We undertook something of a shorebird marathon on Sunday (09/16/12), visiting 7 sites and finding 21 species. All but the first site mentioned below were in Cameron Co., and the sites are listed in the order visited.
Non-productive sites (no shorebirds!): PROGRESO SOD FIELDS (Hidalgo Co.); LA FERIA SOD FIELDS (Cameron Co.)
WEAVER ROAD SOD FIELDS (3 sod fields on west side of Weaver Rd.; only the south-most field, which had the shortest grass, was productive: The most exciting find was, for us, our foremost target bird in substantial numbers: BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER (45). We also found LONG-BILLED CURLEW (2). Weaver Road runs between FM-800 (north entry) and Jimenez Road (south). PLEASE NOTE: When this road is wet, it can harbor some of the stickiest mud we ever have seen. It was dry, fortunately, or we would not have traveled it. Shorebird-species count = 2.
RANGERVILLE ROAD RESACA AREA (resaca west side of Rangerville Road, which isFM-1479, and just south of Jimenez Road): KILLDEER (est. 15); BLACK-NECKED STILT (2); AMERICAN AVOCET (2); LEAST SANDPIPER (18-20); and LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER (est. 20). Shorebird-species count = 5.
LAS PALOMAS WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA (on south side of Jimenez Road east of Rangerville Rd.): KILLDEER (5, at least); BLACK-NECKED STILT (several, widely dispersed); AMERICAN AVOCET (2, at least); WILLET (3); SPOTTED SANDPIPER (1); LEAST SANDPIPER (10-12, at least, dispersed along east shore); BAIRD'S SANDPIPER (1, at least; 1 seen in each of two widely separated locations), usually foraging higher on shore than even most of the Least Sandpipers); STILT SANDPIPER (2, possibly 3); SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER (2); LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER (13-15); and WILSON'S PHALAROPE (4). The pond here was particularly gratifying because of the number of shorebird species found and because it provided our other target species for the day, Baird's Sandpiper. The Least Sandpipers proved themselves very aggressive, just as they had at this site some days ago. They aggressively attacked not only the Baird's Sandpiper, but members of their own species. Sometimes one would fly in from a surprising distance to launch an attack. Shorebird-species count = 11.
PORT ISABEL RESERVOIR (on west side of Holly Beach Road, off FM. 510, northwest of Laguna Vista): BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (est, 35-40, at least; mostly distant); SNOWY PLOVER (1); WILSON'S PLOVER (4); SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (5); BLACK-NECKED STILT (1); WILLET (several); LONG-BILLED CURLEW (1); WESTERN SANDPIPER (hundreds, very widely dispersed, and possibly several hundreds, many too distant to differentiate from Least Sandpiper); LEAST SANDPIPER (est. 75-80); SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER (1); and WILSON'S PHALAROPE (1). The above report fails to capture the spectacle at this site. The birds counted above were those close enough to be identified with a reasonable sense of being correct, but even these were sometimes in such numbers as to make estimation the only sensible strategy. Many hundreds, possibly, thousands of shorebirds, especially calidris sandpipers, were too distant and small to allow realistic decisions as to species. We do not recall ever having seen this site any more productive than on this visit, in terms of sheer numbers of shorebirds, and the number of species found was very gratifying. This site greatly aided our shorebird count by providing plover species. Shorebird-species count = 11.
BOAT-LAUNCH AREA ON HWY. 48: The extremely high water greatly reduced the usual opportunities for shorebirds to feed and rest. Here we found, immediately east of the parking lot, on the shore or in the shallow water only 2 species, namely RUDDY TURNSTONE (1) and SANDERLING (1). These, however, turned out to be new species for the day, so our drive to the boat launch seemed worthwhile. Shorebird-species count = 2.
SOUTH PADRE ISLAND BAYSIDE SHORE (adjacent to north side of Convention Center parking lot): MARBLED GODWIT (21, count confirmed by both of us, through a scope). Seeing this very substantial flock of this large, handsome species was an exciting way to end the day. Present also were SANDERLING (1); WESTERN SANDPIPER (several) and LEAST SANDPIPER (several). Shorebird-species count = 4.
We thank those who, living north of south Texas, recently have reported Buff-breasted Sandpipers on TEXBIRDS, for we had been unable to find them for weeks, despite considerable searching. Encouraged by recent reports from up north, we tried again yesterday and had a very rewarding degree of success. Those who know well this unique and attractive species likely will understand why seeing them in goodly numbers was a special treat.
Wishing everyone exciting fall birding, Rex and Birgit Stanford McAllen, TXEdit your Freelists account settings for TEXBIRDS at http://www.freelists.org/list/texbirds
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