Date: 4/7/17 11:42 am From: Rex Stanford <calidris.bairdii...> Subject: [texbirds] Shorebirding in Cameron County: Thursday, April 6, 2017
Yesterday (Thursday, 04/06/17) my wife (Birgit) and I (Rex) visited several sites in Cameron County with the primary aim of finding (and counting) the shorebird species at those sites. The sites are listed below in order of visitation, along with a statement of the timing and duration of the visit to each site. For a given site, shorebird species will be listed first and then non-shorebird species. List of non-shorebird species present at a given site may not include all such species noticed there, but are either those personally deemed highlights or species in which I think others might have a relatively high level of interest.
WEAVER ROAD SOD FIELDS (11:00 – 11:40 AM): First, those found in the northmost-field, our earliest-visited field: UPLAND SANDPIPER (21), widely distributed, but most were in the easternmost section of this northmost field. No shorebirds were found after the northmost field until we reached the southmost field, where we found: KILLDEER (1); UPLAND SANDPIPER (3); BAIRD’S SANDPIPER (6); and PECTORAL SANDPIPER (8). TOTAL SHOREBIRD SPECIES FOUND HERE = 4, with the total across fields of 24 Upland Sandpipers by far the most numerous.
PORT ISABEL RESERVOIR (1:30 – 2:00 PM): SNOWY PLOVER (1); SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (15); LESSER YELLOWLEGS (1); WILLET (10, at least; a rough estimate; includes 1 very clearly a Western Willet (subspecies); SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER (across two reservoir locations; estimated total was 45-50); WESTERN SANDPIPER (4); LEAST SANDPIPER (1); and last, but not least, WILSON’S PHALAROPE (est. 2000+); the number was overwhelming; several hundred were fairly close to our viewpoint, but many hundreds more were widespread west of the fence posts out in the reservoir. Indeed, there were so many of this species that at some locations it made visually isolating and counting other species very difficult, especially given the direction of the sun, which tended to shadow the parts of the bird facing us. Of course, the phalaropes had a distinctive shape, high-contrast color pattern, and mannerisms in foraging that made them easy to identify. TOTAL SHOREBIRD SPECIES SEEN HERE = 8. We were so busy trying to estimate the phalarope numbers that we did not note down or try to count non-shorebird species. We might even have missed some shorebirds species due to preoccupation with the phalaropes, which seemed to be increasing in numbers during our visit.
PULLOUT ON SOUTHBOUND TX-48 (3:00 – 3:20 PM): WILLET (18); LONG-BILLED CURLEW (1); there were perhaps 8 additional birds that we thought might be this species, but they were so distant and the light glare such that definitive study of bill shape and color proved impossible; MARBLED GODWIT (1). TOTAL SHOREBIRD SPECIES AT THIS SITE = 3. Non-shorebird species included (but were not exhausted by) BLACK SKIMMER (15); and ROYAL TERN (8, at least).
TX-48 BOAT RAMP AREA (3:25 – 4:20 PM): BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (2); AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER (1); BLACK-NECKED STILT (9); WILLET (25, estimate; widespread); SANDERLING (6); RUDDY TURNSTONE (9); LEAST SANDPIPER (5); and SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER (1). TOTAL SHOREBIRD SPECIES SEEN HERE = 8. Non-shorebird species included: CASPIAN TERN (3); ROYAL TERN (8, at least); COMMON TERN (1); FORSTER’S TERN (3, at least); LEAST TERN (2); and BLACK SKIMMER (125, estimate). Most of the Black Skimmers were resting on the far northern side of the boat channel; a small number rested on the south side of that channel, and the American Oystercatcher, which also rested in the latter area tended, when it walked around, to move amongst the Black Skimmers. Given that this oystercatcher was the only one of its species in the area, I wondered if its sticking very close to the skimmers might have been a protective measure against possible predation, given its preferred proximity to a species that at least is superficially similar (large, black-and-white, and similarly colored long bill).
WEAVER ROAD (6:20 – 6:50 PM): When at least part of this area is being (or has been) copiously irrigated, as was the case yesterday, we often include in our itinerary a late-day visit. We often find it productive and sometimes quite different, bird-wise, than our earlier visits. (Please keep in mind that there can be an abundance of mosquitoes late in the day here, especially with much water in evidence, unless there is substantial wind—fortunately there was yesterday.) Yesterday we were very glad we took time for a late-day visit because the “grasspipering” was, in general, outstanding, far better than in our late-morning visit yesterday (except for the absence in the late-day visit of those delightful Upland Sandpipers), but they were replaced by two “grasspiper” species not found during our morning visit. Here are the shorebirds: AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER (16; none found on morning visit); BAIRD’S SANDPIPER (136 by actual count; only 6 found on morning visit); BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER (8; none found on morning visit); and PECTORAL SANDPIPER (7). The outstanding number of Baird’s Sandpipers was a special treat, as was seeing 4 of the very-long-distance migrant “grasspiper” species on a single visit (i.e., Baird’s SP, American Golden-Plover, Buff-breasted SP, and Pectoral SP). In regard to the now-absent Upland Sandpipers, also, a long-distant migrant, we consoled ourselves in the substantial number of “uppies” that had been found during our morning visit (24).
TIMELY THOUGHTS: AT THE PEAK OF MIGRATION OF BIRDS USING FARMLAND, THE FOLLOWING CONSIDERATIONS ARE RELEVANT: Please remember that birders visiting this or any other farm-field site should remain on public road(s)—in this case, Weaver Road—and not, in the absence of explicit permission from management, venture onto private roads, including those that enter fields. Also, even while on public roads, please exhibit the utmost in consideration of the needs of the operators of farm-related equipment/vehicles that use the public roads in the area (as well as the rights of any others using those roads). Important, also, is be friendly! Birding-ethics related practices such as these can help to ensure good-will toward birders on the part of property owners and farmworkers. There may also be legal ramifications of transgression. Most birders, I believe, know and strenuously abide by such guidelines, but a reminder about these matters can be good because temptation may be strong for anyone under certain circumstances.
TOTAL SHOREBIRD SPECIES FOUND BY US AT THESE SITES ON APRIL 6, 2017 = 21.
My wife, Birgit, joins me in wishing everyone the best of spring-migration birding – Rex Stanford (Weslaco).