Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Big Bend NP - east CBC

This entry is backdated to reflect the date of the count; these numbers are via the Christmas Bird Count web site and the 'current year' results (date of reference 2/18/2011). I've removed number/party hour for the sake of the blog format which already crunches the columns awkwardly.

Big Bend N.P. (east) [TXBG]
Texas Region
29.1833°, -103.0°
Christmas Bird Count
Count Year: 111

Rio Grand overlook near Rio Grande Village; not taken during the count.

CW = count week
PS = present for some time
GD = good details

Species / Number

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) 4
Gadwall (Anas strepera) 11
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 3
Mexican Duck (Anas platyrhynchos) 13
Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca) 24
duck sp. (Anatinae) 10
Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis) 1
Scaled Quail (Callipepla squamata) 50
Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) 1
Great Blue Heron (Blue form) (Ardea herodias) 0 0 CW
Green Heron (Butorides virescens) 2
Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus) 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus) 2
Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) 3
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) 5
Buteo sp. (Buteo) 1
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) 2
Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola) 0 0 CW
Sora (Porzana carolina) 1
American Coot (Fulica americana) 3
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) 7
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularia) 6
Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago delicata) 3
White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica) 17
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) 1
Common Ground-Dove (Columbina passerina) 5
Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) 5
Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) 1
Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) 2
hummingbird sp. (Trochilidae) 3
Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon) 2
Green Kingfisher (Chloroceryle americana) 1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Melanerpes aurifrons) 9
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) 2
Ladder-backed Woodpecker (Picoides scalaris) 7
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) 1
Northern (Red-shafted) Flicker (Colaptes auratus) 3
Tufted Flycatcher (Mitrephanes phaeocercus) 1 PS
Gray Flycatcher (Empidonax wrightii) 3
Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans) 14
Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) 19
Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya) 21
Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus) 5
Ash-throated Flycatcher (Myiarchus cinerascens) 2
Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) 4
Common Raven (Corvus corax) 14
Verdin (Auriparus flaviceps) 19
Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus) 2
Rock Wren (Salpinctes obsoletus) 26
Canyon Wren (Catherpes mexicanus) 2
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) 1
Bewick's Wren (Thryomanes bewickii) 7
Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris) 6
Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa) 3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula) 23
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea) 8
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher (Polioptila melanura) 32
Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus) 2
Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) 1 GD
Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) 21
Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) 2
Curve-billed Thrasher (Toxostoma curvirostre) 3
Crissal Thrasher (Toxostoma crissale) 3
American Pipit (Anthus rubescens) 13
Orange-crowned Warbler (Oreothlypis celata) 8
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata) 25
Yellow-rumped (Audubon's) Warbler (Dendroica coronata) 6
Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler (Dendroica coronata) 2
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) 8
Canyon Towhee (Melozone fuscus) 1
Black-throated Sparrow (Amphispiza bilineata) 29
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) 4
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) 4
Lincoln's Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii) 1
Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana) 6
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) 4
sparrow sp. (Emberizinae) 1
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) 13
Pyrrhuloxia (Cardinalis sinuatus) 25
House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) 185

Weather & Effort

Count Date: Dec 29, 2010
Number of Participants: 17
Number of Party Hours: 35.0
Species Reported: 74
Low Temperature: 33
High Temperature: 80
AM Weather: Clear
Rain: None
Snow: None
PM Weather: Clear
Rain: None
Snow: None

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Big Bend CBC - Chisos Mountains

This entry is backdated to reflect the date of the count; these numbers are via the the Christmas Bird Count web site and the 'current year' results (date of reference 2/18/2011). I've removed number/party hour for the sake of the blog format which already crunches the columns awkwardly.

Chisos Mountains [TXCM]
Texas Region
29.2667°, -103.3°
Christmas Bird Count
Count Year: 111

Pine Canyon (our area for the count)

US = unusual species
GD = good documentation

Species / Number

Scaled Quail (Callipepla squamata) 75
Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus) 1
Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) 1
Accipiter sp. (Accipiter) 1
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) 6
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) 2
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) 2
White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica) 43
Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) 4
White-throated Swift (Aeronautes saxatalis) 151
Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) 3
Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) 1
Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) 19
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) 3
Red-naped Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus nuchalis) 3
Ladder-backed Woodpecker (Picoides scalaris) 24
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) 3
Northern (Red-shafted) Flicker (Colaptes auratus) 3
Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya) 15
Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis) 1 US GD
Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) 6
Hutton's Vireo (Vireo huttoni) 5
Mexican Jay (Aphelocoma ultramarina) 55
Common Raven (Corvus corax) 56
Black-crested Titmouse (Baeolophus atricristatus) 42
Verdin (Auriparus flaviceps) 13
Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus) 33
Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus) 30
Rock Wren (Salpinctes obsoletus) 31
Canyon Wren (Catherpes mexicanus) 22
Bewick's Wren (Thryomanes bewickii) 9
Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa) 4
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula) 34
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea) 10
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher (Polioptila melanura) 4
Townsend's Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi) 1
Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus) 17
Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) 37
Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) 1
Curve-billed Thrasher (Toxostoma curvirostre) 5
Crissal Thrasher (Toxostoma crissale) 2
Green-tailed Towhee (Pipilo chlorurus) 1
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus) 47
Canyon Towhee (Melozone fuscus) 54
Cassin's Sparrow (Peucaea cassinii) 2
Rufous-crowned Sparrow (Aimophila ruficeps) 43
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina) 17
Brewer's Sparrow (Spizella breweri) 8
Black-chinned Sparrow (Spizella atrogularis) 2
Lark Bunting (Calamospiza melanocorys) 4
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) 1
Lincoln's Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii) 1
White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) 107
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) 14
sparrow sp. (Emberizinae) 5
Dark-eyed (Gray-headed) Junco (Junco hyemalis) 6
Dark-eyed (Oregon) Junco (Junco hyemalis) 3
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) 9
Pyrrhuloxia (Cardinalis sinuatus) 34
Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna) 1
House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) 33
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) 45

Weather & Effort

Count Date: Dec 28, 2010
Number of Participants: 18
Number of Party Hours: 55.75
Species Reported: 58
Low Temperature: 36
High Temperature: 66
AM Weather: Clear
Rain: None
Snow: None
PM Weather: Clear
Rain: None
Snow: None

Monday, December 27, 2010

Big Bend National Park - late December photos

With permission from Jeff, links to his adventures in Big Bend National Park - this is a great collection of photos and observations typical of December in BBNP. It has definitely reminded me that I need to get more local photos posted!

Big Bend Trip 1
(Introduction, Cook's Slough, the drive west)

Big Bend Trip 2
(Marathon, Post Park, Chisos Basin/Window Trail)

Big Bend Trip 3
(Daniel's Ranch, Rio Grande Village, Dugout Wells, Sam Nail Ranch)

Big Bend Trip 4
(Window Trail, Daniel's Ranch, Rio Grande Village)

Many thanks to Jeff for the permission to share his blog links!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Golden Eagle - Marathon Motel

This afternoon around 1:30 I was summoned by Matt to scan the skies north of the Marathon Motel. Thankfully there were two clouds in the sky for reference and the Golden Eagle he had sighted was between the two clouds. Any other time of the year one dark, soaring bird with wings held slightly above body would be in the Turkey Vulture/Zone-tailed Hawk genre. To see such a large mammal-eating raptor over grasslands is wonderful, they're not abundant here though a winter resident. Mountains in the background and a solitary wind courser... for me, the first sighting since October of 2007 in California.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Davis Mountains CBC

This entry is backdated to reflect the date of the count; these numbers are via the Christmas Bird Count web site and the 'current year' results (date of reference 2/18/2011). I've removed number/party hour for the sake of the blog format which already crunches the columns awkwardly.

Davis Mountains [TXDM]
Texas Region
30.6333°, -104.0167°
Christmas Bird Count
Count Year: 111

Davis Mountains State Park, overlooking Fort Davis.

CW = count week
DD = details described
HC = high count
GD = good details
ND = no details
PH = photo
US = unusual species

Species / Number

Gadwall (Anas strepera) 11
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) 5
Mexican Duck (Anas platyrhynchos) 2
duck sp. (Anatinae) 2
Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) 65
Scaled Quail (Callipepla squamata) 50
Montezuma Quail (Cyrtonyx montezumae) 19
Great Blue Heron (Blue form) (Ardea herodias) 1
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) 1 DD
Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) 3
Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus) 3
Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) 1
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) 8
Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) 1
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) 7
Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago delicata) 4
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) 2
White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica) 357
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) 12
Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) 1
Western Screech-Owl (Megascops kennicottii) 7
Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) 1
Long-eared Owl (Asio otus) 1 US GD
Violet-crowned Hummingbird (Amazilia violiceps) 1 US PH
Black-chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri) 1 US PH
Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) 8
Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) 5
Belted Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon) 2
Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) 50
Williamson's Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus thyroideus) 2
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) 1
Red-naped Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus nuchalis) 6
Ladder-backed Woodpecker (Picoides scalaris) 23
Northern (Red-shafted) Flicker (Colaptes auratus) 13
Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans) 3
Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya) 14
Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) 1
Hutton's Vireo (Vireo huttoni) 1
Steller's Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) 3
Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica) 104
Common Raven (Corvus corax) 36
Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris) 2
Mountain Chickadee (Poecile gambeli) 13
Juniper Titmouse (Baeolophus ridgwayi) 1 DD
Black-crested Titmouse (Baeolophus atricristatus) 112
Verdin (Auriparus flaviceps) 1
Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus) 30
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) 13
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) 29
Brown Creeper (Certhia americana) 3
Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus) 16
Rock Wren (Salpinctes obsoletus) 12
Canyon Wren (Catherpes mexicanus) 10
Bewick's Wren (Thryomanes bewickii) 21
House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) 3
Winter Wren (Troglodytes hiemalis) 1 GD
Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa) 3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula) 104
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea) 64 HC
Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) 4
Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana) 44
Townsend's Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi) 1
Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus) 19
American Robin (Turdus migratorius) 2
Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) 28
Curve-billed Thrasher (Toxostoma curvirostre) 8
Crissal Thrasher (Toxostoma crissale) 0 CW DD
American Pipit (Anthus rubescens) 1
Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens) 7
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata) 5
Yellow-rumped (Audubon's) Warbler (Dendroica coronata) 2
Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler (Dendroica coronata) 1
Green-tailed Towhee (Pipilo chlorurus) 8
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus) 41 HC
Canyon Towhee (Melozone fuscus) 46
Cassin's Sparrow (Peucaea cassinii) 4
Rufous-crowned Sparrow (Aimophila ruficeps) 36
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina) 922
Brewer's Sparrow (Spizella breweri) 3
Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla) 2
Black-chinned Sparrow (Spizella atrogularis) 8
Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus) 20
Lark Sparrow (Chondestes grammacus) 1
Black-throated Sparrow (Amphispiza bilineata) 13
Lark Bunting (Calamospiza melanocorys) 30
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) 5
Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum) 3 US ND
Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca) 1
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) 17
Lincoln's Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii) 34
Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana) 4
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) 207
sparrow sp. (Emberizinae) 40
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) 27
Dark-eyed (Gray-headed) Junco (Junco hyemalis) 170
Dark-eyed (Oregon) Junco (Junco hyemalis) 30
Dark-eyed (Pink-sided) Junco (Junco hyemalis) 52
Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Junco (Junco hyemalis) 60
Dark-eyed (Red-backed) Junco (Junco hyemalis) 116 HC ND
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) 26
Pyrrhuloxia (Cardinalis sinuatus) 69
Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna) 4
meadowlark sp. (Sturnella) 37
Brewer's Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus) 29
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) 9
House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) 38
Pine Siskin (Spinus pinus) 170
Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria) 13
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) 7
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) 41

Weather & Effort

Count Date:
Dec 18, 2010
Number of Participants: 26
Number of Party Hours: 114.75
Species Reported: 95
Low Temperature: 21
High Temperature: 62
AM Weather: Partly cloudy
Rain: None
Snow: None
PM Weather: Partly clear
Rain: None
Snow: None

Groove-billed Ani. Sometimes it just finds you.

Well, often times it just finds you. Sure there are moments we go hunting for a particular species. However, for much of our time the birds just find us. We "had" this species or we "had" that species.

Did we HAVE it?
Or did the bird happen to travel to a particular place at a particular time only to show itself to an interested Homo sapien sapien. Then... sneakbackinthebrush.


After getting off work at 4pm today, I opened the truck driver-side door and put one foot down on the ground. A thrashing sound emanated from perhaps 8-feet to my left.

I look. Nothing. Nada.
Thrashing sound in the leaf-litter again, this time as I am looking. Niet.




Cue the Metallica track. No, one from before they cut their hair and got soft.

Here was THE(?) fall/winter Groove-billed Ani (GBAN) of the Marathon Basin. Foraging. Often tilting its head, looking up, stretching its neck to see.

This bird was first viewed at the Marathon Motel back on 10 October. It was 2 weeks until viewed again, on the 23rd and 24th of that month, still on motel grounds.

November, nada.

It returned to our view, once again on motel grounds, on December 2nd. The bird landed in a sumac not 6 feet from me.

Now, on December 18th, after returning home from a full day's work....

Folks. So very often, its not US. Its up to the birds. I didn't find this ani. I was stepping out of my truck and it decided to forage in some vegetation openings no more than 10 ft from me. I didn't "have" it.

Anyways, this bird was skulking and often thrashing and crashing around leaf-litter between cane cholla, sotol, and yucca.

It would uncover, attack, and forage on slow-moving cold-ish invertebrates.

Walking mid-sotol-story on blades, turning its head to focus on any potential prey item.

For the first time in a long time for me, this single GBAN looked and behaved MUCH like its Family Cuculidae cousin the Greater Roadrunner.

About an hour later it sat, preened, and sunned itself between a yucca and a patch of "cow tongue" prickly-pear.

It then flew southward just across the street.

So people, I would as well I suppose, come out and ask "Where's the ani?".
Depends, really. It was here a month ago. Two weeks ago. Yesterday?

Come on out here and enjoy the birds. I do.

Some always show themselves. Some more than others.

After all, it's up to the birds.
We just have to be out there.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mearns' Quail = Montezuma Quail

When the phone rings and there's an incredibly important specimen being reported, it's hard to concentrate. News of a road-killed Montezuma Quail at the rest stop where all of the sapsuckers have been seen recently. Matt's grad school years were spent tracking Montezuma Quails in the Davis Mountains, so he was quite interested in seeing the bird. In the interest of specimen documentation and, honestly, a brilliant opportunity to study a bird in the hand, I was thrilled.

The hardest part about the drive was not knowing whether or not the bird would a) be there, and b) be intact. Ninety minutes of nerves!

1: Slate gray flanks with white spots.
Rusty cinnamon breast and belly.
Black legs, lower belly and vent.

2: The facial pattern indicates that the bird is male.
The poofy crown feathers concealed some pin feathers.

3: Streaky crown from above, slightly tousled from the passing cars.

4: Disney's version of "Sleeping Beauty" pales in comparison.

5: Big, scratchy, kicky claws. All the better to dig at roots with.

6: There's a new primary feather growing in that gap, if you look closely.

A quick note on these roadkill posts: please read the commentary on anything tagged 'roadkill' (someday there may be a separate page) because specimen salvage does still require permits. This bird, as with all other dead ones that cross my path, will go to the Texas A&M Wildlife Cooperative Collection.

Schrödinger's Quail

This was originally posted over at SeeTrail; it is backdated here. It was also posted here, in a cleaned-up, more-formal version as Mearns Quail = Montezuma Quail.

This morning at about 9:30 I got a phone call from a dear friend and fellow birder. He reported a deceased Montezuma Quail at the Lawrence E. Wood picnic area in the Davis Mountains. I was *thrilled* because I thought that meant that he had picked it up for me. Alas. He was already in Balmorhea and the bird was still on the side of the road!

In a hasty scramble, Matt and I attempted to notify birders in Alpine and Fort Davis and anyone who might possibly still be in the area after chasing the Tufted Flycatcher - and we came up empty handed. We knew that the bird was dead. But was it still there? Had it been hit again? What state was it in; smashed or still fresh? We summoned the powers of Sul Ross and The Nature Conservancy in the form of voice mail, e-mail and feeble telepathy. By 11:30 I was able to sneak away from work; we'd not been able to check e-mail since our initial plea, but it was worth the risk to discover whether or not 'Schrödinger's Quail' was still on the side of the road for me.

Best case scenario:
Dead Montezuma Quail would be in the shade on the side of the road.

Plausible Situation A:
Dead Montezuma Quail would be picked up by someone else.

Plausible Situation B:
Dead, smashed Montezuma Quail would be on the side of the road.

Plausible Situation C:
Dead Montezuma Quail would be unable to be located.

Clearly with A & C, there's room for interpretation. A phone or e-mail not to be received for a long time, a scavenger traipsing off with a prize...

So for the longest 90 minute drive, the Montezuma Quail was in a simultaneous state of being there and not-being-there; I just needed to open the proverbial box and look.

1: It is there!

2: The facial pattern indicates that the bird is male.

3: The poofy crown concealed a few pin feathers.

4: Disney's version of "Sleeping Beauty" got nothin' on this guy.

5: Big, scratchy, kicky claws. All the better to dig at roots with.

6: I spy something molting. The gap in primary feathers has a new one growing in.

Post to be elaborated upon once we've walked the dog and had dinner and... you get the idea =)

FAQ #1
Q: Aren't you worried about catching something?
A: No. As with windows and wind turbines, cars tend to hit birds that are healthy enough to cross roads. If the bird was a carrier of [West Nile, Avian Influenza, etc] I'd still probably have to lick it (for fecal/saliva contamination) and that's just not how I operate.

Edit: the slightly more stuffy version of this post is over at that other blog that steals all of our attention these days.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

This week in Marathon

We've had Sleepy Oranges, Western Pygmy-Blues, American Snout, Mexican Yellows, Checkered Whites and the occasional something-else that would careen past us on a windy day, but the birds are really hopping!

Highlights from around town, in no particular order:
Great Horned Owl
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher (a pair at the Marathon Motel)
Red-naped Sapsucker
Allen's Hummingbird (back after a few day's absence - Black-chinned has been gone since Wednesday)

12 December: We received a call from Steve Gross, and up at the Prairie Dog town on 385 a few minutes N. of Marathon....

Ferruginous Hawk finally! First of the season for us.... well from Steve ..
Burrowing Owl
Chestnut-collared Longspurs, 150 of them!

We should head up there soon... so much attention southward.

The Tufted Flycatcher in the park is luring a lot of people out and there have been reports of Golden Eagle from the Davis Mountains and Red-throated Loons near Pecos. It's great to have so many more eyes out here!

An interesting link from TPWD: Hummingbirds of the Trans-Pecos - namely, a list of those needing to be documented and those not needing to be documented. Interessant.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Tufted Flycatcher discussion

This post is a summary of previous posts and their pithy wisdom - mostly from other people! Most info was from Texbirds posts and/or personal e-mails.

Dec. 11 -
Saw that bird this AM, Dec 11, in the overflow campsite at the next field from the adobe building. It put on a great display for over an hour when I left. [...]
Peter B. Riesz, MD

Eric Stager, Mat Colbert and I along with 5-7 other birders had the Tufted Flycatchter near Daniels Ranch in Rio Grande Village this morning from about 9:30-11:00. The bird seemed to be making a circuit in the area and was also observed perched and flycatching on the mexican side of the river then back into Texas.
Jeff Patterson Austin

Dec. 9 - (from TUFL summary)
By now it's most likely that folks chasing the bird are alone or in pairs and unable to report the bird as fast as larger groups have been able to. The key is just getting a positive or negative answer. Eventually. If this bird sticks around as long as the 1991 bird, there's still plenty of time. Most people who would drop everything to see the bird, already have.

To the best of our collective knowledge, no individual or group has missed the bird if they at least tried the day after they missed it. Pretty good record so far!

Dec. 8 - From Texbirds:
Arrived at Rio Grande Village at 8:55, found Tufted Flycatcher at 9:07 in the usual spot .2 miles east of Daniel's Ranch. I parked at the adobe house and walked down to the old overflow camping area where I first heard and then saw him. Observed and photographed him until about 11:45 when I left. I left several times and had no trouble refinding him both by sound and by his distinctive flight pattern when I returned.

I was the only person looking all morning, so if you're considering chasing this bird, don't worry if you don't see sightings every day. He appeared very happy with the bugs he was catching and didn't appear to have any ideas of leaving anytime soon.

Ron Baltzegar Greenville TX

Dec. 7 - From Mark Flippo:
Jim Hines saw the tufted yesterday at Daniels ranch around 10:30 AM

Dec. 6 - From Texbirds:
"The Big Bend NP Tufted Flycatcher continues in the Daniel's Ranch area. Jack Windsor, Larry & Carol Carpenter and at least one other observer had it this morning (6 December) at around 8.30am at one of it's "usual" locations - the open area on the south side of the road perhaps 200 meters prior to reaching the adobe house at the terminal end of the road to Daniel's Ranch. "
- Eric Carpenter, Austin

"The Tufted Flycatcher was down towarl the Daniel Ranch at 9:25 until I left at 10 this morning. About 0.1 mile from end of rd on south side and very active."
- Lynn Barber, Ft. Worth.

Dec. 5 - From Texbirds:
Just received a call that Gail Morris, Jerri Kerr, & Ann Hover, plus 2 others saw the Flycatcher this morning at 8:40 between campsites 56 & 57. When they left at noon, the bird had not been reported again.
Terry Ferguson Sabine Pass, TX

Dec. 4 - Susan Heath of GCBO:
"The Tufted Flycatcher was not seen this morning despite about 20 sets of eyes looking for it."

...if it was as windy down there as it was in Marathon, the bird is lucky to keep a grip on its perch! Our first attempt was a flop as well, but hopefully if folks keep looking throughout the day there will be some better news.

The Tufted Flycatcher was seen in the usual Daniel's Ranch locations both Friday (3rd) and Saturday (4th).

Ranger Mark Flippo's Friday morning bird walk group got to see it. Bird walks do not happen every Friday, e.g. there is not one this coming Friday, the 10th of Dec.

Today, Saturday, a visitor reported at the Panther Junction Visitor Center around noon, that they had seen it this morning down at RGV.

You can report the bird at any of our visitor centers, but the ones that make the most sense are the RGV center and the Panther Junction center, since they are on the route to see the flycatcher.

Happy Birding!

Jan Allen

Really wish there was a bit more information about who the observer was and what time they snuck past 20 other people!

EDIT 2: YES - noon - Tripp Davenport
Tufted Flycatcher 11:55 AM Dec. 4 on east side of Rio Grande Village Big Bend National Park, location in cottonwood grove beside the Gambusia Pond along the service road on the east side of Rio Grande Village. Pics posted to my page

EDIT 3: YES - 3 pm new location - from Cameron Carver
After hours of searching and one report from the gambousia pond at noon, steve Collins and I found the bird at rio grande village campground behind campsite 87 at 3:08. I believe that everyone who was here was chased down and got to see the bird. The tufted flycatcher was still being seen at 3:50.

Dec. 3 - From Mark Flippo at BBNP; same location as previous sightings:

Just got back from RGV: found the flycatcher at the old overflow area
(down the road to Daniels, before the picnic area proper), south side of
the road in the cottonwoods near the west end of the field. I and another
8 folks on the morning walk watched it for about 1 5 minutes (1015-1030).

Dec. 2 - Edited post from Texbirds:
Greg Bretz and Ted Robinson from Florida and Ron Howard from Arkansas saw the Tufted Flycatcher December 2, from about 8:45am to 9:15am. Ron took photos.

Directions: From the adobe house heading back towards the direction of the general the 25 MPH sign... the bird was seen feeding in the cottonwoods off to the right. The bird was very active and obvious among the lowest limbs of the cottonwoods and was flycatching almost constantly.

I know how much updated info means to us when planning a trip for a super bird!

Thanks and Happy Birding!

Dawn Bretz Altamonte Springs, Fl

Dec. 1 - YES
"We drove home yesterday (Wednesday) after checking in with the bird. Sure enough, it was stilldelighting folks at 11:30AM."

That's Wednesday....., yesterday......, 1 December 2010.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Green-tailed Towhee

Alternate title: Green-tailed Towhee in the freezer

One of the species found in Brewster County that gets people's hopes up is the Green-tailed Towhee. Aside from the fancy name, they're essentially a large, ground-loving sparrow with a fantastic 'personality' in the field. As with other towhees, they can be hard to spot; this post is about one that was a bit too cooperative.

After recapturing the Black-chinned Hummingbird on Dec. 8th (and woefully flubbing the Allen's), Matt and I made our weekly Alpine run for groceries and had lunch with our beloved banders, Kelly and Carolyn. On our way to lunch, about 10 miles east of Alpine, I saw a little lump of 'White-crowned Sparrow' on the shoulder. Being quite positive in my ~70 mph identification, due to bold black/white stripes with gray, I was tempted to not turn around; but you need to take advantage of wide shoulders and good visibility when you can. Often your ID is wrong at 70 mph and you just can't pass that up. Behold the towhee. I've brushed things off before: small looking Great Horned Owl was actually a Long-eared Owl, lumpy looking Mourning Dove was actually a Burrowing Owl (I was hoping for Upland Sandpiper). The bottom line is that you just don't know unless you stop.

It's a sad day when you find any dead bird. Windows, domestic & feral cats, cars, power lines and the ever-stealthy habitat loss are huge problems for bird populations. Without going too much into those statements, let me add this: any dead bird is valuable to science. Most academic institutions have permits to 'collect' (read: shoot) specimens. Better to live and let live, though, right? So finding a dead bird that would be useful to science is a joy; and most dead birds that aren't completely flattened are useful in some way. Beaks, feet and wings are studied even when the rest of the body can't be preserved. As such, this towhee ranks pretty high on the list of fresh specimens. And it's a regional specialty for the state.

Since all native North American bird species are protected by federal law, you do need permits even to pick up the bodies. Texas A&M provided me with the permits to 'salvage' birds, so they can be brought back to the TAMU collection for study. Birds in hand are infinitely fascinating. Subtle feather coloration and textures that can't well be appreciated through binoculars jump out in hand - the leading edge of this towhee's wing is bright, lemon yellow. While you may catch a glimpse of that in the field, seeing it up close is another story (the top photo in this post shows the yellow very well). In the field, you may notice the rufous crown and greenish back with gray head and throat... but you may not see the white belly, beige vent and the thin, black bristles around the beak.

A little back story... The summer between 3rd and 4th grade, my mother and I found a road-killed adult male Indigo Bunting near Rockport, TX. Fascinated by the brilliant blue, we looked up the bird in an old color-sorted Audubon photo guide and positively identified it. We then buried the bird. Years later, an American Coot was found on the side of a road - its feet were the most amazing things I'd ever had a chance to examine - that bird marked the beginning of donations to the Houston Museum of Natural Science and later U. C. Santa Cruz and finally TAMU. Rule of thumb: if it's fresh, rare, or has useful parts, let it go to science. Non-natural deaths do not need 'natural' burial if it can go to good use!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Groove-billed Ani - Dec. 2

This morning at 9:00 am, Matt York relocated the Groove-billed Ani on the south side of the Marathon Motel (between Hwy 90 and the courtyard); it called and flew behind the office and gave several observers good looks. It moved around the property for about half an hour, heading north and west to a pine near cabin 9 & 10 and headed down toward the garden and patch of cane on the western slope of the property. We left it at 9:30 while the bird was still in the cane patch, vocalizing. Attempts to relocate the bird around 10:30 were unsuccessful.
Edit: GB Ani relocated behind office at 2 pm.

Previous observations for the ani: 10 Oct, 23 Oct, 24 Oct. No sightings in November. The bird is highly irregular in appearances and probably covers a good bit of the basin.

Birders wishing to try for the ani are welcome to park anywhere that isn't numbered or an RV spot and let the office know if you're successful! Other sightings are at the front desk.

Also present in the courtyard this morning - Black-tailed Gnatcatcher (usually along the property edges).

Side note for Marathon in general: Allen's Hummingbird and Black-chinned Hummingbird (latest record for the region) are still present at a NW Marathon feeder.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

November summary, Big Bend Region

Locations for this list include:
Big Bend National Park (Boquillas Canyon, banks of the Rio Grande at Daniel's Ranch, Rio Grande Village)
Brewster County
Christmas Mountains Oasis
Davis Mountains (private property)
Davis Mountains State Park
Jeff Davis County
Marathon Motel
Post Park

Month list generated by eBird, notes based on specific locations, if needed.

Mallard (Mexican) - Rio Grande
Scaled Quail
Wild Turkey
Horned Grebe - Rio Grande
Great Blue Heron - Post Park
Black Vulture - Rio Grande
Turkey Vulture - 1 roadkill, Nov. 18 a few miles west of Marathon
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk - Christmas Mountains Oasis
Cooper's Hawk - Rio Grande Village
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Prairie Falcon
American Coot - Post Park
Killdeer - Post Park
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove
Inca Dove
Greater Roadrunner - Big Bend National Park
Great Horned Owl - Marathon
Common Poorwill - Marathon
Violet-crowned Hummingbird - Davis Mountains
Black-chinned Hummingbird - Marathon, continues
Anna's Hummingbird - Rio Grande, Christmas Mountains Oasis
Broad-tailed Hummingbird - Davis Mountains
Rufous Hummingbird - Davis Mountains
Allen's Hummingbird - Christmas Mountains Oasis, Marathon, Davis Mountains
Acorn Woodpecker - Davis Mountains State Park
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Williamson's Sapsucker - Davis Mountains (Madera Canyon)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - Marathon Motel
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Northern Flicker (Red-shafted)
Tufted Flycatcher - Rio Grande Village
Gray Flycatcher - Rio Grande Village
Black Phoebe - Post Park, Rio Grande
Eastern Phoebe - Post Park, Rio Grande Village
Say's Phoebe -
Vermilion Flycatcher
Ash-throated Flycatcher - Rio Grande Village
Western Scrub-Jay - Davis Mountains State Park
Loggerhead Shrike
Common Raven
Black-crested Titmouse - Davis Mountains State Park
White-breasted Nuthatch - Davis Mountains
Brown Creeper - Rio Grande Village
Cactus Wren
Rock Wren - Boquillas Canyon
Bewick's Wren - Rio Grande Village
House Wren - Rio Grande Village
Marsh Wren - Rio Grande Village
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher - Rio Grande Village
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Swainson's Thrush - Christmas Mountains Oasis
Hermit Thrush - Christmas Mountains Oasis, Rio Grande Village
Northern Mockingbird
Curve-billed Thrasher
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
American Pipit - Boquillas Canyon
Phainopepla - Big Bend National Park
Orange-crowned Warbler - Rio Grande Village
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Gray Warbler - Rio Grande Village
Spotted Towhee - Davis Mountains
Canyon Towhee
Chipping Sparrow - Davis Mountains State Park
Clay-colored Sparrow - Davis Mountains State Park
Brewer's Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Black-throated Sparrow - Big Bend National Park
Lark Bunting
Lincoln's Sparrow - Post Park
Swamp Sparrow - Post Park
White-crowned Sparrow - Post Park
Dark-eyed Junco - Davis Mountains
Northern Cardinal
meadowlark sp.
Brewer's Blackbird
Great-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
Pine Siskin - Christmas Mountains Oasis, Davis Mountains State Park
Lesser Goldfinch - Christmas Mountains Oasis, Davis Mountains
American Goldfinch - Christmas Mountains Oasis, Davis Mountains
House Sparrow

Total: 92 species

** We weren't able to bird as much with some out-of-state travel for Thanksgiving, not to mention the prep time for it and other birdless adventures. The Allen's and Black-chinned Hummingbird continue as of Dec. 1 at our Marathon feeder.