Posts from February, 2009

Amy’s 400th

Posted Feb 9th, 2009 at 7:50 am in Birding | Comments Off

Amy and I went birding this weekend with some acquaintances from Austin who’d come down to see the Ruddy Ground-Dove. Having found the dove on Friday evening, we made quite a day of Saturday, covering a wide area in and around San Angelo. We managed to take a few pictures along the way.

Our first stop was the South Unit of the San Angelo State Park, which was fairly uneventful. Moving on to the North Unit, we focused on sparrows along the river bottom. We had a lot of success and managed to find Vesper, Song, Lincoln’s, Fox, and best of all White-throated Sparrows.

After lunch, we headed out to an area known as the Lipan Flats, an agricultural area east of town where we hoped to find longspurs or a Merlin. The landscape is bleak (empty dirt fields as far as the eye can see), and therefore I don’t bird the place very often.

Lipan Flats

It wasn’t long before we got out there that we found a flock of Horned Larks and McCown’s Longspurs. Scanning the flock carefully, a picked out a single Lapland Lonspur in amidst this flock!

McCown's and Lapland Longspurs

It was a good thing that I had, because when we got back to the car and looked through Amy’s notes, we realized that the Wilson’s Snipe seen last weekend wasn’t a new bird for her after all. Thus she started the day at 398. McCown’s Longspur was 399 and Lapland 400. Even more surprising, when we got home and I checked my notes, I learned that I hadn’t seen Lapland Longspur either. Though I generally know exactly what I’ve seen and what I haven’t, I just completely overlooked this species, thinking I had already seen it in the Texas panhandle. So Amy’s 400th was also a new bird for me.

Amy and Jay celebrating Lapland Longspur

Our final destination was Middle Concho Park along the Concho River. We found this Pine Warbler, which was perhaps the best bird of the day. (Lapland Longspurs are probably here every year, just hard to find and see. Pine Warblers on the other hand are not. This was the first I’ve ever seen in west Texas.) Other highlights included this Rock Wren that was extremely cooperative for the camera.

Amy and I ended the day at Chili’s for a celebratory dinner. It was really unexpected and fun that her 400th bird was new for me as well.

399 and One To Go

Posted Feb 5th, 2009 at 8:37 am in Birding, Traveling About | 2 Comments

Last weekend, Amy and I went up to Abilene to be with my folks. We were able to do a little birding on Saturday morning at a local park that includes some of Lake Fort Phantom. I had recently given my dad an old camera of mine, and he happily took a few pictures.

One of the great joys of getting my wife into birding has been to experience things first hand all over again. I imagine this is a joy that any mentor or teacher feels. My wife has been steadily adding new birds here and there as we’ve travel about, and at the start of the day, she had seen 398 species. Not too shabby, though then again, she has a great personal guide. :)

One of the mythical creatures that has been eluding us all winter is Wilson’s Snipe. Yes, for you non-birders, there really is such a thing as a snipe. (I once had a reporter who simply would not believe that such a bird was real, even when I showed him pictures in a book. He was convinced that the whole thing was an elaborate hoax and he wasn’t going to fall for it.) Well, based on a good tip from my mom who’d just seen several at the park within the week, we finally caught up to the critters.

snipe

So now Amy needs just one more bird to hit 400.

In addition to the park, we stopped by the local landfill, where gulls by the thousands come in to feast on the endless buffet our trash provides. It came as a surprise to me that Abilene has two landfills, side by side, though apparently not managed by the same companies. One landfill let us right in and we happily scanned the gulls and ducks on several ponds. The other landfill wasn’t so accommodating, and the guy there informed me that if we’d been to the landfill next door, then there was nothing different for us to see at his landfill. I tried, very nicely, to explain that everything’s not the same and that we were in effect, looking for that needle in a haystack, the rare gull amongst the thousands of Ring-billed Gulls. Not buying it, and to back up his authority, he explained that he’d been here for 27 years and that “it’s all the same seagulls.”

What a dump!

Update, Feb 7, 2009

As we later realized, Amy has already seen Wilson’s Snipe. Several times in fact. That doesn’t deminish the enjoyment of the bird. And all’s well that end’s well.