[texbirds] shorebirding in Cameron Co. (Saturday, 05/11/13) - LONG

  • From: "Rex Stanford" <calidris@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "TEXBIRDS" <texbirds@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 12 May 2013 15:50:09 -0500

EASTERN BOCA CHICA BLVD (Cameron Co.) to Gulf shore:

Yesterday (Saturday, May 11, 2013) we birded the eastern segment of Boca
Chica Blvd to its terminus at the Gulf with our primary, but not exclusive,
interest being finding shorebird migrants. There was sufficient water at
various places on both the south and north sides of this road that seeing
and identifying the shorebirds using a high-power spotting scope (up to 60X)
was possible. At times, though, the strong wind made study easier with
binoculars, for magnification magnifies the consequences of vibration.
During our observation in relatively early afternoon, which had very strong
wind, we personally faced multiple threats of being blown off our feet, not
to mention the problem of protecting scope/tripod from blow-over! The
problem was most severe in the early afternoon during birding on the north
side of the road, where we could not arrange our vehicle as a shield between
us and the wind without potentially driving it onto a problematic wet, muddy
substrate. By the time we were sufficiently far east that we had good
vantage points for birds in wet areas on the south side of the road, the
wind had abated somewhat, and in most instances we could use our vehicle for
a wind shield. In some places on the south side the terrain was sufficiently
dry for easy traversal, and merely moving on foot a short distance south,
away from the highway, offered reduced wind thrust, thanks to the downward
incline of the terrain allowing one to be somewhat below the level of the
roadway (from which direction, of course, the wind was blowing). At all
times we exercised care not to disturb the birds we were studying, and we
urge anyone wishing to study these tired, hungry birds to do likewise.
Potential disturbance for shorebirds includes not only too-close foot
approach, but noise (including vehicle-door slamming and vehicular alarms),
the more so if one is upwind from the birds.

Before mentioning the shorebirds, it may be of interest that we encountered
a huge number of EASTERN KINGBIRDS along this route yesterday. At one
location not very far west of the Kopernik Shores structures, we counted
approximately 50 such kingbirds visible from where we stood (within a 180
degree arc), most of them sitting about, seemingly tired to the point of
being somewhat dazed, on a sandy peninsula that jutted into north-side
water. We surmise that they needed both rest and food after what must have
been a horrendous struggle against the wind. We presumed they probably soon
would find food, especially a bit farther west along this highway where the
vegetation is more diverse and there are many trees. At any rate, this large
group was no longer sitting there when we returned westbound. As is usual in
this area, especially in the tidal bay south of the highway, we found
REDDISH EGRET (10, including an attractive adult white morph).

Each shorebird species listed below is followed by a count number, estimate,
or suggestive statement of abundance plus, in some cases, commentary. What
cannot be readily understood from this summation is that quite a few of the
species appeared to be widely distributed in the area and that the
individuals counted (or close enough for a reasonable estimate) probably
represented only a small fraction of the individuals of some of the species
in the area yesterday. Many hundreds of shorebirds were present and visible,
but most were not at a distance close enough to allow confident
identification, so we did not try in such cases. The presence of so many
shorebirds was exciting and an inspiration to see, over and above the
individuals involved in the actual counts/estimates of abundance.

BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (5, including 4 in striking breeding plumage)

AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER (1, very striking and interesting individual that
appeared to be leucistic in coloration; tended to forage on relatively high,
if still damp, terrain)

SNOWY PLOVER (2)

WILSON'S PLOVER (6 at least)

SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (5 at least)

GREATER YELLOWLEGS (several, widely dispersed)

WILLET (several, widely dispersed)

RUDDY TURNSTONE (several, widely dispersed)

SANDERLING (probably hundreds, seemingly everywhere and often harassed other
shorebird species who even dared to hasten past them)

SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER (7)

LEAST SANDPIPER (several, often in relatively dry areas)

WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER (1, a bit of a pleasant surprise)

DUNLIN (probably hundreds, many in lovely breeding plumage)

SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER (1; 3 additional very distant dowitchers were noted,
but the distance made us unsure of which of the two dowitcher species they
might be)

WILSON'S PHALAROPE (probably hundreds, both males and females, often in
breeding condition, but some individuals seemed in nonbreeding plumage)

TOTAL BOCA CHICA BLVD SHOREBIRD SPECIES WITH CONFIDENT IDENTIFICATION = 15.

HIGHWAY 48 BOAT LAUNCH:

Late in the day we visited the boat launch on Hwy. 48 between Brownsville
and Port Isabel, and it afforded 13 shorebird species: BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER
(5 at least); SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (3 at least); GREATER YELLOWLEG (10):
WILLET (4 at least); RUDDY TURNSTONES (est. 12-15; widely dispersed);
SANDERLING (est., several dozen); SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER (2); AMERICAN
OYSTERCATCHER (3); LEAST SANDPIPER (2); DUNLIN (1, nice breeding plumage);
SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER (1); LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER (1); and WILSON'S
PHALAROPE (several dozen).

Thus the Hwy. 48 boat launch added two additional species, Long-billed
Dowitcher and American Oystercatcher to our shoreline-species list for the
day, bringing the day's total Cameron County species to 17.

The three American Oystercatchers were a delightful surprise because we had
missed that species on recent visits, although, in our experience, they
usually had been present there. The three yesterday were a delight also
because although two were adults, one was a juvenile, bearing brown topside
feathers neatly and crisply fringed with warm buff. Its bill was largely a
dusky gray except for some pinkish coloration in the basal portion of its
lower mandible, very unlike the solidly bright, red-orange color of the
adults' bills. Its legs were decidedly grayish by contrast with the pink
ones of the adults. One of the two adults stayed constantly with the
youngster, both feeding together. The other adult was at times with them but
spent much time elsewhere. Welcome, youngster to the boat launch! Seeing
this newcomer was a joyous way to end an exciting day of shorebirding.

Wishing everyone the best of birding,
Rex and Birgit Stanford
McAllen, TX

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  • » [texbirds] shorebirding in Cameron Co. (Saturday, 05/11/13) - LONG - Rex Stanford