This morning Keith’s British friend and festival helper Tim joined us as we headed to Estero Llano Grande State Park on yet another brisk morning! (I figured they’d all enjoy each other’s company as Kay and Martin were from Manchester and Tim was from Spalding…) Tim never goes anywhere without his scope, so he volunteered to be the scope-bearer (especially since he had a Scope-Pak which made carrying it easy) as we headed into the Tropical Zone. Just before the Green Jay Trail Tim peeked into a corner of ground, and found the Pauraque pair that had apparently camped out at that spot – that was really a treat!
Kay, Tim, and Martin get ready for the big hike!
Enjoying the "Entrance Pauraque" (below)
As usual, it was pretty quiet to begin with; we took the back trail and had the usual Orange-crowned Warblers and titmice chirping, and a Golden-fronted Woodpecker posed on a dead tree. A 15-minute vigil in the Indigo Blind proved pretty fruitful, however: even though the faithful volunteers hadn’t put out the buffet yet, the place was covered in White-tipped Doves and Green Jays waiting for their vittles! Both Buff-bellied and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds came in to the hummer feeder, and a Cardinal visited the tray picking up the leftovers. A couple of Kiskadees fought over the empty peanut butter feeder as well!
From there we made another vigil at the picnic table feeders, picking up the resident Harris’ Hawk flying by on the way! Once at the table Tim right away got everyone on a brilliant male Black-throated Green Warbler! Again, the residents were picking at the leftovers as titmice, Cardinals, Green Jays, White-tipped Doves, and both species of thrasher came in to the tables! Shortly the breakfast crew showed up (Kay asked them for eggs and sausage J), and after they filled the feeders the gentleman said, “Now you’re gonna see some action!” Sure enough, the minute they left, the place was mobbed with more of the same, plus a pair of Golden-fronted Woodpeckers attacking the fresh grapefruit! Unfortunately the Olive Sparrow didn’t make a showing before we had to continue on, and a Sharp-shinned Hawk kinda broke up the party, anyway…
Playtime at the feeders (with Golden-fronted Woodpeckers and Green Jays)
Heading out of the Tropical Zone
On the way to the deck the guys spotted an Inca Dove that I never got on, but an Altamira Oriole whistled happily while Kay got a glimpse of the thing shooting through! Being overcast made Ibis Pond easier to peruse: it wasn’t stuffed with stuff, but there were plenty of Blue-winged Teal, a few Shovelers, a couple of Mottled Ducks, and Coots and Gadwall over in Avocet Pond. A Black Phoebe was flopping around (I don’t recall seeing one at Estero before), and a Common Yellowthroat was unusually cooperative! Kay discovered some Chachalacas on the floor of the “restroom feeders”, and as we made our way out to Dowitcher Pond I tried unsuccessfully to pish out some lisping Olive Sparrows.
Blue-winged Teal (note the water drops on the head of the bird above)
Proud Black Phoebe (above and below)
At the pond we added a male Cinnamon Teal, a pod of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, a few Least Grebes, some Green-winged Teal, and a very bold Sora to the list! Four Plegaids ibis were feeding halfway down the pond, so I asked Tim to check them out as Glossy had been reported, but he said they all had red eyes, making them White-faced… A few Least Sandpipers came in close which delighted Kay! Grebe Marsh didn’t have much except a Spotted Sandpiper, but a Green Kingfisher did zip by and give a brief look! (Tim shared a bit of anecdotal info about how to tell Spotted from the nearly identical Common Sandpiper of Europe: he’d noticed that Spotteds will crouch and stalk prey items, and he had never observed Commons doing that! I knew exactly what he was talking about, as I had once videoed a Spotted doing just that with a damselfly on a log!) A Ladder-backed Woodpecker and Tropical Kingbird vocalized nicely but played hard to get…
Least Sandpiper (above and below)
Over at Alligator Lake I was really expecting more night herons, but only had one adult Yellow-crowned Night Heron, albeit close to shore! Since we had already seen Pauraques I took my charges along the back loop to see if the McCall’s Screech Owl was in his box (he wasn’t L), but Kay and Martin were keen on seeing more Pauraques, so Tim was able to find the “reliable” one in the “usual” spot, although this time he was sitting in a bunch of greenery! While scanning the lake another Green Kingfisher shot across (I thought they’d be about the same size as Britain’s kingfisher, but Kay said they’re actually smaller than the Green), and Tim was rather nonplussed when we reached the deck and the lake didn’t have the “tons” of birds that were there the last time he was there! I dutifully teased him as, in my experience, it never has “tons” of birds, but it’s always a good place to pick up a few things, and this time we had two Black-crowned Night Herons and an immature Yellow-crowned that Tim said didn’t look too happy… J On the way out Martin was pointing at something on the ground, and Tim assumed he had found another Pauraque on the “wrong” side of the trail, but he had actually found a Hispid Cotton Rat! Nearby someone spotted a Snowy Egret and Anhinga close together on a branch just visible through the brush!
Kay and Tim check out Alligator Lake
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
The "reliable" Pauraque
Black-crowned Night Heron
The gang was game for a peek on the levee, so up we went, where the wind was gale force but thankfully to our backs; we quickly picked up Avocets in addition to the ubiquitous teal, and Tim spotted a distant Red-tailed Hawk before we headed down the levee and down the other “ramp”. A young male Vermilion Flycatcher greeted us at the “T” intersection, but Dowitcher Pond had nothing new (except the field trip across the way J), so we continued on the trail through the mesquite savannah, where turning the corner someone spotted a “thrush” up in the tree that turned out to be an American Robin! (Ho hum to most of the country, but that’s a good bird for the Valley!) On the Spoonbill Trail boardwalk a lovely Harrier sailed overhead, a “Myrtle” Warbler came close along with a couple of Orangecrowns, and an Eastern Phoebe flopped around in the marsh. A Cave Swallow flew overhead, prompting a wish for one to show up in Britain! A couple of Eastern Cottontails poured on the cuteness (including an adorable baby that I wasn’t quick enough with the camera for), and we ruminated over the identity of a deceased mouse on the boardwalk until Kay finally said, “It’s a dead one…” J
Up on the levee
American Robin, a good bird for the Valley!
Tim trying to shoot the Robin...
We decided to spend about 15 minutes at the “Restroom Feeders” where there was a bit of action (besides the ubiquitous Red-winged Blackbirds and House Sparrows): both species of thrasher showed up (in fact, the Curve-billed was being a bit of a bully towards the blackbirds), and a Wilson’s Warbler played hide-and-seek in the bushes. Titmice and gnatcatchers made brief appearances, as did the field trip that came parading through while we were there – they looked like they were enjoying themselves!
The kids had commandeered the deck, so we decided to take the back trail to the Tropical Zone and then head to the parking lot from there. We enjoyed several Chachalacas hogging the tray feeder behind the building, and an Orange-crowned Warbler taking a bath in the water feature, but the Screech Owl was not in his hole in the white building L. We enjoyed our stroll back out, adding a singing Carolina Wren to the list, checked in on the Pauraque pair again, and then headed home with a respectable 68 species for the morning! Bird list:
Black-bellied Whistling-DuckBlue-winged Teal
Great Blue Heron
Black-throated Green Warbler