Monday, August 31, 2009

Successful Birding Weekend

As reported by Joan Holt in Port Aransas:

On Saturday morning, my yard was hopping with flycatchers, orioles and warblers so I called Ann Vaughan and headed to Paradise Pond. We were rewarded with many birds coming to the water drips and feeding in the willows and the chance to bird with Ron Weeks. The birds we saw and heard were Inca dove, upland sandpipers (h), least, yellow bellied and willow/alder flycatchers, eastern wood pewee, great-crested flycatcher, white- eyed vireo, Bell’s vireo (which was a first for me at Paradise Pond), warbling vireo, red-eyed vireo, Wilson’s, yellow, black and white, mourning, and Canada warblers, Common yellowthroat, yellow-breasted chat, Northern mockingbird, orchard and Baltimore orioles, and Northern cardinals. Later in my yard I added green heron, chuck-wills widow, ruby-throated hummingbirds, eastern kingbird, orange-crowned warbler, painted buntings and dickcissels to the list. A truly great day in Port Aransas even though we missed the brown noddy at the jetty. We will try again on Monday.

As reported by Ernie Edmundson at the Preserve off Hwy 1781

Have seen a Lesser Goldfinch two days in a row coming to the birdbath.

We had a pair of Baltimore Orioles and Yellow Breasted Chat competing with the Mockingbirds for American beautyberries. There aren’t many berries this year with the drought, but they managed to find the ones in my yard that have gotten enough water to bear fruit.

I've seen a Yellow Warbler along with many Ruby-throated hummers and our Buff Bellied hummers.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Update on Bird Sightings

As reported by Billy Sandifer, Tuesday, August 25, 2009

LOTS going on in the bird world for those willing to get out without A.C.

Mel Cooksey reports 2 Brown Noddies being seen at the end of the Port Aransas jetties at once. To my knowledge that is the first time 2 of this species have ever been seen in Texas at one time. Red-necked Phalarope has been seen at Port Aransas as well. The Curlew Sandpiper has been seen once again on the mud flats of the West side of the Oso, Yellow-breasted Chats are moving through in large numbers; especially at Pollywog Pond and will continue through early September. 100 Buff-bellied Sandpipers are being seen at the sod farm South of highway 664 across from Hazel Bazemore Park. This sod farm is going to be invaluable as a birding resource. It's the first habitat of it's kind in the Coastal Bend and as folks frequent it more and more there are going to be some really great sightings. The Ruby-throated and Black-chinned Hummingbirds are beginning their migration through our area in ever increasing numbers and I have a beautiful adult Rufous Male Humingbird in my yard the past 3 days as well as the resident Buff-bellied.

I've also had Orchard Orioles, Yellow-breasted Chat and female Canada Warbler here in the yard. I've been fishing offshore lately and large numbers of Black Terns are everywhere. I did see one lone Sooty Tern 6 miles offshore of the Padre Island National Seashore on Saturday, August 22nd.

Awful cool stuff. Get out and see some of it.

Capt. Billy Sandifer

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hawkwatch Celebrates Flight Nationwide

Birders descend on Hazel Bazemore Park for 3-month-long event

CORPUS CHRISTI - Birders are descending on Hazel Bazemore County Park in Calallen for Corpus Christi Hawkwatch, which began Saturday, August 15 and will run through November 15.

Hawkwatch is the largest and most diverse raptor migration count conducted in the United States and averages more than 730,000 raptors each fall.

A "Celebration of Flight", which is a three-day festival, will be held September 25 to 27. The celebration is scheduled during the peak of raptor migration over the Coastal Bend when daily raptor flights of more than 100,000 have been experienced.

During the festival, representatives with HawkWatch International will host morning bird walks and lectures about these majestic raptors.Also, at 10 a.m. each Saturday at Hazel Bazemore County Park during the three-month long event, there will be lectures given about raptors, their conservation and why it is so important that migration counts, such as in Corpus Christi, continue.

Last year, some 800 avid and beginning birders participated in Hawkwatch.

Hazel Bazemore Park is one of the parks operated by the Nueces County Parks and Recreation Department. The 77.6-acre park is located on the Nueces River in Calallen, just off of Farm Road 624 and County Road 6.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Curlew Sandpiper Spotted- RARE SIGHTING

As Reported by Mel Cooksey:

A post-breeding Curlew Sandpiper was spotted, apparently a female, in the flats at the mouth of the Cayo del Oso in Corpus Christi. Mel spotted the bird about 7:30 PM on Monday, August 17th, and worked frantically with the remaining light to get digiscope photos, but could not.

Directions: Go to the intersection of Ennis Joslin and Ocean Drive. Park in the parking lot of the closed restaurant on the north side of the intersection. Walk down into the flats about ¼ mile or so, to the edge of the water in the very center of the flats. The flats are dusty dry, maybe slightly damp in the morning. Walk to the waters edge, and scan the shallow pools, around the short vegetation and small mangroves. There are LOTS of shorebirds here, with hundreds of Western Sandpipers as the main species, so it may take awhile to find the bird if it is still there.

Description: You are looking for a Dunlin-sized bird, although not as "squat", a bit more delicate, and longer-legged, although not as long-legged as Stilt Sandpiper. The main feature is some remnant blotchy rufous feathers on the belly. These show up well. The bird is in pretty advanced molt, well on its way to full basic. The back feathers appear to be a combination of black/white/gray mostly old feathers. There are some cold gray new feathers mixed in, maybe mostly around the scapulars. The belly appears to be mainly whitish, with some black spotting. I noticed no rufous feathers around the head or throat; they were whitish gray and appeared to be very lightly streaked. If you are chasing this bird, just look for the rufous markings on the belly. If you have The Shorebird Guide by O'Brien et. al., check the molting female at photo 5 on page 297. This is very close to our Oso bird. I noticed a whitish area at the lower back, and don't know if this was feather wear, or the white rump exposed below primaries.

A key feature is the bill shape. It is all black, very thin and gradually decurved throughout its length, with a thin tip. Dunlin has a slightly heavier bill, with a more abrupt droop at the tip. Here is a photo of Dunlin and Curlew Sandiper together, to illustrate bill shape.

It is really too early for Dunlins, although I did see one in full basic plumage at this location on Saturday. There are numerous Stilt Sandpipers present. Be advised there is also a Red Knot present, which would likely be the only other bird with reddish blotches on the underparts. There are lots of dowitchers, mainly Short-billed.

I was able to see the bird fly for a short distance, and clearly observed the white rump with NO central line, and gray upper tail feathers. My total observation time was about 20 minutes, at about 70-80 feet. The bird probed and picked at the surface, and was quite active. There is lots of scattered short vegetation which makes photography rather difficult. Especially when you're a lousy photographer like me. Will try again on Tuesday, August 18th, in the morning for photos.

Mel Cooksey

Monday, August 17, 2009

Beach Birding Update

By Billy Sandifer

On August 17th, Mel Cooksey reported 700 Buff-bellied Sandpipers at the sod farm off Highway 664, a Zone-tailed hawk and Least Grebes being regular at Pollywog Pond and an unusually high number of shorebirds on the mud flats on the West side of Oso Bay. We saw our first Orchard Oriole of the season on July 22nd, and the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are beginning to move though in small numbers. This will increase dramatically in September. By the third week of September, we usually have over 70 Ruby-thoated and Black-chinned Hummingbirds in our yard here in Flour Bluff daily.

There are LOTS of birds on the beach. I observed 2 Hudsonian Gobwits on July 20th. These birds are typically not seen here this time of year. I'm seeing more than 20,000 Black Terns daily as well as good numbers of Tri-colored, Little Blue and Great White Herons, Snowy and Cattle Egrets, Yellow-crowned Night-Herons and occasional Reddish Egrets migrating daily. Some Red Knots are usually seen daily in the area between the 15 1/2 and 20 mile beach although numbers are small. Piping, Semi-palmated, Snowy and Wilson's Plover are seen daily as are RuddyTurnstones, Sanderlings, Willets, Long-billed Curlews, Ring-billed and Laughing Gulls, Brown Pelicans and all of the resident and migrating Tern species. Occasional "peep' and Spotted Sandpipers are seen as are Turkey Vultures, Caracaras and White-tailed hawks. September is THE month to see a Sabine's Gull in Texas, and the Padre Island National Seashore is the most reliable place to see this bird in TX. I have 1-3 sightings every September. The tremendous numbers of birds on the beaches of the Padre Island National Seashore this time of year is genuinely spectacular and one of the most overlooked wonders in the Natural World of Texas. Enjoy.

Capt. Billy

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The hummingbirds are coming!

(Rockport-Fulton, Texas – August 3,2009) What bird is known as the

acrobat of the air? This same bird can cruise at 25 miles per hour and dive at more than three times this speed. It can hover at a standstill and even fly upside down. Of course, we’re talking about the tiny gem of the bird species, the hummingbird. They will come through Rockport and Fulton in waves by the thousands beginning mid-August.

This is the time to give our feathered friends a little extra help to fuel their continued migration south so get those feeders out.

Remember to always start with clean feeders. Any time you see or suspect mildew or mold you may clean them with a bottle brush and a mixture of one part bleach to ten parts water, but rinse very thoroughly. To refill the feeder, use a sugar solution of one part sugar (no sugar substitutes or honey) to four parts water. Do not vary this formula. If the sugar solution is more concentrated, there is a possibility of it being harmful to the birds by dehydrating them. Heat the water to a slight boil, remove from heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Fill feeders with the solution after it cools. Adding color is absolutely unnecessary, and may even be injurious. The red color of the feeder attracts the birds. Unused sugar water can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks (a covered container). Feeders should be cleaned and refilled with sugar water every two to three days or immediately at the first sign of mold. To make your yard even more inviting to hummingbirds, plant some hummingbird attractant plants.

Hummingbirds are bullies, always have been, always will be. And there isn’t just one bully; they’re all combative. Hanging feeders in a cluster can ease some of the competition but not all. The hummingbirds rarely hurt each other so just enjoy the show.

We may not want the hummingbirds to leave but leave they will. Let’s all help them out and send them on their way with a good store of energy for their journey and look for their return in spring.

Your chance to view these fascinating birds will be at the 21st Annual Hummer/Bird Celebration in Rockport and Fulton, Texas which is set for the peak of the migration Sept. 17-20, 2009. The event will feature keynote speakers daily, bus and boat birding trips, workshops, over 80 exhibitors, and much more. Brochures are available at the Chamber office or go online at