Sunday, February 26, 2012

0-fer the Valley... but Whoopers!

Decisions, decisions. This weekend posed a bit of a conundrum for us early on. We thought about chasing Snowy Owl up near Dallas, but when she went missing mid-week, we ruled that trip out. We came VERY close to trying for the the added pelagic out of Hatteras that had the Black-browed Albatross last week, but we just couldn't make the logistics work. So... we opted for the LRGV in hopes of getting our Brown Jay on the third crack at it. Well... Saturday, he was a no-show. The weather had turned a bit after a cold front and I guess he wasn't excited about the cool, damp, overcast day. The jay is quickly becoming a nemesis bird for us. Later in the day, we tried for the Dusky-capped Flycatcher that had been so accessible at Estero Llano just the day before. Well... we struck out their too. We ended up at Quinta Mazatlan late in the day for a last gasp at the Tropical Parula... and, well... 
Sunday was going to be a better weather day, so we thought about heading back for the Brown Jay, but instead opted to head to South Padre Island. We were able to get a handful of birds we hadn't gotten yet - Belted Kingfisher, Tropical Kingbird, etc... We were hoping for a peek at a Rail or two, but as our luck would have it... we got nothing except a report that someone had a Sora earlier that morning.
Tired and bummed out, we headed north for home, but were up for one last detour - a stop by Goose Island State Park near Rockport for a shot at Whooping Cranes. We had seen at least one report on Texbirds that a few Whoopers had been seen in a field near the Big Tree. We arrived at the Big Tree in the mid-afternoon, but there was little action. We walked around for a bit and were heading back for the car when four Whoopers flew overhead! We watched for a while, then made our way to the trail on the backside of the Big Tree where a few other birders had congregated. Soon, two more Whoopers came into view from the north.

Whoop! Whoop!
With this small victory in hand, we made for the car and got back on the road to Houston. We know there are going to be trips like this one, but that doesn't make them any less depressing!
We're going to do a little Galveston birding next weekend... gearing up for the fast-approaching spring migration season. Our plans for migration revolve mainly around High Island. We might change it up a bit hear and there, but Boy Scout Woods is likely to be OBY 2012 headquarters for most weekends in late April and early May. 

PHOTOSTREAM NOTE: We did a little house cleaning on the Photostream. The Purple Finch is gone. We'd had a few folks tell us it was likely a House Finch we had, and ultimately we agreed. We also replaced the blurry Spotted Sandpiper photo from California with a much nicer one from this weekend.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The bog delivers...

The 2012 Sax-Zim Winter Birding Festival is in the books... and boy, did we have a great two days. Thanks to our great guides (Looking at you, Stark!), and a wealth of friendly, knowledgable birders, we were able to add 22 new birds to the official Flickr photostream. Highlights included Great Gray Owl, White-winged Crossbill, Golden Eagle, Hoary Redpoll, Boreal Chickadee, Pine Grosbeak and Gray Jay. The only common target bird that we missed was Evening Grosbeak. We also dipped on the Snowy Owl at the Duluth Port Terminal. We did however meet up with some excellent new friends.

L to R: John Hargrove, Eric Malbone, Clare Malbone, Holly Wright,
Blake Wright, Liam Ehrman, and Eddie Ehrman
Several 'Big Year' birders were at Sax-Zim! I'm hopeful our paths will cross again, but we wanted to get this meeting documented just in case it doesn't. 
While the festival is over, we still have a half-day in Duluth. We're planning to head up the lake in the morning to try for the Northern Hawk-Owl at Gooseberry Falls State Park. He has been cooperative over the past few days, so we're hopeful we can bag him. If that goes according to plan, we may just head back to Meadowlands for one last crack at the Evening Grosbeaks! 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Ever see a pink cardinal?

Holly and I did a bit of birding this weekend. Plans to return to the LRGV were nixed by weather, so we headed west to see if we could locate the Whooping Cranes that have taken up residence at Granger Lake near Austin. We came away empty, but took the initiative to check out some of the state parks in the area. We didn't see a whole lot at any one location, but as we were leaving Palmetto State Park near Gonzales we came across this.

That's a leucistic cardinal. It's not albinoism, but rather a condition that robs species of color pigment. The result here was a pinkish-white cardinal... an excellent-looking bird.
We did add a few more species to our list... Sandhill Crane, Monk Parakeet, Common Goldeneye, etc... Now it's countdown to Sax-Zim! We've gathered our cold-weather gear and are ready to see what the Minnesota winter has to offer. We have an owl prowl on Friday evening, a bog tour on Saturday and a greater Duluth tour on Sunday. We are also scouting a possible Monday morning trip to Gooseberry Falls State Park. We're hoping to squeeze in as much birding as possible!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Inching towards 200...

While most of our energy has been going towards how to make the most of our time in Minnesota later this month, we have been adding a few local birds to our Big Year tally. We hit 170 this week with some nice additions... Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Canvasback, Brown Creeper, etc... We also made a little trip out east of town last week, and while were late to capitalize on the Longspurs, we got what we really drove across town for.

This week, we're due to give a brief talk at the Houston Audubon Society meeting about our little project, then... weather permitting, it's back to the LRGV. We still need the Brown Jay and Tropical Parula. Now there have been more Aplomado Falcon sightings as well as good looks from other birds of interest... Gray Hawk, etc... There are also a handful of locals we still need to snap. We'll make the call on the LRGV around mid-week. Otherwise, it's all about Sax-Zim preparations and the promise of Great Gray Owls, Northern Hawk Owls, Pine and Evening Grosbeaks, Redpolls, Crossbills and more!