Monday, January 26, 2015

The First Chase

While I was out gulling on Saturday I got word that a Gray-crowned Yellowthroat has been located in the Rio Grande Valley. Ideally I would have dropped everything and headed south. Life is not ideal though. I had an obligation Saturday evening so I wasn't able to get home and get ready to leave until about 8 pm.

My original plan was to head for the Brooks County Safety Rest Area south of Falfurias and get the Painted Redstart that's been there, then head for a cache of Live Oak County hummers at a private residence, then on to Port Aransas to try for Little Gull, then swing by Rockport for a try at Whooping Crane.

Well you have to chase a review species when its there, so I decided to leave an hour earlier and head for Estero Llano Grande State Park for the yellowthroat. I planned to get up at 2:30 am and be on the road by 3 am. That would put me in to the park about 8 am.

Well the best laid plans. I get my gear together, laid out cloths, set the coffeepot to brew at 2:30 am. Jumped into bed. At 3:20 am I work up and saw I had over slept. Damn, forgot to set an alarm. I jumped up and got out as quick as I could but didn't hit the road until 3:40 am.

The drive was uneventful and it was light enough to see some birds as I passed through Kenedy County on US77. Red-tailed Hawks were on poles rubbing the sleep from their eyes and Crested Caracaras were everywhere. As I hoped I spotted a White-tailed Hawk for Year Bird 232 on a post.

Cinnamon Teal, Estero Llano Grande State Park
I made it to the park about 9 am. No word yet on the Gray-crowned Yellowthoat. At least oversleeping didn't hurt my chances for the bird. As I walked out to the site I got a nice shot of a Cinnamon Teal up close.

When I got to the site the crowds were restless and starting to scatter. I found my fried Dave Dolan who I planned to bird back to Houston with. I realized it was getting warm and sunny so I head back to the car for sunscreen since all was quit. I picked up several year birds like Tropical Kingbird, Couch's Kingbird, Plain Chachalaca, and Buff-bellied Hummingbird.

I didn't miss anything while I was away. A Northern Beardless-Tyrranulet was calling for Year Bird 242. Suddenly there was shift in the crowd, someone has the bird in view! The mob quickly coalesced in to a line that was working to get everyone on it. I got a quick look I was willing to count but unsatisfying. The bird dropped out of sight and I kept looking. then it was back up and I could see it well. We got several more on it. then it flew and the crowd shifted location and relocated it. Suddenly it flew in pretty close and oh and ah's all around as it showed its bright yellow chest and throat to all. Gray-crowned Yellowthoat was Year Bird 243 and review species number 3.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron,
Estero Llano Grande SP, Texas
It was only a little after 10 am now and Dave and I went after a few more year birds for me, like Yellow-crowned Night-Heron for Year Bird 244, Least Grebe for Year Bird 245, and Green Kingfisher for Year Bird 246.

We grabbed a bite to eat and gassed up and head for the Brooks County Safety Rest Area about an hour away. The Painted Redstart has been very easy to find. We jumped out and started looking. First bird I found was a Blue-headed Vireo for Year Bird 247, then Dave located a Yellow-throated Warbler for Year Bird 248.

Painted Redstart, Brooks County Safety Rest Area
Lots of Eastern Bluebirds were calling and giving us good looks. I wasn't too worried yet, but I was starting to have thoughts like "Damn, I'd hate to miss a gimmie bird like this". Thankfully it started to call and we quickly located the Painted Redstart for Year Bird 249.

On to the cache of hummingbirds. That worked out well and I picked up Rufous, Black-chinned, and Ruby-throated Hummerbirds right away. Finally the main target, Costa's Hummingbird for Year Bird 253 was identified.

No time left to try and chase Little Gull and Whooping Crane, but at least the Cranes are not going to be easy to miss and I have other chances. If they stick around for next week they are also 2 hours closer that the Rio Grande Valley.

Breaking 250 Year Birds was a psychological boost. I know its terms of effort it is maybe 25% there, but seeing the halfway mark really feels good. Next weekend I'm going to see how close to 300 I can get myself, that is unless there is something I have to chase!

Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Estero Llano Grande State Park

Tropical Kingbird, Estero Llano Grande State Park

White-tipped Dove, Estero Llano Grande State Park

Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Estero Llano Grande State Park

Least Grebe, Estero Llano Grande State Park

Great Kiskadee with frog, Estero Llano Grande State Park

Eastern Bluebird, Brooks County Safety Rest Area