Wednesday, March 2, 2011
It is Wednesday, and I just could not wait any longer for a photo of a yellow-faced grassquit to be emailed to me, so I am doing this blog update now. As I said in my previous post, last week I was heading down to Austin, TX to visit friends. I knew that a yellow-faced grassquit, a bird native to Mexico, had been seen almost daily throughout February at Goose Island SP, which is near Aransas NWR. I had my fingers crossed that it would still be there this past Sunday. Sure enough, it was reported on Friday and Saturday, so I made the 180 mile one-way drive down from Austin Sunday.
I arrived about 2:30 PM to find several birders patiently waiting for the bird to make a showing which had not happened yet for the day. It was pretty windy, so that might have had some affect on the bird. The field and clay-colored sparrows that it had been seen with were about, and then after about 30 minutes the call went up, "it's over here". We all scrambled to get in position to check it out. Over the next hour it made random appearances.
I tried to get a photo with my camera, but could only manage poor "record shots". But there was a birder/photographer, Victor Luna, that I had met several times last year while doing my big year. Most recently I had seen him in northern CA when I was looking for the brown shrike. I gave him my email address and asked him to send me a photo. He said he could get it to me by yesterday, but it has not arrived--bummer. The yellow-faced grassquit is one sharp looking little guy--sparrow sized, green backed with 2 striking yellow lines above its eyes and a forking yellow chin patch all radiating out from its beak. This bird at Goose Island is only the 3rd confirmed sighting of a yellow-faced grassquit in Texas.
I will still keep my fingers crossed that Victor will get me the photo so that I can add it to the blog, but for now the bottom photo above is of campsite #218 where the bird has been most frequently seen. The top photo is of a whooping crane I took last year at Aransas NWR (double click on it to enlarge). The middle photo is of sandhill cranes--several flew over me at one point as I was driving.
While looking for the grassquit, I ran into Sue Clark, a birder I had seen a few times last year also. It turns out that she is going to be on a raft trip in June with me and 6 others up in the Arctic NWR to see what arctic breeding birds we might find. I will be blogging about that trip at the end of June. In the mean time I am heading up to New England next week to visit family and friends. Maybe another rarity will be found that I can go check out. Stay tuned!