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All photographs ©2015 by Mary Beth Stowe

 

May 8, 2015 - South Padre Island

 

 

 

Phil and his crew were gonna hit Sheepshead first, so I decided to try and get to the north end of Park Road 100 by sunrise and do a little BBS-ing, but aside from the pretty scenery (I always enjoy seeing the dunes and the pristine habitat on the west side of the island), it was pretty useless due to the wind; birds along this stretch consisted of grackles, Least Terns, and singing meadowlarks.  So around 7:30 I beelined for the bay access, and was surprised at the lack of birds as the tide was out (more or less - by the time we all congregated at the back of the Convention Centre it was clear that the tide was in)!  What was there was in its breeding finery, however:  plenty of Sanderlings, Dunlin, a few Black-bellied Plover and one Semipalmated, and a few terns.  I could find no other small plovers, but did have four White-rumped Sandpipers over in the area where we had the plovers last week.  By the time I wheeled around a flock of skimmers had come in, so that was nice.  A white morph Reddish Egret was really putting on a show, his plumes flying in the wind!

 

Diggory on PR 100 just past dawn.

 

A view of the habitat on the west side of the road (but you have to climb the dunes to see it...)

 

Dunes on the east side of the road

 

The shorebirds are all in their breeding finery!  This is a Dunlin...

 

...and here's a Black-bellied Plover that actually has his black belly!

 

       

The fluffy plumes of the Reddish Egret (this is a white morph) are usually only apparent when he gets wind-blown or upset!

 

A Sanderling (left) and White-rumped Sandpiper look for breakfast.  Note that the Sanderling lacks a hind toe, which can be a useful field mark when the bird's in a confusing plumage!

 

       

A good mark for White-rumped Sandpiper (besides the white rump) is the reddish spot at the base of the lower mandible, which nevertheless can be difficult to see!

 

Headed over to the Convention Centre, which was pretty lively (with people, that is); we found out later that some kind of ancestry conference was going on!  I poked around the water feature and the trees in back, finding nothing at first, but eventually a Wilson's Warbler and dull Philadelphia Vireo showed up.  I wandered over to the bay overlook and added some Cattle Egrets with their buffy plumes, along with three Marbled Godwits, when Phil snuck up behind me!  There was nothing at Sheepshead, he said, and was surprised at how much it had grown up since he was last there, so I tried to refind the Philly for them, and thank God it was still around and gave everyone great looks!  A Yellow Warbler and a male Blackpoll also came in, and thankfully Susan had a pocket knife that I used to cut up some oranges and impale them on the trees.

 

I cleaned the knife and then went back to the car while the rest of the crew headed out on the boardwalk, and found a Northern Parula on the way!  I also ran into a British couple whose primary focus was photography, but reported that some nice things had come in the evening before (like a Golden-winged Warbler), so there was hope!  A cleaning crew had wheeled a huge garbage bin onto the boardwalk (to empty the boardwalk's cans, I imagine), and I noticed they along with Phil's bunch were peering over the boardwalk!  Thinking maybe they were admiring one of the photogenic Common Gallinules, I was pleasantly surprised when Phil triumphantly pointed down at the the huge Alligator curled up right out in the open!  I rarely see one, but he boasted of having one every time he visited, so his streak is secure! ☺  At the end of the boardwalk a Least Bittern flew by, but most of the crew was looking elsewhere when Phil and I yelled...

The gang has spotted something over the railing...

...which turns out to be an Alligator!

 

From there we decided to go over to the Birding Center (especially after I mentioned the breeding pair of Oystercatchers ☺), and that was pretty productive:  in the little garden a pair of Baltimore Orioles showed well, and from the gap in the garden, everyone got great looks not only at the Oystercatchers, but a pair of Wilson's Plovers as well, along with an Osprey!  A Scissor-tailed Flycatcher sat on a snag, which I knew was one they wanted, but thankfully they had seen one on the way over. 

 

From there we hit the boardwalks and had point blank looks at Mottled Ducks and Tricolored Herons, plus more Reddish Egrets in the distance.  Clapper Rails called, but we couldn't spot any (and I emphasized that this was now a different species than their San Diego Clappers, now called Ridgeway's), and at least three cuckoos sailed in from the bay, all of which appeared to be Yellow-billed (and one was close enough to actually see his bill color)!  Phil gloried in the finding of another Alligator (this time I thought he found a Least Bittern), and we ran into the British couple again (they were on the Convention's boardwalk:  close enough to carry on a conversation but cut off from access of course), and while I chatted with them Phil's group wandered down towards the reeds.  The Brits had had a Least Bittern "right there", so we were searching carefully, and on the section that eventually leads to the exit door, Phil suddenly spotted the bittern!  Of course, none of us could see it, and Phil was tearing his hair out trying to come up with fresh ways of describing the tee-pee-shaped reeds, when several of us suddenly saw the thing (I was looking too far back, naturally) and felt like idiots because it truly was "right there" in the open!  "He" turned out to be a "she", and she subsequently put on quite the show, walking to the back row of vegetation to stalk something, turning around, stalking something else, and then giving us all a clear view right under our noses!  The nearby Common Gallinule actually acted as though it was jealous and marched right up as if to say, "Hey!  Don't pay any attention to her; lookit me!!"  The Tricolored Heron in full breeding plumage almost took the cake as well, and just before heading to the exit I spotted a Fulvous Whistling Duck on the back side of the pond, next to a Black-bellied!  Phil spotted a shorebird in the same pond, which turned out to be a Stilt Sandpiper, which was new for my SPI list!  Bill was sweating because his battery was about to go (I know that feeling), but thankfully it held on!  However, because he went running on to the van to get a fresh battery, he missed the Jackrabbit that we all saw upon exiting the boardwalk!

       

Friendly Mottled Duck

"Aren'tcha gonna take a picture of me, too??"  (Red-winged Blackbird)

   

This female Least Bittern is very intent on getting lunch!

 

This shot shows how easy it is for them to go unnoticed amongst the reeds!

    

She stalks back out, putting on a great show!

Tricolored Heron in high breeding plumage

Jackrabbit fleeing over the hill...

 

The school kids had taken over the center ☺, so we took one last look at the garden, used the facilities, and then "Keystone Kopped" our way eventually to Pier 19 for a wonderful lunch and farewell to my friends!

 

Bird List:

 

  Black-bellied Whistling-Duck          Dendrocygna autumnalis

  Fulvous Whistling-Duck                Dendrocygna bicolor

  Mottled Duck                          Anas fulvigula

  Least Bittern                         Ixobrychus exilis

  Great Blue Heron                      Ardea herodias

  Snowy Egret                           Egretta thula

  Tricolored Heron                      Egretta tricolor

  Reddish Egret                         Egretta rufescens

  Cattle Egret                          Bubulcus ibis

  Green Heron                           Butorides virescens

  Osprey                                Pandion haliaetus

  Clapper Rail                          Rallus longirostris

  Common Gallinule                      Gallinula galeata

  American Coot                         Fulica americana

  Black-necked Stilt                    Himantopus mexicanus

  American Oystercatcher                Haematopus palliatus

  Black-bellied Plover                  Pluvialis squatarola

  Wilson's Plover                       Charadrius wilsonia

  Semipalmated Plover                   Charadrius semipalmatus

  Killdeer                              Charadrius vociferus

  Greater Yellowlegs                    Tringa melanoleuca

  Willet                                Tringa semipalmata

  Lesser Yellowlegs                     Tringa flavipes

  Marbled Godwit                        Limosa fedoa

  Ruddy Turnstone                       Arenaria interpres

  Stilt Sandpiper                       Calidris himantopus

  Sanderling                            Calidris alba

  Dunlin                                Calidris alpina

  White-rumped Sandpiper                Calidris fuscicollis

  Short-billed Dowitcher                Limnodromus griseus

  Laughing Gull                         Leucophaeus atricilla

  Herring Gull                          Larus argentatus

  Least Tern                            Sternula antillarum

  Caspian Tern                          Hydroprogne caspia

  Royal Tern                            Thalasseus maximus

  Sandwich Tern                         Thalasseus sandvicensis

  Black Skimmer                         Rynchops niger

  Rock Pigeon                           Columba livia

  Eurasian Collared-Dove                Streptopelia decaocto

  Mourning Dove                         Zenaida macroura

  Yellow-billed Cuckoo                  Coccyzus americanus

  Great Kiskadee                        Pitangus sulphuratus

  Scissor-tailed Flycatcher             Tyrannus forficatus

  Philadelphia Vireo                    Vireo philadelphicus

  Barn Swallow                          Hirundo rustica

  Northern Mockingbird                  Mimus polyglottos

  Northern Parula                       Setophaga americana

  Yellow Warbler                        Setophaga petechia

  Blackpoll Warbler                     Setophaga striata

  Wilson's Warbler                      Cardellina pusilla

  Red-winged Blackbird                  Agelaius phoeniceus

  Eastern Meadowlark                    Sturnella magna

  Great-tailed Grackle                  Quiscalus mexicanus

  Brown-headed Cowbird                  Molothrus ater

  Baltimore Oriole                      Icterus galbula

  House Sparrow                         Passer domesticus

 

56 SPECIES

 

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