Monday, January 23, 2012

Pelagic cancelled... but we still added birds!

Rain and wind cancelled our California pelagic trip... big bummer. But we didn't let that bump in the road prevent us from adding over three dozen birds to our photo tally for the year! We hit several spots around the LA/Santa Barbara area, getting good looks from several speciality birds. We also stumbled onto a pair of Egyptian Geese, which while won't be added into our official count was still a nice surprise.

Anybody know the way to Cairo?
We also hit on a bird that we're at a bit of a loss to identify. The first we thought was a juvenile Townsend's, but it just didn't look right. Young European Starling? Maybe. Send us a note if you can help with the ID. (EDIT: We have concluded, with much assistance, that this is a female Tri-colored Blackbird! See the comments for a helpful link.)

We head back to Houston today. We have a quiet period coming up until mid-February, when we pack up and head to Minnesota for the Sax-Zim Bog Winter Birding Festival!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Warbler... Yes! Jay... No.

We're back from the LRGV! We had a great Saturday with the Golden-crowned Warbler showing up in the morning at Frontera. It took a while to get a workable pic of this guy. He really keeps to the brush and he's always on the move. Tracking his soft 'tick' across the trails, we finally got him in a place where we could poke a lens in. Not the greatest pic, but it works for our purposes. 

We met Sam Taylor, a birder from San Antonio, there and decided we might meet later at Quinta Mazatlan for the Tropical Parula. We hung out at Quinta for a couple of hours, but never found the bird. Sam showed up as we were leaving. We did a walk around the parking area and spied a Lesser Goldfinch, but no parula. We left Quinta and headed for Sabal Palm... who'd been hosting their own Tropical Parula recently... and a Dusky-capped Flycatcher. About half way there, Sam called with word he had the parula at the orange bars near the pond back at Quinta. We opted to press on instead of turning around. Our bad. The only thing we found at Sabal were mosquitos.
From there, we headed to South Padre. The Kittiwake was a slam dunk just seconds after we arrived. We walked the beach a bit and met up with Sam again to catch the SPI Birding and Nature Center before it closed.
Sunday, we headed straight for Salineno, but the Brown Jay was a no-show for the soggy A.M. crowd. We did get a House Wren and a Spotted Towhee... but also witnessed the demise of a Green Jay at the hands of a stray cat, and the death of a Red-winged Blackbird to the claws of a Sharp-shinned Hawk. 
The circle of life.
We stopped briefly at Falcon State Park and picked up the American Goldfinch, Cassin's Sparrow and a few others... bringing our photo total to 33 for the weekend.
We head to Cali-forn-I-A on Wednesday.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Quick travel update...

It looks like we'll be heading to Galveston this Sunday to see what we can see. There is word of a camera-friendly Black-headed Grosbeak and some unique gull activity as well. We may also swing by the Texas City Dike to take a peek. Of course, all of this may change - there are those Longspurs on the east side of town.
We're still smarting a bit from not getting the Golden-crowned Warbler at Frontera... so we're going back! We decided to give him and the Brown Jay another shot - so its back to the LRGV next weekend. We also want to get down to Sabal Palm and/or Quinta Mazatlan for the Tropical Parula.
After that, it's off to California for our Dana Point pelagic trip and a bit of land-based birding as well.
In February, we are locked into the Sax-Zim Bog Winter Birding Festival. The trip is booked and we've loaded up on cold weather gear. As denizens of the Texas Gulf Coast, this will be our first shot at brrrrrding. We're looking forward to it!

Monday, January 2, 2012

We went for quality... we got it!

We kicked off our 'photographic' Big Year with a day-and-a-half in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas... in search of the rarities that have been visiting the area over the past several weeks. We went in with a list of six (6) target birds - Rose-throated Becard, Black-vented Oriole, Crimson-collared Grosbeak, White-collared Seedeater, Brown Jay and Golden-crowned Warbler. We went 4-for-6... missing the jay and warbler. Not too shabby! 

The 'shadowy' Becard

The 'coy' Grosbeak
The jay we missed by about two hours. We hung out at Salineno for about two-and-a-half hours once we arrived, but no jay. The warbler we missed by a hair... or feather as it were. We met up with a group at Frontera that had him in the brush about 25-feet back from the trail near the feeding station, but by the time we got on the scene with glasses up, he'd flitted away... leaving us with a slight branch waggle as evidence.
Also, we owe big props to Rob and Eric from Nutty Birder for guiding us beyond the brush to the Seedeaters in Zapata. We would not have gotten them otherwise.
In all, we grabbed usable pics of 52 species. Use the Flickr link in the column to the right to see the haul. And please, if you notice that we've mis-identified any birds, do let us know and we'll get it corrected.
We're going to stick close to home over the next two weeks. Our next trip... a mid-month pelagic outing from Dana Point, CA.