Who are we? We are our stories.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Another Bunting Outing

The morning started out cool and dew-drenched as we headed to Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen to hopefully get a better look at their immature male Blue Bunting. I think as the season has gone on this bird is slowly losing the brown of an immature bird - getting bluer. (And again, this is not an Indigo Bunting, it is a larger, bluer and much rarer bird). No matter, bird or not, there was breaking sun and the forecast was for warmer. 

I really hate taking photos of birds on artifical feeders, but sometimes to see the bird you just have to bite the bullet, sit down with a view of a feeding station and wait. So we settled our backsides down to try to warm up some night-chilled rock benches. And waited. The weather was sunny and warming, and we found a couple of rocks beside John and Ed, winter birders we have known for a few years.  The rumor was that the Bunting had been sighted earlier and left, but we were hopefully - it seemed just a matter of time. John and I were talking birds, climate, floods, violent weather, etc. After an hour or more, Ed said he needed to pee off his morning coffee and he walked off to find the restroom. Whereupon John said, "When Ed gets back let's all say the bird showed up while he was gone." As if on cue, as if by magic, the bird immediately appeared on the far feeder. Lorna, John and I got as many photos as we wanted. click, click, click, click.

The sunlight and shadow contrast was a little harsh, the bird was at some distance, but damn! it was a Blue Bunting out in plain view!  Eventually it left ... and Ed returned. 

 May your life have warm sunshine and Blue Buntings, - Gunnar

Monday, January 29, 2018

Owl In the Wind

It is a positively gorgeous day - though a little windy. Actually it is quite windy, which honestly is pretty typical for The Valley. We spent the morning at Estero Llano wandering around talking to friends and watching the hummingbird banding. There are half a dozen species here. I think they only caught Buff-bellied or Black-chinned. Whatever, they caught three - actually only two because one not so bright Black-chinned did not get enough stress the first time and came back for more.

Here is a sleepy Great-horned Owl we saw half-napping in a high palm. 

That's all I got, except an Abbey Dubbel for later. (If you do not know what that is, we do not have anything else to discuss. ;-)  - Gunnar

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Birding: Long Periods of Boredom

... punctuated by moments of excitement. 

Or not. We were out this morning to try again for the Rose-throated Becard at Santa Ana. There was a rotating group of half a dozen people staring hopefully into the high greenery of the trees where it was last seen. People came, people left, more came to take their place. Nothing. 

After a couple of hours we threw in the towel and decided to walk the long way around Willow Lake. More nothing birdwise, but the weather was sweet and it was a beautiful walk surrounded by curtains of Spanish Moss hanging all the way to the ground. 

Earlier we had met a gentleman who takes videos of birds and he was looking for a Winter Wren. Lorna directed him to a location to where she had seen and photographed the Wren, which is apparently rare this far south. When we approached the area from the back side the guy was there with has camera trained into the low brush over the water. He gave her a big smile and a thumbs up. Alas, the bird did not show again, though he was quite excited when she showed him a link to her photos on her cellphone. He was of the opinion that if she submitted them to eBird at Cornell University the course of ornithological science would be changed forever and she would possibly become world famous. Or something to that effect. He did not seem to grasp that world fame was not only not a goal, but would be a living nightmare to an introverted person. 

By then it was early afternoon and my stomach had been discussing lunch for some time - here's some pictures I shot on the way back to the truck. 

Great water edges, eh?

Lunch was good. Next, a nap. - Gunnar

Friday, January 26, 2018

Wasted Days

Baldemar Garza Huerta, aka Freddy Fender. Freddy had a hit with Wasted Days early in his career, then a serious bump - three years in Angola Prison for possession of marijuana. After he got out he released The Next Teardrop. He charted a couple of dozen songs on the Country, Spanish and Pop charts. And he was one soulful hombre.

Each time we drive down to South Padre or Brownsville we pass the San Benito water tower. And most times either Wasted Days or Teardrops gets punched into my memory replay jukebox.

If you have to have an earworm it could be much worse than Teardrops.

Thanks for the earworm? You are welcome. - Gunnar

One Of Those Days

We went down to Santa Ana NWR this morning hoping for a look at a Rose-throated Becard. A very long shot. I have photographed a female Becard, never a male. Still haven't. Another no shot. 

There are always Least Grebes at Santa Ana, so regular that I have a tendacy to ignore them. I should not. At 4 ounces, they are our smallest waterfowl, and they can only be seen in a handful of places in the Lower Rio Grande Valley in all of the U.S. 

(crop of above)

A Common Yellowthroat was hopping through the bullrushes and brush along the shore of Willow Lake. I took half a dozen photos through the bullrushes, tack-sharp focused on the tail end of a little bird. Eventually he came out for three hops and I got one shot before he disappeared back in the reeds. Lorna did better.

"One subspecies of Common Yellowthroat is a year-round resident in the Rio Grande river delta in Texas. These yellowthroats are not only territorial among themselves, but they also keep migrant yellowthroats of other races completely out of their habitat." - Cornell Lab

And a group shot of various headless water birds.

Later we drove the south road from Santa Ana to Estero Llano Park where I took even fewer photos. Okay, mostly I wandered around awhile trying to get a pic of a Great Horned Owl buried in the fronds on the top of a palm tree and keeping one eye open for a Hammond's Flycatcher or a Tropical Parula. Then I sat down on a bench to talk to old friends and new strangers for a couple of hours. Again, Lorna did better.

Wasted days (and wasted nights?) - Gunnar

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Blue Bunting

We went over to Quinta Mazatlan at McAllen this morning to see if we could get looks at the Blue Bunting which has been sighted there. Not a life bird for us, but still quite rare. It is a first year male, not completely blue yet, but apparently getting bluer as the season goes on. As we were paying a entry fee at the front desk we bumped into friends who had already seen it. They directed us to the seed feeder where they had sighted it. The feeder was at a distance so the photo is cropped quite a bit. Maybe next time I can get a little closer. There is always a next time.

We paid the Quinta daily fee and looked for the bird for about half an hour. The bird showed up, we took some photos, the bird left, it started to rain. We left.  A rare bird - it took about an hour, parking lot to parking lot.

Am I blue? Am I blue? Ain't these tears in my eyes telling you? - Gunnar Berg (and Billy Holiday)

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

National Butterfly Center Misc

Audubon Oriole (sometimes the bird will not cooperate)

Painted Bunting

Photos taken today at the National Butterfly Center south of Mission, Texas. The colors are so intense they don't even look real. I have seen female and/or immature Painted Buntings, but this is the first time I have seen a mature male, so I'm counting it as "life bird" on my none-list. My game, I make the rules.

Blinded by the color, but it was worth it - Gunnar

Monday, January 22, 2018

Estero Llano

Snowy Egret

Immature female(?) Ruby-throated ... or Black-chinned(?) Hummingbird. 
Lesser Goldfinch

Texas Spiny Softshell Turtle
- Gunnar

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Monday, January 15, 2018

Group Shots

... and a Black-capped Titmouse.

We drove down to Santa Ana NWR early this morning. Lorna went out with the organized "bird walk". There were about a dozen people - not my cup of tea, so I wandered off by myself. 

There were large flocks of waterfowl at Willow Lake, virtually nothing at Pintail Lake. There was nothing special today, unless you count the Least Grebes, a Mexican species who's range only creeps into the far south tip of Texas. 

Least Grebes

After I was back on a bench waiting for Lorna. a group of women from Dallas came by reporting a male Rose-throated Becard. I considered going back out to find it, but by then I was hurting a little. I probably should have, I seem to have a relationship with the species. 

A REAL birder would have sucked it up. - Gunnar, 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Snowy Egret

I don't know what to say about this set. The bird was in front of me, I had a camera, the bird flew and bang, bang, bang, I shot pictures.

- Gunnar

Surprise Bird!

Some birds are rare simply because there not many of them, but most are rare because of their location - they are somewhere they should not be.  For instance one of the "rare" birds at Estero Llano Park this year is a Common Grackle, the first Common Grackle sighted in the park in ten years. Well, rare or not, I ain't chasin' no damned blackbird.

So I took a picture (or six) of an Orange-crowned Warbler, a very common winter bird here.

A while later a handful of Clay-colored Thrushes showed up at the drip I was monitoring.

Then with the Clay-colors, a rare south Texas visitor - an American Robin!

Straight out of Oakwood - Gunnar

Friday, January 12, 2018

A Walk Around Quinta Mazatlan

... and McAllen Nature Center. Killing time while the apartment was being cleaned. ;-)

Curved-billed Thrasher. Note the leg band.

Green Jay

Clay-colored Thrush
Weather report: a pleasant day - began a bit cool, warmed up into the sweet zone without the high winds of yesterday.   - Gunnar