Photo Gallery - 2015 Field Trips
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May 13, 2015 - South Padre Yet Again!
After Tuesday's storms, I figured Wednesday would be a good day to check out the Island once more for late migrants, so Pat Heirs agreed to join me, and Norma Friedrich tentatively agreed to meet us there later! The requisite stop at the Laguna Vista Stripes added Olive Sparrow to the day list, and a Chihuahuan Raven flew over SR 100 going in, which I was glad to see (they can be tough to get sometimes)! A long line of Brown Pelicans sailed away from us as we made our way over the causeway.
Our first stop was the Bay Access, where we picked up the usual suspects in their pretty breeding plumage (including the confusing Sanderlings), along with the white morph Reddish Egret putting on a show. We couldn't find any small plovers, but the pair of Black-bellied were stunning! On the way out we could hear Common Nighthawks beenting out the window for the day.
We then pulled into the Convention Centre where a Pewee showed off right away, and a wobbly song turned out to belong to a Yellow Warbler. The water feature area was a little slow, so we went to the "back yard", and that's where all the action was! Right away we picked up a female Blackburnian Warbler, and I got a glimpse of a dull Tennessee Warbler, but it was gone before Pat could get a look. A Warbling Vireo did give a lengthy view, and before long one of Pat's "Most Wanted" birds for the year popped up: a male Bay-breasted Warbler! When the three of us were discussing this trip via e-mail, Norma mentioned that she needed Blackburnian and Bay-breasted for the year, so I texted her and basically said, "Both are here NOW!!!" In the meantime a Magnolia Warbler and Catbird popped up, and a thrush of some kind gave a brief view, but not enough to ID.
Female Blackburnian Warbler
Male Bay-breasted Warbler peeks at us from the treetop before coming down for a closer look!
Eastern Wood Pewee; note that long primary projection!
From there we took a look at the mudflats from the overlook, and added Semipalmated Plover and Marbled Godwit to our shorebird list. On the way to the boardwalk I was shooting the Bay-breasted when I suddenly saw something yellow in the viewfinder, and discovered that the warbler had morphed into a Philadelphia Vireo! George and Scarlet Colley showed up about then, so we chatted quite a bit (in between calls from clients wanting to sign up for a Dolphin Watch ☺), and she mentioned that the Mangrove Warblers were being pretty cooperative about now! That got us talking about the split issue, and she mentioned that someone "in the know" had stated that it probably won't happen, because there are so many subspecies of Yellow Warblers, it'd be too hard to figure out which subspecies went into which group! I asked her about the frogs we were hearing, and she said it was a tree frog, but to defer to her son Seth, as he's the herp expert; one actually hopped out onto the pavement, and I was able to get a quick shot before the workers came by with the fence sections they were dismantling, and after sending the picture to Seth he confirmed it as a Squirrel Tree Frog!
Squirrel Tree Frog
Pat's target on the boardwalk was Least Bittern, but we got Least Tern instead, and at least heard the Clapper Rails. In the little pond to the east we had four kinds of ducks (Mottled, Blue-winged Teal, and both whistling ducks), and at the overlook the resident Common Gallinule showed off. Pat spotted yet another Alligator below us, and we thought the Tilapia (or whatever the fish was) that was seemingly taunting the thing by feeding on submerged reeds right under its nose was being pretty gutsy! The bossy "Boardwalk Grackle" was back, giving us the Evil Eye and splitting our eardrums with his vocalization! On the leg that goes out to the bay we had a flyover Eastern Kingbird that landed, along with Spotted and Least Sandpipers in the little mudflat and a Tricolored Heron feeding out where the larids were hanging out. With all the mangroves growing up, we're still waiting for that Mangrove Warbler to show up here... ☺
Boardwalk Bully (Great-tailed Grackle) - he happened to blink in the right hand photo, but it gives him an even more devilish look!
Norma finally showed up and met us on the boardwalk (I teased her about all her running around finally catching up with her ☺), but we made a return trip to the trees where we added Orchard Oriole to the list, and Norma got her two targets. At least two pewees were song-battling back there, but a third flycatcher was giving a harsh pik call, and the bird that finally showed itself (before being run off by the pewees) had a shorter primary projection, stronger tertial edgings, and a stronger eyering than any of the pewees were showing, so all that combined with the call note (and the fact that it strongly reminded me of the bird we had here several years ago and was positively identified by a panel of experts ☺) made me comfortable calling it an Alder Flycatcher. We ran into Huck Hutchins who had also been on the beach, and he had photographed Black and Common Terns! There was actually a break in the trees where you barely see the Black Terns on the spit, but we girls agreed to head back out there in the car--after lunch!
So after a wonderful meal at Parrot Eyes (Norma endorses the fish tacos ☺) and an adventure with a wounded Collared Dove, we headed out to the bay, where we got close enough to be able to ID both terns (the Common was pretty gray underneath, and now I'm wishing I had gotten the scope out to rule out a breeding Whiskered Tern, as crazy as that would be), then made another sweep to look for plovers. A small flock of peeps wheeled by showing very nice white rumps, so that was an easy ID! ☺ We returned to the centre to drop Norma off and to use the restrooms before heading for Sheepshead, but not long after leaving the restroom Norma came running back to get me: a Black-billed Cuckoo was out back! So I tripped over to where everyone was standing, and there was the Bird of the Day, just sitting there calmly, looking around, showing off that beautiful red eyering! It was a life bird for Norma, and Pat was so impressed that she said she was gonna count it her life bird, as her real first sighting wasn't nearly as satisfying! I texted both Huck and Scarlet; the latter was out on the boat (and she really wanted that bird), but the former said he was on his way! Thankfully the bird stuck around long enough for Huck to get some great looks, too!
Black-billed Cuckoo, a scarce spring migrant in the Valley.
After all that excitement it was Pat's turn to use the restroom, so I sat on the concrete bench and watched the "Water Feature Woods" when the female Blackpoll Warbler suddenly showed up! After Pat got a look we checked the bushes around the roundabout, as Norma told us they can be quite good for flycatchers. The most interesting find there was a couple of baby Mockingbirds that Mom was desperately trying to feed and keep the predatory grackles away at the same time! We think Dad finally came in, as several adult Mockers started flying around and the grackles dispersed...
Baby Mockingbird (before and after Dad showed up to chase the grackles away...)
We then headed over to Sheepshead, which was actually quite productive: a Northern Waterthrush bounced along a log, and a brilliant male Black-throated Green Warbler came in close for looks, along with a female Magnolia Warbler that practically sat on me! A Red-eyed Vireo gave a great look, and a Least Flycatcher made its quiet whit call. Pat spotted a Common Ground Dove across the street, and a pewee showing a yellowish wash on the belly had us confused until we consulted Sibley later and saw that, indeed, some pewees can show that yellowish wash, as most of the birds we were seeing were whistish on the belly. The female American Redstart she had seen right at the start finally deigned to give me a look, so we could finally call it a day and go home! ☺ I was surprised at how short the bird list was with all the goodies we had seen, but the quality couldn't have been beat!
Female Magnolia Warbler
Camera-shy Black-throated Green Warbler
Eastern Wood Pewee
And the happy ending was that Scarlet went back to the Convention Centre after her boat trip and got the cuckoo! ☺
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna autumnalis
Fulvous Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna bicolor
Mottled Duck Anas fulvigula
Blue-winged Teal Anas discors
Brown Pelican Pelecanus occidentalis
Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias
Great Egret Ardea alba
Snowy Egret Egretta thula
Tricolored Heron Egretta tricolor
Reddish Egret Egretta rufescens
Osprey Pandion haliaetus
Clapper Rail Rallus longirostris
Common Gallinule Gallinula galeata
Black-necked Stilt Himantopus mexicanus
Black-bellied Plover Pluvialis squatarola
Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus
Killdeer Charadrius vociferus
Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularius
Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca
Willet Tringa semipalmata
Marbled Godwit Limosa fedoa
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Sanderling Calidris alba
Dunlin Calidris alpina
Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla
White-rumped Sandpiper Calidris fuscicollis
Short-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus griseus
Laughing Gull Leucophaeus atricilla
Least Tern Sternula antillarum
Black Tern Chlidonias niger
Common Tern Sterna hirundo
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
Common Ground-Dove Columbina passerina
Black-billed Cuckoo Coccyzus erythropthalmus
Common Nighthawk Chordeiles minor
Golden-fronted Woodpecker Melanerpes aurifrons
Eastern Wood-Pewee Contopus virens
Alder Flycatcher Empidonax alnorum
Least Flycatcher Empidonax minimus
Eastern Kingbird Tyrannus tyrannus
Warbling Vireo Vireo gilvus
Philadelphia Vireo Vireo philadelphicus
Red-eyed Vireo Vireo olivaceus
Chihuahuan Raven Corvus cryptoleucus
Purple Martin Progne subis
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Gray Catbird Dumetella carolinensis
Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos
Northern Waterthrush Parkesia noveboracensis
Tennessee Warbler Oreothlypis peregrina
Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas
American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla
Magnolia Warbler Setophaga magnolia
Bay-breasted Warbler Setophaga castanea
Blackburnian Warbler Setophaga fusca
Yellow Warbler Setophaga petechia
Blackpoll Warbler Setophaga striata
Black-throated Green Warbler Setophaga virens
Olive Sparrow Arremonops rufivirgatus
Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus
Eastern Meadowlark Sturnella magna
Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanus
Orchard Oriole Icterus spurius
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
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