Saturday, January 10, 2009

Pine Flycatcher misidentification

Now is the time I am happy that I drove less than 20 miles out of my way to see the bird that turned out to be a different flycatcher from the Pine Flycatcher. I would hate to have been one of the many other birders who drove up to hundreds of miles and either don't know if they really saw the Pine Flycatcher or now know they did not.
SeEtta

Friday, January 9, 2009

NOT likely a Pine Flycatcher

1-10-09--the experts who identified the flycatcher in Choke Canyon as a first US record Pine Flycatcher posted yesterday that there was likely more than 1 species of flycatcher there and that some may have identified another species as the Pine. Having read their updated information on field marks and photos of confirmed Pine Flycatchers, I don't believe that these photos are of a Pine Flycatcher after all. That will teach me--when I watched this bird I told the other birders that it sure looked like a Least Flycatcher and it was amazing that anyone could tell it from one. Lesson learned--even when everyone thinks a bird is a hot rarity, check the field marks yourself and rule out other species.Today I couldn't pass up chasing the Pine Flycatcher, an uber rarity, as it was located in Choke Canyon State Park less than 20 miles off my drive to San Antonio. This is the first time it has been documented in the United States. It was a rewarding detour as I saw the tropical flycatcher more than a dozen times, albeit mostly brief views, in the hour or so I looked for it.
I did get opportunity several times to watch the bird for as long as a minute or two, including one time when it perched quietly in the shade of a tree. It emitted a "whit"-like call many times. The top pic enlarges clearly when double-clicked. SeEtta

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Purple Sandpiper on So Padre Island

Today enjoyed a boat trip from So Padre Island to do a little birding with Fins To Feathers boat ecotours run by Scarlet and George Colley. The Colleys are birders and conservationists who also run the Sea Life Nature Center in nearby Port Isabel.
Sandpipers are rare birds in Texas. They winter on the Atlantic coast no further south than North Carolina and breed in far north locations. They forage on rocky coasts like the jetty on the far south end of So Padre Island where this bird has been since it was first seen at the end of November, 2008.
As shown in the bottom pic, the Purple Sandpiper lets the surf wash over it while the nearby Ruddy Turnstone moves away from the wave. Purple Sandpipers are on the National Audubon Society Watch List.

Cool spiders

This morning I birded Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. I have birded it a little this time but today I targetted the Groove-billed Ani, a unique species that I have found every time I have birded the Rio Grande Valley but had missed so far this trip. I had to walk over a mile and a half to get to the area where these birds had recently been seen but it was worth it as I did find one. And it vocalized for several minutes, something I have never heard before. Unfortunatel it did not provide any opportunity for a photo.

As I walked the dirt and grass covered paths, I saw a number of spiders spinning their webs or working their prey at face height or higher. Though Santa Ana is best known for it's birding, it provides a unique habitat including tropical deciduous forest as well as spiny shrub habitats, that are home for a variety of wild and interesting critters. This is one of those interesting spiders. It is a Spiny Orb Weaver spider, a beneficial insect. SeEtta

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The BAD--the border wall

This is it--the abomination that is fragmenting critical habitat in this rich biological region. All species will be harmed by this fragmentation as well as the destruction of habitat which is becoming in short supply as human development devours more and more natural lands in the area every day. Though most birds can fly over, species like turtles cannot. It is also believed that the wall will be a barrier for essential connectivity of habitat for endangered ocelot and jaguarundi. Though the fence was alleged to only destroy a 60 foot path, as can be seen in the top two pics a much wider swath is damaged by the heavy equipment. Though parts of the border fence are adjacent to agricultural areas, even farm areas are often bordered by natural areas. The bottom pic shows some of the forested natural area that now lies on the south side of the border wall being built next to farm lands here. The fragmenting and destroying of this vital habitat is shameful. SeEtta