Tuesday, March 6, 2018

A Run for the Buntings


Today my birding buddy Juan Sebastian joined us, and the plan was to do Estero Llano Grande SP, which we did indeed start to bird:  a flock of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks flew by, and a few wintering things like Blue-gray Gnatcatchers teased us early on, but finally one of our key species, a Clay-colored Thrush, posed on an open branch along with a Kiskadee!  As per usual, many more species were heard than were seen, but some White-winged Doves posed nicely on the wires for us.  The feeders had just been filled, so we went straight there, and enjoyed several White-tipped Doves and a pair of Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, and at the drip Juan spotted a Mexican Bluewing slowly exercising his wings!  An Orange-crowned Warbler came in for a bath and actually showed us his orange crown!  “Salineño Mike” wandered over about that time and mentioned that he got the Lark Buntings along Laguna Seca Road right where I mentioned them, and at that Carol’s ears perked up, as that was a life bird!  So we made the decision then and there to head straight up there, running into the Harlingen Birding Bunch on the way out who were hoping for the Broad-tailed Hummer to come in to the Sniders’ feeders, but he was a no-show (the hummer, not Rick… J)  We did get fleeting looks at a Buff-bellied, however, along with what may have been a young Altamira Oriole.  On the way to the parking lot a Cooper’s Hawk exploded out of the bushes (Mike said that was why nothing much was coming in to the new feeder area – there was another Coop that liked to sit there)!

Carol and Juan at Estero

White-tipped Dove

Golden-fronted Woodpecker showing its golden belly!

Blasting north, we exited on FM 490 and took the northbound portion of Laguna Seca first, and eagle-eyed Juan spotted the buntings right away!  Unfortunately they weren’t in the best light (and hiding in the grass, as the wind had also picked up), but occasionally they’d sit up on the wire fence and show off their buffy wing patches!  Several Pyrrhuloxias also put on a show, a couple of White-tailed Hawks played in the wind, and while a couple of Red-tailed Hawks soared overhead, I couldn’t see them well enough to tell if one of them was the Fuertes’.  We also heard several Cassin’s Sparrows singing in the fields, but they were more stubborn, as was a little flock that included House Wren, Orange-crowned Warbler, and Lark and Lincoln’s Sparrows (only heard the latter two, but Juan at least saw the Lark Sparrow).  The Caracaras were rather skittish, but a nice Harris’ Hawk was more cooperative for pictures!  Juan gave us quite an education on the plants:  the Huisache trees were in riotous bloom, and the large Texas Prickly Poppy had large flowers as well.  He showed me the compound leaf of a Colima plant, and several Yuccas were in bloom as well; he told us that people actually eat them (after cooking them, of course)!

Juan and Carol shoot the Lark Buntings (below)

How many Lark Buntings can you count amongst the flowers??

Texas Prickly Poppy

Scimitar-horned Oryx at an exotic game farm

Colima plant

Harris' Hawk

Droopy yucca

Juan explains the yucca's uses to Carol

Close up of the flowers

We had to leave about that time so we continued to Miller and picked us US 281 from there, with a modest 48 species for the day.  (Oh, and Carol discovered after the fact that the bunting wasn't a lifer after all...JBird list:

  Black-bellied Whistling-Duck          
  Northern Bobwhite                    
  Black Vulture                        
  Turkey Vulture                       
  Northern Harrier                     
  Cooper's Hawk                        
  Harris's Hawk                        
  White-tailed Hawk                    
  Red-tailed Hawk                      
  Rock Pigeon                          
  White-winged Dove                    
  Mourning Dove                        
  White-tipped Dove                    
  Buff-bellied Hummingbird             
  Golden-fronted Woodpecker            
  Ladder-backed Woodpecker             
  Crested Caracara                     
  American Kestrel                     
  Eastern Phoebe                       
  Great Kiskadee                        
  Couch's Kingbird                     
  Loggerhead Shrike                    
  White-eyed Vireo                     
  Green Jay                            
  Black-crested Titmouse               
  House Wren                           
  Carolina Wren                        
  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher                
  Ruby-crowned Kinglet                 
  Clay-colored Thrush                  
  Curve-billed Thrasher                
  Long-billed Thrasher                 
  Northern Mockingbird                 
  European Starling                    
  Orange-crowned Warbler               
  Olive Sparrow                        
  Cassin's Sparrow                     
  Lark Sparrow                          
  Lark Bunting                         
  Lincoln's Sparrow                    
  Northern Cardinal                    
  Red-winged Blackbird                 
  Eastern Meadowlark                    
  Great-tailed Grackle                 
  Altamira Oriole                      
  Lesser Goldfinch                     


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