Hook-billed Kite – Before the Wall Goes Up

I can’t really remember how many times I’ve searched for a Hook-billed Kite in Texas.  The first time was when I went to Texas in 2004,t to Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park thinking it would be a quick climb up the tower, a quick look around, find the Kite and add it to my list.

Boy was I wrong, little did I know that it would be almost 15 years before I’d get good looks at one.

Sure there were many times, someone would call out “Hook-billed Kite” at a far off speck but unfortunately, I can’t count specks.

On December 13th, 2018, with Richard Killeen I got my first 10 second look at a Hook-billed Kite but it was buried in the trees and a decent photo was out of the question.  The photo below taken later gives you an idea of what I saw.

At that moment I thought, “I will never get a photo of this bird”.  After 5 days and many hours on the levee, my thoughts proved right.

Home I went, and had a great Christmas with family and friends.  Went to Maine for the Great Black Hawk.

During that time the Hook-billed was being seen almost every day, I knew then, I’d have to go back before February,  construction on the wall in that area was slated to start at the beginning of February.

When Herb told me he was going for the kite, January 5th, I booked my flight to San Antonio.

The morning of January 5th I was up early and on the levee, as the sun came up.

It was a cool morning and as the sun came over the horizon you could feel it warming up.  I was hoping that the Kite was as cold as I was, and was looking for a little warmth.

Sure enough at 7:39 am he flew in to his favourite perch, and the rest is history.

The bird was seen by many throughout the morning but by 10:30am it disappeared for the day.

I picked up Herb at the airport and we spent the rest of the day on the levee, but the kite was a no show.

The Groove-billed Ani’s did put on a show.

Juvenile?? or molting

Juvenile Gray Hawk

The next day Herb and I were back at the levee, even earlier.  The Kite did not disappoint that day and put on a show until 1pm.  Giving us photo opportunities, beyond our wildest dreams.

The Kite’s main food is Tree Snails, which were in abundance.

A great day with a great bird and friends, Herb, Amanda, Drew and I.

I drove Herb to the airport and thought I try and change my flight back and get home early but Air Canada had other plans, so I had a few days to kill and decided to try for a few of the local rarities.

Golden-winged Warbler at Frontera Audubon taking a bath..

Here at Frontera with Drew and Barb

Then off to Laguna Atascosa and along the way stopped for a long distance look at two Aplomado Falcons.

Then on to Visitors Centre for Tropical Parula..

Clay-colored Thrush

I met up with John Weigel, who had just begun his second Big Year in 4 years.  Go John Go.

You can follow his travels at http://www.birdingyear.com

Spent one of the days with Drew up in Salineno, where I got a very quick glimpse of two Seedeaters and a new greatly improved image of a male Pyrrhuloxia.

Long-billed Thrasher at Dewinn’s Yard

Female Redwing Blackbird

Here are a few more images from the valley from my trip in early December and January.

Burrowing Owl in Granjeno

Paraque at Laguna Atascosa

Golden-fronted Woodpecker at Santa Ana

Female Green Kingfisher at Santa Ana

Kestrel with breakfast

Photos from December

Fork-tailed Flycatcher a 2 day wonder on Hwy 100.

Green Parakeet at 10th and Dove, Lowe’s Fountain.

Female Roseate Skimmer

Common Mestra

Red-crowned Parrot, Olivera Park, Brownsville

White-fronted Parrots

South Padre Skimmer

Estero Grande, Mottled Duck

Little Blue Heron

Osprey with Lunch

Green Jay

Whooping Cranes at Rockport, Texas’s Big Tree

Texas is a wonderful birding destination, if you haven’t been, make plans to go, if you have you know what I mean.

If the proposed wall goes ahead as planned it will wreak havoc for wildlife along the River.

Ciao for now

 

 

 

 

 

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Searcher 2018 – San Diego

When I booked this trip in 2016, I thought it was crazy booking something 2 years head and the day would never come, that I’d leave on this trip but it did finally.

Chris Feeney, Herb Fechter and I all, arrived at San Diego Airport within 30 minutes of each other, ready for what this adventure would bring.  First off rental car, and then off to search for Bell’s Sparrow, which we did without luck that day.

Next day we met up with Janis, Barbara and Larry who were local birders.  They would take us to a spot that held Mountain Quail.  I have searched for this bird so many times I’d lost count.

Here is a photo of our group taken by Herb.  From L to R:  Larry, Moi, Barbara, Chris, Janis and Herb.

We had been walking for a bit and somehow I got just a bit ahead of the group and as I rounded a corner, I spotted a group of Mountain Quail on a bush.  Backing away slowly I went back and we all got on the birds. They didn’t stick around long and ran up the road.

We all managed great looks and even a few photos.

One of my better photos of a Western Bluebird from that day.

After a long day, we went back to the hotel and got ready to board the boat next day for a few days at sea.

Over the next 4 days we ate fantastic food, had a bit of wine and saw birds like crazy, some days you didn’t know where to look there were so many birds around the boat.

Here are a sampling of my better photos:

Migrating Marbled Godwit

Royal Tern

Buller’s Shearwater

 

Black-footed Albatross

Red-billed Tropicbird

Black-footed Albatross, at one point we had 12 behind the boat.

Juvenile Masked Booby

Juvenile Sabine’s Gull

Nazca Booby

Brandt’s Cormorant

Brown Booby

Buller’s Shearwater, shearing the water

Cook’s Petrel

Craveri’s Murrelet

Brown Booby

Pink-footed Shearwater

Buller’s Shearwater

Nazca Booby

Fin Whale

Guadalupe Murrelet

Parasitic Jaeger

Juvenile Masked Booby

Pacific Northern Fulmar

Black Storm-petrel

Nazca Booby

Pink-footed Shearwater

Red-footed Booby

Red Phalarope

Royal Tern

Sabine’s Gull

South Polar Skua

Stowaway Townsend’s Warbler

Short-beaked Common Dolphins

When we arrived back at the dock, you can tell by the smiles we had a great trip.

Chris was leaving on another adventure in Alaska for 30 days, Herb and I had 1 1/2 days to kill so we took the opportunity to search for the Bell’s Sparrow for Herb.  We got lucky and finally got one the next morning, a life bird for Herb.  Thanks to BJ Stacey for telling me about this place, it never disappoints.

We birded and photographed the rest of the day and I caught my redeye flight out that night… Here are more photos.

Female Western Tanager

Marbled Godwit

Long-billed Curlew

Willet

Bushtit

California Gnatcatcher

Canyon Towhee

Unfortunate Seal

Heerman’s Gull

Least Sandpiper

Long-billed Dowitcher

Pacific-slope Flycatcher

Reddish Egret

 

One of my most sought after sub-species Savannah “thick-billed” Sparrow

Snowy Plover

Western Gull

Willet

Woodland Skipper

Fantastic trip, 4 life birds, many improved images.  Good times with old friends and new.

Ciao for now.

 

 

 

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Surprise – Curlew Sandpiper

I had just driven 4 hours from Ohio to Leamington, arriving at the house Rick Collins had rented.  we sat there talking about how the birding had been for them at Pelee.  Rick said did you know there was a Curlew Sandpiper where I had just been in Ohio.

I had no clue.

I knew I’d never make it without sleep, so I left it to fate.  Didn’t set an alarm and I’d either wake up or not.  Like clockwork at 3 am I woke and left driving the 4 hours back to Ohio.

I arrived at the beach and was worried that the bird had left but after a bit of searching there it was…

This was my 731th ABA bird – Curlew Sandpiper

I was back at Point Pelee by noon, birded with Rick, Richard and the guys for a few days.  Another successful trip in the books.

Ciao for now

 

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Garbage Dump Success -Tamaulipas Crow

I birded in many tough places but the Brownsville Dump is one of my least most memorable.  Spending 4 hours a day waiting for a Crow to show up that you’ve missed the previous 20 times you’ve tried for it can be a little discouraging but since its the only place to find this bird, we must do what we must do…..Ha Ha

That morning I’d tried unsuccessfully for the Hook Billed Kite at Santa Ana and at 10 am moved over to the dump.

The first two hours went by slowly but then things began to pick up Chihuahuan Raven, Caracaras, Vultures, Grackles and Gulls began showing up, sensing the arrival of new garbage trucks.

Because of the wind I parked my car near the area where the crows usually were seen and was able to open  my window without getting blasted with dust and garbage debris.

With hundreds of Grackles in the garbage it was not an easy task to pick out a smallish crow unless you could see the tail or check each birds eye.  I saw a bird fly in that looked like a Raven but when it came near, it was nowhere near as big.

It landed behind a post and I lost the bird, I wanted to get out of the car but was fearful of flushing the bird away.  It took a few minutes but out it came giving me a brief view and enough time to get a few photos before it left and never returned while I was there.

The inset shows just how small these crows are in comparison to a Great-tailed Grackle.

This was my 730th ABA bird – TamaulipasCrow

Migration was on and while I went to either Bentsen Rio or Santa Ana daily, I never got the Kite I needed.

Most afternoons I spent at South Padre Island searching for warblers and it did not disappoint.  I’ve never had such a great day in my life with warblers, the wind brought the birds down all day.

Golden-winged

Kentucky

Nashville

Parula

Worm-eating

Chat

Yellow-throated

One good bird after another, warbler weren’t the only things showing up…

Scarlet Tanager

Summer Tanager

A few days later I met up with good friend Huck Hutchens and asked what he was planning for the afternoon and he thought about going up to Falcon Park for Red-billed Pigeons and I decided to tag along.

The area did not disappoint.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

 

Bobwhite Quail

 

The surprises weren’t over yet On the way home we stopped at Bentsen to see the Elf Owl.

It was time to get back to the airport and head home but Texas had one more surprise for me on this trip…an adult Jacana was being seen and it was on the way to San Antonio, so off I went…

Good trip, 1 life bird and numerous better photos.

Ciao for now Texas.

 

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Getaway to Arizona, Golf and Birds

Sue and I went down for a week to scope out Phoenix as a winter getaway now that we were both retired, good weather, golf courses and birds.

On the days I had time to get out I picked up 3 life birds that were lingering in areas of south Arizona.  They were a bit tough to find and I had to make a few trips for some but in the end I picked up life birds #727, #728, #729 on this trip.

This was my 727th ABA bird – Rufous-capped Warbler

This was my 728th ABA bird – Sinaloa Wren

This was my 729th ABA bird – Ruddy Ground Dove

Rest of the trip was fun with Sue and friend with not much birding……

Ciao for now

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California Dreamin

I wanted to take a break from the brutal winter we were having in Ottawa, I figured a few days searching for rarities would certainly be in order.

My friend Gilbert Bouchard was in California and I chose to meet up with him before going to Texas. I had 3 days and 2 rarities to try and see while there.

Gilbert picked me up at the airport and we headed straight out to Loews Coronado Bay Resort, where the Nazca Booby was being seen.  It really didn’t take long once we got there to spot the bird but it was way out on the bay and getting a photo was out of the question.

The photo below shows my futile attempts to digi-scope and image.

We decided to splurge on renting a boat from Action Sport Rentals ( who obviously knew they had a good thing going) at the rate of $140 US Dollars for an hour.  Off we went.

Along the way there were hundreds of Surf Scoters on the water.

It took a few minutes to arrive at the buoy and to our dismay the booby was nowhere to be seen, the wind then shifted and the buoy began to move and we saw the bird on the back side of it.  Not knowing how long the bird would stay as we got closer, we both started taking photos.

We needn’t have worried though, this bird wasn’t going anywhere.  I t must have been use to boats and people.  We go so close I couldn’t get the whole bird in my 600mm frame.

This was my 725th ABA bird – Nazca Booby

We drove the boat back to the marina and called it a night.

Next morning we went looking for the Red-throated Pipit that had been frequenting a school soccer field but school was having recess and the pipit group was in deeper grass at the far end of the field, because of the fence we could get no nearer.

We drove to another spot trying for year birds determined to come back later.  When we arrived back, recess was over and of course the groundskeeper was cutting the grass in the field.  While Gilbert talked to his girlfriend I decided to walk over to the park near the field, to check it out and there it was the Red-throated Pipit with a group of American Pipits.

This was my 726th ABA bird – Red-throated Pipit

Gilbert was going north to try and get his lifer White Wagtail and I had time to kill before my flight to Texas, so I joined him to see the bird for the year and hopefully get a better photo.

We waited at the spot where the Wagtail was coming to and just when we thought it was going to be a no show, it arrived and put on a great show for everyone.

I move on to Texas the next morning, while I saw many great birds but the Tamaulipas Crow and Hook-billed Kite were a no show for me.

Ciao for now

 

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Red-Billed Tropicbird – Life Bird# 732

I’d heard about this Red-billed Tropicbird from various sources over the past 10 years and had always planned on driving down to Vinalhaven, Maine.  Work and schedules always seemed to get in the way, but that all changed this year.  I retired.

I called John Drury to see if he had any groups going out that had room for one more person to share costs with and he told me there was an opening on June 23rd.

John Drury       E-Mail: johnbdrury@gmail.com
P.O. Box 267
Vinalhaven, ME 04863

Phone: (207) 596-1841 (Green’s Island) April-November, phone service is not great on these islands, some patience may be useful

Phone: (207) 863-4962 (Vinalhaven) December- March

I left home Friday and drove cross country to Rockland, Maine (765kms) with our mishap and parked at the Penobscott Air Services Office for my 7am flight to Vinalhaven.

Lobster fishing is the main industry in town and they had some beauties, Sue and I will go back some day.

When you need wheels for any emergency, you can’t beat a Jeep.

I spent a great day roaming the streets and chatting with many of the friendly locals, enjoying the sights.

At 2pm I met up with John Drury at the public dock and was introduced to my fellow group members Susan Playfair, Tammy and David McQuade.

It was an balmy 55 degrees out on the water, overcast but the seas were calm, we steamed the roughly 17km to Seal Island, and waited for the Tropicbird to come out of its den.

In the past it generally comes out of its den, at between 3:30pm – 5:30pm, come’s out to the water and takes a bath, flies a bit around the island, harasses the terns, and then leaves to feed at sea, returning early the next morning.

We waited hoping that the tropicbird would stay true to its schedule.

I had been shooting with my 300mm lens and 1.4 teleconverter and decided that the converter had to go. I had just finished putting my converter in my camera bag when Tammy called out “It just came out of its hole”, it was 3:42pm.  The Tropicbird did not disappoint, it put on a great show.

We had a great 1/2 hour with this lovely bird and took a tour of the island enjoying the sights.

Arctic Tern

Atlantic Puffin

Black Guillimot

2nd Cycle Bonaparte’s Gull

Common Eider

Great Cormorant on the Nest

Razorbill

A note about Penobscot Air Service, they offer flights to and from the island. They treated me exceptionally well and if I go back I’ll use there services again.  Below is a link to their website.

http://www.penobscotislandair.net

A great new bird, new friends and something I’ll remember for life.

Ciao for now.

 

 

 

 

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