Thursday, December 11, 2014

Dec 11 (Day 345) - Fun and good birds at Sabal Palms

With the addition of Ferruginous pygmy-owl two days ago, I exhausted the birds I could realistically expect to add here in the LRGV. As I do not need to race north up the Texas coast just yet, I could afford to kick around the area for a few more days. Maybe I'd find something incredible. Maybe someone would find something incredible for me. Yesterday I checked out Resaca de la Palma State Park north of Brownsville. Today I headed south of the city for a day of birding Sabal Palms.

23 miles of riding + ~5 miles of leisurely walking at Sabal Palms

Sabal Palms Sanctuary is about as far south as one can go in Texas. It sits right on the border, and it has some very unique tropical-type habitat. I visited the sanctuary on my 2008 Texas trip so I knew basically what to expect. Barring the appearance of some mega rarity (Golden-crowned warbler, White-throated thrush, e.g.), today would be a relaxing day of birding in this unique setting. Birding in here is really tough since the foliage is so thick.

I was actually able to tease out 3 very good birds from the many large feeding flocks that I encountered today. The first of these was yet another (the 3rd for the last week) Tropical parula. It took me a while to tick the first, staked-out bird, but since then I've found 2 in the last two days! The second notable bird was a Black-throated gray warbler that afforded me brief but diagnostic views through the thick foliage. Small numbers of these winter in the LRGV, but it's probably only two handfuls or so are found each year. Lastly, I found another western warbler, a Townsend's warbler, for the best bird of the day. Only a few of these surface in the LRGV most years; Some years none are found. As I expected none of these 3, finding each of them was fun and exciting. There were lots of warblers present today. I am sure there were more goodies hidden in there somewhere. I am going to return to Sabal tomorrow before I head north to Harlingen for the night. Who knows what will surface. The warbler list for the day is sort of odd since there are eastern, western, and southern species represented. 

Nashville warbler - 49% of total warblers. Dozens everywhere
Orange-crowned warbler - 49% of total warblers. Dozens everywhere
Common yellowthroat - 5?
Black-throated green warbler - 2
Black-and-white warbler - 4?
Yellow-rumped warbler - 1
Wilson's warbler - 1
Ovenbird - 1
Yellow-throated warbler - 1
Tropical parula - 1
Black-throated gray warbler -1
Townsend's warbler -1

Yellow-throated warbler from today

Townsend's warbler from today

Tropical parula from Resaca SP yesterday.
It was quite far off.

I also spent a few minutes in the Sabal butterfly garden (I can see Sonia's head about to explode). I snapped a few quick pics. Photographing these is so easy that my life/photo list is going to be one and the same. I did not take pics of everything, but here are a few. I'll need to get a butterfly book so I can figure out who is who and who is related to who. I know NOTHING at this stage. I have included a few from yesterday as well since I only today got around to downloading them. I am curious about how people list butterflies. Does seeing the caterpillar count on the butterfly list? I doubt I will get into listing butterflies, I am just curious as to the conventions. I'd get into butterfly photography before I got into listing them, but I'd want to know what I was shooting nonetheless.

iPhone today

iPhone today

iPhone today

Red admiral(?) from yesterday with real camera

Real camera today

Real camera today. This guy was really pretty.

The Canon 400mm f/5.6 lens is a TERRIBLE lens for butterfly photography since its minimum focusing distance (MFD) is 11.5 feet. The iPhone shots are taken from very close (less than 1 foot). This is why the iPhone shots look just as good if not better than shots taken with the "real camera". The new 100-400 f/4-5.6 would be idea with a MFD of 3.5 feet (older version MFD is @6 feet if I remember correctly).


  1. The last butterfly is a Zebra Haliconian.

  2. This post is starting to look dangerously close to an eBird checklist!

  3. Dorian,

    I like the "through binoculars" series. They make sense for birders sesince we generally have binoculars with us:

    There's also a West edition and the dragonflies versions. I have em' all and think their fantastic. I've also got Kaufmans but it can be overwhelming and in some cases (frittilaries anyone...) is quite hard to use. It's a pretty good all around head first guide though.

    As for listing.... Dude don't be a weirdo... They're butterflies.

  4. One of my favorite butterfly and moth websites is this one:
    It's really pretty good for IDing and has lots of info and data.

  5. If you don't eBird, do you use any other birding… "media", to get out word of any of the rare species you're seeing? (I'm sure some birders near Sabal Palm may want to hear about some of those warblers)

    1. Yes! I told the LRGV rare bird administrator so word could be put out.

  6. Yeah, time for payback man.

  7. Dorian, I know you're a scientist, but I have to question your math skills! If the NAWA and OCWA are each 49% of the warblers, then all others combined represent 2%. Your count of the other warblers is 18. If 2% is 18, then 100% is 900 warblers. 900 less 18 is 882. Which means about 440 individuals each for NAWA and OCWA. But you only listed seeing dozens everywhere. I suspected you weren't perfect, but it took awhile to find the weak link. You're welcome, Sonia. It's still great fun reading your blog every day. Enjoy the remainder of the year. Henry

  8. I try to identify every creature I see, whether it be bird, insect, fish, etc... Result is I have a bird list, butterfly list, fly list, etc... I have a caterpillar list separate from my moth and butterfly lists, but I have a way of denoting if it is a species I've already seen in adult form so that if I am totaling my species, I don't double dip. I can absolutely see you starting a butterfly list. As you've seen, when the new birds are slow, those other creatures are awfully tempting. And you like to identify and keep track of what you see. Isn't that listing?? :)