Monday, April 12, 2010

Bulletin #107 – Spring Migration #2

David McDonald Photography

Friendswood Texas
April 13, 2010

Bulletin #107 – Spring Migration #2

Hello friends,

Most, if not all, birders have some species of birds that seem to be very difficult for them to find. The popular term is a nemesis bird. For the most part, they are rare birds. However, sometimes, even a reasonably common bird, just seems to be invisible. It almost feels as if they have some diabolical plan to disappear when we go to look for them.

There are at least 3 common spring migrants on the Upper Texas Coast (UTC) that are nemesis birds for me. These are 2 warbler species (Prothonotary(PROW) and Yellow-throated (YTWA)), and Yellow-throated Vireo (YTVI). I have only found 1 YTWA on my own and never found a YTVI. I do occasionally find a PROW. This is in 20 years of birding! I did get a photo of a YTVI 2 years ago with a guide, but they were not very good, and I wanted to improve on them. Also, I need better photos of the YTWA.

Well, last weekend April 9-11, I hit the jackpot with 2 of them. I went to LaFitte’s Cove in Galveston ( #68 on UTC Birding Trail) in the late afternoon on Friday. There were probably a dozen Prothonotary Warblers (Protonotaria citrea) in the woods, and at times, they sat in the wide open on the path. This bird is IDed by the bright yellow head and body and gray wings without wingbars. The sexes are similar, but the female is a little duller yellow. These are probably males. What a stunning bird!

I also saw several more on Saturday and Sunday, for a total of 20 or so birds. This is more birds of this species than I had seen in 20 years previously.

The other nemesis bird to finally break my jinx was the Yellow-throated Vireo (Vireo flavifrons). I went to LaFitte’s Cove early Saturday morning and found a single bird. I managed a couple of fairly good photos. Sunday I saw another YTV at LaFitte’s Cove where it was high in the trees (their usual habitat). Next I went to Corps Woods sanctuary on Galveston Island (#61 on UTC Birding Trail). I walked into the woods and immediately saw another YTV. It disappeared before I could take its picture. However, I found a 4th bird, who was low down in a tree and I was able to get quite close to him for some decent photos. He is Ided by the green head and back, yellow spectacles, yellow throat and breast and 2 wing bars. Thus I found 4 birds this weekend, which is probably as many as I have seen in total previously, and never had I found one myself. The sexes are similar.

I also saw him catch and devour a caterpillar.
There were a number of other migrants this past weekend.

Here is a Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceous). He is named for the red iris in his eye. Like a number of birds, he was named for the most obscure field mark. One almost never sees this feature. But in this photo, he was in the sunlight and the red iris was visible in binoculars. So how do you ID this bird if his red eye can’t be seen? It is IDed by the brown back, gray head and light eyeline between 2 black stripes. The sexes are similar.

2 species of thrush were at LaFitte’s Cove on Friday afternoon. The more numerous one was the Swainson’s Thrush (Catharus ustulatus). He is a brown backed thrush with a prominent eye-ring and a few spots on the breast. The sexes are similar.

The secretive Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina). Normally this is a difficult bird to find as it prefers deep woods. There were at least 4 at LaFitte’s Cove on Friday and several were momentarily in the open to have their photo taken. This bird is IDed by the rufous head, brown back, large breast spots. In this photo he appears to have a bushy crest, but that is not normally the case. Perhaps he was startled by all the people watching him. The sexes are similar.

I found a single breeding male Blue Grosbeak (Passerina caerula) on Friday. He is normally completely blue on his head and body. This bird hasn’t quite finished molting and still has a few spots of brown. The ID marks are the all deep blue body with 2 brown wing bars. The upper wing bar is rufous color. The beak is also blue. The female is brown with the 2 wing bars.

The last of the colorful migrants this weekend, were both species of tanagers. There were 12-15 male Summer Tanagers (Piranga rubra) Friday. This bird is all bright red. He has a large bill. The female would be yellow.

There were just a few Scarlet Tanagers (Piranga olivacea). The male is an easy ID with dark red head and body and black wings and tail. The female in the second photo is yellow-green with darker wings.

I will be leading a 9 day bird photography tour to Costa Rica in conjunction with Lillian Scott-Baer of Baer Travel March 3-11, 2011. We have worked out an itinerary to visit La Selva Preserve, Savegre Mountain Hotel in the central mountains for Resplendant Quetzal and other montane species and Wilson Botanical Gardens (Las Cruces). We have also retained the services of local guide Rudy Zamora to accompany us and locate and ID the birds for us to photograph. We will also have beautiful flowers and hopefully some mammals - tamanduas, monkeys etc.

I will be giving several talks in the evening on bird photography, Photoshop etc.

The price will be $1960 double to $2380 single. This includes hotels, all meals, guide, transportation in Costa Rica etc. The only other cost will be airfare and personal purchases (alcohol, souvenirs etc) . Space is limited to 10 persons to maximize our opportunity to see and photograph the birds. I have birded in Costa Rica previously. It is a wonderful country to visit and the bird life is exceptional. I hope that you can join us.

Here is the schedule of payments for the trip.

$ 25 reservation fee (not refundable)
$ 575 due April 30, 2010
$ 600 due July 30, 2010
$ 740 due January 15, 2011
Please send deposits to:

ScoBar Inc.
34 Galway Place
The Woodlands, TX 77382

Note - we will try to pair up singles and triple would be $1890 per person.

There are only 2 spaces left for this trip as of today, so please email me, if interested.

All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald


photos copyright 2010 David McDonald

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