Thursday, 24 December 2015

Texas and New Mexico Day 11

This morning we headed off to Fulton and the Turnbull Nature Centre. This a boardwalk trail through a marsh to a tower hide. Here we picked up our first American Avocets and Blue-winged Teal of the trip, and were also very lucky to have an American Bittern fly over the reeds.
There were Alligators on the fringes of the pools, the first I have ever seen.
On the way back to the van we had very close views of a Tri-coloured Heron and had fly over White-faced Ibis.
We then set off for Mustang Island in search of a Harris's Sparrow that had been reported from there. We met a young birder who was doing a 'big year' and she advised us of a site where we could find Mountain Plover and that she'd just seen a Dickcissel further up the road.
Having no luck with the Harris's Sparrow we set off in search of the Dicksissel and after a few minutes of James playing the call it appeared in front of us.
We then went to the Pachery Channel Park before heading to the agricultural fields near Bishop, where added Wilson's Snipe and White-tailed Hawk.
We then started the drive to Westlaco which was to be our base for the next five days.
White-tailed Hawk


Texas and New Mexico Day 10

This morning I was up early and out onto the pier that was allocated to the motel, I wasn't the first though as a few of my companions had beaten me to it.

There was an Osprey sat on the next deck and many Brown and American White Pelicans. We also saw Laughing Gulls and had a very confiding Turnstone which pottered about the deck.
American White Pelican
After breakfast as we waited by the minibus we had a few Northern Cardinals and our first Hummingbird with a Ruby-Throated.
We then headed over to Rockport Beach where we added Franklin's Gull, Forster's Tern, Western Willet, Royal Tern, American Herring Gull, Snowy Egret, Long-billed Curlew, Sanderling, Snowy Plover, Crested Caracara, Semi-palmated Plover and Marbled Godwit.
Crested Caracara

Laughing Gull

Long-billed Curlew

Marbled Godwit

Brown Pelican
The afternoon was spent in Aransas Bay with a boat trip on the 'Skimmer' and Capt. Tommy. The target was Whooper Crane.

This was one of the highlights of the trip as we headed out from Port Aransas to the Islands around San Jose Island. On the way out we saw both Double-crested and Neo-tropical Cormorants and amazingly a Magnificent Frigatebird that was perched precariously on a pole.
Magnificent Frigatebird
We eventually found a few Whooper Cranes, one of the rarest birds Ive seen. In the 1930's the population was down to just 18 birds but due to co-ordinated conservation efforts over the last 80 years there are now around 450 birds. They breed in wetlands of Northern Canada and then spend the winter around Aransas NWF, with small populations in Florida and Wisconsin.
We spent around 4-5 hours out on the boat and on the way back Capt. Tommy found a small group of Roseate Spoonbills.
Roseate Spoonbills
We also chanced upon a pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins which seemed very interested in us.
Bottle-nosed Dolphins
We spent some time around Rockport beach again when we got back where we saw Piping Plover, a species I had tried to see last year in New Jersey and Reddish Egret.
Reddish Egret

Piping Plover

Texas and New Mexico Day 9

Today was a day of travelling as we relocated to Texas. We had an early start as we had to fly from Alberquerque to Houston, but via Phoenix in Arizona which took the best part of five hours.
We then had to pick up the minibus and drive the three and a half hours to Rockport on the coast.
Not many birds were seen today as a result but we did see our first Black and Turkey Vultures that fill the skies.
We arrived in time to get sorted and head out for dinner with the prospect of a great day tomorrow.

Texas and New Mexico Day 8

This morning saw us heading high into the Sandia mountains and the visitor centre at Sandia Crest. This is 10,478 high and there was snow on the roadside on the way up, the air was pretty thin as well and we were all puffing a bit a we climbed the steps from the car park to the centre.
Our targets here were the Rosy-Finches which come to the feeders outside the restaurant. It wasn't long before we saw our first, a Grey-crowned Rosy Finch on the roof of one the buildings.
Grey-crowned Rosy Finch
We then staked out the feeders on the balcony outside the restaurant and had good views of more Grey-crowned and then Black Rosy-Finch.
Black Rosy-Finch

Black Rosy-Finch
We also had more Junco's, this time the Red-Backed variety, as well as Steller's Jay and Chihuahuan Raven.
After some souvenir shopping and a coffee we headed back down the mountain.

In the afternoon we relocated to the flat grasslands around Estancia and were very lucky when Adam spotted a large raptor as we were driving. Stopping and piling out it turned out to be our only sighting of Golden Eagle.
Golden Eagle
We also had large numbers of Chihuahuan Ravens going to roost before heading back to the motel and packing for our flight to Texas the next day.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Texas and New Mexico Day 7

We began the day by visiting the City of Deming Waste Water Treatment plant. On the way Adam had spotted a 'Thrasher' and we had stopped to investigate. We could not relocate what we had hoped was a Crissal Thrasher but did chance upon a group of Lark Buntings and Horned Larks. We also had another covey of Gambel's Quail drinking from a roadside puddle.
Lark Bunting
We then carried on to the Water Works which took some finding but was very worth it as there was a variety of wildfowl on show with Canvasback, Lesser Scaup, Ring-Billed Duck, Redhead and many other common species such as Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler and Mallard.

 A juvenile Peregrine Falcon made repeated unsuccesful 'swoops' over the pools sending the birds into a panic before making a vain attempt to catch a passing Ring-Billed Gull.
Our next stop was the Deming Cemetery where we spent an hour or so wandering around. Here we saw more Junco's, mostly Pink-Sided and Oregon. We also added Eastern Bluebird, which was uncommon for the area.
Eastern Bluebird
A large Fir had a roosting Great-Horned Owl, Our third sighting in two days.

Great-Horned Owl
We then headed off to find some lunch before making our way back to Alberquerque on route 66.We stopped enroute when James spotted a raptor on a pylon which turned out to be a Ferruginous Hawk, so we used the opportunity to have lunch and study the raptor.

Ferruginous Hawk
On the way back to Alberquerque we stopped a few more times and saw our only Rough-Legged Hawk and Crissel Thrashers of the trip.
Crissel Thrasher

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Texas and New Mexico Day 6

We began the day by heading to the Chiricahua Mountains in Arizona. It was an early start as it was a long drive. As usual we stopped if we saw anything interesting and at one of our halts we saw White-Throated Swifts flying around the rocky outcrops.
We spent the whole day birding the mountains with good views of some of our target species such as Mexican Chicadee and Mexican Jay. We also saw our only Yellow-Eyed Junco's of the trip, a separate species from the usual Dark-Eyed variety.

We also chanced upon a large covey of Wild Turkey's , again our only sightings of the trip. We ate our lunch in a woodland clearing where we were lucky enough to have flock of Red Crossbills fly in.
On our way back down the mountains James suddenly brought the van to a halt and we were delighted to see several Montezuma's Quail, This was a species high on our target list for the area and we thought that we had 'dipped'. This sighting was a first for a Birdfinders winter tour.
Easy to miss

Montezuma's Quail
Whilst here we took the opportunity to 'bird' the area and James succeeded in getting an Arizona Woodpecker to respond to his taped calls and show right in front of us, another of our targets in 'the bag'.
We then started the long drive back to New Mexico and were speeding along the highway when there came a cry of 'OWL' 'OWL' 'OWL' as first Sue, then Adam then me let out a cry. Stopping rapidly and then reversing we were all delighted to see two Great-Horned Owls in a tree on the roadside.
We watched them for some time before they both flew off into the gathering gloom and leaving us to continue on our way.
Great-Horned Owl

Texas & New Mexico Day 5

This morning, after loading the van again as we were relocating later in the day, we headed to the Percha Dam State Park. We stopped first on the roadside when we saw a few sparrows.
A walk along the road produced several new species for the trip, with Verdin, Black Phoebe,Savannah, Lincoln's,Brewer's and Black-Throated Sparrows.
Black-Throated Sparrow
Black Phoebe
When we arrived at the park, (Its an RV Park) we saw a Phainopepla, a bird I'd been really hoping to see.
We added to our Sparrow list with Song and White-Throated as well as Bewick's Wren and a very 'showy' Spotted Towhee.
Spotted Towhee
In the afternoon we headed to the Corralitos Valley in search of Longspurs but chanced upon a much rarer Sparrow species with a few Baird's giving us the run around.
Corrilitos Valley
James called all his field craft skills into action as he marshalled us around the grasslands to finally get the bird settled and showing. I was, luckily for me, the only one who had really clear views and rather than try and get a record shot continued to try and get the others onto the bird.
It was a great end to the day and we moved onto Deming with the prospect of a day in Arizona and the Chiricahua Mountains tomorrow.