Today we were hopefully going to bag some more of the Valley specialties and vagrants by birding Hidalgo County, and I was thrilled to hear that my charges had scored on the Tropical Parula at Santa Ana the evening before! (They said it helped that another couple was already on it… J) So that was one less stop we had to worry about, which was good, as it turned out that we didn’t even have time to do Wallace Road!
We started per usual at Estero Llano Grande, and it was a lovely morning – but we were shocked that so many cars were already in the lot at that hour (about 7:30)! We got fleeting glimpses of an Orange-crowned Warbler, and after enjoying the Long-billed Thrasher that had taken up residence on the power line (plus a close pair of Curve-billed Thrashers), we headed on in to the Tropical Zone, but not before hearing the “tic-tic” of a Green Kingfisher in the canal! We were incongruous as the sound was coming from the side with no water, but sure enough, Tam spotted his white neck, and after some moving around and describing of the branches, we all finally spotted him! On the way to the Kingbird Trail I heard the distinctive “ringing” of some Clay-colored Thrushes (which we found sitting directly overhead), but then I thought for sure I was also hearing waxwings, and after voicing that Tam said, “Oh, I see them!” They had been sitting right under the thrushes the whole time and blended right in with the trees! We then headed to the Kingbird Trail Hummer Feeder, and the female Rufous Hummer showed almost immediately, followed by the male Ruby-throated and then the Buff-bellied who sat and gave great looks!
Peek-a-boo White-winged Dove
Buff-bellied Hummingbird (©2018 James Hayden)
Circling around we had wonderful views of a Harris’ Hawk, and then gave the new blind a few minutes, but despite all the food and water nothing came in, so we headed on to the “old” feeder area where a couple of Chachalacas and a Cardinal came in, while White-tipped Doves cooed on different pitches in the background. Nothing came in to the drip, either, so we headed on to the VC, hearing a Killdeer and Sora calling from the nearby wetlands. We stopped at the Sniders’ place hoping for the Broad-tailed Hummer, but about that time we noticed the school bus roll in, so we decided to hightail it out to Alligator Lake for the Pauraque!
Golden-fronted Woodpecker (©2018 James Hayden)
Tam enjoys the bougainvillea on the way out!
And that answered the question about the early vehicles: Ranger Javier was on the deck with his volunteers (he greeted me with, “Did you bring any crows with you?” J), so we quickly got checked in, checked out some dowitchers from the deck, and after hearing, “We’re on our way!” coming over the radio, we made a beeline for Dowitcher Pond! There, after getting the sun behind us, we spotted another lifer for Jamie: two Fulvous Whistling Ducks! I had heard a Least Grebe, but couldn’t spot him; however, the pond was full of the usual Shovelers, Coots, teal, and Mottled Ducks. Continuing over the bridge we quickly checked out Grebe Marsh with nothing but some Blue-winged Teal, then hoofed it over to Alligator Lake, where Jamie spotted a subadult Yellow-crowned Night Heron, but Tam was looking at a full adult!
First view of the Fulvous Whistling Duck
Checking out Grebe Marsh
Then came the search, and despite careful looking in all the usual spots, we just could not conjure up a Pauraque… L (I figured they probably retreated into the underbrush in order to raise their babies…) By that time one of the kidlet groups had caught up with us, and Jamie and Tam got a kick out of the ranger explaining to them how the Anhinga dries its wings, and no, we don’t climb on the railing, and we have to be quiet because these people are looking for a bird! J By that time I don’t think it mattered… But on the back side Tam was entertained by a group of Green Jays that came right overhead, while Jamie and I tried unsuccessfully to call out a Wilson’s Warbler…
So we dragged ourselves out of there, but one last peek at Grebe Marsh got us our Least Grebe (Jamie thinks there were two – either that, or the one was swimming awfully fast under water!), and since Jamie wanted to try and get a better photo of the Fulvous Whistlers, we circled around Dowitcher Pond and got some nice views, along with some Cinnamon Teal, a gallinule, and another Least Grebe (plus a Pied-billed). A Snowy Egret was in Curlew Pond, and the guys saw a spoonbill fly over that I missed. Back at the deck a quick look around added Least Sandpipers, a distant White Pelican, and a snoozing Pintail to the list, and on the way to the parking lot a Beardless Tyrannulet called about five feet away, but as per usual wouldn’t show himself… Headed on to Quinta Mazatlan, picking up a Swainson’s Hawk flying over the freeway on the way!
Fulvous Whistling Ducks (©2018 James Hayden)
Green-winged Teal (©2018 James Hayden)
Male Blue-winged Teal with a female Green-winged
The whistling ducks were snoozing by the time we got to the boardwalk...
Jamie and Tam on the boardwalk (©2018 Tamara Hayden)
School field trips are a regular sight at Estero!
Upon arriving we headed straight to the VC to check in, then headed over to the amphitheater in hopes that the Blue Bunting was still around. We gave it an hour, and eventually enjoyed Chachalacas challenging each other, Kiskadees attacking the PB mixture, another Buff-bellied Hummer visiting the feeder, and Jamie finally got great looks at the titmice! Tam was getting a kick out of the antics of the Fox Squirrels, and the blackbirds were inundating the place (we actually got excited over a female Brown-headed Cowbird L), but alas, the bunting never showed.
Jamie shoots an Inca Dove (below) at Quinta Mazatlán
(©2018 James Hayden)
A Long-billed Thrasher skulks towards the back of the feeder area...
...while the Chachalacas come right out in the open!
(©2018 James Hayden)
Great Kiskadee (©2018 James Hayden)
Kiowa Dancer (token ode)
I had been hearing Lesser Goldfinches, so we went traipsing all over the Ebony Grove trying to track them down, but to no avail (excitement was caused by a Sharp-shinned Hawk that went blasting through). After checking out the rest of the trails I mentioned that sometimes a Pauraque was along the entrance road (although I had yet to find one there myself), so we checked every gap in the bougainvillea hedge, not finding a Pauraque, but Tam did manage to find a brilliant male Hooded Warbler! We ran into John Brush and explained our plight, and after looking for the Pauraque in its regular spot there (it wasn’t), he said he could take us right to one that was reliable! Well! He was certainly not happy with the bird when we got to “the spot” and it wasn’t there! L I quipped that “someone” must not want Jamie to see a Pauraque J and John quipped that it was “balance” for getting all those Tamaulipas Crows yesterday! J
Jamie and Tam in the Ebony Grove
John Brush tries to help us find
Inchworm, which will turn into some kind of geometrid moth...
After that I found out they had never seen Monk Parakeets, so we swung by Hidalgo to see them, and unlike last time, they were all over the place! Lighting conditions weren’t great, but several were sticking their heads out of their nests, looking very cute! We were going to hit the National Butterfly Center but realized we wouldn’t have time to do it justice, so just decided to finish up the day at Bentsen, where we enjoyed more Chachalacas, Green Jays, and blackbirds at the feeders!
We discover several Monk Parakeets gathering nesting material on the ground...
...which they then take to their massive stick nests!
Jamie shooting the nest
"She's taking our picture again!!"
Inca Dove portraits
Flighty Green Jay
More Green Jay shots
Oh, and on a happy note, Jamie and Tam returned to Estero with Justin LeClaire, and this time they found the Pauraques! (Justin reported that they were uncharacteristically very flighty and easily spooking, so there's a good chance they had been spooked already by the time we had gotten there earlier...)
You can tell this Pauraque is on high alert! (©2018 James Hayden)
Black-bellied Whistling-DuckFulvous Whistling-Duck
American White Pelican