Sunday, March 8, 2015

Window of Opportunity

Panorama from the near end of the Jetty
The weather report for today was not good. Rain was predicted to start about 10 am and continue the rest of the day. I didn't have a big window to bird in and since today was the start of Daylight Savings Time the sun would "rise" and hour later. Sunrise was about 7:45 am, so I was looking at about two and a half hours of birding light before rain shut me down.

I decided the most bang for my time was to hit the Quintana Jetty and do my Freeport CBC Jetty Watch thing. I would have a good shot at some needed winter season target birds.

Sunrise over the Surfside Jetty
When I got there right at sunrise the usual large flock of gulls that seems like a permanent thing at the base of the jetty was absent. I was hoping that wasn't an omen! Conditions were much better than promised and I made it to the end of jetty in short order.

So the scanning begins. Basically the strategy for this is you set the scope up to scan the horizon over and over. What you're hoping for is to see one of the flying cigars we call Northern Gannets or some small stiff winged ducks you can ID.

One of the best parts of spending time on this jetty is this is one of the best places I know to see Bonaparte's Gulls. Today was no exception and I always had at least 10 in view.

While watching the gulls I realized I was watching a couple of Common Terns for Year Bird 290. Not far behind the Common Terns a couple of Sandwich Terns for Year Bird 291.

Bonaparte's Gull, Quintana Jetty, Texas
Bonaparte's Gull
Ok back to scanning the horizon. Back and forth. Wait! there closer than I expected skimming the surface. At first I thought it was a pelican, but no Northern Gannet for Year Bird 292.

Ok, decision time, should I stay for a while longer hoping for a scoter? Or cut and run looks for something else, like Nelson's Sparrow on Crab Street in Surfside. I decide to be greedy and try for both.

Finally I see some ducks flying down the beach outside the surf line. I see white wing patches,  could this be White-winged Scoter? At first I think so, they are very dark all over, not gray backed like scaup. At first I make the call, White-winged Scoter. But mulling it over I just don't feel right about it. I decide not to count it. I want to feel like my list is clean and the view I got just doesn't feel definitive.

Tic-toc, I can see the storm clouds gathering in the north, literally. I decided to head in and make a run for the sparrows. This jetty is just too good a place to photograph shorebirds and I have to take a few shots.

Drops are starting to fall on me as get to the car. I make the quick drive over to Crab Street, but as I get out of the car to start working for the sparrows, it opens up, no joy, today isn't the day for a Nelson's Sparrow.

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