Thursday, 28 June 2012

Texas: 40, Big Year: 438

Frankly, I didn't  began 2012 with even a hope of seeing 400 species in a single year, having never birded other than the occasional walk in the winter to see ducks with Sue,(I complained that it was too cold for man or duck), or while in Belize, where I saw my first Great Kiskadee,(okay, that I enjoyed).  This was the first bird since a Baltimore Oriole in late April that wasn't a lifer for me.  The Roadside Hawk and Dusky Grouse the only remaining birds I have not seen this year that I have seen previously.

In Texas I added 40 new birds for my year list and 43 since I left Toronto on June 20.  Overall I saw 107 species in three days.  Not a bad road trip.  After travels through Florida, British Columbia and Virginia, I arrived in San Antonio with a long wish List.  I had been in contact with Huck Hutchen from Estrado Llano Grande State Park and he handicapped my wish list.  If I ever go to the races with him, I will let Huck handicap the horses too, as I got every bird he gave a higher than 50% chance of finding.  

Highlights were the Aplomado Falcon, Rose-throated Becard, Masked Duck, Clay-colored Thrush and the Muscovy Duck not far from the fabled  Falcon Dam.  I arrived there just before 7am and just as I had finished setting up my scope to search for Red-billed Pigeons, the Muscovy Duck flew right by me from right to left, at eye level.  As it passed I got to watch it closely through my binoculars, but I assumed there would be at least one more and failed to take a photo.  It's always a debate with me, do I get a good look at the bird then take the photo, or get the record of the bird and examine it later?  In this case I am glad I just watched it.

As you already know, I did not see any Red-billed Pigeons and on the last day, while heading for the airport, the Rock Pigeons openly mocked me at North Central Park in Larado Texas.  I was at my third location trying to find a White-collard Seed Eater, a bird I couldn't find the previous evening or that morning at a place called: The White-collard Seed Eater Sanctuary.  You'd think a place with WCSE in the title would at least have the birds there.  No such luck.  The last place I had time to search was down by the pond at North Central Park.  Interesting how the real Central Park is north of North Central Park, which is almost as far south as you can go without running into Mexico.

After an hour of searching for the seedeater in 107 F temperatures, where it was so hot, I could feel the sweat dripping down my legs, I saw a large purplish pigeon in a group with 3 other regular looking pigeons.  Of course, it didn't have any red on the bill, but it strutted around openly showing me how not red its bill was.  Of course, the White-winged Doves had a good laugh at my expense too.

All said and done, I only missed adding Red-billed Pigeon, White-tailed Kite and White-collard Seed Eater to my year list.  I didn't count White-eyed Vireo as I only heard it and wasn't 100% sure of the call and try as I might, I just couldn't get eyes on the bird!  I did see other good birds, such as Black-throated Sparrow and White-faced Ibis, and I loved seeing the baby Chachalacas scurry around with mom and dad Chachalaca.

I am now home from a 10 day road trip, that was plagued with travel delays.  My flight to San Antonio was delayed by 3 hours and my trip home was unusual, to say the least.  At the San Antonio Airport, the flight was scheduled for 2:15 to New Jersey, where I had a connecting flight to Toronto.  It was announced as delayed until 3:45.  No worries, I went and sat down to dinner.  Except, before I was done, there was an announcement that the flight would be leaving on time and I had to clean up my dinner and rush back to the gate.  Boarding went smoothly and I settled into my seat in the back row of the plane with Sandy Komito's book, I  Came, I Saw, I Counted.

Before I could finish the first sentence the pilot came on the intercom and said, he was sorry, but the flight would be going at 3:45 as "rescheduled," and we'd have to get off the plane.  Being at the back, it took about 10 minutes until I could get off.  Just as I was about to leave the plane the pilot came back on the intercom and suggested we just stay on the plane as he talked somebody into letting us have an on time departure.  Great.  I went back to my seat, settled in and pulled out my book.

Not a minute later, the pilot came back on the intercom and announced that because most of the passengers had left the plane they would have to check everyone in again.  So, off the plane I went.  This time I left behind my belongings, hoping that they wouldn't announce that the plane was broken, or some such thing, as had happened on my way down, as there had been a problem with the window defrosters on that flight.

Finally, we all returned to our seats, settled in for the 3 hour plus flight and the Head Flight Attendant came on the intercom and said, "Folks, I'm afraid I have some bad news...  We're going to New Jersey."  I had to laugh.  Though that didn't last long, as the flight to Toronto from Jersey was delayed nearly 3 hours and I didn't get home until 1:30am and had to be up at 5am for work.  Luckily I have been used to getting to bed late and up early for the birds, so this was nothing new.  I was still getting up for birds, in this case, The Blue Jays.

It should be quiet for the next week or so, as I have to work the next 8 days straight leading up to our Newfoundland trip, and more pelagic birds.  Perhaps there will be a good bird or two here, before the end of the month.  Wait and hope, I guess...

Here is the first batch of photos:

Cassin's Sparrow

Common Paraque (can you see him?)

Fulvous Whistling Ducks

Great Kiskadee,(their name is their calling card)

Green Jay

Least Grebe

Long-billed Thrasher

Masked Duck,(with Common Gallinule)

Olive Sparrow,(my new favourite Sparrow)

 Female Rose-throated Becard,(as opposed to a Male Bald-headed Picard)

Plain Chachalaca

Plain Chachalacas and family,(Why did the Chachalacas cross the road?)

(To get away from the crazed birder with the camera)

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