Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Birding Update 10/12/09

As reported by Billy Sandifer

In this picture is a Lesser Black Backed Gull presumed to be of the intermediate or Fuscus race seen for several days in the 18 mile area of Padre Island National Seashore. Our typical Lesser Black Backed Gull is the lighter race; graellsii.

Up to 9 Peregrines are seen daily with an average of 4 individuals per day on the Padre Island National Seashore beachfront. 1,300 Brown Pelicans were present between the 54 and 59 mile markers on October 11, 2009. Red Knots are still present but numbers are down. Many Common Terns are being seen. Ospreys, White-tailed Hawks, Caracara, Long-billed Curlews and occasional wimbrels are seen daily. Few Black Terns remain and it appears Least Terns have migrated for the year.

Sandwich, Royal and Caspian Terns are in good numbers as are Ring-billed, Herring and Laughing Gulls and a variety of Plovers. We still have 20 plus hummingbirds in the yard and I have seen both Grey Catbirds and a female Scarlett Tanager this morning. As of October 11th, the aerosol effect of red tide was present along the beachfront although no dead fish were observed.

Good Birding.

Capt. Billy

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Port Aransas Birds 10/5-10/7

The last 3 days I birded Paradise Pond, the Port Aransas Birding Center, and the beach between Port Aransas and Corpus Christi. I tallied a total of 97 species in the last 3 days, all within the Port Aransas city limits. The biggest surprise was a female Black-Throated Blue Warbler at Paradise Pond on 10/5. The bird was found by Larry Jordan earlier in the day and I saw the bird twice between 4:30 and 5pm. The bird was seen again the next day by several others. Another rare bird for the fall was a Swainson's Warbler seen by Connie and Craig McIntyre at Paradise Pond on 10/6. Paradise Pond is still alive with migrants. In the last 3 days I had Nashville Warblers, Northern Parula, Yellow Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Black-and-White Warblers, American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Wilson's Warbler, Canada Warbler, Summer Tanager, Scarlet Tanager, Indigo Bunting, Swainson's Thrush, Empids, and Red-Eyed Vireo. Good numbers of Red Knots still remain on the beach, I counted 39 on a 2 mile stretch on 10/6. Piping Plovers are also present in good numbers and huge numbers of Common Terns are on the beach as well. A Green Kingfisher is still present at the Port Aransas Birding Center. Soras are also beginning to show up in good numbers and I had a Clapper Rail at the birding center on 10/7.

Jon McIntyre

Thursday, October 1, 2009

And Then – There Were Hawks
By: Nan Dietert

It was Friday, about 12 o’clock, noon, and we were at Indian Point Park on the edge of Corpus Christi Bay showing a few birds to a friend. We had already loaded up and we were driving out of the park. Our friend was “quite taken” with the Great Blue Herons, so we stopped to observe a young second year bird who was putting on quite a show. Realizing that he could “push” four White Ibis off of his hunting grounds by crouching, flaring out his wings, lofting all his feathers to become larger than life, and walking toward his unwelcome neighbors in a threatening manner, he managed to control an entire small peninsula of land. Full of pride, he suddenly came to a halt, craned his head over to one side – and turning an eye skyward – froze. “What is he looking at?” I exclaimed. I couldn’t see over the roof of the car, but finally I got my head out of the window far enough to see a large kettle of hawks above us. “Out of the car, out of the car, everyone get out of the car as fast as you can!” I hollered. Our friend was hopelessly trapped in her seat belt, but finally managed a fairly graceful exit. Directly above us, was a kettle of a hundred and twenty Broad-winged Hawks and about twenty-four Anhingas. They were kettling, as hawk watchers call it – swirling around in a thermal or a rising column of hot air – trying to gain height. They were too far to the south. They had ridden a slightly unfavorable current too long and now they were caught on the edge of the bay. There are no thermals over large bodies of water and most hawks avoid the water by seeking routes that steer them well clear of it. But these had misjudged. They were seeking altitude and an upper air stream with a more westerly or northwesterly course. When they got further inland, they would seek another thermal and find another stream of air heading south again. We were the recipients of their miscalculation. Usually you must travel farther inland yourself, to have a good chance of seeing migrating raptors and that’s precisely what was scheduled for the next day.
Saturday, September 26 was the annual Hawk Migration Trip on the Fennessey Ranch. Located just six miles south of Refugio and situated along the Mission River, it is on the main flyway for migrating raptors.
Saturday’s weather seemed favorable; we were still on the heels of a cold-front. We started the morning off in a wetland and quickly spotted an adult Bald Eagle only a few hundred feet away. It was the first one seen on the ranch since our successful breeding pair left in early April. It was a good beginning and I hoped a good omen. By 9 AM the thermals were beginning to rise and we headed towards the river. As we drove, we began to discover roosting Broad-winged Hawks. Just a few at first, and then swarms of them began to lift-off and rise. They formed kettles and began to stream-out as they found their train rides south. They were all around us. Which way to look was the question? To stop or to move to more open ground was the problem. “How to estimate…?” I asked myself. Less than a thousand – would be my gut feeling. That Saturday, somewhere between five to eight hundred Broad-winged Hawks had spent the night along the Mission River on the Fennessey Ranch and lifted-off on top of us! Folks, it doesn’t get much better than that! Go birding!

Hazel Bazemore Park Hawk Watch

On Friday, September 25: Broad-winged Hawks: 13,159 (GBHeron day)

On Sat. Sept. 26: Broad-winged Hawks: 57,102 (including one dark). (Fennessey day)

On Sunday, Sept. 27: Broad-winged Hawks: 35,373 (including 7 dark).

On Monday, September 28: Broad-winged Hawks: 92,572 (including 2 dark).

Season Totals of Broad-winged Hawks: 262,393 .....Broad-winged hawks passed over Hazel Bazemore Park -- since August 15th (this summer).