Today (Sunday, 04/02/17) my wife (Birgit) and I (Rex) birded both the Weaver Road sod fields (two complete tours) and the southmost Progreso sod fields (one tour) at the times indicated below. WEAVER ROAD SOD FIELDS (10:20-10:55 AM): We started at the north end of these sod fields, an area that had been liberally irrigated—well, the westernmost area, at least—providing plenty of standing water. Not surprisingly, this area proved substantially productive in terms of shorebirds: AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER (51); KILLDEER (2); LESSER YELLOWLEGS (1); BAIRD’S SANDPIPER (2); and BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER (1). This turnout of shorebirds had attracted a watchful PEREGRINE FALCON (1), which sat on the sod out to the southwest of most of the shorebirds. It had been there upon our arrival, as had the shorebirds, and it, along with most of the shorebirds, departed as we carefully studied two distant calidris sandpipers (same species), which soon moved about enough that both of us could unequivocally establish their identity as Baird’s Sandpiper. They were very healthy looking, handsome birds, and I wanted to try a distant photo, but the moment I had the camera ready and my finger on the trigger, they, like the other shorebirds before them, took to the air and headed somewhere to the east. We then surveyed the easternmost segment (quite dry) of the north dog-leg on Weaver Road, to no avail relative to re-finding the flock, and likewise unproductive was the entire southbound stretch of Weaver Road. Having passed the south end of the sod, we turned around at Jimenez Road and again re-drove the entire stretch of sod, but no shorebirds were found. The north end of Weaver Road, though, had been sufficiently wet and productive of desired grasspipers that after lunch we returned for a second tour, in case the birds returned.
WEAVER ROAD SOD FIELDS (1:25-1:55 PM): We found shorebirds this time, but not quite where we had found them on our early tour of Weaver Road. Indeed, we found no shorebirds at all in the well-watered area (i.e., the west part of the north end) where they had been seen earlier. Perhaps the area had become too closely associated with the Peregrine Falcon. Also, it appeared that this area had received additional irrigation water since our morning visit; a larger area was now covered with water. That, too, might have been a factor in the absence of the sought-for species in the original area. On the other hand, the eastern section of the entire northmost field, which seemed quite dry and had very short grass, proved productive this time, albeit not so productive as had, earlier, the western part of the north end of the sod fields. By this time, the emerging sun, the heat, and the humidity were challenging, but I persisted for about 30 minutes in trying to count all the shorebirds in this rather dry-looking, short-grass eastern part of the northmost sod field. As we watched, the grasspipers foraged progressively southward, into the wind, as is the wont of such birds in a stiff wind. Here were our shorebird finds: KILLDEER (2); AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER (29); and BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER (1). Additionally we found HORNED LARK (3). The earlier Baird’s Sandpiper and Lesser Yellowlegs were not found on this visit. We surmise, but cannot be sure, that what we found this time was a remnant of the original flock described earlier, rather than its consisting of new birds. We drove the remainder of the Weaver Road sod fields, but no additional birds were found. Somewhat later we headed for the Progreso sod fields.
PROGRESO SOD FIELDS (SOUTHMOST FIELDS BOTH WEST AND EAST OF TRAVERSAL ROAD) (approximately 3:30-3:50PM): We drove from the south entry off US-281 northward to the end of the large sod field to the east of the road and then turned about and headed home. This was an utterly unsuccessful effort, and both of us felt that it afforded the worst birding we ever had found there. We did not feel disheartened, though, because we had so much enjoyed the birds on the Weaver Road sod fields.
Birgit joins me in wishing everyone wonderful spring-migration birding – Rex Stanford (Weslaco).