Saturday, November 22, 2014

Nov 22 (Day 326) - Lazy day in Laredo.......but wait.........

I slept like an absolute rock last night. I might have been more more exhausted than at any point this year. I knew today was going to be very low key. I figured I would just kick around Laredo looking for the seedeater. If I found the seedeater, great. If not, no big deal since I would have a very good chance at it tomorrow at the La Laja Ranch a bit south of the city. The most important thing would be that my body would get some much needed rest. The weather forecast called for strong winds in the morning and thunderstorms in the afternoon. Given this, I was not terrible optimistic about my prospects of finding the seedeater today.

White-collared seedeater is a Central American species that just makes it into the US, specifically in the vicinity of Laredo and a few specific points south. They are tiny little birds (4"), and at this time of year they are a rather drab, buffy yellow color. They normally inhabit reedy and grassy areas like those found around local ponds or along the banks of the Rio Grande.

Breeding male White-collared seedeater

Seedeater range - it just makes it into Texas near Laredo

Seedeater in US - It barely clips Laredo area

I decided to start the seedeater search at Father Charles McNaboe Park on the north side of Laredo. This park backs up the the Rio Grande and has good seedeater habitat. As predicted, there was quite a bit of wind this morning. This made the birding incredibly slow and frustrating. No bird with a fully functioning brain would be out in such conditions. They would be hunkered down, relaxing instead. Despite the crappy conditions, my host from last night (Carlos Escamilla) and I spent 3 hours schlepping around the park this morning. By 11am, the wind was too strong to bird and nearly too strong to ride. It was blowing at a steady 20 MPH from the south. I was very happy not to be riding any real distance in it. I did swing by a local bike shop to pick up a few extra tubes. I retired to the house for lunch, and I spent the early part of the afternoon loafing around and watching college football. I figured thunderstorms would put pay to what afternoon birding I might otherwise have mustered the energy to do.

13 mellow miles today

However, the T-storms held off, the winds died down, and at 3pm Carlos and I walked over to North Central Park just around the corner from his house. This is the same park that I birded in the afternoon yesterday. Carlos and I wandered around a specific wet area looking for seedeaters with out success. I then wandered off on my own for a bit. I took a few Kiskadee pictures to fill up the time as I was not terribly optimistic about finding this bird. Just then, a small bird flew into a shrub 50 feet from me. A quick binoc view revealed it to a seedeater! Incredible! I reached for the camera and POOF - gone. I called Carlos over, and we relocated the bird in the top of a tree not far from where I first saw it. I tried to get a photo, but a pesky brach got in the way. By hanging around a bit longer, I was afforded a few more but equally brief view of the seedeater. At one point it did sit still long enough for me to grab a few usable frames.

Out-of-focus seedeater behind Couch's Kingbird

Carlos managed a better shot of it so I used his 
as a supplement to mine

White-collared seedeater for #593!
With patience, I was able finally able to get a decent shot!

This is what non-breedng males, female, and immatures generally look like.

Seedeater habitat in North Central Park

This was a huge find today. This was the single bird for which I had come to this area. Seeing this bird at La Laja Ranch would have been all but guaranteed, but now all the pressure is off. I am going to spend the day birding the ranch tomorrow as it is a great birding area regardless. After I do that, it's onto Salineno and the Lower Valley!

Great kiskadee from today. One day
soon I'll get in good light.

Laredo hosts Carlos + Diana (and lowly me)

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