Two Birds of a Different Feather

The highlights today were two very different birds. Yellow-faced Grassquit is an  accidental species in Texas and the bird hanging out at campsite #205 in Goose Island State Park represents only the 2nd state record.  They’re found along the Atlantic coast of Mexico as well as the Carribean. It’s been feeding with Field Sparrows on scattered bird seed since early February. I’m actually amazed that it’s still around.  I met these Goose Island birder campers in January, in fact they gave me directions on where to find Le Conte’s Sparrow.  They are competent birders with a lot of experience with the local conditions, they also feed the birds in the campground. I found an Anna’s Hummingbird in January coming to one of the campground nectar feeders .  This bird was easy to see and snap a few pictures. Just the way I wanted it considering today’s schedule, because I needed to make Port Aransas this afternoon to hopefully find one of the Little Gulls that’s been holding at the jetty.  Two different birds and two different situations. Yellow-faced Grassquit is a megararity. It’s the reason I booked a flight for Texas.  I’m lucky to find it at all. It’s a lifer (Anna, I’ll discuss lifers later) for goodness sake.  On a “Big Year” you need birds like this to soar to 700 and beyond (dare I finally say it?). Little Gull, a European bird, on the other hand is a bird I’m lucky to get IN TEXAS on THIS trip.  Oh I filmed lots of them for the Small Gulls of North America, but most of these were in Niagara Falls in late November when they mingle in very small numbers with the tens of thousands of Bonaparte’s Gulls.  It would be unacceptable for me of all people to miss Little Gull during a Big Year. So this is an opportunistic sighting, a blessed cost and time savings; there’s now no need for me to travel to Niagara Falls in November.

1st Cycle Little Gull at Port Aransas Jetty (Photo by John Vanderpoel)

With these two key birds in hand, I’m driving south to Kingsville where tomorrow afternoon I’ll try for the Masked Duck that was found last week by Tom Lanchensheid, a keen birder who I met in 1999 at the ABA conference in Corpus Christie.  In the morning, I’ll first try for Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl. Of the 19 species of owls I need, this one has the most restricted range.  A common bird throughout the neotropics, in the States it’s found only in the Oak Mottes of south Texas as well as a few places in South Eastern Arizona.

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