Friday, March 29, 2013

It's a good busy

There may not be much popping up on the blog these days, but it's not due to lack of birds!

On Thursday, March 28th, I accompanied some folks to the Christmas Mountains Oasis in search of Lucifer Hummingbird. We were not at all disappointed in spite of the infrequent feeder visits - we were quite happy to take in all of the additional nectar sources that were in bloom!

Admittedly, Carolyn didn't have many folks to choose from for her "Birder of the Day" post; Black-chinned Sparrows are always exciting and it was the lowest elevation that I'd ever seen one!

We saw a good variety of butterflies (one stray Monarch among Pipevine Swallowtails, Queens, Checkered Whites, Sleepy Oranges, etc) in addition to a good showing of the usual suspects:

Scaled Quail Callipepla squamata
Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura
Eurasian Collared-Dove Streptopelia decaocto
White-winged Dove Zenaida asiatica
Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura
Lucifer Hummingbird Calothorax lucifer
Black-chinned Hummingbird Archilochus alexandri
Ladder-backed Woodpecker Picoides scalaris
American Kestrel Falco sparverius
Ash-throated Flycatcher Myiarchus cinerascens
Cactus Wren Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus
Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos
Curve-billed Thrasher Toxostoma curvirostre
Green-tailed Towhee Pipilo chlorurus
Canyon Towhee Melozone fusca
Cassin's Sparrow Peucaea cassinii
Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina
Clay-colored Sparrow Spizella pallida
Brewer's Sparrow Spizella breweri
Black-chinned Sparrow Spizella atrogularis
Black-throated Sparrow Amphispiza bilineata
Lincoln's Sparrow Melospiza lincolnii
White-throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis
White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys
Pyrrhuloxia Cardinalis sinuatus
Scott's Oriole Icterus parisorum
House Finch Haemorhous mexicanus
Pine Siskin Spinus pinus
Lesser Goldfinch Spinus psaltria

Additionally, a Greater Roadrunner charmed us on the road in - always a fun bird to watch!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Marathon birds, mid-March

A few days of strategic birding around Marathon from March 19-22 turned up this batch of birds, missing a few of the usual suspects but 64 species nonetheless:

American Wigeon
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Ruddy Duck
Wild Turkey
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
American Coot
American Avocet
Wilson's Snipe
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove
Inca Dove
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
American Kestrel
Eastern Phoebe
Say's Phoebe
Vermilion Flycatcher
Chihuahuan Raven
Common Raven
Barn Swallow
Cave Swallow
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Rock Wren
Marsh Wren
Bewick's Wren
Cactus Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Northern Mockingbird
Curve-billed Thrasher
European Starling
Chestnut-collared Longspur
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Canyon Towhee
Cassin's Sparrow
Brewer's Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Black-throated Sparrow
Lark Bunting
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Brewer's Blackbird
Great-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All things considered, the 'normal' Marathon birding routine (Post Park, the Gardens, etc) will probably do quite well with the addition of the Marathon settling(?) ponds. They are on private property and inaccessible without landowner permission; it is well worth the permission to add waterfowl for Brewster Co lists! The Marathon 'patch' (7.5 mile circle) was boosted from 207 to 214 species with the inclusion of the ponds - not a bad boost at all, considering those numbers only date back three years!

In yard news, the Double Bacon Ranch property list is at 126 species, though Song Sparrow may have slipped recording - 127 would not be bad at all for 2.5 years in a little corner of a dry town.

Marathon is still waiting on Swainson's Hawk and Scott's Oriole for the spring, but southern Brewster Co is reporting both, so we can't be too far behind!

(This entry is backdated for chronological accuracy.)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Updated: Planning a 2013 trip? Important information!

Edit: We are thoroughly booked through mid-June! Summer/fall schedule is subject to change, but we will not be adding any full-day guiding to the schedule until further notice.

Howdy, readers!

We have good news and better news and some general requests:
Good news - we're guiding, but you already knew that.
Better news - we're simultaneously trying to shuffle a new job, purchase a house and juggle about a dozen barrels of monkeys who are opening cans of worms. Please bear with us.

If you would like to contact us about guiding availability, PLEASE email us at or with the word "guiding" or "birding" somewhere in the subject line. Please reserve calling for last-minute and/or urgent requests. If we don't get back to your email within two days, the spam folder may be to blame (alternately, you may try h.trudell at or mwayork at as well).

Please also let us know if your schedule is firm or flexible; we may have more options mid-week than on weekends, but if we know far enough in advance, may be able to accommodate your schedule. If we're unavailable or booked at any given time, contact us anyway - if anyone cancels or we have last minute schedule changes, we'd be happy to accommodate you!

We're teaming up with Cameron Carver for the spring to help as many folks as possible; alternately, folks wishing to be guided in Big Bend National Park are encouraged to contact Mark Flippo of . We have similar pricing guidelines though we do not currently guide within the park - we do offer discounts for guiding within 15 miles of Marathon to avoid the fuel surcharges. Hotspots within 15 miles of Marathon include the Prairie Dog Town, Gage Gardens, Post Road/Post Park and other local gems, so it provides an economical option for folks wishing to brush up on regional birds before making the target runs to BBNP!

As of right now here's our Spring-Summer 2013 schedule, subject to change:

March - fully booked for Cameron, Heidi and Matt

April -fully booked for Cameron and Matt
Heidi -  limited availabillity for local morning trips mid-week only (booked 4th, 23rd-25th)

May - fully booked for Cameron and Matt
May 13-15 is the Christmas Mountains Research Symposium!
Heidi - limited availability for local morning trips mid-week during the second half of the month

June - fully booked for Cameron and Matt
Heidi -  limited availability for local morning trips mid-week during the first half of the month

July - open

August - booked for the first two weeks

Thanks so much for trusting us with your wish lists, target birds, and general introductions to the region - it's been a great pleasure to help plan trips and assist with local information. We're looking forward to a birdy spring!

Happy trails,
-Heidi & Matt

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Variation among Apotolype brevicrista

Apotolype brevicrista is a moth we really like. Fuzzy yeti that it is, in a moth package... it's the big, gaudy moth of early spring. These things are all relative, of course.

Generally they show up alone, or in pairs. March 9th, the early morning discovery was a crowd - first time we had as many Apotolype brevicristas as we had White-lined Sphinxes (Hyles lineata)!

This is being posted somewhat prematurely in hopes of getting some feedback on the variations - males and females can differ, but there's also Apotolype blanchardi to look out for as well.

Moth Photographer's Group has some striking examples of the variations - click here.

Here's's page on Apotolype. Apparently brevicrista has been reared on mesquite, so there's plenty of food for them out here!

Dignified moths

EDIT: We are thrilled to announce that this individual moth is now among the moths featured in Seabrooke Leckie & David Beadle's PETERSON FIELD GUIDE TO MOTHS OF SOUTHEASTERN NORTH AMERICA!

Ectypia bivittata is a deceptively subtle moth. Crisp, clean lines. Crisp, clean moth.

Black and white and a hint of peach.

A nice example of bold, fine, spotted, streaky, plain, lepidoptera.

Bugguide notes that Ectypia bivittata tends to fly mostly April to September. This individual arrived between the evening of March 8th and the morning of March 9th. A wee bit early.

The Moth Photographer's Group at least shows us well within expected range:

via Moth Photographers Group

This individual was, as most moths tend to be at 7 am, a bit sluggish. The moth-ers were, too.

For scale, our hand model is fairly dainty, as is our moth model.
Matt's earlier post alluded to splashy colors.
At least we can see some eye and a splash of color in the leg fuzz. As for the rest of it, well....

A bit less than dignified, this angle.  After this photo the harassment ceased and the moth was returned to the relative safety of vegetation beneath the wall where it had been resting prior to the  rude interruption.

Never a dull moment with blacklighting!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Moth-ing is Upon Us.

We left the back porch CFL black-light on last night just for kicks.

Apotolype brevicrista

This species is almost always an early-season show up at the lights in our corner of Texas..  Sometimes there are many.  Early-season fliers, they seem to go hand-in-hand with cool February and March mornings.

An additional interesting bug that showed up was this guy:

Ectypia bivittata

This is a species we don't always see.  The dorsal side of its abdomen is an eye-catching yellow-orange.

A nice beginning to our black-lighting season.