Photo Gallery - 2015 Field Trips
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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!
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
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