Yesterday (03/30/17) my wife (Birgit) and I (Rex) visited five birding sites east of our home city, Weslaco, all in Cameron County. They are listed below in temporal order of being birded, and, as it happened, in order of increasing distance east. We birded only as we were eastbound; we did not bird on our return home.
WEAVER ROAD SOD FIELDS (10:30-10:50 AM): We could see no wet areas over the entire distance of the sod fields, and things looked too dry generally to be attractive to most of the birds we expect to find in such a setting; and farm work was ongoing at some places. It may come as no surprise, then, that no grasspipers, other shorebirds, or waders were seen anywhere in this stretch yesterday.
POND IN EBONY UNIT, LAS PALOMAS WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA (11:00-11:20 AM: We viewed this pond by looking south from Jimenez Road at perhaps 0.3 mi. east of FM 1479/Rangerville Road (11:00-11.20 AM) by traveling eastward from FM 1479 until we found on the south side of the road a “window of opportunity” consisting of relatively low roadside vegetation. From that vantage point we found: NORTHERN SHOVELER (10); RUDDY DUCK (15); LEAST GREBE (11); BLACK-NECKED STILT (8); and SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER (21).
WATER ADJACENT TO WASTE-WATER TREATMENT FACILITY NORTHWEST OF LAGUNA VISTA ON WEST SIDE OF HOLLY BEACH ROAD, aka “Port Isabel Reservoir” on some maps (1:40-2:00 PM): BLACK-NECKDED STILT (5); AMERICAN AVOCET (est. 340; based on actual count of group to the south plus a careful estimate of the evenly dense group nearby to the north); many in scrumptious breeding plumage; GREATER YELLOWLEGS (18); LESSER YELLOWLEGS (4); WILLET (20, at least, but were widespread and hard to count); and SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER (10, at least).
TX-48 BOAT RAMP (OPPOSITE SAN MARTIN LAKE) (2:30-4:40 PM): BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (2); SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (45); AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER (1, female); BLACK-NECKED STILT (25, at least); GREATER YELLOWLEGS (3); WILLET (60, estimate; widespread); SPOTTED SANDPIPER (1); RUDDY TURNSTONE (11); SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER (14); LEAST SANDPIPER (8); DOWITCHER species (15, sticking close together, apparently a migratory group, definitely of one species); to my eyes, these had the giss (bodily heft, plus proper bill shape and reduced thickness) of Long-billed, but they were distant (across the channel) and facing us quite squarely so that a good side-on profile was not easy to see and clearly viewing color and feather details was impossible due to sun angle shadowing their fronts, which faced us--so I am leaving dowitcher species uncommitted here; ROYAL TERN (15); LEAST TERN (2); BLACK SKIMMER (180, estimate); and BROWN PELICAN (1).
SOUTH PADRE ISLAND CONVENTION CENTER (5:15 – 6:10 PM): Our main objectives here were trying to find some migratory passerines and to check out the bayside west/northwest of the Convention Center for whatever it might offer. As it turned out, passerines were few and far between in that area. We saw and I photographed two lovely adult SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHERS perched against blue sky in a still sparely leafed tree and saw, studied, and photographed another species, high in the same tree, that might have been, at first sight, either a Tropical Kingbird or a Couch’s Kingbird. I got several photos of it that I studied at home yesterday evening. It became clear from the photos and from Birgit’s downwind audition of the bird (while I was upwind trying to get other photo angles on it) that this Tyrranus was a TROPICAL KINGBIRD, not a Couch’s. Birgit saw and clearly heard its twittering, and my photos disclosed details favoring Tropical (i.e., straight-edged, relatively slender bill and unusually deeply notched tail). Behind the Convention Center, looking at the bay shoreline we found, to our delight, MARBLED GODWIT (2), plus BLACK-NECKED STILT (2), REDDISH EGRET (1 dark phase, 1 white phase); and OSPREY (our first of the day). We did not have time to bird the boardwalk.
Wishing everyone the best of spring-migration birding – Rex Stanford (Weslaco).