Monday, November 26, 2018

The Foggy Flats


Headed out into the fog this morning to bird Sacahuistale Flats and Port Mansfield, and seriously wondered if it was time to hang up the Sacahuistale Flats portion:  I had never seen so much traffic on that road in my life (and when they’re zipping by at 75 mph that’s nothing to take lightly)!  Traffic noise (mostly folks taking their boats to PM) made it hard to hear the birds at the various stops, but there were periods of quiet, plus the occasional cooperative birds that would sit on the wires and let me see them! J  The raptors are always easy, and this time Red-tailed Hawks won the numbers game, followed by Harris’ Hawks, Crested Caracaras, Kestrels, and singletons of White-tailed Hawk and Northern Harrier.  I would have totally missed the Osprey had he not whistled (and the nearby Harris’ scolded him)!

As usual, the ag fields had their share of Horned Larks, Western Meadowlarks, and Long-billed Curlews, and at one stop a single American Pipit flew over.  Kiskadees and Mockingbirds were all along the route, and both Tropical and Couch’s Kingbirds vocalized in order to get logged.  My friends laugh at me because I like to do these road routes “BBS” style (stopping every half mile for a couple of minutes), and one stop just happened to be next to the only visible (and normally dry) wetland along the route, which added both grebes, several ducks, and a Belted Kingfisher to the list!  Once out in the thornscrub the normal Valley specialties sounded off (between lulls in the traffic), so both thrashers, Cactus Wren, Olive Sparrow, Verdin, Green Jay, and even Altamira Oriole were added (the latter did decide to sit on a wire for me J)!  Lark, Savannah, and Lincoln’s Sparrows were numerous, but at one stop a Grasshopper Sparrow joined the lineup!  Several Eastern Meadowlarks sang unseen as we got into the open areas, and some Bobwhites made some odd sounds that stumped me until one of them did something I recognized!  I was pleased as punch to add several Sedge Wrens in appropriate habitat, while House Wrens were so numerous they actually got flagged by eBird!  The fog was thick, but still heard Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese apparently flying above it!

Hidden wetland along SR 186

American Wigeons in the foreground and Gadwalls in the background

Mouthy Tropical Kingbird

Once in Port Mansfield I headed over to the Laguna Rec Area, but stopped first at the little wetland where the road curves (again, usually dry).  This time it had several Laughing Gulls and Great Blue Herons, plus a couple of Gull-billed Terns lounging with them.  A beat up female (or maybe a juvie) Turkey was poking around someone’s driveway, and the only White-winged and Collared Doves of the day were chowing down at one of the deer feeders.  

Great Blue Heron and Laughing Gulls

Scruffy-looking Wild Turkey in someone's driveway

Getting into the rec area was a little adventurous:  before they improved the road (and the whole place, really), getting in could be a death trap, and even today it was a mite slimy, but that last bit just before the very end of the road was like driving through a snow bank!  There were two guys already there (obviously having made it through themselves) and were watching me intently to see if I got stuck, but Heppy performed famously as any Subaru should J, and I greeted the two guys with, “Well, that was an adventure!” J  After I set up my scope on the observation deck the older gentleman came up and asked about the egret that was feeding, which was, of course, a white morph Reddish Egret doing his “dance”!  He was impressed with the new Sibley app that showed both morphs and commented on how beautiful the dark morph was!  Some White Ibis flew by while we were chatting as well.  I spent about 15 minutes there and added Avocets, Caspian and Forster’s Terns, gobs of both flavors of pelicans (along with cormorants), both yellowlegs, several turnstones, and assorted other shorebirds along with the ever-present Laughing Gulls.  Getting out of there was even more of an adventure, but we made it!

Avocets keeping company with a white morph Reddish Egret

Savannah Sparrow on the way out

Fred Stone County Park was next, and on the way there a thrush-like thing flew over the car which thankfully vocalized:  an American Robin!  They had built a huge “boat barn” since I was there last, but it was a productive spot, with Black-bellied Plovers being added to the list along with more gulls, terns, and herons, but the best bird was a Franklin’s Gull in with the Laughers!  A big flock of American Goldfinches bounced by as well, my first of the season!

A late Franklin's Gull (right) hangs with a Laughing

The Franklin's is third from the left

Hit the Nature Trail after that, where two vans full of little kids had just arrived, but thankfully their attention was directed to the deer in the meadow!  In the woodland, something chirped that almost sounded like a redstart, but I just couldn’t get it to come out.  A more recognizable Summer Tanager did his pic-a-choo call, and a Catbird gave his distinctive call.  Things were quieting down, but the sun was trying to come out, and with it several butterflies:  found Common Mestra, Southern Dogface, American Lady, Long-tailed Skipper, and a wasp that the folks at BugGuide immediately ID’d for me as a Hairy Desert Wasp (Campsomeris tolteca)!  At another set of flowers a couple of moths joined the Queens; one I’m guessing as a Yellow Mocis until told otherwise, but was able to nail down another as a Scraped Pilocrocis Moth!  The strangest flying thing was a cross between a para-sailer and an ultralight buzzing overhead!

Common Mestra

Southern Dogface (left) and Hairy Desert Wasp

Here joined by a Long-tailed Skipper

American Lady

Another view of the Long-tailed Skipper

The wasp flees...

Close up of the Southern Dogface

(and you can see the "dog face" in the forewing!)

Yellow Mocis (best guess)

Scraped Pilocrocis Moth

Mechanical bird...

The kids were trailing me, so I looped around and ended up behind them, and they ended up leaving the same time I did; they seemed to be enjoying themselves!  After removing the burrs from my socks I headed home, adding Scissor-tailed Flycatcher to the Sacahuistale Flats list!  In total had 93 species for the morning, which isn’t bad considering the fog and the noise level! L

Bird list:

Snow Goose 
Northern Shoveler 
American Wigeon 
Ruddy Duck 
Northern Bobwhite 
Wild Turkey 
Least Grebe 
Pied-billed Grebe 
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared Dove
Common Ground Dove 
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove 
Sandhill Crane 
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Black-bellied Plover
Long-billed Curlew 
Ruddy Turnstone
Least Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Laughing Gull
Franklin’s Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Gull-billed Tern
Caspian Tern
Forster’s Tern
Double-crested Cormorant
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Snowy Egret
Tricolored Heron
Reddish Egret
Cattle Egret 
White Ibis 
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Northern Harrier 
Harris's Hawk 
White-tailed Hawk 
Red-shouldered Hawk 
Red-tailed Hawk 
Belted Kingfisher 
Golden-fronted Woodpecker 
Ladder-backed Woodpecker 
Crested Caracara 
American Kestrel 
Eastern Phoebe 
Great Kiskadee 
Tropical Kingbird 
Couch's Kingbird 
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher 
Loggerhead Shrike 
White-eyed Vireo 
Green Jay 
Horned Lark 
Black-crested Titmouse 
House Wren 
Sedge Wren 
Cactus Wren 
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Curve-billed Thrasher 
Long-billed Thrasher 
Northern Mockingbird 
European Starling 
American Pipit 
Lesser Goldfinch
American Goldfinch 
Grasshopper Sparrow 
Olive Sparrow 
Lark Sparrow 
Savannah Sparrow 
Lincoln's Sparrow 
Western Meadowlark 
Eastern Meadowlark 
Altamira Oriole 
Red-winged Blackbird 
Brown-headed Cowbird 
Great-tailed Grackle 
Orange-crowned Warbler 
Common Yellowthroat 
Yellow-rumped Warbler 
Summer Tanager
Northern Cardinal 
House Sparrow 


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