Pat Heirs joined me Saturday morning in an exploration of the Hargill area: there were several eBird hotspots in the vicinity, and I wanted to see if I could create a road-birding route that covered them. This route included the famous 1015 Pond, a couple of seasonal ponds on CR 2500, Delta Lake County Park, Nittler Road, and Israel Cavazos Road in Hargill (which basically covers the Hargill Playa and a couple of wetlands north of the road). It was a beautiful day with a good variety, and we ended up with 76 species for the morning!
We bagged a Caracara on the way up that didn’t get included in any of the hotspots, but after totally zipping by the 1015 Pond (which is easy to do), we made a U-ie and enjoyed several water birds (as the pond doesn’t always have water in it, and with the drought we were concerned): seven species of herons (including a cackling Least Bittern), Pied-billed Grebes, Mottled Ducks, Common Gallinules, and Black-necked Stilts made up the water birds, while the first of many migrating Yellow Warblers chirped in the mesquites.
Pat checks out the 1015 Pond (below)
Then, heading north to FM 490, we hung a left (where a Common Nighthawk batted across the road) and then another left on FM 88, and then turned right on CR 2500; the wetland here was dry, but the habitat was great, so we bumped along this two-track road with a forest growing in the median, enjoying a couple groups of Bobwhite running ahead of us, some Lark Sparrows, a flopping Least Flycatcher, a Cardinal, and a really funny-looking young grackle! We turned north at an intersection (the road was a tad better) which according to Google Maps is CR 30, and hit the jackpot along here with great looks at a Groove-billed Ani, a young Bullock’s Oriole, a female Ladder-backed Woodpecker, and a Couch’s Kingbird that perched overhead! I also noticed an interesting thing about the updated mobile eBird app: apparently if a bird’s never been recorded at that hotspot, it gives you a red dot – we added several that day! Another symbol is “infrequent”, which I assume means that it’s been reported in the hotspot, but not very often…
Female/young Great-tailed Grackle that had us doing a double-take!
Several shots of the young Bullock's Oriole (note the flanges on the mouth)
Female Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Shy Groove-billed Ani (listen hard for his "pit-tweek!" calls)
We backtracked to 88 and checked the west side of Delta Lake, which was high, but picked up a Snowy Egret and Laughing Gull, along with a couple of Black Vultures. Across the street two Least Bitterns called to each other, and a Great Egret stood ignoring the fishermen and their big Husky dog! In the park we practically had the whole place to ourselves, but the swarms of cowbirds were incredible! There were also great numbers of swallows (particularly Purple Martins), but a pair of early Tree Swallows got flagged. While shooting the swallows a large flock of White Ibis flew over, and later a smaller flock of White-faced Ibis went by in the distance. Pat spotted a Lesser Nighthawk on a branch, and more Yellow Warblers chirped from the trees. A pair of Black-necked Stilts was in the little north side pond, and Cave Swallows came within touching distance on the bridge to the back area! It was pretty quiet back there, so we came back out and crawled around the picnic area where a flock of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks flew over, but no hoped-for Black Phoebe. Pat thought she had a low-flying Turkey Vulture, but it had a fat head, so I jumped out in time to get my bins on it as it flew over the car and showed off a stunning banded tail: Zone-tailed Hawk! Too bad it disappeared before we could properly document it!
Early Tree Swallows (top and bottom) hanging out with Bank and Rough-winged Swallows
Close-up of the two birds
The "back area"
Pat chose to chill in the car while I quickly checked out the little walkway to the spit; a White-tailed Kite flew overhead and a Coot was in the marsh, but that was about it. An Upland Sandpiper flew over, and after using the restrooms (the only ones on the whole route, just so you know…) we headed down to Nittler Road. Any signs of past wetlands were long gone, but in the thornscrub we had nice looks at a Brown-crested Flycatcher, Orchard Oriole, Long-billed Thrasher, and Olive Sparrow, while a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher buzzed unseen. An Olive-sided Flycatcher landed on a wire, and we also found an Osprey sitting in a field!
Marsh from the bridge leading to the spit trail (below)
Up to Hargill we went, adding a Swainson’s Hawk on the way, where the heat waves were just too strong to make out many shorebirds in the playa; about the only thing I could ID were a handful of Wilson’s Phalaropes and Stilt Sandpipers, but there were gobs of peeps across the way. A large flock of Laughing Gulls had two Caspian Terns in with them, and while you could barely see into the playa from Israel Cavazos, the berm was still overgrown, so you really couldn’t get any height. The wetlands further down the road were dry, of course, but more cowbirds and grackles got added to the list. The next hotspot north on 490 and CR2500 was dry as a bone, so since it was past 11:00 we didn’t even bother making an eBird entry for that one and decided to head on home.
Black-bellied Whistling-DuckMottled Duck
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Northern Rough-winged Swallow