Date: 12/24/17 7:02 pm From: Rex Stanford <calidris.bairdii...> Subject: [texbirds] Raptors, Sandhill Cranes, and more (Saturday, 12/23/17)
Yesterday (Saturday, 12/13/17) my wife (Birgit) and I birded: (a) the Hargill area (i.e., east and west of there on FM490 to its east and west doglegs, plus Lincoln, 1st Street, Bucy Rd., and FM493 to TX186); also, areas east of Lyford and northeast of Sebastian. Raptors and Sandhill Cranes were our primary objectives. This report is NOT intended to list all the species seen, much less their numbers. The listings here are not in geographic order, but usually follow taxonomic considerations.
SANDHILL CRANES (TOTAL = 8): We found 3 foraging along the east-of-Hargill FM 490 dogleg in an ephemeral wetland at its intersection with CR2500 (southwest corner) and an eastbound overflight of 3 in the same area, same time; also, 2 (1 ravenously foraging; the other standing on alert, continuously scanning—recent raptor?) at an ephemeral wetland at south corner of FM490 dogleg west of Hargill).
RAPTORS: Expectedly abundant almost “everywhere” were: TURKEY VULTURE, RED-TAILED HAWK (see special note regarding. this species, below), and AMERICAN KESTREL. As for much less frequent species: We were delighted to find, along Bucy Road, WHITE-TAILED KITE (2), sometimes flying well above tree tops, seemingly foraging insects and, in the process, kiting and gliding with superb grace against a lovely blue sky. NORTHERN HARRIER (2), 1 of them seen from Bucy Road and 1 from FM 498 (north of Lyford). A most welcome surprise and very handsome was COOPER’S HAWK (1) initially seen sitting on atop a thick, flat-topped fence post adjacent to Bucy Road and then atop a pile of broken limbs further back near tall vegetation. (We both saw the distinctive dark “cap” with cropped-like appearance at rear and the notably lighter nape and enjoyed the sleek appearance of this handsome, alertly erect, long-tailed hawk.) In late day as we started home, a single HARRIS’S HAWK was seen as we headed back toward Weslaco immediately south of the FM490/FM88 intersection, just after we had turned south onto the latter, having complained moments before that we had seen no Harris’s Hawks anywhere! Surprisingly, no White-tailed Hawks were seen on this trip.
East of Lyford on CR315 (Cactus CR) just north of FM498 we found LONG-BILLED CURLEW (2) on the pasture west of CR315. Further east on FM498, turning south to bird CR375 (Primrose CR) to FM1018 (at the water tower), we failed to find the Peregrine Falcon that I had on two earlier occasions this season found on the water tower.
Finally, we saw several CRESTED CARACARA across a number of locations. On FM493 we found GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE (4), perhaps 0.4 mi. north of Hargill in an ephemeral wetland (not very wet presently) on the east side of the highway.
SPECIAL NOTE: Now back to Red-tailed Hawk, a real treat north of Hargill somewhere along FM493 was what seems most likely to have been, based on my study of my photos (including a very useful flight photo) and visual observation, either a juvenile dark-morph Red-tailed Hawk or a juvenile dark-morph Harlan’s Hawk. Based on my study of the photos and an expert field guide, I lean toward the former, but cannot presently feel sure that dark-morph Harlan’s can be ruled out. I hope to have some expert help on this judgment. This was for me a strikingly very dark (seemingly, essentially, black) individual overall (wing tips lighter, juvenile fashion).
Wishing everyone the best of winter birding – Rex Stanford.