Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Migrants Oscar Mike

We are just past the peak of spring migration down here, but the migrants are still Oscar Mike and should be for a while. They say that May means empids in the LRGV...I've fared poorly so far...some Least Flycatchers and a "Traill's", and that's it. EBird is lighting up with Alder and Acadian reports, which I prefer to just think of as mostly misidentified Least Flycatchers and Eastern Wood-Pewees. This may be wishful thinking, but if you want to see some astounding feats of bird identification failure, this is a good place for it. The best one I've seen so far was a lady who identified a Black-bellied Whistling-Duck as a woodpecker.

As you know, I've been birding South Padre Island relentlessly this spring. I have major FOMO when it comes to missing interesting migrants on the coast, although by now I have seen many of them, and it is getting late for the one I am still really lusting after (Swainson's Warbler...there is a reliable eBird report from there this is pain). So now I'm basically just going out to find some new Empids for the year, hang out with the expected migrants, and hopefully find a fantastic rarity like Black-whiskered Vireo or something that boggles the mind in a similar manner.

Mostly, I'm just enjoying eastern flavored spring migration, and seeing birds I don't normally get to crush or otherwise bump into very often. Newly-arrived birds drop in throughout the day, so the longer you spend on island, the more you will see. Just when you are ready to call it quits something fancy will show up, and after an hour, the process tends to repeat itself until you wonder how you managed to spend all day at two or three tiny spots.

Canada Warblers should be more regular this month, I only saw one in April. This bird is a real, honest-to-god crippler. The face pattern face melts. I mean, the eyering is two different colors...intricacies abound within the blinding goodness.

Thankfully, Chestnut-sided Warblers have become easy to find on SPI. They are very crushable. I find their plumage to be quite innovative.

It's like they have a moustache that goes all the way down their flanks. Pretty sick.

The Blue-winged Warbler photos I have now have improved since the last couple I posted. Like many warblers, this is a species that frequently is feeding only a foot or two off the ground here. Not what I would expect, but I'm not complaining.

I struggle to think of a caption for this. Not the crushiest shot, but you get the general impression of the bird. How do I go years at a time without seeing them? It can't be healthy.

After the scourge of Yellow-rumped Warblers departed (mercifully early), Tennessee Warbler quickly became the most abundant migrant warbler. Being nectar junkies, they are often quite confiding (see crush above). As of this writing, it still is the most abundant warbler out there. I have seen far more TEWAs in the last month than in all my life leading up to this spring. There sure are a lot of Tennessee Warblers out there.

Of course one of the downsides of having so many TEWAs around is that A) people misidentify them as Philadelphia Vireos and B) if you hear about a Philadelphia Vireo, you instantly become overly suspicious that this "vireo" is actually a Tennessee Warbler.

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are often around in good numbers, although they don't seem to be quite as predictably abundant as the orioles. I think I like them better than Black-headed Grosbeaks. Sorry Black-headed Grosbeaks.

This one lacked the black breast streaking of the above bird. Younger individual?

Migrant sparrows are few and far between on the coast...Savannah and Lincoln's Sparrows, and some Clay-colored Sparrows (above), and not much else. Ever since my time working for Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge, I think of North Dakota whenever I see a Clay-colored. Their style is economical but I am a proponent of all the humble prairie birds.

Oops...not a migrant. Even Mottled Ducks come in to the bird seed that is scattered at the convention center. This is a bird that will never get anyone's pulse racing, but then again I'm happy to see one up close for once.

For some reason it seems immature and female Painted Buntings not only far outnumber adult males, they are also much more fearless. This is unfortunate. Can't say the same for Indigo Buntings.

Here's one of the few cooperative male Painted Buntings I've seen recently. Why does this exist? It's too much.

I have had the misfortune of seeing several mildly rare, western birds on South Padre Island. Of course a male Townsend's Warbler is certainly a crippler, but I would much rather see mildly rare eastern birds. Cape May Warbler? Yes please. I have no doubt that in the blink of an eye I will be knee deep in Townsend's Warblers again and longing for Black-throated Green Warblers.


  1. Luckily I am now used to expecting these high quality crushes and am coming prepared, by bringing an orange can of Crush soda, stepping on a bug, and having a picture of Lucy Lu nearby. In doing this the face-melting affects of these SPI birds has been somewhat attenuated, and the full post is navigable.

    Your Buntings, Grosbeaks and Warblers are gorgeous, and seeing the Townsend's there at the end made me chuckle.

    But the big question is begged from your first paragraph. How, HOW does one confused a BBWH for a Woodpecker? Was she playing opposite day or something? I would like further explanation.

    1. I don't know what happens out there. Birding there is kind of like when Luke Skywalker visits the cave on get tested, and then you fail. And then later on you will find some ancient being berating you..."The convention center! The convention center! Remember your failure at the convention center!".

  2. This shit is fucking disgusting, dude.

  3. the grosbeak without the streaking is the older one.
    the Dickcissel in a sunflower field pic is sick.