Monday, December 15, 2014

Dec 15 (Day 349) - Whoop, there it is!

Those well-versed in 90's hip hop should immediate recognize the reference in the title. Those lacking rap knowledge might want to check this out so that we are all on the same page. Anyone in his/her mid 30s should recognize this song from any middle or high school dance he/she ever attended. Although the track is called "Whoomp! (There it is)", it actually sounds more like "Whoop! (There it is)". When I found the first Whooping cranes of the day, I could not help but think "Whoop - There it is!". Finding the cranes today was very straightforward. I biked the ~9 miles from Rockport, TX to Goose Island. I immediately headed for the "Big Tree", a very large and ancient oak that guards a particular field that the Whooping cranes frequent. When I rolled up there were 2 adults and a young crane foraging in this field. I was also able to locate 3 additional crane pairs in the surrounding marsh for a total of 9 birds. Year bird #611 could not have been easier. The 3 in the field eventually flew off but were instantly replaced by 4 of the birds from the marsh. It was really cool to see the birds in flight today! I have only ever seen these from a large distance. Today was the best look I have ever has at these incredibly beautiful and magnificent birds. For the curious among you, an eBird checklist of my Big Tree visit is available here.

56 miles + 3 horsing around and eating in Port Lavaca for 59 total

Original 3 Whooping cranes in field (Sandhills on left edge)
Year bird #611!

Orignal 3 flying off

The 4 replacements coming in!

After the cranes I started the ride north to Port Lavaca. I was rolling through a particularly flat, exclusively agricultural area when I heard a quick "think, think" from a bird I flushed along the road. I turned to see what I assumed was A Sprague's pipit land not 25 yards out into one of the fields. I stopped, put the camera together, and spent the next few minutes chasing the bird around. I got decent views of this bird. These "on-ground" looks were better than the flight views I got of this species in New Mexico. This was a really nice roadside find today. A bit further down the road I made a stop at the Guadalupe Delta for a bit of birding. It was the usual marsh stuff, nothing species. Checklist can be found here. I made one more birding stop at Fishing Pier Park once I reached Port Lavaca. American oystercatcher and Least sandpiper headlined this short checklist. I will confess that the eBird thing is already quite addictive! With the very short days at this time of year, I have lots of time to mess around with it right now.

Sprague's pipit - white eye ring, bright pink legs!

Tomorrow is the big flamingo chase! It looks as though the wind is going to cooperate to at least some degree. I am being met by a local birder tomorrow morning. We will then kayak the 4 miles out and return to search for the birds. This same local birder saw the birds on Saturday in this same area. Hopefully they are still present....

Now, this part will take a bit of explanation. There are actually two flamingos that have been hanging out together on the Texas coast for the last few years. The first of these birds is a wild American flamingo that was banded in 2005 as a juvenile at Ria Lagartos Reserve on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. This bird is affectionately known by the letters on his yellow leg-band, "HDNT". People have hypothesized that this bird was carried around/across the Gulf of Mexico by a tropical storm or hurricane. This is a 100% wild bird and as such is completely countable. The second bird is an Old World Greater flamingo that managed to escape from the Sedgewick County Zoo in Wichita, Kansas on June 27, 2005. As this is a known escaped bird, it is not countable. This bird wears yellow leg-band "492". What is really mind-boggling is how these 2 needles in the proverbial haystack found one another. They are apparently now best friends as they are always seen in each other's company. They seem to roam up and down the Texas Coast, but they return periodically to the Port Lavaca area where they are only accessible by boat. Where they go when they aren't here is not known. Here is a photo of the two birds taken by Bob Friedrichs last year.

Left: Dark pink, wild, countable, American Flamingo HDNT
Right: Light pink, escaped, not countable, Greater flamingo 492

Tomorrow is going to really exciting as we look for these birds!


  1. Someone incidentally reported a Black-legged Kittiwake today, on the Birdforum ID threads:

    I don't know how chaseable it would be, or any more details, but something to keep in mind.. I've messaged him to ask for any more details.

    1. Here's the info he sent back: near the end of the dike
      click on the view map under this photo

  2. Ebirding will be part of your daily routine after you get a bit more time in the evenings. I use it for research, and if nothing else just to document when I saw, and when so others can do similar research. I'm doing the CBC out in Ventura County this weekend and using it to research the target species really works well. I'm sure you're aware of the new TARGET SPECIES feature which would be a huge benefit had you already input all your findings for the year. Either way, good luck on the flamingo. I'm hoping you get at least one more unexpected rarity this month.

  3. Confess it! You've had today's blog post title ready for several days, right? Congratulations on getting the whooper.

  4. so glad you are using ebird! i knew that was gonna be the title of this! I will say that ebird frowns upon the used of X instead of an educated estimate. From my knowledge the X's are omitted from the scientific part of ebird as it could represent 1 bird or a million birds you seen. So always just make at least a rough guess!

  5. In life some have regrets, as I have had many thoughts of googling your bike plate just to see who this man was I saw at the Texaco in Sargent Texas. I sat in my truck after saying hi have a great day, thinking I wish I wasn't so shy, I could ask what he is doing here biking for birds? Now I see , my regrets are even worse. I could've made your day & you would've had better to say about Sargent. We are known for a lot of history and for our hard woods along the Texas Gulf Coast. Few years back I saw a man the reminded me of Ms. Jane on the Beverly Hillbillies, I asked what he was doing here, he was bird counting for the San Bernard Christmas Bird Count, I told him he could go look at my place, The Desiderata, I gave him a key & few days later I received a letter. He had spotted 12 out 25, there were 2 that were only on my place, & 1, Northern Parula sighted only in the early 90's that was here. I've always been excited about birds, nature, & outdoors of any kind.Thank you for your blog it is very interesting & inspiring. If you ever make it back to Sargent please just ask anyone to call Lara, it would be a great pleasure to have you come take a look see.