Friday 29 May 2015

Night Heron at St Clements, Truro

After five visits to my local patch at St Clements, I eventually saw the adult Night Heron last night.  After spending countless hours waiting at Tresemple Pool, John Chapple and me returned to the car park only to be told by the owner of the vicarage it was in the garden pond!.  The photo below was taken in near darkness at 9.30 pm last night.  ISO was set to 6400.  I got to say I was pretty impressed with the camera (Nikon D800e).

I also saw two Red Kites though Bob Bosisto had five others an hour earlier.

Back from Texas, fairly dry

We got back from Texas last week.  Just in time by the looks of things as there has been huge amounts of rain and serious flooding in areas we have just visited.  It was also a fairly dry fortnight as the majority of diners and burger joints don't sell beer in Texas.  The upshot is I lost 2 kg in weight.  Maybe it was the serious humidity as well.

Anyway, I'm now sifting through 3000 or so images.  Its looking good for about 200 nice presentation shots and around ten competition standard images.  I notice that the tour guide brochures now include a statement saying "Photo Opportunities:  Moderate to good".  I can say that Texas was very good, especially the waders and marsh birds.

In summary, we saw a shade under 200 species, had 30 ticks, travelled 2070 miles in 16 days, stopped twice by US border control bods, had about 200 mossie bites, caught heat rash, one minor disagreement with the Mrs over access to a Tropical Parula site, lost 2kgs in weight and wasted one night on South Padre Island. All in all, a pretty successful trip.

A small part of a flock of mixed terns, skimmers and gulls.

Tuesday 19 May 2015

Anuhuac Reserve, High Island

We have returned to the giant size Anuhuac Reseve, which is close to High Island.  This is a drive-round reserve where a lot of the birding is done American-style, ie from your car, just like everything else in Texas.  We have even experienced a drive-thru donut store, and wait for it, a drive-thru slot machine store...Anyway back to the birding and today's highlight has been an influx of Common Nighthawks. They have been everywhere and easy to see, mainly on fence posts at eye level.  Here's a couple from today plus some shots of other notables from nearby:

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, a common roadside bird

Red-winged Blackbird, male, one of the noisiest characters around.

Eastern Kingbird, fairly common in the correct habitat.

Common Nighthawk today.

Common Nighthawk, a different bird to above and below.

Common Nighthawk.  All images taken with Nikon D4, 500mm F4 and 1.4x TC.  (Kingbird image by Patsy Rogers).

Sunday 17 May 2015

Waders at Port Aransas, near Corpus Christi

Today we revisited the stunning wader site at Port Aransas,  Its four hours drive north from the Rio Grande and still another four hours or so back to Houston.  This is the second time we have visited Port Aransas for good reason - its stunning and perfect for some photography.  The highlight was once again several hundred Stilt Sandpiper but also some Wilsons Phalaropes and various other waders including Short-billed Dowitcher, Semi-palmated and White-rumped Sandpiper, Dunlin (alpina), American Avocet, Roseate Spoonbill, Snowy Plover and Least Sandpiper.  We also found a pair of Horned Larks on the sand bank and a Frigatebird in the bay.

Tomorrow we head for the High Island area for the last couple nights of our trip.

Stilt Sandpiper

Adult male Horned Lark

Saturday 16 May 2015

Sabal Palm Sanctuary, Brownsville

Today has been a big disappointment as we travelled to two reserves which were a complete waste of time.  Firstly Boca Chica at the mouth of the Rio Grande gave us very little and then the world birding centre at South Padre was even worse. To be honest the place looked mismanaged, a bit like an out of season resort - we left there pretty quick and made our way to Sabal Palm. This was a stunning private reserve and our three hours there could easily have been six.  We managed two trip ticks in Wood Stork and Gull billed Tern today, but Sabal offered great views of Green Jay, Magnolia Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler and American Redstart (all first year males), Altamira Oriole, Long-billed Thrasher, Yellow-billed Cuckoos and yet more quantities of summer pluamge Stilt Sandpipers.

We travel back north tomorrow and we revisit Port Aransas for more waders.

Magnolia Warbler, 1st summer male

Buff-bellied Hummingbird

Friday 15 May 2015

Estero Llano Grande State Park, Rio Grande

Today we visited another incredible state park on the Rio Grande border with Mexico.  This place has to be up there in the top three of all the parks we have visited.  You can appreciate why the tour companies visit this site.  Everything is neatly contained and the park staff are very helpful.  One chap even offered to take us to see the Northern Beardless-Tyranulet on his buggy.  We were then taken to the spot where two different Pauraque's were roosting and nesting as well as shown the exact branch to wait for the Green Kingfisher. You can't ask for more.

Five trip ticks were added today including Long-biled Dowitcher, in summer plumage, Swainson's Hawk and Green-winged Teal.  In addition, several hummingbirds including a male Black-chin, lots more close Stilt Sandpipers, American Avocets and Roseate Spoonbills.

Tomorrow we head for South Padre Island where there are three or four more top notch reserves.

Ad Pauraque with chick.

Pauraque at roost

Green Kingfisher on its favoured perch

Thursday 14 May 2015

Bentsen State Park, Lower Rio Grande

What a stunning place - easily the best park visited so far.  Quite an array of birds and mostly around the lush visitor centre.  We managed to get decent views of Altimira Oriole today, plus a couple extra ticks.  Curve-billed Thrasher was a surprise, along with several Long-billed Thrashers and a Black Phoebe.  Total list after eight days is exactly 175 with 27 ticks so far.

Adult male Altamira Oriole

Long-billed Thrasher - an absolute stunner

Black Phoebe

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Second day at Santa Ana reserve, near McAllen

We spent a second day at the Santa Ana reserve, mainly to mop up on the birds we missed yesterday.  I was especially keen to see the orioles that make this site special.  After a couple hours we managed to see and photograph the Hooded Oriole (upper three images) and Altamira Oriole (fourth image).  Despite their bright plumage, they are really tricky to find, but perseverance pays and I managed to get these shots.  In addition, we have also recorded Baltimore Oriole and Orchard Oriole.  Tomorrow we head for Bentsen State Park where we hope to see Green Kingfisher and better views of Green Jay.

Tuesday 12 May 2015

Some images from the Anuhuac area of Texas

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlark

Santa Ana reserve, Lower Rio Grande

Today we made the long haul south to the Lower Rio Grande area and our first stop was the stunning Santa Ana reserve.  The humidity and heat down here is very different and makes birding a bit uncomfortable but you have to just get on with it.  I have about 100 mossie bites too.

That said, we still managed 11 ticks today (for the list, that is) including the stunning Altimira Oriole.  Also Green Jay, Chacalaca, Verdin, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Ladder-backed woodpecker, Kiskadee, Hooded Oriole, Groove-billed Ani, Lesser Goldfinch, Olive Sparrow and the locally rare Clay-coloured Thrush (images below).  In addition we found Canada Warbler, Yellow Warbler and American Redstart, plus Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Brown Crested Flycatcher. All in all, quite a day.

Olive Sparrow, a local speciality.

Clay-coloured Thrush (also referred to as Clay-coloured Robin in some literature).

Monday 11 May 2015

Port Aransas State Park, Texas

Today has been all about waders, lots of them and all very close.  Wader migration here has been brilliant and is not something I was expecting.  The main species today have been hundreds of Stilt Sandpipers, all in full summer plumage, scores of Wilsons Phalaropes, Dunlin, Least Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Semi-palmated Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, American Avocet, Snowy and Wilsons Plovers and Willet.  Ticks have included Yellow-headed Blackbird, Ladder-backed Woodpecker.  We also saw this morning at Goose Island SP Black-chinned Hummingbird and Buff-bellied Hummingbird.

Ad female Wilsons Phalarope

American Avocet

Ad Stilt Sandpiper, one of several hundred seen today, all in summer plumage.

Sunday 10 May 2015

Aransas and Goose Island State Parks, Rockport

We paid a visit to Aransas just to see if any Whooping Cranes might be present still but all of them had departed a couple weeks back for their breeding grounds in Canada.  We still managed some good birds though with Brown Crested Flycatcher and Olive-sided Flycatcher being ticks.  Scissor-tailed Flycatchers gave some great views too.  Pat found a stunning male Painted Bunting!

Goose Island was also excellent with two more hummingbird species: Black-chinned and Buff-bellied.  Wader passage has been excellent with really good numbers of Stilt Sandpiper, Pec Sand and White-rumped Sandpiper.  The waders all seem incredibly photogenic.

Ad White-rumped Sandpiper being drenched in a wave spray

Buff-bellied Hummingbird coming to a nectar feeder

Brown-crested Flycatcher

Saturday 9 May 2015

Jesse H Jones State Park and Brazos Bend SP visits, Texas.

The last couple days have been quieter with visits to the two State Parks above.  The Jones park was a complete washout with high humidity and heavy rain, further compounded by plagues of mossies.  We should have connected with Hooded Warbler and Kentucky Warbler but we dipped both.  We got the Hooded as a consolation back at Smith Oaks, High Island later on, plus a showy male American Redstart and close up Yellow-billed Cuckoo.  Kentucky still remains a needed tick.

A visit today to the huge Brazos Bend SP faired better with male Blackburnian, Parula, White-eyed Vireo all in song plus two Mississippi Kites photo'd nicely.

On the 10th May we start early at Aransas and Goose Island SP, after a three hour drive south through typical Texan big country.  I was a big fan of the Dukes of Hazard and can't believe everything is exactly the same!  Anyway, here's a coupe images from yesterday:

All images taken with a Nikon D4, 500mm F4 and 1.4x TC. Tripod mounted.

Thursday 7 May 2015

Common Nighthawk at Anahuac Reserve, High Island, Texas

Today has been another very hot day with temperature reaching 83 degs.  Birding has been superb once again at this top grade nature reserve and local areas. The highlight of the day goes to the Nighthawk.  Patsy found one in the visitor centre car park and then I found another six in the area. I also had a few more ticks today including male Hooded Warbler, Seaside Sparrow, Bronzed Cowbird, White-faced Ibis and Sedge Wren.  Wader numbers have been exceptional with hundreds of Stilt Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Wilsons Phalaraope, Willet, Pec Sand and Least Sandpiper.

At nearby Smith Oaks the rookery here was in full blast with hundreds of Great Egrets, Cattle Egret, Roseate Spoonbill,  Tricoloured Heron, Little Blue Heron and a couple Least Bitterns.

Wednesday 6 May 2015

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at High Island, Texas

My wife and me are on a trip to Texas and the first stopover is the High Island area south of Houston.  It is world renowned for migration, especially passerines though today was some somewhat light of these little gems.  We did manage to see some nice Ruby-throated Hummingbirds plus a scattering of Magnolia, Black and White, Chestnut-sided, Yellow and Bay-breasted Warblers.  Wader wise it was superb with Piping Plover and Snowy Plover plus good numbers of Dowitchers and Willets.  We also saw our first Scissor-tailed Flycatchers...what a stunner!