Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A Good Goatsucker Day

4/28/17

We started out pre-dawn this morning, picking up one of the summer-resident Lesser Nighthawks batting around the apartments while I waited for my charges.  We were the first ones at Estero Llano Grande State Park (we had an amusing discussion on the way regarding the “proper” pronunciation of “llano” J) and we headed straight into the Tropical Zone.  The normal players were tuning up (especially the Chachalacas), but we were focused on getting the target White-tipped Dove.  On the way I thought I’d try one more time to see if the McCall’s Screech Owl was sitting on his stump, and this time he certainly was!  Everyone had great scope looks at this little guy! 

"McCall's" Screech Owl

We then snuck over to the feeder area, where after a couple of minutes a big fat White-tipped Dove pranced out into the open!  Everyone appreciated his lavender neck, then we went to sit at the drip for about 15 minutes.  That actually turned up empty, so we headed back behind Ben Basham’s place, where a slow chattering led us to the property line with the camp and also revealed a young male Bullock’s Oriole!  After he flew, someone thought they had a female oriole out in the open, but it turned out to be a female Summer Tanager! 

From there we headed to the Visitor’s Center, getting a brief glimpse of the Beardless Tyrannulet as it fled a tree after calling very nicely, then padded the list at the deck, picking up more White-tipped Doves at the feeders, plus several Stilt Sandpipers and Long-billed Dowitchers, along with a male Wilson’s Phalarope.  We noticed some volunteers setting up some things and asked if some kidlets were on their way (yes – 90 eight and nine-year-olds!!!), so we chose that moment to head straight to Alligator Lake and the Pauraque!  A brief stop at Dowitcher Pond added some beautiful Avocets, plus a flyby Ringed Kingfisher that was not calling for once!

Enjoying birds from the deck

White-tipped Dove

With White-winged Dove on right

On the way three other guys followed at a distance (they admitted they were hoping we’d find the bird for them J), stopping to add a young Yellow-crowned Night Heron to the list at Grebe Marsh, and a pair of Green Herons at Alligator Lake.  Approaching the Pauraque spot, I could see right away that he wasn’t where he was “supposed” to be, so I recruited the three guys to start looking as well!  Before long the “Pauraque Whisperer” himself, Huck Hutchins, arrived with a couple who had yet to see it for the year, so after checking the back side of the “island” without success, we went to a spot at the foot of the ramp to the overlook, and there he was, being harassed by the Crazy Ants!  (We even saw him get up and run, trying to shake them off, before returning to his spot!)  Everyone took their time enjoying this cryptic bird before we retreated to the overlook, where a Belted Kingfisher came sailing in with what looked like a crab.  I had just gotten the scope on her before she took off, but what should come in from the opposite direction but the Ringed Kingfisher!  She sailed out of sight, so after checking off the Osprey on the power pole (Huck teased me for still calling then “telephone poles” when there really isn’t any such thing anymore), we headed back to the next gap in the vegetation, and there was the Ringed perched in a tree, giving great (albeit in the sun) looks!  Huck found a Tricolored Heron hidden in the vegetation which we all enjoyed as well.  On the way out an adult Yellow-crowned Night Heron had joined the youngster at Grebe Marsh, and he was certainly a hit!

Huck looks for the elusive Pauraque...

...and finds him in a totally different spot!

Happy birders enjoying the sight!


Huck supervises Bill's digiscoping session while Evan evidently spots something right behind me!

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Gang enjoying the heron

A text had come over the LRGV RBA about Hudsonian Godwits and a Sprague’s Pipit at Weaver Road Sod Farms, so the gang was game for that!  Heading east, we made a quick stop at the “Rangerville Resaca” and had several pretty Wilson’s Phalaropes amongst the stilts and other sandpipers.  Dickcissels sang in the fields on the way to Weaver Road, and once on the road itself, one of Linda A’s “most wanted” birds landed on the road in front of us – a stunning Horned Lark!  As we got to where the birds were hanging out, we found American Golden Plovers and Long-billed Dowitchers easily enough, plus a few Pectoral Sandpipers further out, but Linda was still gushing over all the Horned Larks! J  Another birder (who turned out to be my friend Tammie) was out looking, but couldn’t find any godwits, and before long a third car pulled up with fellow Birder Patroller Norma and her long-suffering hubby David!  As it turned out, Linda M. had contacted Norma for a bird walk around Hugh Ramsey over the weekend, as she had met her at the Tucson Birding Festival, where Linda and Bill are from, and where Norma et al had promoted our own LRGV Birding Festival!  Small world! J

Pretty female Wilson's Phalaropes at the "Rangerville Resaca"


Looking for "grasspipers' at the Weaver Road Sod Farms

Due to all the socializing I was having a hard time getting everyone on their life Buff-breasted Sandpipers J, but they all eventually had good looks, but still no sign of the godwits and/or pipit.  Despite the wind and heat the gang was up for one more stop before heading home after the morning shift, so we shot north to Tiocano Lake, where we took our lives in our hands and hiked down the road, getting stupendous views of several Roseate Spoonbills and a couple of pairs of Gull-billed Terns!  A Pied-billed Grebe sang, but the King Rails were absolutely silent.

Snoozing Roseate Spoonbill

Non-snoozing spoonbill...

We headed back to the Inn after that for siesta, planning on meeting at 4:30 for some road-birding to take us to sunset.  Siesta was interrupted, however, when my friend Pat called announcing that she had a Chuck-will’s-widow in her yard!  I called Linda M., and before long we three girls were taking a short hike down to Pat’s (the guys took a rain check), where she guided us to the back porch, and we got a wonderful view of a bird I normally only see when I flush it!  Linda A. also used the opportunity to show us a picture of a bird she photographed at Weaver Road that turned out to be a Grasshopper Sparrow!

Terrible shot of Pat's Chuck-will's-widow through her screen...

After a nice chat with Pat (and spotting a female Painted Bunting coming in to her drip) we headed back, then once again hit the road at 5:00 for some road-birding.  The gang wanted to come back early, so we headed for Wallace Road, where not too far into the ag fields we had several Dickcissels singing, and got good looks at one sitting up!  (Several were singing closer, but with the wind they were remaining hidden…)  A White-tailed Kite drifted over at one point, and in the nice thornscrub habitat a Painted Bunting sang and eventually came out and gave great views!  Nearby some Indigo Buntings sat on the fence, but they were more shy; more cooperative was a pair of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers that posed for multiple pictures!  Invisible but calling in the distance were Bobwhites and a single Groove-billed Ani.

Looking for Painted Buntings along Wallace Road

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

We soon reached the wetlands, which thankfully truly were wet (sometimes the area can be bone dry)!  Both grebes were calling, but about all we saw were gallinules and coots.  At one point I heard a Fulvous Whistling Duck, but only Blackbellies showed themselves (there was a lot of vegetation blocking the views).  In the big wetland were groups of Cattle Egrets and Neotropic Cormorants roosting while some White Ibis sailed in, and an Anhinga posed on the way out (albeit right in the sun)!  Someone spotted a nice Harris’ Hawk sitting on the opposite side as well.

Wallace Road wetlands

It was getting on close to sunset by that time, so we decided to call it a day; between both shifts we racked up 92 species!  Bird List:

  Black-bellied Whistling-Duck         
  Fulvous Whistling-Duck               
  Mottled Duck                         
  Plain Chachalaca                     
  Northern Bobwhite                    
  Least Grebe                          
  Pied-billed Grebe                    
  Neotropic Cormorant                  
  Anhinga                              
  Great Blue Heron                     
  Great Egret                          
  Snowy Egret                          
  Tricolored Heron                     
  Cattle Egret                         
  Green Heron                          
  Black-crowned Night-Heron            
  Yellow-crowned Night-Heron           
  White Ibis                           
  Roseate Spoonbill                    
  Turkey Vulture                       
  Osprey                               
  White-tailed Kite                     
  Harris's Hawk                        
  Swainson's Hawk                      
  Common Gallinule                     
  American Coot                        
  Black-necked Stilt                   
  American Avocet                      
  American Golden-Plover               
  Killdeer                             
  Spotted Sandpiper                    
  Lesser Yellowlegs                    
  Stilt Sandpiper                      
  Least Sandpiper                      
  Buff-breasted Sandpiper              
  Pectoral Sandpiper                   
  Long-billed Dowitcher                
  Wilson's Phalarope                   
  Laughing Gull                        
  Gull-billed Tern                     
  Rock Pigeon                           
  White-winged Dove                    
  Mourning Dove                        
  Inca Dove                            
  White-tipped Dove                    
  Yellow-billed Cuckoo                 
  Groove-billed Ani                     
  Lesser Nighthawk                     
  Common Pauraque                      
  Chuck-will's-widow                   
  Ruby-throated Hummingbird            
  Buff-bellied Hummingbird             
  Ringed Kingfisher                    
  Belted Kingfisher                    
  Golden-fronted Woodpecker            
  Ladder-backed Woodpecker             
  Crested Caracara                     
  Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet        
  Eastern Wood-Pewee                   
  Brown-crested Flycatcher             
  Great Kiskadee                       
  Tropical Kingbird                    
  Couch's Kingbird                     
  Western Kingbird                     
  Scissor-tailed Flycatcher            
  Loggerhead Shrike                     
  White-eyed Vireo                     
  Horned Lark                          
  Northern Rough-winged Swallow        
  Purple Martin                        
  Barn Swallow                         
  Carolina Wren                         
  Clay-colored Thrush                  
  Long-billed Thrasher                 
  Northern Mockingbird                 
  European Starling                    
  Common Yellowthroat                  
  Olive Sparrow                        
  Lark Sparrow
  Grasshopper Sparrow                         
  Summer Tanager                       
  Northern Cardinal                    
  Indigo Bunting                       
  Painted Bunting                      
  Dickcissel                            
  Red-winged Blackbird                 
  Eastern Meadowlark                   
  Great-tailed Grackle                 
  Bronzed Cowbird                      
  Bullock's Oriole                     
  Lesser Goldfinch                     
  House Sparrow                        

92 SPECIES

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