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2012 Big Year
September 16 - South Padre Island
I was all set to do a Hidalgo County Big Day Sunday when Pat mentioned she was thinking about going to South Padre, so long story short, MJ, Joyce, and I ended up joining her (and she even drove)! And it was rather nice for a change, as I got to photograph the gorgeous sunrise we were enjoying on the way over there!
Several shots of the sunrise on US 83
This one actually had a bit of a rainbow affect, but it may have been an artifact of the window glass...
We decided to check the resaca just west of the exit for SR 100 off US 77, and were surprised at how dry it was! There was enough water to support a few Black-necked Stilts, a couple of Lesser Yellowlegs, several Least Sandpipers and a single Spotted, and a Snowy Egret. Heading east on 100 we actually stopped for every raptor we saw on the cross beams and logged several Ospreys, Harris' Hawks, and a couple of White-tailed Hawks and Turkey Vultures. We also had a hovering White-tailed Kite and a couple of Long-billed Curlews in the grasslands.
Coming in to the little town of Laguna Heights, Pat wanted to check out the boardwalk at the county park (Bejarano-McFarland County Park to be exact), and were almost expecting a Mangrove Warbler to pop out at any moment! The tide was way in, so there were no shorebirds to speak of, but we did enjoy some Fiddler Crabs!
Pat, Joyce, and MJ at the overlook at Laguna Heights
Heading in to Port Isabel we swung by Scarlet Colley's yard to see what might be visiting; the best sighting was a pair of Groove-billed Anis, but the yard was also full of Painted Ladies and Monarchs! Pat also found a Golden-fronted Woodpecker, but that was about it (there were some warblers seeping but we just couldn't get them out).
Beat-up Painted Lady
From there we headed over to the island and pulled over on the shoulder once over the causeway to check out some birds lounging there; there was a baby Black Skimmer all by himself, surrounded by Laughing Gulls and Forster's Terns! Over by the KOA campground we enjoyed a battalion of Ruby-throated Hummers fighting over the flowers and feeders, and a quartet of Black-crowned Night Herons flying over.
Baby Black Skimmer
Backlit Ruby-throated Hummingbird (young male?)
Next we checked out the Sheepshead Lot, where there was actually quite a bit of activity: a female-type Black-and-white Warbler welcomed us right away, but we also had at least three Northern Waterthrushes, a male Hooded Warbler, a dull female Yellow Warbler, a chepping Wilson's Warbler, and what could have been a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher in the back (I heard a rather loud wheep! from back there, and the bird seemed rather dull uniform all over, but I just wasn't sure). A Baltimore Oriole chattered and Joyce got a glimpse of it. Across the street Pat found an Ovenbird, but he wouldn't come out for me... We did have a couple of Eastern Kingbirds, however, and a very cooperative Eastern Wood Pewee!
Northern Waterthrush at Sheepshead
Eastern Wood Pewee
From there we headed to the Convention Centre, where a flock of gulls on the beach (which had too much water to drive on) lured us into a back parking lot I had never been in before (it was actually by the loading dock), but we were treated to in-your-face looks at Least and Western Sandpipers! Crawling back to the centre proper, we scoured the trees for goodies and managed to add another waterthrush, plus a Great Crested Flycatcher, American Redstart, Magnolia and Wilson's Warblers, a female Hooded Warbler, and another Ovenbird that actually showed himself! (I think that was Pat's warbler-of-the-day... ☺) We also had several mystery empids, one of which looked good for Least, but we may have had a Traill's as well (maybe the same Alder as awhile back?). Checking the back, Pat found around 20 Marbled Godwits, but the water was too high for most shorebirds; instead we had several herons and a White Ibis, plus a Clapper Rail that sounded off at our feet!
Two Westerns with different bill lengths
Coy Wilson's Warbler
Female American Redstart
Female Hooded Warbler
It was getting too hot to do the boardwalk, so we decided to go to lunch, picking up a pretty Spoonbill, some teal, and a coot in the pond on the way out. We decided to make a quick stop at Sheepshead first, where another gentleman was already there. As we looked for more migrants another gentleman drove up and the two of them starting chatting, and before long Pat (the Public Relations arm of the Birder Patrol ☺) started chatting with them as well, and it turned out the two gentlemen were Will Carter and Brad McKinney! Shortly Will revealed that he had found a young Masked Booby on the beach (!!!) and he and Brad were discussing the possibility of capturing it and transporting it to the Gladys Porter Zoo for rehab (it was apparently one of the birds banded on Muertos Island, as it had a blue band with white numbers). We asked if we could follow them, which we did, to the Sheraton, and then proceeded to the beach where Will had last seen the bird. As feared, it was gone (a good news/bad news situation: good for the bird if he was well enough to fly off, but it woulda been a heckuva year bird), as the beach was also packed with "sun worshippers" on this gorgeous Sunday afternoon, but just as we were ready to give up Will spotted it well south of us, still on the beach! So we hiked down the beach (Joyce stayed behind as it was getting rather warm), where something made the bird fly (so I at least saw it), but then it landed on the beach again! So we picked up our pace again, and just as we got within shouting distance we managed to get the attention of a lady with a dog who was having a confrontation with the bird (she told us the bird went after the dog--wouldn't be surprised as the thing turned out to be fearless)!
A beach-walker tries to convince her dog to leave its new playmate (a young Masked Booby) alone!
So we finally caught up with "Number 165", but in their rush Will and Brad had left the container and towel back at the starting point, so after getting loads of pictures they hiked back down the beach (wouldn't be surprised if we covered at least a mile--at least it felt like it!) to fetch the container and drive down to the county park, which is where we finally ended up. This time Pat needed the shade, so she perched in the big pavilion while Mary Jane and I babysat "Booboo" (actually, when we initially caught up with him, he walked right up to us and then continued on towards the pavilion, so we just walked along--someone actually asked us if he was "ours" because he was "heeling" so well!☺)! We ran interference with all the curious folks who came up and wanted to take pictures and know what he was (you can imagine the looks on their faces when we told them), and it was a real chore to get him to stay away from the picnic blankets, as he seemed to want to make a beeline for the coolers! Will and Brad showed up just in time because by that point he was ready to head to a hole underneath the boardwalk, and while Pat distracted him with her bins (wish I had brought my recorder with me ☺), Will was able to grasp his bill and gather him up in his arms (we even got to pet him a little before they got him settled in the container)! So we thanked the guys profusely for letting us come along (and giving us a ride back to our car ☺), and hopefully "Booboo" will recover enough to be released soon. Pat was very proud of the fact that she now had a pair of bins that had been attacked by a booby! ☺
"Number 165", dubbed "Booboo" by MJ...
Pat keeps an eye on the bird while Will explains the bird's plight to curious on-lookers (and the dog still has his eye on 'im...)
Pat and MJ watch while "Booboo" unconcernedly preens...
"Good--he's lost interest in me!"
Brad and friend
MJ, Pat, Brad, Will, and "Booboo" (click here for more shots)
We were all really shot after that, so we had lunch at the Subway and then headed home (but not without a stop at the Stripes for a "F'Real...☺), with 75 species for the day and a terrific addition to the year list!
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna autumnalis
Blue-winged Teal Anas discors
Plain Chachalaca (Pat's yard) Ortalis vetula
MASKED BOOBY Sula dactylatra
Neotropic Cormorant Phalacrocorax brasilianus
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
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
White Ibis Eudocimus albus
Roseate Spoonbill Platalea ajaja
Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura
Osprey Pandion haliaetus
White-tailed Kite Elanus leucurus
Harris's Hawk Parabuteo unicinctus
White-tailed Hawk Buteo albicaudatus
Clapper Rail Rallus longirostris
American Coot Fulica americana
Black-bellied Plover Pluvialis squatarola
Killdeer Charadrius vociferus
Black-necked Stilt Himantopus mexicanus
Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularius
Willet Tringa semipalmata
Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes
Long-billed Curlew Numenius americanus
Marbled Godwit Limosa fedoa
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Sanderling Calidris alba
Western Sandpiper Calidris mauri
Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla
Laughing Gull Leucophaeus atricilla
Least Tern Sternula antillarum
Black Tern Chlidonias niger
Forster's Tern Sterna forsteri
Royal Tern Thalasseus maximus
Sandwich Tern Thalasseus sandvicensis
Black Skimmer Rynchops niger
Rock Pigeon Columba livia
Eurasian Collared-Dove Streptopelia decaocto
White-winged Dove Zenaida asiatica
Inca Dove Columbina inca
Groove-billed Ani Crotophaga sulcirostris
Ruby-throated Hummingbird Archilochus colubris
Buff-bellied Hummingbird Amazilia yucatanensis
Belted Kingfisher Megaceryle alcyon
Golden-fronted Woodpecker Melanerpes aurifrons
Eastern Wood-Pewee Contopus virens
Least Flycatcher Empidonax minimus
Great Crested Flycatcher Myiarchus crinitus
Great Kiskadee Pitangus sulphuratus
Couch's Kingbird Tyrannus couchii
Eastern Kingbird Tyrannus tyrannus
Loggerhead Shrike Lanius ludovicianus
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Cave Swallow Petrochelidon fulva
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea
Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos
Curve-billed Thrasher (Joyce's park) Toxostoma curvirostre
Ovenbird Seiurus aurocapilla
Northern Waterthrush Parkesia noveboracensis
Black-and-white Warbler Mniotilta varia
Hooded Warbler Setophaga citrina
American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla
Magnolia Warbler Setophaga magnolia
Yellow Warbler Setophaga petechia
Wilson's Warbler Cardellina pusilla
Eastern Meadowlark Sturnella magna
Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanus
Baltimore Oriole Icterus galbula
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
So far: 319 SPECIES
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