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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tropical Mockingbird

It was a great day birding right across the border at Sabine Woods, Texas. Being outside, talking to fellow birders from states far away as Washington was a treat while in quest of the first United States record for a Tropical Mockingbird.

A cool-looking Chuck-Will's-Widow was perched on a limb not far off one of the trails.

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Have you ever seen two Chuck-Will's-Widows sitting together on the same log? These two guys were statuesque in the shade making it easy to miss while walking the trails. A special thanks to Robby Bacon for pointing these out.

The Grackles guys were strutting their stuff trying to impress the ladies.

Finally, the long-awaited Tropical Mockingbird with its l-o-n-g tail flew up and landed in a tree nearby. It was weird seeing a Mockingbird minus its white wing bars.

What do you think about the white on the underside of its tail feathers? The red on its throat was puzzling.

A good look at its dark wings and white bands on the end of its tail feathers.

The Tropical Mockingbird stretched revealing its dark wings and tail feathers with white bands at the tips.

How do you suppose this guy got here and how will he know where home is in order to return?

During the course of the day the Tropical Mockingbird was flying back and forth to a Live Oak Tree where a Northern Mockingbird had a nest. I'm not certain of his involvement but it does seem suspicious.

What About the Origin of the Tropical Mockingbird?

What About Feather Wear?

Much discussion has been generated regarding the origin of the Tropical Mockingbird as it relates to feather wear. Below are magnifications of its wing feathers and its tail feathers. What are the similarities and differences between birds in the wild vs caged/captive birds as related to feather wear? It will be interesting to hear the committee's verdict and succeeding explanation of how they determined the origin of the Tropical Mockingbird.

Left-Click on Images to Enlarge

Left-Click on the Image. Check out the wing wear and tail feather wear. It appears there is wear on all of its tail feathers but only minimal wear to the 7th, 8th and 9th primaries from the tip of his/her wing. Would this pattern of wear be more typical for a caged bird or would this pattern of wear be more typical for a wild bird?

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Rare Black-Whiskered Vireo

My friend Cody Conway phoned me Wednesday. He felt it might be a good day to go birding just across the border at Sabine Woods, Texas due to the successive days of the north winds. I was able to go and he happened to be spot on. It was the best day birding this spring for me. Cody managed to chalk up twenty-five Warbler species by 11:00 AM. No telling what number he could have reached had we stayed longer.

Aside from the multitude of warblers and other birds present in the woodlot, the highlight of the day was watching a Black-Whiskered Vireo skulking through the trees. I've had the good fortune of seeing and photographing one BWVI in my lifetime making this moment all the more special. It was difficult tracking the Vireo through the trees with all the leaves and limbs in the way trying to secure a good picture. The image below is not the best image but an experienced birder would have no trouble ID'ing this bird.

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The Black-Whiskered Vireo hopped from the protection of the canopy to an open limb and posed for his picture. Wouldn't you know it, a limb was obscuring part of him from view yet his tell-tale black whiskers were clearly visible. :)

Finally, finally, finally the moment arrived. The Black-Whiskered Vireo popped in the open offering a much appreciated opportunity for his picture. It was a pleasure to cross paths with this bird once again and come away with a few pictures to remember him by.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Cameron - April 12, 2012

This Glaucous Gull was 'hanging out' with the birds on the shell pile in front of the East Jetty Observation Tower today. It was surprising to see how large this gull was in comparison to other gulls nearby. More than likely It is probably the one same one someone spotted a while back.

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Where's Waldo? Do you see the Long-Tailed Duck amongst the vast array of shorebirds collected on the shell pile? This picture shows only a portion of the shell pile in front of the East Jetty Observation Tower.

The Long-Tailed Duck has been hanging out in front of the East Jetty Observation Tower for at least a couple of weeks. Will it still be hanging around or will it be playing hide and seek? The daunting task of locating the Long-Tailed Duck among the rest of the birds was now at hand. It is sort of similar to finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

After glassing the vast array of birds on the shell pile time after time after time for the LT Duck, it appeared to have moved on or was in such a position as to not be clearly seen for an ID. Finally, finally, finally, one of the ducks at rest happened to turn his head slightly to the side revealing its white mask. At last, the long awaited Long-Tailed Duck revealed itself! It's funny how a slight turn of the head makes all the difference in the world for ID purposes. The needle in the haystack was located today.

Mother Nature's Finest Flying Maching, the Peregrine Falcon, will literally tear your head off (note picture). The headless Sora in the talons of the Peregrine certainly never stood a chance. The Peregrine Falcon was working the area between Holly Beach and the Cameron Ferry.

Some of the American Avocets flew by the Observation Tower in their stunning breeding plumage. What gorgeous birds they are!

I left the jetties and headed to Peveto. Although I saw no warblers it was delightful to meet some friendly and interesting birders from Mississippi and New Orleans.