Friday, March 20, 2015

Spring Has Sprung!

This week started with the news of the Costa's Hummingbird I had chased on January 25 isn't a Costa's Hummingbird, but likely a hybrid and now has molted into something that much more resembles as Black-chinned Hummingbird. So I drop in species back down to 299.

I had Friday off work and decided this would be a good day to make what I call "The Loop". The Loop is the close to 200 mile loop through Galveston, down the Bolivar Peninsula, through High Island, Anahauc National Wildlife Refuge and back to Houston via I10. There is a lot of good birding on The Loop.

Pacific Loon was reported last weekend at Offit's Bayou and 61st in Galveston so I started there. When I got there the only loon visible was a Common Loon. It was foggy though. The fog looked like might lift soon so I hung out and played with my Digiscope adapter. After about 20 minutes I looked out and I could suddenly see many more loons. A few minutes of scanning and I found one with a district gray nape. Pacific Loon for Year Bird 300! As the fog lifted I was able to count about 70 loons on the water.

Since I was close I headed over to Corp's Woods. Not a lot going on here, but from deep from inside the thicket by the water I hear a Louisiana Waterthrush call for Year Bird 301.

I crossed the ferry intending to head for the Bolivar Flats. As I was driving off the ferry I realized I still needed Nelson's Sparrow and I made the quick turn on to Frenchtown Road to look for them in one of the traditional spots.

At the bend in the road is a large stand of Smooth Cordgrass marsh, the habitat that's preferred by the sparrows on the Bolivar Peninsula. I parked and pished and immediately a Nelson's Sparrow popped up for Year Bird 302.

The Boliver Flats Shorebird Sanctuary in the fog.

On to the Bolivar Flats. On the drive down the beach I found some Semipalmated Sandpipers for Year Bird 303.

Wilson's Plover, Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary
Out on the flats I didn't have to go very far before I found Wilson's Plover for Year Bird 304. While I was watching a pair of Wilson's Plover joust on the beach a group of larger plovers dropped in. At first I just assumed they were Black-bellied Plovers. Looking at them though they looked too warm colored, not the cool gray color of Black-bellied Plovers. I was getting suspicious these were something unusual for the flats when they took off and I could see they did not have dark axillaries, or they did not have dark "wing-pits" like a Black-bellied Plover. These were American Golden-Plovers for Year Bird 305.

I moved on down the peninsula to Yatch Basin Road. I still needed Whimbrel and this is always a good spot for them and I had heard from a woman I chatted with at the Flats that she had had them there. I scanned but found nothing but Willets from the road. At the end of the road a small flock of Cliff Swallows were swarming around for Year Bird 306.

The end of Yacht Basin Road has always been my go to spot for Black Terns. I can usually find them following the barges in the inter-coastal canal. Yatch Basin didn't let me down today and following the first badge that came by was a pair of Black Terns for Year Bird 307,

Bay side of Rollover Pass, Gilchrist, TX

Checking the Gulf side of Rollover Pass for scoters I did see several flocks of Blue-winged Teal flying north up the coast, but no scoters. A couple of Northern Gannets were flying as close as I've ever seen them here.

Back on the bay side of the pass there were good numbers of gulls, terns and shorebirds. It didn't seem to take any effort at all to pick out 29 species in the span of 45 minutes. In quick order I found Baird's Sandpiper for Year Bird 308, Least Tern for Year Bird 309, and Whimbrel for Year Bird 310. 

The day was getting on and I need to move on. I decided to try for a Black-throated Gray Warbler that was found during the Christmas Count and still being seen occasionally at High Island. It had been reported as recently as 5 days ago so I thought I had a chance. What I didn't have was a lot of time. I look for about 30 minutes without really any migrants being seen. I decided I would head back home when I heard a familiar call I had not heard yet this season and quickly located an
Eastern Kingbird for Year Bird 311.

Time had run out for me this day but it was a very good day. I tallied 12 Year Birds the most I'd had in a day in many weeks. Spring was definitely in the air!

I played more with my Carson HookUpz universal Smart Phone Digiscoping Adaptor. My results vary but over all I'm impressed with this gadget, it lets me get some distant documentation shots I would never get with my 300mm lens and Cannon SLR. The two shots below were taken to today with my Bushnell Elite 20-60 80mm spotting scope.  The first imagine is with me zooming in on my iPhone 5C to eliminate the vignetting and the second is with no zoom on the iPhone. The iPhone tends to over expose a bit and I've corrected the level some in Photoshop. Not award winning, but certainly plenty good for documentation,

Forster;s Tern Zoomed in taken with
Carson's HookUpz Adapter

Forster;s Tern taken with 
Carson's HookUpz Adapter

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