Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Seasonal Hotspots


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!

Bobwhite family

CR 2500

Several shots of the young Bullock's Oriole (note the flanges on the mouth)

Female Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Couch's Kingbird

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!

Lesser Nighthawk

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)

Olive-sided Flycatcher

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.

Hargill Playa
Bird List:

  Black-bellied Whistling-Duck         
  Mottled Duck                         
  Northern Bobwhite                    
  Pied-billed Grebe                    
  Least Bittern                        
  Great Blue Heron                     
  Great Egret                          
  Snowy Egret                          
  Little Blue Heron                    
  Tricolored Heron                     
  Cattle Egret                         
  Green Heron                          
  Black-crowned Night-Heron            
  White Ibis                            
  White-faced Ibis                     
  Black Vulture                        
  Turkey Vulture                       
  White-tailed Kite                    
  Swainson's Hawk                      
  Zone-tailed Hawk                     
  Common Gallinule                     
  American Coot                        
  Black-necked Stilt                   
  Upland Sandpiper                     
  Stilt Sandpiper                      
  Wilson's Phalarope                   
  Laughing Gull                        
  Caspian Tern                         
  Rock Pigeon                          
  Eurasian Collared-Dove               
  White-winged Dove                    
  Mourning Dove                        
  Inca Dove                            
  Common Ground-Dove                   
  Groove-billed Ani                    
  Lesser Nighthawk                      
  Common Nighthawk                     
  Golden-fronted Woodpecker            
  Ladder-backed Woodpecker             
  Crested Caracara                     
  Olive-sided Flycatcher               
  Least Flycatcher                     
  Brown-crested Flycatcher             
  Great Kiskadee                       
  Tropical Kingbird                    
  Couch's Kingbird                     
  Scissor-tailed Flycatcher            
  Loggerhead Shrike                    
  White-eyed Vireo                     
  Northern Rough-winged Swallow        
  Purple Martin                        
  Tree Swallow                         
  Bank Swallow                         
  Barn Swallow                         
  Cave Swallow                         
  Bewick's Wren                        
  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher                
  Curve-billed Thrasher                
  Long-billed Thrasher                 
  Northern Mockingbird                 
  European Starling                    
  Yellow Warbler                       
  Olive Sparrow                        
  Lark Sparrow                         
  Northern Cardinal                    
  Red-winged Blackbird                 
  Great-tailed Grackle                 
  Bronzed Cowbird                      
  Brown-headed Cowbird                 
  Orchard Oriole                       
  Bullock's Oriole                     
  House Sparrow                        


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