Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Texas, Day 7: How Ani lost her Groove

Cacti, Hugh Ramsey Park, Harlingen
With a mid-afternoon flight, I had another morning to play with so I managed to get to the SPI Convention Center by 7, expecting to see a number of birders looking for the continuing Groove-Billed Ani.  There was no one. Not another birder until 8:30, but by then it seemed pretty clear that either the Ani had vacated over night or they were lying low until the raucous band of Red-Winged Blackbirds finally left.  But after they did, still nothing.  So, we walked the boardwalk, scoped the Roseate Spoonbills and many shorebirds (including 21 Marbled Godwits) on the mudflats before calling it.

There is a lesson in the fact that I dedicated two afternoons and part of a morning to just a few species, and my readers can draw their own conclusions about the wisdom of chasing rarities when you have limited time on a birding holiday.

Leaving SPI my goal was an inlet and boat ramp on TX-48 between Port Isabel and Brownsville, just off the shipping channel with the mellifluous hotspot name of Shrimp Basin Bridge / Zapata Memorial Boat Ramp / San Martín Lake Outlet. I had spotted an astonishing eBird report from there before the festival and vowed to visit it if I could.  I will let my report speak for itself:

TX48- Shrimp Basin Bridge / Zapata Memorial Boat Ramp/ San Martin Lake outlet, Cameron, US-TX
Nov 10, 2014 10:45 AM - 11:20 AM
Protocol: Stationary
Comments:     Massive roost of gulls, terns, and shorebirds all hunkered down in a stiff wind. Edited to add: Reviewed photo evidence and added several species not noticed in scoping and corrected some tern numbers.
32 species (+1 other taxa)

Neotropic Cormorant  2
Double-crested Cormorant  2
American White Pelican  X
Brown Pelican  20
Great Egret  2
Snowy Egret  1
Tricolored Heron  1
Osprey  1
Black-necked Stilt  30     counted, and likely more tucked into other wind breaks in the marsh
American Avocet  8
American Oystercatcher  1
Black-bellied Plover  20
Snowy Plover  2
Semipalmated Plover  2
Willet (Western)  66
Ruddy Turnstone  2
Sanderling  2
Semipalmated Sandpiper  6
Long-billed Dowitcher  5
Laughing Gull  150
Franklin's Gull  1     picked out among roosting gulls and terns in photos
Ring-billed Gull  100
Herring Gull  20
Caspian Tern  12
Forster's Tern  4
Royal Tern  8
Sandwich Tern  1     picked out among roosting gulls and terns in photos
Black Skimmer  99     counted, give or take a few
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  X
Barn Swallow  X
American Pipit  1
Western/Eastern Meadowlark  4     singing
House Sparrow  X

Black-Necked Stilts with American Avocets. Everything tall was hunkered down behind wind breaks or lined up bills to the wind.

Black Skimmers with assorted Caspian and Royal Terns and Laughing Gulls, and one Franklin's tucked in.

Terns and Black Skimmers
Prickly Pear, Hugh Ramsey Park, Harlingen
After that extravaganza I happily headed home to Massachusetts.  This was a very memorable trip, and I can see why many birders come year after year (whether they are festival junkies or not) for the sheer pleasure of seeing so many birds so easily, and the hope of finally seeing the hard ones, some day.

Hasta Luego, Texas!


Unknown said...

Nice finish. Shorebirds like stilts, avocets and black skimmers a lot of fun. Too bad about the groovy ani and the parrots; I didn't see them either in 2004. Did you ever see an anhinga? Recommend another try: Galveston, Brazos Bend near Angleton, interior Lake Whitney near Ft. Worth and San Angelo region. March and April good. Thanks and I'll be reading and looking!

David Swain said...

Yeah, that post was supposed to be titled "Groovin' with Ani." Yes, saw a couple Anhinga, which I see in Florida when visiting my parents.

Not sure how soon I'll get back to Texas, though; this was a unique opportunity, a sabbatical gift from my family.

Thanks for reading!