Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A Fall Big Day


I was curious to see how fall migration would compare to spring migration along my Cameron County Big Day route, so headed first thing to Resaca de la Palma State Park pre-dawn in the hope of bagging some night birds.  Heading down New Carmen, the first bird of the day was actually a Couch’s Kingbird doing its dawn song!  A bit of eye shine in the headlights followed by a body jumping up off the road revealed the first of several Pauraques (2)!  Settling down in the parking area just outside the inner gate, I enjoyed one Pauraque that sounded like he was practically at my feet!  A pair of “McCall’s” Screech Owls (3) were trilling nearby, and in the gloom something flew over that was either a Great Horned or Barn Owl, but I couldn’t tell which… L  A Mockingbird (4) scolded and shortly began his own dawn song, and a pair of Chachalacas (5) poked silently up the tree across from me as it gradually got lighter.  Naturally, there wasn’t as much song this time of year, so it took awhile to add species, but eventually added Green Jay (6), Carolina Wren (7), Eastern Wood Pewee (8), Kiskadee (9), and a Long-billed Thrasher fussing (10).  In the morning light a flock of Great-tailed Grackles (11) commuted to work, and a couple of Indigo Buntings (12) buzzed and called behind me.  The last songbird before sunrise came was a lisping Olive Sparrow (13).  While it was still gloomy another car crawled in, paused when it saw me sitting there, but then continued on in after I waved at them; turned out to be a younger couple arriving for their morning jog (they were probably wondering who this character in the chair was J)!

Next stop was Sable Palm Sanctuary, so headed back up New Carmen, logging a Kestrel (14), several Turkey Vultures (15), and a chattering Eastern Meadowlark (16) on the way.  Taking the freeway almost down to the bridge, I was thrilled to see a large group of Wood Storks (17) float over the freeway!  The more expected Rock Pigeon (18) and Laughing Gull (19) also got added, but another exciting addition was a small group of Green Parakeets (20) shooting over with their characteristic flight pattern!  A delta-shaped Starling (21) also got added on the fly, and while cruising through the neighborhoods with my window down added Cardinal (22) and House Sparrow (23).

The entrance road to the sanctuary had several Mourning Doves (24) on the wires and Red-winged Blackbirds (25) flocking around.  Driving through the initial woodland added Black-crested Titmouse (26), Verdin (27), White-eyed Vireo (28), Ladder-backed Woodpecker (29), and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (30).  After checking in a Buff-bellied Hummingbird (31) was an easy add in the butterfly garden!

I should also mention that, seeing it was also prime butterfly and dragonfly season, I wanted to try and keep a list of both while focusing primarily on the birds.  The sun was up by now (although the wind was picking up), and the gardens had a nice selection of butters including Fawn-spotted, Clouded, Olive-clouded, and Tropical Checkered Skippers; Queens, Clouded Sulphurs, and a White-striped Longtail.

Fawn-spotted Skipper

White-striped Longtail

Heading into the woods, I flushed a White-tipped Dove (32) repeatedly, and finally logged a Golden-fronted Woodpecker (33).  A Cave Swallow (34) chattered overhead, and a Yellowthroat (35) chacked from the closed-off Resaca Trail.  A dry chep revealed a Wilson’s Warbler (36 - one of many), and a Gray Hawk (37) called annoyedly and flew over for good measure (and which may have explained the closed trail if they were nesting back there).  A presumed Ruby-throated Hummingbird (38) gave its soft call, and along the upper Vireo Trail had a couple of friendly Redstarts (39) and Northern Parulas (40).  The big resaca was dry as a bone (although I was pleased to see a new blind on the east side), but still heard a Blue Grosbeak (41) pink from the other side.  On the way back to the parking lot a Barn Swallow (42) swooped overhead, and a Hooded Oriole (43) gave a little song-chatter (and another would wheep from the garden).  The enclosed trails had a few butters including Giant Swallowtail, Large Orange Sulphur, and Snouts, and the first (and only for the park) ode of the day was a Red Saddlebags near the dry resaca.  Back at the garden added Whirlabout and Fiery Skipper to the butter list, and driving out a large covey of Bobwhite (44) exploded from the road!

Next destination was Old Port Isabel Road (OPIR), not knowing if I’d make it all the way through or not with all the rain we’d been having, but the south end is usually in good shape, so I still had hopes for the falcon.  Heard a Killdeer (45) on the way, and a Cooper’s Hawk (46) surveyed highway 511 from a wire.  Turning on to OPIR had a Harris’ Hawk (47) fly by, and a Snowy Egret (48) flew overhead.  At the canal a couple of immature Little Blue Herons (49) stared at me, but no falcon occupied the hacking box.  Continuing on, several Scissor-tailed Flycatchers (50) lined the wires, and a Loggerhead Shrike (51) fluttered down to catch something.  A Common Ground Dove (52) was near the little cactus-laden homestead (along with several horses, a burro, and an adorable colt), and a pretty female Marl Pennant landed on the fence and got added to the ode list!  (Most of the odes were floating around and wouldn’t let me get a look… L).  The normally-dry wetland past the homestead was full of water now, so added Great Blue Heron (53), Coot (54), a couple of stunning Pied-billed Grebes (55), and several Black-necked Stilts (56) to the list.  Further down a group of Black Vultures (57) lifted off, and that reminded me to add the Caracara (58) that I had seen on the way to the freeway earlier!

Female Marl Pennant

Not too far after that is the pipeline construction area and the end of the well-maintained road, and indeed, the road beyond that was a wet, muddy mess!  So I turned around and got out to scan (the wind was picking up by now; several things seeped that I suspected were Cassin’s Sparrows but they just wouldn’t pop up), and way far away on a fence post was a suspicious-looking black-and-white raptor; a view with the scope confirmed him as an Aplomado Falcon (59)!  So I was very happy to see him, plus a few of the “floating odes” came close enough that I felt comfortable calling them Wandering Gliders (as that is their habit, anyway)!  On the way out I had a little better view of Loma Alta Lake and was able to add some complaining Forster’s Terns (60), a few flying Mottled Ducks (61), and some lazing White Pelicans (62)!

I don't think so...

Aplomado Falcon
The backup shortcut to South Padre is Highway 48, so I blasted up there, stopping at the boat ramp to see what I could add.  The light was bad and the wind even worse, but managed to log Brown Pelicans (63), a fleeing Ruddy Turnstone (64), a couple of Great Egrets (65), and a handful of Willets (66); everything else was Laughing Gulls best I could tell!  A beautiful Wood Stork floated in just before I left, but promptly disappeared in the vegetation.

Continuing on to South Padre via Port Isabel, caught sight of my First of Season Harrier (67) floating over the Bahia Grande Unit, and heading over the causeway added the expected Osprey (68) on the light post.  I debated about visiting Isla Blanca Park in hopes of finding the Masked Booby, but figured that on a Saturday the place would be packed (and the booby probably wouldn’t wanna share the jetty with a bunch of humans, anyway J), so I went straight to The Flats.  Well.  For maybe only the third time in my memory the water was all the way up to the Shack (and come to think of it, the last time it was like that was also in October when I took a German journalist who wanted to see “lots of birds” out there – not)!  I squeezed around the few people who were parked there and logged some Royal Terns (69), some Skimmers (70), and a single Sandwich Tern (71) I spotted when they all took off.  Swinging back I ran into my friends Alan and Baceliza (almost literally, as they were trying to get on the Flats) who had come out especially to see shorebirds, and there weren’t any!! L  But they reported that the vagrant White-crowned Pigeon was still at the Birding and Nature Center, and promised that they’d let me know if they saw the booby, as they were headed there next.

But I first wanted to check out the Convention Centre for migrants, and ran into a guy from Denmark who had found (or refound, as one was being seen on and off for awhile) a Prairie Warbler!  A Common Gallinule (72) cackled while we chatted, but alas, the Prairie would remain elusive.  Heading into the “back yard”, however, I was able to add an Empid that I initially ID’s as an Alder, as the eyering looked thin and the tail looked broad to me, but after scrutinizing the pictures a little better, I’m now leaning towards Least Flycatcher (73), as the eyering looked a little bolder than initially thought, and the primary projection looked rather short (plus they’re more expected).  Some nice warblers bounced around, including a brilliant Yellow-throated (74) that the Danish guy also told me about, and a young Mourning Warbler (75) in addition to more Redstarts.  A quick look at the Flats from the overlook added nothing new.

I initially ID's this empid as an Alder but am now leaning towards Least - comments welcome!

Yellow-throated Warbler

Instead of exploring the CC’s boardwalks (as it was already getting quite warm) I opted to head next door to the Nature Center and do their boardwalks (after hopefully getting the pigeon), logging a pretty Roseate Skimmer (ode, not bird) flying right alongside me on the way out!  I flushed a Green Heron (76) from the water feature in the parking lot, and upon asking the maintenance guy if he knew where the pigeon was, he showed me the areas where it liked to hang, but a visiting birder and his friends beat me to the punch when I noticed him feverishly snapping pictures right near the parking lot – the pigeon was right in front of us at eye level (77)!  Normally a bird of south Florida and the Keys (plus other Caribbean islands), people were musing whether this immature bird got blown here by the hurricanes, but he seemed very content to munch on berries, as he had been doing all week!

Lost White-crowned Pigeon

A full adult would have a completely white crown

Having gotten him under my belt, I headed through the center and back into the butterfly garden to try and log some bugs; nothing was flying, and I couldn’t pick out anything new out in the wetlands, so I headed onto the boardwalk, enjoying several White Ibis (78) and a cooperative Long-billed Curlew (79).  Gallinules were all over with their mostly grown kids, and at one point a Least Sandpiper (80) zipped by calling.  Several Tricolored Herons (81) fed almost like Reddish Egrets, and a few Common Green Darners (ode) floated around close to the water.  At one point I heard a robust chirp and wondered if it could have been the reported Mangrove Warbler; eventually a bright yellow bird did cooperate, but I couldn’t turn it into anything but a plain ol’ Yellow Warbler (82).  In the butter department, in addition to Great Southern Whites, however, another “Florida” specialty batted around the mangroves that I unfortunately couldn’t document with a photo:  a Mangrove Buckeye!  The “North Pond” was rather sparse as well, but it gave me several Blue-winged Teal (83) and a Black Saddlebags on a twig, which would turn out to be the last (identifiable) ode of the day.  A White Peacock (which for neophytes is a butterfly, not a bird J) batted around the reeds as well.  (Yes, it gets confusing when the same name is used for both birds and bugs…)

Long-billed Curlew

Great Blue Heron

Common Gallinule

Fishing Tricolored Heron

Black Saddlebags

Decided to give Sheepshead a try, and I’m glad I did, even though it was rather quiet:  a couple of Catbirds (84) came into the drips on the “shady side”, along with several Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that were fighting over the Turk’s Caps!  A Nashville (85) and Magnolia Warbler (86) came in on the “sunny side” (and the new vegetation that was planted last spring has just exploded), and good for the day were the city-dwelling Collared Doves (87).  While there Baceliza reported via text that there was no booby at either Isla Blanca or Pier 19 (the other place it liked to hang), so I felt better about foregoing that destination, but I would find out two days later via eBird that somebody did find the booby that day! L  Oh, well!

Having finally been shown where this Laguna Vista Nature Park was located, I decided to check it out, but got lost once again! L  A nice policewoman got me going in the right direction, so after finding the place I checked out their very nice walking trail complete with blinds and drips; a Zone-tailed Hawk had been reported there, so I checked every Turkey Vulture, but to no avail…  It was pretty warm so there wasn’t much action, but did add Curve-billed Thrasher (88) and Tropical Kingbird (89) to the list, while a small flock of parulas and titmice got upset at me.  Another Ground Dove poked around one of the blinds, and added a Little Yellow and a Common Buckeye to the butter list.

One of the drips at Laguna Vista Nature Park

Nice, easy trails!

Next stop was Port Isabel Reservoir, and this was where all the shorebirds were hanging out!  The wind was howling by now, so the best I could do was add what was close and obvious:  a couple of Stilt Sandpipers (90) fed with the stilts, and while I could see several dowitchers, I heard some high-pitched keeking so felt comfortable calling them Long-billed (91).  In addition to the mob of stilts, their cousins the Avocets (92) were in good numbers, and the first small peeps I could get a decent look at looked to be stubby-billed Semipalmated Sandpipers (93).  I heard a Semipalmated Plover (94) call, and right there on the shore was a nice little pod of them, along with some longer-billed Western Sandpipers (95), a pale, orange-legged Piping Plover (96), and a handful of Snowy Plovers (97)!  Out in the water several Shovelers (98) fed, and while I was watching them the distinctive tu-tu-tu of a Short-billed Dowitcher (99) sounded off!  The hardy little Ceraunus Blues (the last butter of the day) were braving the wind and clinging to their low vegetation!

Plover party - the ones with broad breast bands are Semipalmated Plovers

Wondering what bird would have the honor of being #100, I continued down Holly Beach Road, enjoying lots of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, but shortly that road got too dicey as well, so I turned around and headed to the next destination, the resacas near the Las Palomas WMA Ebony Unit.  On the way #100 went to the ignominious Cattle Egret…

At the resaca, I dipped on the Least Grebes that are almost always there, but picked up Gadwall (101) and a handful of Ruddy Ducks (102).  Across the way at the “Rangerville Resaca”, the reeds had grown up pretty good, but they hid a couple of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks (103) and more gallinule families.  A squadron of Purple Martins (104) sat on the wire above the resaca.

Checking out the Weaver Road Sod Farms came up blank so far as any grasspipers went (Uplands were long gone anyway), and a dicey romp down the west side of Adams Garden Reservoir only logged a Neotropic Cormorant (105).  Crawling down Jimenez Road added a Lesser Goldfinch (106) in someone’s yard, Rough-winged Swallows (107) circling overhead, and a couple of White-winged Doves (108) batting by at the intersection with Rangerville Road.  Heading north on said road added a flyover White-tailed Kite (109).

I planned to see in the sunset at Tiocano Lake, but only stayed long enough to bag the resident King Rails (110) and a cackling Least Bittern (111) to the list before fatigue (and the need for a shower) set in and I called it a day.  But the bittern wasn’t the last bird of the day, however, as a beautiful Swainson’s Hawk (112) flew across the road and landed on a post!

Saturday, October 6, 2018

A Journalist Comes Back for More!


Clayton Maxwell, who earlier in the year had come down to write an article about the Valley for Texas Highways, wanted to bring her family down to experience some birding, and initially suggested going to the same places I had taken her and her photographer Kenny (Santa Ana and Quinta Mazatlan – when the famous Mexican Violetear showed up), but I gave her a choice:  if they were interested in chasing a rare bird again, we had the Golden-crowned Warbler at Frontera Audubon, and a number of goodies at South Padre Island, including a Masked Booby and the Valley’s second White-crowned Pigeon!  She and her hubby Scott talked it over and chose Frontera (as it was closer, and they had gotten in late the night before), so we took off around 7:30 with Clayton at the helm, and Scott in charge of eight-year-old Harry and 13-year-old Carly in the back seat!

We checked in with Chris and headed into the woods, and almost immediately I heard the distinctive rattle of the warbler (I had played the call for them and showed them a picture on the way there)!  It was very close, but being skulky, and I wish someone had been able to take a video of us sneaking up on the thing, because out of the corner of my eye I saw Harry right by my side, and Big Sister Carly hanging onto his shirt to keep him from running ahead of me! J  I got enough of a glimpse to see the head pattern, and Harry saw him dart across the path, so that was good enough for him!  Birding buddy Brad showed up about the same time and refound the bird, but again I only got a glimpse of the yellow underparts this time before it shot away.  But it at least allowed a little bit of a recording at the “Kingfisher Resaca” while a Buff-bellied Hummingbird came in for point-blank views!

Carly (with the bins) looks at me while Brad looks for the vagrant warbler...
We continued on, where lots of birds were calling but very little was showing; Scott saw a Kiskadee based on his description while a Beardless Tyrannulet called nearby.  Carolina Wrens were singing all over, a bird Harry recognized from his home in Austin!  Some Red-crowned Parrots called really far away, and a Green Kingfisher gave its ticking call (very similar to the warbler, in fact), but never showed itself.  Heading onto the boardwalk and wanting to be able to show the kids something through the scope, we finally settled on a male Roseate Skimmer that was planted on a stem below its mate!  We heard lots of White-tipped Doves, and the kids were quick to recognize the “coke-bottle bird” as we went along!

Roseate Skimmer

Scott on the boardwalk

Figuring that maybe things would be easier to see at the feeders, we headed that direction when I spotted a group of White-winged Doves up on a dead tree, so we got the scope on them so the gang could ooh and ahh at their eyes! J  White-eyed Vireos sang all over, and Scott got a glimpse of one high in a tree.  We then sat for five at the feeders, enjoying a Green Jay coming in and a Cottontail hogging the area underneath the feeder.  Heading out, Clayton was a very good teacher as she asked the kids what five birds they could remember seeing (Harry mentioned the warbler right off the bat J) and what bird says, “Quick, get the beer, chick!”  (Answer below… J)  Sensing that the kids needed a change of scenery we headed back to the parking area, suggesting we go to the deck at Estero Llano Grande, where we could chill on the covered deck and see the birds through the scope; that sounded good all around!

Harry checks out the White-winged Dove (below) through the scope!

Even at the lot at the park a Mockingbird at the top of a tree through the scope was a hit!  The various plumages of Red-winged Blackbirds even brought some excitement, as did the Chachalacas running around the feeders!  Both adult and “adolescent” Little Blue Herons showed well, plenty of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks abounded, and while looking at the latter they even spotted a Least Grebe on their own!  They enjoyed the purple speculum of the Mottled Duck and the striking pattern of the three Black-necked Stilts that came wheeling in and then landed for scope views, and even the subtle pattern of the eclipse-plumaged Blue-winged Teal was a winner!

Ready to roll at Estero!

Northern Mockingbird

Immature Little Blue Heron (above and below)


Red-winged Blackbirds (above and below)

The kids talked Mom into getting ice cream (hard to pass up at Estero J), we sang “Happy Birthday” to Scott, then called it a day, with 45 species for the morning, the last bird being a Curve-billed Thrasher that darted across the road just before getting back to the Inn!  

Bird list:

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck 
Blue-winged Teal 
Mottled Duck 
Plain Chachalaca 
Least Grebe 
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) 
Eurasian Collared-Dove 
Common Ground-Dove 
White-tipped Dove 
White-winged Dove 
Mourning Dove 
Chimney Swift 
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 
Buff-bellied Hummingbird 
Black-necked Stilt 
Great Blue Heron 
Snowy Egret 
Little Blue Heron 
White-faced Ibis 
Green Kingfisher 
Golden-fronted Woodpecker 
Red-crowned Parrot 
Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet 
Eastern Wood-Pewee 
Great Kiskadee 
Tropical Kingbird 
Couch's Kingbird 
White-eyed Vireo  (the “beer/chick” bird)
Green Jay 
Black-crested Titmouse 
Carolina Wren 
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 
Clay-colored Thrush 
Curve-billed Thrasher 
Northern Mockingbird 
European Starling 
Red-winged Blackbird 
Bronzed Cowbird 
Great-tailed Grackle 
Golden-crowned Warbler 
Wilson's Warbler 
Northern Cardinal 
House Sparrow 


Friday, October 5, 2018

A Kingfisher Sweep - Kind Of


Mike and his buddies Tom, Richard, and Michael teamed up to do what they called “casual” birding in south Texas, but they had already racked up a great chase list by the time they got to the Alamo Inn, bagging the Valley’s second White-crowned Pigeon at South Padre and several other Valley specialties on the way down from San Antonio!  They still wanted to see Santa Ana and/or Bentsen State Park, their main targets being the two resident kingfishers, so we headed down in time to get to Santa Ana right about sunrise, logging a pretty Swainson’s Hawk and a Kestrel on the way down.

The weather was lovely, and a pretty, sun-lit Couch’s Kingbird greeted us right in the parking lot!  From there we headed to the “roundabout”, on to the way to which a family of Chachalacas checked us out at point blank range overhead!  We took the Pintail Lake Trail, and just before we got to the tour road a Beardless Tyrannulet sounded off, but true to form, he was an obstinate little devil and never did show, even though he sounded pretty close.  In the same vicinity, however, was the guys’ first Altamira Oriole (along with a handful of Hoodeds), a first-year Yellow Warbler, and a lineup of Purple Martins.

Couch's Kingbird

We finally gave up on the tyrannulet (and some Olive Sparrows that were lisping enticingly) and headed on to the lakes.  I pointed out the coke-bottle coo of the White-tipped Dove, and we got a not-so-great look at a Common Ground Dove.  Once out in the open area we heard a Belted Kingfisher rattling, but shortly after that came the machine-gun rattle of a Ringed!  So we hightailed it out to the far pond (where it usually hung out), trying not to get distracted by Lesser Goldfinches and White Peacocks on the way!  The main lake had plenty of water but was sparse on birds except for hundreds of Red-winged Blackbirds, a few flycatching Kiskadees, and a pod of Blue-winged Teal at the far end.  Some Cliff Swallows flew by at eye level, and the Belted Kingfisher showed well, being chased all over the place by a grackle!  An ani called across the way as well, but never showed.

Pintail Lake Trail

Checking out the lake

We finally made it to the far pond where the Ringed Kingfisher had gone dark, but there were at least a dozen Anhingas lounging about!  Two Green Herons popped up, and while watching the heron Richard actually spotted a Green Kingfisher across the way!  Everyone got great scope views! 

We eventually gave up on the kingfisher and headed back in the heat, but not before a Cave Swallow chattered overhead (another lifer for the guys J), and someone spotted an Eastern Kingbird in the reeds!  We took the wide cutoff trail, where a big beautiful Harris’ Hawk was posing right in front of us!  One of the guys found a male Yellow Warbler, and while I heard the tyrannulet again, he was quite distant.  We took the Willow Lake Trail back next to the one Willow Lake with water in it, and as we paused to scan (trying to spot the Indigo Buntings that were calling), what should shoot by but another Green Kingfisher, followed by his mate!  They flew back and forth a few times, giving great views and calling excitedly!  

Harris' Hawk

Heading back to the trailhead, one of the guys spotted a Texas Spiny Lizard; I was hoping to point out a specialty Rosebelly Lizard for Mike and Richard (as they were the reptile guys), but none were cooperative…  But just before the levee a family of Altamira Orioles gave us nice looks!  At the canal what should the guys spot on the concrete but yet another Green Kingfisher!  (I asked them if four Green Kingfishers made up for a heard-only Ringed… J)

Gang on the Willow Lake Trail

Texas Spiny Lizard

Immature Altamira Oriole

From there I thought we’d give Anzalduas a try as I sometimes get the Ringed there, so over we went, enjoying a Caracara and a Great Egret on the way in.  We parked at my little corner and checked out the river, but except for a Laughing Gull on the deck in the middle of the river it was pretty sparse.  I did hear an Osprey, and pretty soon we spotted him in a dead tree across the way.  But another white bird to his right turned out to be a White-tailed Kite!  The guys were thrilled, as this was a life bird all around, and when its mate came in they really put on a show!

Checking out the Rio Grande

White-tailed Kite pair

We circled the park, hoping to kick up a Black Phoebe, but to no avail; we did happen to spot a female Vermilion Flycatcher, however.  The spillway on the way out had several stilts, a couple of Pied-billed Grebes, and a handful of Mottled Ducks.

With what little time we had left we decided to swing by the Old Hidalgo Pumphouse, as I had sometimes gotten the kingfisher there and it was on the way home.  We could hear distant Monk Parakeets rasping once we got out of the car, and Buff-bellied Hummingbirds shot through along with the occasional Green Jay, but even the Black Phoebe didn’t show up at the resaca L.  I was hearing a Gray Hawk in the NWR tract, so we walked up next to The Wall and tried to see if we could spot it; no such luck there, but a young Harris’ Hawk did fly overhead.  The most exciting bird according to eBird was the male House Finch next to the road! J

Checking out The Wall

We circled around front in hopes of Clay-colored Thrush and got some noisy Curve-billed Thrashers instead, then called it a day.  We ended up with 71 species, which is not bad for just a morning!  Bird list:

Mottled Duck 3
Blue-winged Teal  12
Plain Chachalaca  4
Pied-billed Grebe  5
Rock Pigeon 20
Mourning Dove 7
Inca Dove  1
Common Ground-Dove  2
White-tipped Dove  5
White-winged Dove  5
Groove-billed Ani  1
Chimney Swift  2
Buff-bellied Hummingbird
Black-necked Stilt 10
Killdeer  5
Least Sandpiper  3
Laughing Gull 1
Anhinga  10
Neotropic Cormorant  2
Great Blue Heron  2
Great Egret  1
Snowy Egret 1
Green Heron  2
Turkey Vulture 1
Osprey 1
White-tailed Kite 2
Harris's Hawk  1
Swainson's Hawk 1
Gray Hawk 1
Ringed Kingfisher  1
Belted Kingfisher  2
Green Kingfisher  4
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  5
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  5
Crested Caracara 1
American Kestrel 1
Monk Parakeet 5
Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet  1
Great Kiskadee  15
Vermilion Flycatcher 1
Couch's Kingbird  5
Eastern Kingbird  2
Loggerhead Shrike
White-eyed Vireo  3
Green Jay  3
Horned Lark  1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  1
Purple Martin  12
Barn Swallow  5
Cliff Swallow  2
Cave Swallow  1
Black-crested Titmouse  3
Verdin  1
Carolina Wren  4
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  2
Long-billed Thrasher  3
Northern Mockingbird  5
House Finch 1
Lesser Goldfinch  5
Olive Sparrow  5
Hooded Oriole  3
Altamira Oriole  4
Red-winged Blackbird  200
Brown-headed Cowbird  1
Great-tailed Grackle  30
Common Yellowthroat  1
Yellow Warbler  3
Northern Cardinal  5
Indigo Bunting  2
Dickcissel  4
House Sparrow 3


Thursday, October 4, 2018

A Pastor's First Birding Adventure


Our youth pastor, Dale, surprised me by asking about a guided bird walk: his dad Les was in town, so he thought it might be fun to show him our local birds!  Dale’s wife Sara wanted to come as well, so after they dropped their kids off at school they all met me at Quinta Mazatlan!  All of them were neophytes (in fact, Dale admitted that he had to go out and buy a pair of binoculars for the occasion J), so it was great fun showing them the special birds right in their “back yard”, so to speak!

Before they even showed up I had logged about 20 species right there in the parking lot, the best bird being a curious Groove-billed Ani!  Unfortunately a cute Black-and-white Warbler foraged and Green Parakeets screeched over before they arrived, but when they did, thankfully the ani came back as though on cue!  A couple of Yellow Warblers fought in front of them, and a Curve-billed Thrasher “thrashed” next to a lady’s car (who happened to show up right about then)!

Shy Groove-billed Ani

Les enjoys some battling Yellow Warblers while Sara tries to iPhone them...

Les is happy while Sara and Dale still ponder the warblers...

We headed in, picking up a pik-a-chooing Summer Tanager on the way.  Dale graciously paid my entrance fee, then read up on the history of the mansion while I visited the ladies’ room…  Heading out the back door we followed the trail along the perimeter of the park, where we scared up a group of Chachalacas that had been visiting the feeding stations on the other side of the foliage!  Also at our feet was a family of Clay-colored Thrushes, and I enjoyed sharing the story of how rare these things were at one time but are now a backyard bird!

Clay-colored Thrush

Since John Brush (the resident naturalist) had kindly put out feed for us (well, for the birds, but I told him I was bringing our youth pastor and his family J), we sat at the amphitheater for awhile and enjoyed the Chachalacas mooning each other (the White-winged Doves took off the minute we arrived)!  We gave it about 15 minutes, and that allowed the birds to get used to our presence:  shortly some Inca Doves snuck in, along with a big Fox Squirrel, but the stars were the Green Jays that arrived and showed off their brilliant colors!  The female Cardinal and Baltimore Oriole behind us was almost anticlimactic…

Green Jays at the feeders

We continued on and were amazed by the Night Blooming Cereus cacti that were indeed blooming all along the trail!  (All the rain we had undoubtedly helped…)  I pointed out a Snout butterfly to them, and we took a quick peek into the Ebony Grove just to show them the cavity nests in the dead palm trees.  We then headed on to the section of the trail with all the statuary; Sara asked about the status of wild cats, and as if on cue we happened upon the interpretive sign about said wild cats!  I assured her that the only one they’d be likely to see would be the Bobcat (although there had been reports of Cougars out at Laguna Atascosa, along with their resident Ocelots).  I think the abundance of bunnies we were seeing led to that question initially (no predators to speak of), but it was fun when, at another rest break, Sara announced that she had an “eagle” sitting over ours heads!  Said eagle was actually a lovely Harris’ Hawk (who unfortunately didn’t stick around for pictures…)!

Night-blooming Cereus (also called Barbed Wire Cactus)

Dale checks out the shrub sign to decide what to put in his own garden next!

Heading across the entrance road, we pished a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher into view, then headed to the lily pond, as Sara especially was fascinated with water lilies!  I was looking for the Caribbean Yellowface, an exquisite little damselfly unique to South Texas and South Florida in the US, but none were had; had a huge Common Green Darner and a little Powdered Dancer instead.  After chilling and snacking on the deck of the Education Center (and then taking a peek inside), we called it a morning and went our separate ways, logging a total of 35 species for the morning.  

Relaxing with a snack

Bird list:

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck  1
Plain Chachalaca  15
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  25
Inca Dove  8
White-winged Dove  5
Groove-billed Ani  1
Buff-bellied Hummingbird  4
Killdeer  1
Harris's Hawk  1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  5
Ladder-backed Woodpecker  2
Green Parakeet  4
Great Kiskadee  5
Tropical Kingbird  1
White-eyed Vireo  1
Green Jay  4
Black-crested Titmouse  2
Carolina Wren  1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  3
Clay-colored Thrush  8
Curve-billed Thrasher  5
Long-billed Thrasher  1
Northern Mockingbird  8
European Starling  6
Lesser Goldfinch  2
Olive Sparrow  1
Baltimore Oriole  1
Red-winged Blackbird  50
Great-tailed Grackle  12
Black-and-white Warbler  1
Yellow Warbler  2
Wilson's Warbler  1
Summer Tanager  1
Northern Cardinal  3
House Sparrow  5