Cassin's Sparrow - North of Winnie, Jefferson County, TX. April 22nd. This bird popped up along a fence on League Road (East of Rt 1406) road just North-west of Winnie on the last morning of our Birdfinders trip. We'd driven out there to follow-up a report of some good shorebird fields which turned out to be slightly less productive than hoped. However, whilst strolling along the road, this Cassin's Sparrow perched up on the fence long enough for me to take a few digibin images. Having seen quite a few of these during our trip in Southern and Central parts of the state I didn't get too 'excited' but referencing the 'Handbook of Texas Birds' by Lockwood & Freeman would suggest that a record this far East in Texas (Jefferson County) is worthy of note.
Seen on the recent and excellent Birdfinders spring tour of Texas, two Masked Ducks on Alligator Pond, Laguna Atascosa NWR. We showed up in late afternoon hoping to see a single Masked Duck that had been reported on periodic basis from tiny Alligator Pond. It was certainly a sweet moment two birds swam in to view and began consorting with each other with audible gasps and 'wows' from our assembled group. The birds also showed rather marked plumage differences, one being smaller, darker and more densely patterned than the larger paler breasted bird. I haven't been able to find out much information on the ages of Masked Ducks but it seems plausible that the smaller darker bird was an adult female and the larger, paler bird a first-year male. These birds put on a fine show contrary to their ultra-skulking reputation, and instantly became a strong candidate for bird of the trip.
Masked Ducks, Laguna Atascosa, Cameron Co., Texas. April 10th, 2009.