Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Around McAllen

We based in McAllen until the 15th. It's a great hub from which to explore this magnificent Birding area. Having done crazy miles so far the idea is to tone things down and visit some of the iconic sites for which the RGV is famous...plus a few new ones to me.
 
I was back at Bentson first light to try again for the Groove-billed Ani. No luck again I'm afraid, maybe the Chachalacas are dominating proceedings...
 
7.50am
I returned to the Motel at 9.45 had breakfast and freshened up. We then returned to Bentson (after all I'd already paid my 5 dollars) to try again for the Ani plus an Eastern Screech Owl that I was told about by one of the staff. Louise paced out the said distance...
 
 
Again no joy on both counts by mid-day, so we left for lunch, driving down the impressive exit road...
 
 
Following up on an eBird report we then visited the McAllen Nature Center to try for the wonderful Audubon's Oriole that had been present there for several days. It was hot today (30c) but thankfully there was plenty of shade from the Ebony trees...
 
 
I tried hard to locate the bird but I couldn't find it. Not the ideal time of day granted. My consolation prize was pretty special though...
 
Roadrunner
The bird remained motionless for a good minute allowing me to take this shot. Always a special moment to see this species well.
 
I returned to Louise at 3.30 because I didn't want to arrive late (or not at all!) at our final venue for the day. I had directions (yes from eBird) but I was still concerned it might be difficult to find the exact spot in a built up area. Any ideas?
 
My target was one of two species that are now "countable" as they have established breeding populations in the Valley. We drove the streets looking for a Kohls that had been mentioned in the report...thankfully. However, we just couldn't locate it and the sun was dropping...fast!
 
I drove further down the busy 10th street...then I spotted the store. We pulled in and parked. I told Louise I would just have a walk around the car park. She decided to head for the store...no surprise there!
 
Just as we stepped out of the car a flock of birds flew over our heads and landed on the wires right in front of us...I kid you not!!!
 
It was 4.50pm...
 
Green Parakeets
Quite a sight and a helluva noise! No matter what your thoughts on these birds you can't help but be impressed by the spectacle...I certainly was!
 
I spent a happy hour watching these very sociable birds interacting as the sun went down...it was certainly better than being in Kohl's!
 
A few images...
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Stunning colours I think you would agree. Circumstances were ideal and the birds provided great entertainment. I was really taken and surprised by them.
 
I counted 226.
 
I even managed a passable flight shot...
 
 
The show came to an end at 5.50 as the birds flew high south in groups of varying numbers...
 
 
Loved it! Hope you enjoyed the show...
 

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

AMAZON KINGFISHER (2)

I'd had it last night but I feel a bit fresher today after a "local" day in "the Valley".
 
So I feel I need to do full justice to my ABA Mega.
 
After conclusive but generally distant views by the waterfall...
 
 
...Roger suggested we try Los Dos Laredos Park which was about a mile west of Zacate Creek. Matt and Roger had seen the bird there the previous afternoon. So, we made a mini birders convoy and arrived at the spot 10 minutes later. We parked up and started to walk the footpath along the Rio Grande. Roger showed me the snags were they'd seen the AK. The general viewing didn't look great with reeds obscuring much of the near bank.
 
However, after about 15 minutes scanning we found it!!!
 
The next hour or so was spent enjoying almost constant views of this amazing bird as it fished along both sides of the river. A truly magnificent experience and a milestone for Roger as it was his 700th ABA.
 
A few further images to give a flavour of the occasion...
 
 
 
 
When you connect with something special after "dipping" it makes the connection all the sweeter...
 
 
Some bill that!
 
We latterly tried to find White-collared Seedeater with the help of 2 local birders but no luck...
 
 
After saying my goodbyes I started t head back to McAllen as the rain started again. I was obviously feeling pretty good about my decision to travel despite the horrendous weather. The final bonus of the day came when I passed at least 8 Crested Caracaras between Laredo and Hebronnville. These birds are wonderful, full of character. I managed a few pics through the pouring rain...and fence!
 
 
They moved in unison, it was hilarious...
 
 
 
Yet another superb Texas speciality...
 
 
...........................................................................................
 
Slower today, I kept my word to the Boss!
 
We had a drive over to a farmland area east of Harlingden late morning. The target was Mountain Plover which is a scarce annual winterer in Texas. My previous views of this bird had been distant so I was hoping for a closer look.
 
As we started to slowly drive the farm road located by...you guessed it...eBird I could see many Killdeer in the field to my left. The MP is a pale bird and difficult to pick out ...
 
 
...I think you'd agree!
 
Eventually I managed it and found a few at reasonably close distance...
 
 
After lunch we returned to Bentson and spent the whole afternoon just enjoying the sunshine and birds that came our way...
 
 
Plain Chachalaca...
 
 
Golden-fronted Woodpecker...
 
 
Green Jay...
 
 
and the common but superb Great Kiskadee...
 
 
Stay tuned...
 

Monday, 5 December 2016

AMAZON KINGFISHER

I HAD to try again!
 
I left McAllen at 5am to make the 167 mile drive back to Laredo. the weather forecast was grim and unfortunately it proved correct as I drove through the heaviest rain I have ever encountered. This made my arrival time later than anticipated at around 8. At least I knew where to go!
 
I got my wet weather gear on and made the walk towards the waterfall. As I approached the path I saw 2 birders walking with intent along the path. they informed me they'd just seen it by the river and it had flown this way! First thought...if I'd have made it for dawn I'd probably have seen it.
 
Onward.
 
I introduced myself to Roger (Woodruff) and Matt (Grube) and a lady from Maine (Marion). Fortunately as we were talking we picked it up again by the waterfall...which was now a raging torrent!
 
AMAZON KINGFISHER ABA 686
The light was very poor but the image turned out OK...and who cares...I'd seen it!!!
 
To do justice to this landmark sighting I've decided to hit the hay and finish my write up tomorrow. Just to say the trip has already been a major success and anything else will be a bonus. Time to slow down now...
 
 

Sunday, 4 December 2016

AMAZON KINGFISHER - still present on Rio Grande at Laredo

I spent 2 hours at Anzalduas C.P. in search of a Black-throated Grey Warbler. I eventually found it after some confusion with this Black and White...
 
 
I've just checked eBird and the AMAZON KINGFISHER was seen again today by multiple observers! I just hope there's a few there tomorrow with me?
 
Stay tuned...
 

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Texas Winter trip 16...the story so far

We arrived in McAllen rather late...2.30am! It's 551 miles from Fort Stockton. We shared the driving, thankfully! Louise as always was a star.
 
Some thoughts from the journey...
 
1/12
One of my “most hoped for” for Texas has always been Lewis’s Woodpecker, so yesterday was a VERY special day indeed!
Yet again eBird came up trumps. We arrived at Hogan Park, Midland around 10.30 after a 2 hour drive from Fort Stockton. After convincing myself I was in the right area with the help of my new GPS (always a good idea), I set Louise up with her Walmart chair and sunshade and started to search the area.
 
After about 15 minutes I noticed a couple of Birders emerging form the information centre. I guessed they had the same reason for being there that I had. After introducing myself I joined them in the search.
 
Fortunately the park was very open with only isolated trees, many of which were deciduous and a few were dead...always helpful when searching for a Woodpecker.
 
 
After around 20 minutes the Birder from Michigan, whose name I’ve forgotten, reckoned he might have had a glimpse of our target…he was right!
 
An extremely distant flight view...
 
 
 Then a pole, but still distant...
 

 ...and then a floodlight at least 200ft high...
 
 
We saw 2 birds (at one time) although 3 had been reported? Their flight was languid, nothing like “our” birds. They had to move on as they were heading to Big Bend. I was prepared to stay as long as it took to fully appreciate this wonderful species. The fact that they had arrived in west Texas during my 3 day "window" was VERY fortunate indeed and I was going to make the most of it.
 
We had lunch by a picnic area and I had further fleeting views as they flew from tree to tree.
 
Into the sun...
 
 
I decided to hang around the largest dead tree in the centre of the park. Eventually I managed a better image...
 
 
Texas 453
 
The latter part of the day was spent at Big Spring S.P. in search of a Sage Thrasher. I didn't mange to find this elusive winterer but I did see a beautiful Mountain Bluebird...
 
 
2/12
 
I drove to Balmorhea from Fort Stockton before dawn to try for Sagebrush Sparrow and Common Merganser. The site for SASP was unsurpisingly the sage on the road to the Cemetery (pic) . I didn’t connect but there was some avian entertainment including Northern Harrier, White-crowned Sparrow, Audubon’s Warbler (lots) and Bewick’s Wren. I gave it 2 hours.
Then it was onto the lake. A superb setting with plenty of birds but not the species I was after. I did get cracking views of Belted Kingfisher...
 
 
and Pied-billed Grebe...
 
 
After checking out of the MOTEL we headed back to Sanderson as I wanted to try and photograph some Hummingbirds. Within 5 minutes both species were seen.
 
The Allen's was showing on the feeder at the front of the house as we arrived, if only briefly...
 
 
Eventually I managed a shot of the Anna's high in a tree. It was overcast now but you can see some colour...
 
 
Amazing little things and very tough. Especially Anna's which is the only species that always remains
throughout the winter apparently. Great to be able to add it to my Texas list.
 
Our last stop before we left for our epic journey South was the Prairie dog colony north of Marathon on the 385. This is a site for Golden Eagle (if your VERY lucky). I wasn't but I saw a good number of Swainson's Hawks on the deck amongst these cuties...
 
 
Also present were a number of Loggerhead Shrikes...
 
 
That's better!
 
Not sure on today's plan yet. Still recovering...
 

Friday, 2 December 2016

Lewis's Woodpecker -YES!

Just got back to the Motel after a successful twitch/chase. I'll do a full write up on my exploits out West when we've settled in McAllen

The AMAZON KINGFISHER was seen again today!!! I'll give it another go on Sunday...

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Lewis's Woodpecker

I’m writing this as we leave Larado far behind and head towards Fort Stockton having given up (for now) on the AMAZON KINGFISHER. I spent from dawn till 9 back at Zacate creek. I saw another Belted Kingfisher and the same species as yesterday but my luck was out. Has it moved on?
If it gets seen again I’ll return from the RGV later in the trip. I’m obviously gutted not to have seen it BUT maybe I’ll get another shot?
Time to “go West”.  My targets:-
Common Merganser
Golden Eagle
Anna’s Hummingbird
Sage Thrasher
Sagebrush Sparrow
We’re staying in Fort Stockton for a couple of nights which will enable me to try for all of the above birds before we drop down into the RGV on Friday night for our main stay.
 
Late news...and a change of plan as a Lewis's Woodpecker/s has turned up in Midland which is a couple of hours North of Fort Stockton. It's a species I've always hoped to connect with in Texas...maybe things are looking up?
 
Image result for lewis's woodpecker
A wonderful species...
 

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Amazon Kingfisher...NO!

No luck...trying again in the morning.

Night!

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Landed!

Writing this from the Best Western in North Houston. We're "good to go"...as they say. Louise's preparations (you know how it is lads) allow me time to do an update.

We've got a 5 hour drive to Laredo. Hoping to get off 8ish and have some luck with the rush-hour traffic!? At least we'll be heading OUT.

IF I connect we'll move on to Del Rio this evening to give us a head start tomorrow for my "far west" targets. I might even see a Golden Eagle in Texas?

Stay tuned...

Sunday, 27 November 2016

TEXAS - Latest

The AMAZON KINGFISHER was seen today so Laredo will be our first port of call on Tuesday...

Image result for amazon kingfisher

That's some bill...and a great name for a MEGA!!!

Friday, 25 November 2016

TEXAS - Final prep'

3 more sleeps...as Louise would say!
 
I think I've finalised my "wish list". You don't always get what you wish for though...do you? The logistics of the trip are tricky and I hope to build our travels around my targets while limiting distances covered. This isn't easy in a State that's bigger than France! The infrastructure is superb however, as I'm sure you can imagine which helps with travelling time.
 
Our base will be McAllen in the RGV. I've allowed 3 days before we arrive and 4 before we head home on the December 19th. The more targets I can mop up in one area the better for me...and Louise!
 
Down Mexico way we should be feeling temps in the early 20c but further North as December wears on it could drop dramatically! Again a balancing act. I need ALL FOUR species of Longspur and SMITH'S is an ABA TICK...A LIFER in fact, having missed it in Alaska in 07. I dug into some old files and found some e-mail addresses. Miraculously they are all still good, so I've got some great contacts in various areas, if needed.
 
As stated many times (like most things I guess) eBird will be invaluable for up-to-date sightings. Internet access won't be a problem...and it's all FREE!
 
Ideally, I'd like some nice relaxed days just birding a site or two...I could spend a full day (or two) at Santa Ana were 397 species have been recorded! For an idea of the Valley specialities click here. We can reach far afield in a day if required. Corpus Christi is no problem and has some fantastic Birding spots. We can also range far up the Valley towards Laredo. I hope this will be my first port of call on Tuesday when I hope to see the AMAZON KINGFISHER...fingers crossed. San Antonio (of Alamo fame) is also "doable" and I hope to re-acquaint with Lorna Clevenger who has hosted a Calliope Hummingbird for the past 3 winters. Long time readers will be familiar with this and the fact I missed him by a day in March!! He even has his own Facebook page! He's called Clyde or little fart...as Lorna affectionately calls him.
 
One example of changing plans would be if the COMMON CRANE turns up in the panhandle (the area in north central Texas including Amarillo). That would need some serious thinking about.
 
My targets...
 
AMAZON KINGFISHER 
SMITH’S LONGSPUR
Calliope Hummingbird
Broad-billed Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird
Common Merganser
Wood Stork
Golden Eagle
Rough-legged Hawk
American Woodcock
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Short-eared Owl
Sage Thrasher
Black-throated Gray Wabler
Fox Sparrow
Lapland Longspur
Chesnut-collared Longspur
McCown’s Longspur
 
 
 
 
 
 

My Texas list stands at 451 and can be viewed above by clicking the link
 
 

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Yorkshire Coast

A few messages tempted me to travel up the Coast today. The forecast (for what it's worth) was good, so I headed for the harbour at Scarborough. Free parking on Marine Drive was a bonus. The sun was out as I walked along the harbour wall.
 
It took around 15 minutes before this little beaut popped into view...
 
 
 
 
As well as the Black-necked Grebe a Great Northern Diver was also present...bonus! This was probably the closest I'd ever seen one...
 
 
Success!
 
Next stop Scaling Dam were a Black-throated Diver had been seen early am. I called in at the hide and the chaps said it hadn't been seen for a couple of hours. I spent a good hour scanning from different viewpoints but alas, it wasn't to be.
 
I was only 30 minutes from the Eastern Black Redstart so I paid this cracking bird another visit. I was the only one there! The bird performed brilliantly but the light was poor by now...
 
 
I hope to remain local until Sunday as trip planning must now take priority...but you never know in this game!