Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Final Fallout?

5/11/19 

The forecast called for heavy rain, but it was my last chance at spring migration, so I planned on heading to the Island regardless.  Deb was the only one brave enough to join me, so she picked me up and over we went!

We went straight to the Convention Centre, and it was almost like déjà vu: we found the exact same parking spot we had when she brought her friends along a few weeks ago, and as we headed for the bushes, not one, but two Chestnut-sided Warblers greeted us!  The rest of the bushes weren’t terribly birdy, so we headed straight to the main garden area; Cedar Waxwings were in the tall trees, and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks guarded the boardwalk railing!  There were a handful of potential year birds reported, and the first one, a lovely American Redstart, popped up and flashed his tail nicely!  The faithful Northern Waterthrush was bopping around, and a funky warbler (most of them were wet) hopped around in the foliage that we finally decided was a young/female Blackpoll Warbler (we saw a male later just to be safe J).  We shortly ran into my friend Alicia, and shortly after that the rest of the Arroyo Colorado Audubon (ACAS) crew as they also figured the conditions were good for migrants!  But before long it started to drip, then rain pretty good, so we all sought shelter under the south-facing awning!  Those who braved the drips found a couple of pewees they were ruminating over…

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Cedar Waxwing

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks
  
When it finally let up we decided to hit the boardwalk, where we checked the East Pond first as, on a previous trip, Peggy had told us that White-rumped Sandpipers were hanging around.  Thankfully, we found one of them feeding very close to shore, so that Deb could even see the chestnut base to the lower mandible!  There were also a couple of Semipalmated Sandpipers bullying the Leasts, plus a single Stilt Sandpiper hanging around.  About that time a Rare Bird Alert (RBA) came over my phone that Dan Jones had found a Purple Gallinule at Sheepshead, so we dropped everything and headed over there!  On the way back to the car a Gray-cheeked Thrush popped up, another year target!

Semipalmated Sandpiper

White-rumped Sandpiper (above and below)


Mottled Duck family

Somehow some of the ACAS folks beat us over there, and we were greeted with, “Well, it was right here, but I think we scared it into the grass!” L  Thankfully it was still around and poking its head up periodically, so that was yet another year bird in the bag (and a rather rare one at that)!  The migrant activity was starting to pick up, with a brilliant Blackburnian Warbler, a Philadelphia Vireo overhead, a Red-eyed Vireo (Deb said she even saw the red eye J), and even a Common Yellowthroat (Deb called him the Lone Ranger J)!  An Acadian Flycatcher (another year target) put on a nice show (thankfully Dan came to the rescue as this guy didn’t have much of an eyering but showed all the other pertinent field marks), and “around the corner” we were treated to a couple of stunning Magnolia Warblers feeding on the ground and a Chestnut-sided Warbler that came within touching distance!  We were just about ready to leave when Mark Esparza called us back as he had a Mourning Warbler, but of course the thing didn’t show for us… L

Blackburnian Warbler

Lost Purple Gallinule

Acadian Flycatcher (above and below)


Looking cute...

Magnolia Warbler

Chestnut-sided Warbler

We decided to head back to the Convention Centre as more people were reporting that “migrants were dropping all over SPI” (and the Birding Center was packed with people attending the alligator release, so we avoided that)!  No less than three Red-eyed Vireos were feeding in the taller trees next to the sidewalk, and an Ovenbird showed up at the water feature.  In the “back yard” a couple of Bay-breasted Warblers were showing nicely, and another funky warbler overhead had us puzzling for a long while until it allowed a better look, and revealed herself to be a female Magnolia (as a male was also nearby).  A Yellow-billed Cuckoo flew in, a couple of female Summer Tanagers made a showing, and both Veeries and Swainson’s Thrushes hopped boldly close by!  A return trip to the boardwalk (as the previous trip had been pre-empted J) took us towards the pier where lots of Eastern Kingbirds were streaming past, a Black-crowned Night Heron flew by, and Deb spotted a stunning Yellow-crowned Night Heron hiding in the mangroves!  The Prairie Warbler made a return showing, and shortly after I posted the sighting on the RBA, here came Dan double-timing it down the boardwalk as he still needed it for the year! J

Red-eyed Vireo (above and below)


Veery

Bay-breasted Warbler

Swainson's Thrush

Northern Waterthrush

American Redstart (above and below)


Curious Prairie Warbler

My beeper went off about that time, so we headed back to Alamo, logging a Caracara and a lovely Roseate Spoonbill flying over SR 100 on the way!  We ended up with 79 species for the day.  Bird list:

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
Mottled Duck
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Mourning Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Buff-bellied Hummingbird
Common Gallinule
American Coot
Purple Gallinule
Black-necked Stilt
Black-bellied Plover
Killdeer
Stilt Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Willet
Laughing Gull
Least Tern
Caspian Tern
Royal Tern
Brown Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Tricolored Heron
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Roseate Spoonbill
Harris's Hawk
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Acadian Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
Tropical Kingbird
Eastern Kingbird
Philadelphia Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Purple Martin
Barn Swallow
Marsh Wren
Veery
Gray-cheeked Thrush
Swainson's Thrush
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Cedar Waxwing
Lincoln's Sparrow
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Great-tailed Grackle
Ovenbird
Northern Waterthrush
Black-and-white Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Magnolia Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Summer Tanager
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Dickcissel
House Sparrow

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Late Season Feeder-Bashing

5/1/19 

We got a last minute request from Ruth Hoyt to help guide some serious photographers from India, so I was called into service to show Anil (who actually lives in Dallas now) and his buddies Ananth, Maduth, and “Doctor Rao” around some local areas where they could get some good photos (and being their first time to South Texas, everything was new)!  The down side was that, this time of year, most of the nature parks have stopped feeding the birds by now, but a wonderful volunteer named Donna was still stocking the feeders at Estero Llano Grande SP, and the National Butterfly Center does feed all year round, so those were the two spots we were gonna concentrate on. 

We all piled in Anil’s SUV and headed over, and the plan was to check in first, chill on the deck at Ibis Pond, and then head back to the feeders in the Tropical Zone.  We ran into Ranger John getting ready to start the bird walk (and Ian and Julie yet again J), and when I mentioned what we were doing, he gave me the bad news:  they had just quit stocking the feeders for the season! L  He actually offered to run over there to do it himself, but then said one of the other rangers volunteered to do it, so after thanking him profusely we enjoyed what was in Ibis Pond:  several Black-necked Stilts, a pair of Mottled and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, and both yellowlegs and Long-billed Dowitcher in the shorebird department (couldn’t turn it into a Hudsonian Godwit J).  Barn Swallows were swooping all over the place as well, and the guys enjoyed shooting the doves at the office feeders.

Black-necked Stilt (above and below)


Anil and friends on the deck

But they were antsy to get to the “real deal”, so we headed back, where one of the guys spotted a Clay-colored Thrush and was able to snap off a picture!  (It was kinda fun watching Anil use Ananth’s shoulder as a tripod… J)  We obviously beat the feeder man to the feeders, and after awhile in the Indigo Blind with no action, I headed back to the office with the intention of offering to fill the feeders myself (and saw a flyover Yellow-crowned Night Heron on the way, to the chagrin of the rest of the guys), but Ranger Jose and another guy were jumping into the truck with the goods, and by the time I got back the seed and PB mixture had been applied!  (Jose said they’d probably use up what they had, and then that would be it for the season…)  After crowning him and his assistant with hero status J I joined the guys in the blind, where it wasn’t long before the action started, and they all got fabulous shots of Green Jays, Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, all three “large” doves, a Kiskadee, a Black-crested Titmouse, a Catbird, a Lesser Goldfinch pair, a female Cardinal, and a female Painted Bunting (we all wanted their hubbies J)!  They were especially entertained by a Fox Squirrel that acted as though it was positively posing in different positions, just for the camera! J  A Brown-crested Flycatcher flew into the area, but didn’t put himself in a position to be photographed.  While all this was going on I heard a Warbling Vireo scold behind us, but he never became visible…

Young Altamira Oriole on the way to the Tropical Zone

The guys wait inside the Indigo Blind

Green Jay (above and below)


Female Golden-fronted Woodpecker (above and below)


Male Golden-fronted Woodpecker

White-tipped Dove showing the lovely subtle colors on its neck

Several shots of the Black-crested Titmouse



Female Painted Bunting

Young male Lesser Goldfinch

Gray Catbird

Female Cardinal (above and below)


Posing Fox Squirrel (token mammal)

Great Kiskadee

Mourning Dove

Anil (in the camo) conferring with his buddies

Someone spots a Clay-colored Thrush!

A shoulder makes a good tripod!

They all wanted to time things so that we’d arrive at the National Butterfly Center in time for the 1:30 feeding, plus stop for lunch someplace beforehand, but when they saw the patch on my frumpy shirt with the picture of the Yellow-crowned Night Heron, they all announced that they wanted to see one, but a long hike out to Alligator Lake with all that heavy equipment really wasn’t an option (especially since the night heron throng that’s usually back there had long since left), so since “Bird’s Eye” informed me that one was sighted at Frontera the day before, we decided to scoot over there.

We really couldn’t spend much time there if we were gonna make feeding time, but Chris informed us that she had seen a night heron that morning, so we were hopeful!  We were momentarily distracted by a Great Crested Flycatcher and Ladder-backed Woodpecker, and a careful perusal of the resacas and ponds yielded no night herons or Green Kingfishers,  but what was a surprise was the male Belted Kingfisher still hanging around (and it indeed got flagged by eBird)!  We were really rushing to stay on schedule, but a very colorful Texas Spiny Lizard distracted all of us!  Then in the parking lot the Chachalacas started chorusing in plain sight, so of course the guys couldn’t resist shooting that!

Texas Spiny Lizard (above and below)


We finally got on the road, stopped at a Stripes at my insistence (I told the guys that you can’t come to South Texas without having a Stripes taco J), then headed on to the Butterfly Center.  After checking in (we had just missed a big mob of kidlets) we drove down to the “old gardens” and then planted ourselves in the only shady spot by the feeding area!  Another lady joined us after a while, but the feeder people’s schedule had been thrown by all the field trips, so it was a while before they came to stock the stumps!  But once that happened we started getting the more colorful visitors:  besides the grackles who were bullying everyone else, the guys were really excited about the Bronzed Cowbirds and Red-winged Blackbirds!  The Chachalacas gave great photo ops as they cackled at each other, and the Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, Kiskadees, and Green Jays came in occasionally, but the real star (like yesterday) was the Altamira Oriole!  I even heard a Baltimore singing and chuckling from a nearby tree, but he never came in…  An Olive Sparrow made a very brief appearance, and a female Yellow Warbler did acrobatics in one of the mesquites, as did a stunning male Magnolia Warbler, but a presumed Black-throated Green was just content to “chink” from the trees, along with a hiding Yellow-billed Cuckoo doing its “cou—cou—cou” call.  Even a flyover Turkey Vulture got them excited!  The titmice were pretty cooperative here, and a male Cardinal made a brief appearance but never came in to the feeders; I assured them that they’d probably get them at Laguna Seca the next day!  “Dr. Roa” started shooting butters on one of the stumps with bait after a while; looked like most of them were Tawny Emperors.  Besides the Fox Squirrel the “mammal models” included an Eastern Cottontail and a flighty Hispid Cotton Rat.

Plain Chachalaca

A pair sunning

Fox Squirrel

Black-crested Titmouse

Red-winged Blackbird (above and below)


Sunning Great-tailed Grackle

Showing glossy colors

Eastern Cottontail

Golden-fronted Woodpecker (above and below)


Check out the golden belly!

Green Jay

Several shots of the star, the Altamira Oriole!



White-winged Dove

We packed up around 4:15 to head back to Alamo (and about that time the Altamira pair came in once again, of course J), and even on the way back picked up a nice day bird:  a flyover Osprey with a fish!  For primarily “feeder bashing” it wasn’t bad with 55 species for the day!  Bird list:

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
Mottled Duck
Plain Chachalaca
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)
White-tipped Dove
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Buff-bellied Hummingbird
Black-necked Stilt
Killdeer
Long-billed Dowitcher
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Laughing Gull
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
Belted Kingfisher
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Great Crested Flycatcher
Brown-crested Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
Couch's Kingbird
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
White-eyed Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Green Jay
Barn Swallow
Black-crested Titmouse
Carolina Wren
Clay-colored Thrush
Gray Catbird
Curve-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Lesser Goldfinch
Olive Sparrow
Altamira Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
Red-winged Blackbird
Bronzed Cowbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Great-tailed Grackle
Magnolia Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Northern Cardinal
Painted Bunting
Dickcissel
House Sparrow