Posted by: jasonbojczyk | 30 August 2014

Rainy Recap

Today’s Count: 1

Osprey-1

Additional Raptors Seen:

Black Vulture-4

Turkey Vulture-7

Cooper’s Hawk-1

While these last 4 days (including today) have been slow for raptors with just 6 birds, that hasn’t been the reason for a lack of posts.  Errand-running has been a part of it, but mainly it’s been the lack of a solid internet connection until today.  I’ll provide some of the highlights of each day.

8-27 (Wednesday)

Raptors were quite slow with the strong east winds.  There was a lot of free time to scan the bay hoping something would get blown in from the storm cells all up and down the coast.  An early jaeger would have been quite nice.  The closest I got to that was a distant Black Tern but it’s nice to know that at least something did turn up from this-a Brown Booby in Matagorda Bay.  Cattle Egrets were in similar numbers as the day before and all of the flycatchers from the day before, save Alder, were seen this day.  The highlight of the day came in the form of a mammal:

Bobcat

Bobcat

Bobcat

Bobcat

Bobcat

Bobcat

 

8-28 (Thursday)

It rained the whole day, resulting in no count being conducted. So that just resulted in more time being spent in other areas at Smith Point, mainly Robbins Park.  The rains brought in a fair number of species in numbers this day, which have been present here ever since. This included 15 Black-bellied Plovers, 10 Semipalmated Plovers, 26 American Oystercatchers, at least 80 Ruddy Turnstones, 12 Sanderlings, at least 60 Least Sandpipers, and 24 Black Skimmers. The highlight of the day for me was seeing my first Mottled Duck at Smith Point.

Mottled Duck

Mottled Duck

Nine of the day's twenty-six American Oystercatchers

Nine of the day’s twenty-six American Oystercatchers

American Oystercatcher

American Oystercatcher

Always a stunner-Black-bellied Plover

Always a stunner-Black-bellied Plover (with Ruddy Turnstone in background)

Lots of shorebirds were bathing, including this Ruddy Turnstone. It was a good day to observe birds closely and interesting to see how the Turnstone split its toes, one above and below the bill, to itch

Lots of shorebirds were bathing, including this Ruddy Turnstone. It was a good day to observe birds closely and interesting to see how the Turnstone split its toes, one above and below the bill, to itch

A typical seen at Robbins Park right now-Forster's Tern (far left), White Ibis, Laughing Gulls, and Black Skimmers

A typical seen at Robbins Park right now-Forster’s Tern (far left), White Ibis, Laughing Gulls, and Black Skimmers

 

8-29 (Friday)

Another day with poor weather for raptors. Weather measurements are taken on the half-hour and so I wanted to get the first weather measurements at 8:30 before I went down the tower to avoid the rain that was coming on the radar. It was 8:27. Big mistake! I could see and hear the rain hit hard in the bay and knew I was in for a wet time. It was more than that though. I made it down to the lower level in the least rainy spot, but still getting drenched. Very strong winds were blowing the rain near horizontal at times and the deck was just flooding with water. Then came the lightning. Stories like these are easily over-exaggerated, but I kid you not when I say that I am very surprised that neither the tower, nor the nearby mottes, got struck by lightning. It was so close and vertical, with the thunder the same exact time as the lightning. The rumbles could be felt rippling up the tower and into your chest. Pretty crazy. I didn’t care about getting soaked but I didn’t leave for 30 minutes because the lightning was so close. Eventually it just got too close that I had to run out and and get in my car as fast as I could. Of course, I was caught with my gear up there, but was fortunate to have my camera survive (in my slightly rain-resistant bag) and only have a minor circuit malfunction which has now been fixed. After the storm it was more rain for the next 45 minutes so I headed on over to Robbins Park, hoping for a rarity to drop in.

Gearin' up for a rarity hunt!

Gearin’ up for a rarity hunt!

Sure enough, a Piping Plover (pretty good Smith Point bird in the fall) dropped in, only to be trounced 15 minutes later by a single Boat-tailed Grackle. While it’s hard to tell for sure, there may be less than 10 days with this species documented at Smith Point. As with most days with heavy rains, Clapper Rails became even more obvious, with many throughout the area.

This Piping Plover was likely dropped in from the storms and wasn't seen today

This Piping Plover was likely dropped in from the storms and wasn’t seen today

This Boat-tailed Grackle was a nice bird for the point

This Boat-tailed Grackle was a nice bird for the point

Clapper Rail preening

Clapper Rail preening

 

It was among the most flooded I’ver ever seen Robbins Park, but all of this water had amazingly receded when I went back there after the count.

Flooding at RP

Flooding at RP

Flooding at RP

Flooding at RP

This part of the park had 3 feet of water and you can see that those large 'pipes' are well under water. Amazing that they were well visible just 5 hours later

This part of the park had 3 feet of water and you can see that those large ‘pipes’ are well under water. Amazing that they were well visible just 5 hours later

More thunderstorms approaching

More thunderstorms approaching

The high water levels at Jeri's Pond reduces the amount of birds present, but this doesn't help either and is the first time I've seen one there this fall. Watch out young BB Whistling Ducks!

The high water levels at Jeri’s Pond reduces the amount of birds present, but this doesn’t help either and is the first time I’ve seen one there this fall. Watch out young BB Whistling Ducks!

 

8-30 (Saturday)

Rain and storms threatened for most of the day but didn’t hit until 2 hours left in the count. Highlights from the tower included some Spoonbills, 41 Avocets, Upland Sandpipers, Gnatcatchers, a possible Selasphorus Hummingbird, 8 Cowbirds and a House Finch. The mottes were pretty active today with the highlights being 3 Great Crested Flycatchers, 2 Olive-sided Flycatchers, an Eastern Wood-Pewee, a Chuck-will’s-widow, 8 Mottled Ducks, 4 seemingly early Northern Shovelers, and at least 17 Red-eyed Vireos. The other interesting sighting from the tower were groups of ~140 and ~60 birds swirling on the horizon. At first they seemed like Laughing Gulls, then it seemed like Nighthawks as they got closer, but they ended up being Black Terns flycatching! It was very interesting, with wingbeats just like Nighthawks, and is something I’ve never seen before.

Robbins Park had continued great diversity with similar species as the past 2 days. Between the park and the tower both yesterday and today have resulted in every (regular) tern species but Gull-billed. Fifteen shorebird species were present yesterday and 16 today, with today’s highlight being the first 2 Semi/Western Sandpipers of the fall.

Non-avian highlights included this Common Buckeye and what appears to be a male Goatweed Leafwing.

Common Buckeye

Common Buckeye

Perhaps a Goatweed Leafwing

Perhaps a Goatweed Leafwing

Tomorrow and the rest of the week are looking similar to these past 4 days-a fair to good chance of rain or thunderstorms. Hopefully it’ll bring a rarity along with it as the raptors are likely to be low in numbers. However, they could open up in some breaks between this weather system, particularly if the winds are light. Thanks to all the wonderful visitors that have come out these past several days.

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