Photo Gallery - 2015 Field Trips

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All photographs ©2015 by Mary Beth Stowe


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!


Bird List:


  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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