Sunday, December 13, 2015

Blown Away

118 not far from the McDonald Observatory
Sun was supposed to return for Sunday morning. Trouble was there was a high wind advisory, with gusts to 50 mph possible.Yikes! that's not the conditions you need to find sparrows.

Time to take a deep breath and do what needs to be done. I was here, its a 650 mile drive for a return trip in the next two weeks, so I headed out.

When I got out on the road in the Davis Mountains I noted that it had snowed a little overnight. I stopped briefly at the Lawrence E Woods Picnic Area and it was actually snowing a little still. Except for a flyover Red-tailed Hawk and a noisy group of four Acorn Woodpeckers not a bird was moving in the wind. On to the first sparrow stop.

Acorn Woodpecker
Out in the wind and a dusting of snow I went. At the first stop I walked about a half mile in the grass. This was one of the sites I might have had a Baird's Sparrow back in January and is a site that has hosted them historically. No a single bird was seen. It was fun kicking up clouds of fine powdery snow as I stomped looking for something,

Nope, not Baird's Sparrow
On to the next spot. I had been by here yesterday too. This site is about a mile south of 188 on 166. As I made the turn onto 166 I noticed that there was a lot more good looking grass habitat closer to the intersection where the fence was set back further from the road. I pulled over to check this out. Almost immediately a Red-shafted Northern Flicker flew by working through the scub in a very odd place for a flicker.

A bit further I started to hear some sparrow chip notes that didn't sound familiar. I got out my phone and played Baird's chip notes. Sounded identical. The bird was even responding to it. It was just a couple of feet in front of me in the grass. I was getting excited. Finally it flushed and perched were I could see it well. Queue the disappointing music, WAH wah wah... It turned out to be a Black-throated Sparrow. More walking. Something made me look over my shoulder and I saw a pair of javelinas walk casually across the road.

Black-throated Sparrow
More walking. Surprise! I flush a pair of Montezuma's Quail. That's the trouble with a big year, once you have a good bird like Montezuma's Quail its a trash bird. Time is wasting, time to move on to Sagebrush Sparrow.

I get to Balmorhea cemetery. Its windy, really windy. I see a Say's Phoebe that tries to stay on the fence wire but keeps loosing its grip and spends most of its time on the ground. I hear some chip notes and they sound a lot like the chip notes of Sagebrush Sparrow! Queue the disappointing music, WAH wah wah... It turned out to be a Black-throated Sparrow. At least I can find a sparrow in this wind. I spent an hour looking without success. I find White-crowned and more Black-throated Sparrows. Its late and I have miles to go.

Say's Phoebe tries to hang on at the
Balmorhea Cemetery
It's been years since I've heard a report from Imperial Reservoir in Pecos County north of Fort Stockton. To be honest, I had no idea what to expect. I remember in the 90's hearing a lot of reports of good birds from here though. I figured it was worth a quick visit. I was surprised at the size of the reservoir, I know now its about 1500 acres in size. There is some kind of entry office, but since I didn't have but a few minutes I just scoped from the side of the road. The wind was howling! The water was covered with white caps and birds would disappear between the swells. The water was incredibly clear. I could see the feet of the thousands of coots dangling in the water and I could see grebes swimming under water. There were a lot of birds though. I think I could spend hours here sorting through them. Coots dominated but I saw lots of Redheads also and a few grebes. I sure there were many more species, but no quick and easy Red-necked Grebe.

Imperial Reservior
Wind and time were not on my side today and too soon I had to make the 655 mile drive home. Next week should be interesting because Christmas Bird Counts start.

1 comment:

  1. I want to go back to Imperial someday, what a mysterious place. It's like a Fargo inspired script. Sorry about the Sp. Those two are still on our State-need list. See ya soon.