Sunday, June 29, 2014

News From the Homefront, More From South TX

I finally got soul-stroking looks at Black-billed Cuckoo this spring, after going over a decade without actually laying eyes on one. South Padre Island, TX.

Welcome to another flawless BB&B post. I want to tell you, my friends, that it's hard being a leading tastemaker in the Birdosphere. Not every post can have the full backing of the Human Birdwatcher Project ("Birders Are People Too!"), which tend to get more love and attention than the classic "I-went-here-and-saw-this" format that 95% of all bird blog posts consist of. I mean, there just aren't a hundred Swallowgate stories out there, and some of the great stories I haven't shared yet are simply not meant for public's my job to keep birding elite, after all.

So before we get to the I-went-here-and-saw-this segment of this post, I wanted to share some news with you. My time in Texas is complete. I am back in California, after a very successful detour to southeast Arizona that featured some fantastic birds and a couple lifers, and managed to pick up California bird #507 just a few days ago. I'm starting a new job in the bay area, so I'll be sticking around here for a while (come and bird with me).

My best recent whiskey find is Sazerac Rye, which is made by the fine folks at Buffalo Trace Distillery (a name you should be very familiar with already). I picked up a bottle for under $30 and would not hesitate to get another one, given the chance. Drink up.

The Global Birder Ranking System released a new quarterly report, and I'm happy to inform you all that I am still the 7th ranked birder in the United States. While I am not at liberty to divulge many of the details in said report, I will let you all know that a certain plover-stroker stands to be awarded an enormous number of points by discovering and collecting what could be a first ABA record. I'm sure you are frothing at the mouth for details, but as I said...I'm not at liberty. This is some real inner circle shit. I will tell you that that this bird was not found on some barren island off the coast of Alaska (which is where most first ABA records come from these days).

That's it for the time being. Southbound shorebirds will be noticeable in a couple weeks, and stint season will be upon us. Please join me in the search for Little Stint, a bird I need crazily. And now, back to your regularly scheduled Texas programming.

This is a pants-shittingly rare bird in California, rare enough that I got to see Common Cuckoo in the state before this relatively common eastern bird...the last record here was in 2008. But who cares? I don't know if I'll ever meet such a confiding member of the species again.

When a male Indigo Bunting decides to hang out six feet away from you, the rest of the world ceases to exist. You live in Indigo Bunting world. South Padre Island, TX.

No, I did not photoshop the bug that this female Purple Martin is about to inhale. Estero Llano Grande State Park/WBC, TX.

I envy places that are rich in Purple Martins. They are relatively local breeders in California and are rarely found in very big's a very different scene from the east.

Lesser Yellowlegs. Not to discredit the species, but looking at this image just makes me really want to find a Marsh Sandpiper. That is the one MEGA I missed out on by going to Texas. Estero Llano Grande.

A Lesser Yellowlegs does its best Greater Yellowlegs impression when completely stretched out.

I saw more Stilt Sandpipers this spring than ever before. They are, perhaps, the perfect shorebird. Estero Llano Grande.

Estero Llano Grande turned out to be a great spot for shorebirds; there was plenty of mudflat in April and May and no shortage of shorebirds, some of which were confiding to the extreme. Long-billed Dowitchers and Stilt Sandpipers seemed to be the most abundant species there for much of the spring.

Tricolored Heron. This spring was the first time I got to see Tricoloreds sporting their indigo-colored lores of the breeding season. It's nice when a common bird is so damn crippling. South Padre Island, TX.

Is nice bird, no?

Philadelphia Vireos and I get along very well. I have been lucky enough to find myself in the right place at the right time over the years to find them relatively easily, from their breeding territory in North Dakota to their wintering grounds in Costa Rica. Photographed at South Padre Island, TX.

Look at them black lores! It is a little-known fact that Philadelphia Vireos actually enjoy a good crushing now and then. After this post, this fact should be widely-known.

I should probably fit in a "valley specialty" in here. Meet Buff-bellied Hummingbird, a relatively easy bird to find in spring. Not quite crippling but visually flavorful nonetheless. You can find them just about anywhere with some native veg in the lower valley, although they aren't as common in the winter. Photographed at Estero Llano Grande.

Buff-bellied, a biggish green and rufous hummer, is a member of Amazilia, a genus that is more at home in the tropics. Berylline, Cinnamon Hummingbirds (and Violet-crowned, as Matt Brady of the Bayou points out) are it's only relatives that have been documented north of Mexico. 


  1. Pretty damn crushy. I appreciated the BB Cuckoo and Indigo Bunting, but not quite as much as the Buffalo Trace reference, which is one of my favorite distilleries.

    I still think 'Tri-colored' would be a better label on the Green Heron than the actual Tri-colored Heron, but no doubt it is a sexy fine bird. 9/10 would bang.

    You're laying off the perpetual weekend?? You must be getting serious about something now, needing to save up some moneys, have some kids, and what not? This will affect your birding Seagull Steve.

    1. Perpetual weekend is generally a fall/winter affair, but yeah I am putting it off for a while. Saving moneys is a necessity...however I am all too aware of the impact child-having on my addiction.

    2. Tricolored refers to the French Flag, right?
      Blue top, White underside, Red legs (in high breeding, as shown in the pictures).

  2. I appreciate the use of "visually flavorful" and might have to steal it sometime. I also appreciate how much you probably hate my went-here-and-saw-this blog and yet continue to read it.

    1. Naw, no hate. I would have to hate my own blog baby. Besides, you have flycatchers and a surprising/disturbing number of dead animals.