Saturday, December 28, 2013

Red-necked Grebe, Balmorhea Lake

Reeves County.  It continues.
Only now does it show itself to us, along with our friend Candy.

First discovered by San Antonio birder Sheridan Coffey, along with her partner Martin Reid, back on the 10th of December.

EXCELLENT bird for the trans-Pecos of Texas.  Listed as "Accidental" (Bryan, K.2002), this is a species that has been a nemesis for Heidi and myself.  This species is a first "lower 48" bird for her, and a North American first for me.

Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena)
Balmorhea Lake, Balmorhea, Reeves Co., TX.

The following is a range map of Red-necked Grebe, more or less:

Got it.

Balmorhea Lake is a valuable resource for birders. This time, the grebe showed itself to us.
Thanks to both.

Bryan, KB. 2002.  Birds of the Trans-Pecos a field checklist.  Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. Natural Resources Program.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

'tis the season for... roadkill?

Well, if this hasn't been an interesting month, I don't know what to call it.

7 December: Long-tailed Duck at the ponds... alive, alive is good. Rare winter visitor to WTX.

Same day, road-killed female Bufflehead west of town (no pics - yet, guest sighting by both Steve Collins and Sky Stevens). Regular winter visitor to WTX, if you can find suitable water. Very hard to find bird for Brewster Co.

14 December: Ring-billed Gull, roadkill west of town. Mad props to Andy Bankert who ID'd the creature based on this photo alone:

Guesses included harbor seal, domestic dog, pied deer, horse, thrush, sandpiper, owl, etc.
First 'gull' guess does need to be credited to a fellow from PA who tries to remain anonymous, though!

Lest anyone wonder:

Ring-billed Gull roadkill, 14 December 2013, Brewster Co, TX

Ring-billed Gulls are incredibly hard to find in Brewster Co. and we suspect that the heavy fog and strange weather events have been contributing to their presence - previous records (for us) for the county include the summer of 2012 at Maravillas Creek (one individual) and 7 Dec - a flock of 31 at the ponds. 

21 December: Vehicle-struck female Common Merganser; disposition to be determined.
* Update - check the link above!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Possible Nutting's Flycatcher, Rio Grande Village of Big Bend National Park

*UPDATE* 12 Dec 2013 This bird continues to be seen and photographed.  Antonio has retrieved additional photos and video.  Written description of vocalization differences between this bird and neighboring Ash-throated Flycatcher are promising.
HOWEVER, recorded audio of the possible Nutting's vocalization STILL NEEDS to be obtained.  

Remember that playback is prohibited in National Parks.  Not necessary here anyways..

*UPDATE* North American Rare Bird Alert (NARBA) "Dec 9: negative reports."

On Dec. 7th, an interesting Myiarchus flycatcher was photographed by Antonio Cantu near the Rio Grande Village campground at Big Bend National Park. It was seen along a paved service road.

Heavily cropped photos from Antonio Cantu (his original files are HUGE):

7 Dec 2013, possible Nutting's Flycatcher, © Antonio Cantu
7 Dec 2013, possible Nutting's Flycatcher, © Antonio Cantu

There have been two Ash-throated Flycatchers reported from the RGV campground since late November, so it's possible that 2-3 Myiarchus are in the area, just to keep folks on their toes.

Photos of a VERY bright-bellied Ash-throated Flycatcher were taken by Mark Flippo on Dec. 8th from the campground, so it's not a very cut-and-dry search.

8 Dec 2013, Ash-throated Flycatcher, © Mark Flippo
8 Dec 2013, Ash-throated Flycatcher, © Mark Flippo

And the search continues with Kelly Bryan and Carolyn Ohl-Johnson on the trail today... will keep everyone updated as we know. Will try to post additional photos as possible.

*** This would be a second state record if confirmed, for all NUFL posts on the blog, please check the tag in the side bar, or click here: Nutting's Flycatcher.

The ultimate goal is audio, due to tricky visual ID - for that, please see our coverage of Chris Benesh's commentary and spectrogram work on the first bird here.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

West Texas Christmas Bird Counts

Better late than never!

Get out there and count: there's no such thing as a 'normal' year!

Please refer to the Houston Audubon 2013-2014 CBC website for additional details.

Alphabetically arranged:
Balmorhea (TXBA) 12/15
Big Bend NP (East) (TXBG) 12/29
Chisos Mountains (TXCM) 12/28
Comstock (TXCO) 12/28
Davis Mountains (TXDM) 12/14
Del Rio (TXDR) 12/29
El Paso (TXEP) 12/29 probable
Guadalupe Mountains (TXGM) 1/4

Chronologically arranged:
Davis Mountains (TXDM) 12/14
Balmorhea (TXBA) 12/15
Chisos Mountains (TXCM) 12/28
Comstock (TXCO) 12/28
Big Bend NP (East) (TXBG) 12/29
Del Rio (TXDR) 12/29
El Paso (TXEP) 12/29 probable
Guadalupe Mountains (TXGM) 1/4

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Long-tailed Duck in Marathon!

... and other good species for the Brewster County lister..

7 Dec. 2013  Marathon Treatment Ponds (PRIVATE PROPERTY), Brewster County.

Visiting West TX birder, Steve Collins, initially found this gem and then put us on it:

on the right, Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis), female

Low-light conditions and distance made photographing this individual less-than-optimal.  With the way these ponds are laid out, it just wasn't worth it to risk flushing this excellent bird.

A few other goodies for this location:

Greater White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons)

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) is 2nd from the top.  Top is an Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis) that has been here for a while.  Even better, Bonaparte's Gull (Chroicocephalus philadelphia)

The following is a complete ebird list from this morning at the ponds:

2 Greater White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons
8 Gadwall Anas strepera
3 American Wigeon Anas americana
1 Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
1 Mallard (Mexican) Anas platyrhynchos diazi
10 Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
1 Northern Pintail Anas acuta
20 Green-winged Teal Anas crecca
8 Canvasback Aythya valisineria
Side by side comparison with Redheads
4 Redhead Aythya americana
15 Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris
4 Lesser Scaup Aythya affinis
1 Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis
1 winter plumaged female, pics pending
4 Bufflehead Bucephala albeola
7 Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis
1 Eared Grebe Podiceps nigricollis
5 American Coot Fulica americana
1 Wilson's Snipe Gallinago delicata
4 Bonaparte's Gull Chroicocephalus philadelphia
31 Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis
1 Say's Phoebe Sayornis saya
1 Vermilion Flycatcher Pyrocephalus rubinus
5 American Pipit Anthus rubescens
1 Western Meadowlark Sturnella neglecta
3 House Finch Haemorhous mexicanus

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Good to be Home: Lewis's Woodpecker

Heidi and I have been away for several weeks due to life. I returned home yesterday evening.
One thing that is certain to happen is good birds are found in our absence.
This held true back on December 1st for one species:

Lewis's Woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis), about 10 miles south of Alpine, Brewster County.

This morning, I paid a visit.

Lewis's Woodpecker

Originally discovered by visiting Texas birder, Dennis Shepler, this excellent species has been hanging around Mile High Road.  Actively picking and gleaning on telephone poles at times, it also has a fairly unique foraging behavior for a woodpecker.

It fly-catches.  Yep, a woodpecker species that actually fly-catches.  It was doing so this morning adding to an already wonderful time of observation.  Our Acorn Woodpeckers (M. formicivorus) occasionally do this, too.

Lewis's Woodpecker is generally a Rocky Mountains regional species.  The following is range map, more or less:

A fairly enigmatic species, and one nemesis species that has been hard for Heidi and myself to track down and catch-up to, the Lewis's Woodpecker is an Irruptive species in the trans-Pecos of Texas.
Irruptive species that may be abundant some years but absent, occasional, or rare all others. (Bryan, K.B. 2002)

Even with in an "Irruptive" year for the species, Lewis's Woodpecker is Rare.  Rare = seldom observed (Bryan K.B. 2002)

Lewis's Woodpecker is one of only a few woodpecker species in North America to have an ALL dark back.

Yeah, there is a bit of a gray collar.  Also, look up again at the first photo.

It would be nice if this individual digs in and stays the Winter.  As far as my personal life, it would be nice if this birds sticks around for a few more days so Heidi can enjoy it.  We all look forward to her return.

Now, what about that Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla), first reported by Mark Lockwood, at Balmorhea Lake?  I'll wait a short while, if it is even still around..

Here's to a great Winter in Big Bend!

Bryan, K.B. Birds of the Trans-Pecos a field checklist, Natural Resources Program, Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept., Austin, TX. 2002

Monday, December 2, 2013

fox-a-day #10

Last of the fox-a-day series, so we'll throw in some bonus shots!

Gray Fox, Marathon, TX - fall 2013

Gray Fox, Marathon, TX - fall 2013

Gray Fox, Marathon, TX - fall 2013

And now back to your semi-regular, unscheduled postings....