Date: 1/5/19 5:13 pm From: Anthony Hewetson <fattonybirds...> Subject: [texbirds] Little Gull and Fork-tailed Flycatcher adventure
Yesterday, Drew Harvey and I launched ourselves (at about 4:30 AM) towards northeast Texas in hopes of adding Little Gull to our life lists and Fork-tailed Flycatcher to my ABA list. The Little Gull qualifies as a nemesis bird for me as I had chased it five times before without success.
We started at White Rock Lake where, after considerable time spent scanning from the spillway, we caught unsatisfactory glimpses of what was, by size, shape, and profile - a Little Gull. From noon or so we stayed on it, with spotting scopes, as it flew amidst Bonaparte's and Ring-billed Gulls until I satisfied myself that it was, however aesthetically disappointing, a Little Gull - gosh it would have been nice to pick up on more (any, really) plumage details!
By 2:00 we were at Arlington Lake, following up on a report of an adult 'winter' Little Gull. It took us an hour but we found it - visible against the tree line of a woodland across the lake from the park on the southern end of the lake - and I was truly and most sincerely happy with this one: a tiny gull with strikingly dark underwings! ABA lifer 671, I think - taxonomic shifts make accurate counts squiffy, and a happy end to a nemesis situation.
We returned to White Rock Lake, hoping for an assembly of gulls at the spillway but water levels remained too high, with water gushing over the spillway and preventing gulls from using it as a roost. We amused ourselves with a passing Nutria and no fewer than three Spotted Sandpipers - for a bit - and around 5:30 in the evening a large number of the smaller gulls moved towards the spillway and worked the area just above it for fish - including the submature (a term used by my an ornithology professor of mine to settle the distinction between immature and adult) Little Gull.
Confusiingly, the bird looked more like the bird photographed on 12/20/18 by Ben Sandifer (using Sibley as a guide - a first winter bird) than the bird photographed on 12/31/18 by Chris Runk (using Sibley as a guide - a second winter bird) with very thick, black inner bars to the wing 'M' and almost entirely dark outer panes. Is it possible that there are two Little Gulls present at this site?
The sixth time's the charm I guess ... and pays off twice.
It was too late, by a long shot, to try for the flycatcher so we had an excellent dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant - which, thank you restaurant folk, spoiled me a bit with free appetizers for being a birthday boy - and then headed over for a very chilly night of winter camping at Lake Tawakoni State Park.
We arose quite late (6:42 this morning), birded Hunt County a bit, and then headed out for the Fork-tailed Flycatcher. This is not as much a nemesis for me: I have seen the species before (in Belize) and I have only chased it twice before but I was really hoping to pick up ABA bird 672.
What do you know; the third time can be the charm as, rather late in the morning, a stunningly obvious Fork-tailed Flycatcher showed up at the approved site (Highway 47 - a ways north of Wills Point - just south of FM 3849) and ten or so gathered birders enjoyed the bird for about a half hour before heading our separate ways.
Drew and I were a bit tuckered out (possibly still a bit chilled from a frigid night of tent camping) and beat feet to Lubbock.
What a great trip - thanks, Drew: a hard to spot nemesis bird for my birthday and a hard to miss ABA addition chaser the day after.