Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gage Gardens morning bird survey

The Gage Gardens is around 30 acres in size, south of the RR tracks from the Gage Hotel here in Marathon. The Gage is working on this plot of land to attract birds and birders alike.

I needed to survey the place for avifauna this morning, and the place did not disappoint. Forty identified species! In late-December, even. Post Park would envy that this time of yr. The power of these two places combined make little ol' Marathon a great place to enjoy the birds.

Back to Gage Gardens this morning...

When I first got there, I spotted a roosting Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago delicata).

Wilson's Snipe

Throughout the rest of the morning it was quickly apparent that there was a pair of snipes. With moist ground in many places thanks to the watering, that pair was seen several times.

Though, often in the shadows.

It really was Sparrow Day at the ballpark, scores of expected winter-resident species; two less than commonly expected.

The highlight this morning is a species I recall in the winters of Central TX. In the tran-Pecos, however, they are a rare bird.

Harris's Sparrow (Zonotrichia querula)

Not always seen in its normal, and narrow, range; this guy was a real treat to observe. They are a big sparrow, over 7 inches in length.

Harris's Sparrow

There were many sparrow species feeding under hanging seed feeders. Scratching around the mulch, seed, and leaf-litter. The Harris's Sparrow was generally on the ground scratching away, too. I just happened to photo him in the crown of this tree after an alarm call vocalization came and birds scattered momentarily.

Harris's Sparrow, look behind it.

Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca)

An uncommon species in far-West TX. There is a complex of geographical-color phases. I don't have time to get into it. It would be a nice thing to look up. Anyways, the last Fox Sparrow I remember seeing was on San Clemente Island, CA. That bird looked very little like the above. Pacific coastal Fox Sparrows are generally dark and sooty in color.

Anyhow, the two of them didn't get along. Both big sparrows; the Harris's generally won out on foraging square-inches.

The Fox Sparrow counters the Harris's Sparrow.

It was a great interaction to observe.

Also around the Gage Gardens were Lark Buntings (Calamospiza melanocorys). They come in the thousands in the Marathon Basin winter.

Just generally not in trees like this one.

Vermilion Flycatchers (Pyrocephalus rubinus) are numerous in the summers in Marathon. However, they generally migrate down to the Rio Grande in south Brewster County in the winters.

This young male is cutting it close:

I saw an adult female, too. Maybe there's something to that.

What a beautiful day.... this weekend is supposed to get cold. Great day in Marathon and the Gage Gardens!

The following is a list generated by

40 species (+2 other taxa) total
1 Northern Harrier - adult male
1 Killdeer
2 Wilson's Snipe
2 Rock Pigeon
1 Eurasian Collared-Dove
10 White-winged Dove
5 Mourning Dove
2 hummingbird sp. - not Anna's. One only heard, other a flyby. Perhaps Selasphorus sp due to recent activity in area.
1 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - female
1 Ladder-backed Woodpecker
2 Northern Flicker (Red-shafted)
2 Vermilion Flycatcher - one juvenile male, one female
1 Loggerhead Shrike
2 Common Raven - fly over.
2 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
20 American Robin
2 Northern Mockingbird
1 Brown Thrasher - don't always see them in north Brewster County, sometimes at the river in BBNP
1 European Starling
4 American Pipit
10 Cedar Waxwing
1 Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)
1 Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's)
2 Field Sparrow
12 Vesper Sparrow
1000 Lark Bunting - that number may be conservative. Large grassland on SE half of prop held scores of this sp.
16 Savannah Sparrow
1 Fox Sparrow (Red)
6 Song Sparrow
3 Lincoln's Sparrow
1 Harris's Sparrow - my first Brewster Co. HASP
100 White-crowned Sparrow
4 Pyrrhuloxia
6 Red-winged Blackbird - only females seen.
2 Eastern Meadowlark - only two meadowlarks heard were eastern vocalizations
120 meadowlark sp. - grassland portion of property held many
40 Brewer's Blackbird
1 Great-tailed Grackle
2 Brown-headed Cowbird
5 House Finch
1 Lesser Goldfinch
5 House Sparrow


  1. 30 Acres! It's just 10 that get birded...

  2. h, I just flat out incorrectly typed it. I had 10 acres in my head from another area. Thirty acres is correct.

  3. Thanks Carolyn. THIRTY acres and potential..
    Heidi had a possible Fox Sparrow there a while back. We wish we knew when, maybe some research. Anyways, seems she was likely right as we surmised then.

    We both got a county bird out of that Harris's Sparrow.
    That is a L. Waco Wetlands bird for me.

    That SE grassland side has a lot of area, thus the Lark Bunting numbers. I just think that portion could be a productive longspur and pipit species area in winters.