|Pyrrhuloxia, Lake Arrowhead SP, 12/23/2016|
Photo courtesy of Debra Halter
Debra Halter and June McKee were birding at Lake Arrowhead SP and saw this pyrruhloxia. It looks much like a female cardinal, but it is more of a grayish color and is dark gray/black around the beak and eyes. Debra kindly posted her photo to the North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club Facebook page, with a good description of where they saw the bird.
It was late in the day when I saw the post, so I decided I would give it a try to find the bird the next day. I had an previous opportunity to get this bird when I was showing a group of birders from Houston around the area, and we were at Copper Breaks State Park a few years ago. Several of them saw the pyrruhloxia--I did not. I heard it, but I don't count a first-time bird unless I see it well enough to be able to identify it.
I told my husband I was going out to try to find a lifer. The last time he went with me was a couple of years ago when he went with me on New Year's Eve (when we didn't find) and New Year's Day (when we did find) a whooping crane that had been sighted out around Electra. He didn't know about a lifer, and he didn't think people would actually spend time out beating the bushes for one--until he saw how many people were out trying to get a glimpse of the whooping crane.
Even though this bird wasn't in an isolated area, he decided he would go with me, so Christmas Eve found us at Lake Arrowhead State Park, trying to find this bird. Birds will often stay in one area for awhile, if they find the type of habitat they like. We walked all through the general area Debra had described, with no luck. I finally spied what I thought would be perfect habitat for this bird and decided to give it a thorough look. And, there it was! My husband didn't see it, but he was on the opposite side of the area. I got a good look, but couldn't find it again for him. He's not a birder, so he wasn't heartbroken. But it would have been nice for him to see it too. Overall, it took us about 45 minutes to find the bird, so not bad at all. We did see a few other birds during our walk: eastern phoebe, European starling, Northern mockingbird, American coot, pied-billed grebe, double-crested cormorant, red-winged blackbird, ladder-backed woodpecker, yellow-shafted northern flicker, ruby-crowned kinglet, northern cardinal, Cooper's hawk, northern harrier, black vukture. Not bad for 45 minutes.