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).

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