla
Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis
Herring Gull Larus argentatus
GULL-BILLED TERN Gelochelidon nilotica
Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia
Forster's Tern Sterna forsteri
Royal Tern Thalasseus maximus
Black Skimmer Rynchops niger
Rock Pigeon Columba livia
Eurasian Collared-Dove Streptopelia decaocto
Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura
Inca Dove Columbina inca
White-tipped Dove Leptotila verreauxi
Rufous Hummingbird Selasphorus rufus
Buff-bellied Hummingbird Amazilia yucatanensis
Golden-fronted Woodpecker Melanerpes aurifrons
Eastern Phoebe Sayornis phoebe
White-eyed Vireo Vireo griseus
Green Jay Cyanocorax yncas
Black-crested Titmouse Baeolophus atricristatus
Carolina Wren Thryothorus ludovicianus
Marsh Wren Cistothorus palustris
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea
Ruby-crowned Kinglet Regulus calendula
Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos
Long-billed Thrasher Toxostoma longirostre
European Starling Sturnus vulgaris
Orange-crowned Warbler Oreothlypis celata
Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas
Olive Sparrow Arremonops rufivirgatus
Field Sparrow Spizella pusilla
Savannah Sparrow Passerculus sandwichensis
Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis
Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus
Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanus
Lesser Goldfinch Spinus psaltria
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
So Far: 169 SPECIES
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