2021-01-11 Quemado Roadside Birds

Northern Cardinal - Cardinalis cardinalis
I enjoy watching cardinals forage. Sometime capturing a great pose can surprise me. 

Less than two miles south from the small town of Quemado Texas, is a roadside rest stop, or picnic area, as Texas calls them. I found this location while on my first birding adventure in Texas. I met my first Carolina Wren and my first White-Eyed Vireo here in March 2020. The site is located between US-277 and a thick, thorny brush lined, water-filled ditch. On my way to Brownsville from the Del Rio area last Monday, I stopped for a second visit, this time in winter. I was pretty sure I’d find the wrens again, but I wasn’t sure about the rest of the bird crew.

Good-news, Bad news: When photographing birds in such a place, there are often a lot of birds to be found. That’s the good news. It can be a nightmare trying to capture images through the veil of tangled branches, twigs, and foliage. My method of dealing with this dilemma is to take a lot of shots. I know that most will fail at capturing the desired image, but occasionally the bird will provide a brief, but clear shot. Those we keep, and the others we discard.

I wasn’t surprised that the birds of winter here differed from those I met last spring, but the list from my winter stop included three birds that were probably here, but I didn’t see on my last visit. One bird I missed last visit was the Olive Sparrow. These birds aren’t much for migration, so I suspect my newness to Texas birds caused me to overlook them. The same is true for my second missed bird in spring, the Black-Crested Titmouse.

Morelet's Seedeater - Sporophila morelleti
I would have liked to have captured a better image of this first meeting with the seedeater. Between the thick tangles of branches and twigs, I wasn’t able to get a clear shot at this bird. 

The third bird I found on this visit was the White-Collared Seedeater. This bird threw me, as I’d never met one before, and it took me a bit of research to learn its identity. Adding to this dilemma, the bird was skittish and shy, and I wasn’t able to get good looks at it. It seemed smaller than the Lesser Goldfinch it reminded me of, but blacker above. But it was the bluntness of the bill that prevented me from including the goldfinch in my list of suspects. I retreated to my RV and thumbed through my old reliable Sibley’s guide to find its true identity. Since my guide is old, I like to check online references. There I learned that the old name no longer applied to this species. Science split the species in two; the Morelet’s Seedeater, and the Cinnamon-Rumped Seedeater. We find the Cinnamon-Rumped bird only on the western side of mainland Mexico, but the Morelet’s range was right for this part of Texas. The literature I found suggested their numbers are in decline here in southern Texas, so perhaps I was just lucky in finding this bird where I did.

The birds I encountered on this brief visit were Black-Crested Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Great Kiskadee, Hermit Thrush, Long-Billed Thrasher, Northern Cardinal, Northern Mockingbird, Olive Sparrow, Orange-Crowned Warbler, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Verdin, White-Collared Seedeater (now called Morelet’s Seedeater), and Yellow-Rumped Warbler (Myrtle).

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