Monday, December 22, 2014

Dec 22 (Day 356) A long but pleasant ride capped off with Harris's sparrow!

I will confess that I had an ulterior motive for spending the last two nights in Freeport. Two of my very closest birding friends, Victor Emanuel and Barry "The Body" Lyon, were it town for the Freeport Xmas count. Not only have I have I been close friends with the both of them for 25 years, but they and their affiliate, Victor Emanuel Nature Tours (VENT), have been incredibly supportive of my efforts this year. You will recall VENT put up the $2,500 for our first match event of the year. Ultimately this helped us to raise close to $9,000 during the 2 week match period. So, when Victor and Barry offered me the pullout couch in their hotel room for the last two nights, I took it without a second thought. I had a really nice time with the the last two days. Sometimes, even on big years, birding can be just as much about people as it can birds.

Barry, me, Victor

I departed just after this photo opportunity to tackle the first leg of the 320-mile, 4-day ride to Dallas and the Little gull(s). Today would take me 82 miles north to Brookshire. With temperatures in the mid 60's, light cloud cover, and a tail/cross wind for most of the day, today's ride was very pleasant. My destination was a ranch just north of Brookshire. The rancher, Harvey Laas, is an avid birder and blog follower. He contacted me several weeks ago and told me that he always has Harris's sparrows on his feeders by mid-December. I therefore arranged to spend tonight at the ranch. Within 10 minutes of my arrival, we had found 3 Harris's sparrows! Year bird #613 could not have been easier! I had nice looks at these birds as they feed with White-crowned, White-throated, Song, Lincoln's, and Fox sparrows. I also had Vesper and Savannah sparrows on on our walk. Harvey has actually recorded 247 species on his 1,600 acre property in the last 7 years. This place really is a birding goldmine. We spent a the last hour or so of the day birding around the property. A checklist of what we found can he seen here (44 species). Not bad for a trot in the yard!

Year bird #613 - Harris's sparrow. More than
1 bird might be represented in these photos.

During my ride, I was informed that a Fork-tailed flycatcher had appeared on Galveston Island today at 1pm. I am not going to chose this bird. I had already put down 70 miles towards Dallas when I heard about this bird. This bird would require that I backtrack those exact 70 miles and then ride an additional 40 northeast to Galveston. I would not make it to Galveston until tomorrow afternoon. There is also this huge front with associated huge winds moving through tomorrow, so I highly doubt the bird will stay put. I would then have to turn around and ride over those same 110 miles to get back here over the next 2-3 days. The point is that this bird would coast me at least 3-4 full days (and I would have missed Harris's sparrow today). I am much better off making progress towards the Little gull. I will hopefully have a few days to look for Smith's longspur north of Dallas irrespective of how the gull search ultimately goes. Gambling my ability to find possibly find 2 birds for a long shot at 1 (with 2X more riding) is not a good idea. In this last week, time is the most precious thing I have. I need to use it to ride towards the maximum number of potential new birds, not the sexiest single bird.

82 miles after the run down the long driveway!

The next two days are going to be a big headache because of big north winds. I figured that the ~320-mile transit from Lake Jackson to Dallas would take 4 days of moderately heavy riding. I did what I needed to today, but the weather the next two days is likely going to add full day to the Dallas run. The wind is going to build from 5 MPH at 7PM to 22 MPH by noon. I should have a 4-hour window in which to cover at least some ground. I should be able to make it the 36 miles to Navasota before it gets really bad. Wednesday will also have big north winds. I hope to make it to Hearne, 44 miles beyond Navasota, on this day. Basically the wind is forcing a split of what should be a 1-day, 80-mile ride to Hearne into 2 half days. The winds should shift to the south again on Thursday. I hope to ride ~92 miles to Corsicana on that day. This would leave me 60 miles to the Little gull spot. I could cover this on more south winds on Friday morning. That afternoon could then be used to search for the gull. So........I need at least one of the apparently 2 Little gulls to stay until Friday afternoon. 

Who nose if the Little gull will stay put?!?!?

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm. On the other hand, the north wind would aid the ride south towards the Fork-tailed Flycatcher, and since you're splitting the ride north anyway you could make some southbound progress and turn around in the absence of positive reports, with still enough time/energy to reach Navasota. In this way, you could downsize the Fork-tailed Risk to 0 or 1 extra days until you have definite word on it tomorrow. I mean, if the bird is sticking it would be easier to snag this bird than to continue on to Shreveport for Smith's Longspur right?