While visiting family in Austin, Annu and Arun decided to come to the Valley where Annu could indulge in her passion of bird photography (Arun was along for the ride J but admittedly was a great spotter)! She was primarily interested in the Green Jay, but also orioles and tanagers (all the colorful stuff J), so since there was still a north wind blowing, I insisted that the Island was the place to go, and suggested another park where they could go on their own to get the Green Jay et al.
It was another beautiful, sunny day (with intermittent clouds), and I was a little concerned when I saw that the numbers were definitely down at the Convention Centre from where they had been the last couple of days, but I needn’t have worried: even one male Baltimore Oriole was enough to send Annu into ecstasy! J I somewhat let her off the leash to go chase whatever she wanted to chase; Orchard Orioles were, of course, still there in numbers, and I pointed out a Wood Thrush next to the wall. Arun had gone ahead to deliver the bag of oranges I had brought, but soon came running back with a picture of a “little green bird” he had taken with his iPhone, and it was a female Painted Bunting! He also described seeing a bird that sounded like a male (he admitted he wasn’t the birder J), but since Painted Bunting was #1 on Annu’s Want List, we headed over to where he had seen the female, and indeed got great looks (although the male refused to come out). We then wandered over to the water feature where Peggy and one of her Angels was getting ready to put out seed for the buntings, so Annu asked to tag along! So back we went to where the female had been, and after the Mottled Ducks and grackles had had their fill, eventually the male came out in all his glory! Annu was beyond thrilled! J
Annu gets her first Baltimore Oriole (below)!
Female Orchard Oriole
Arun shows Annu the female Painted Bunting (below)
From there we just wandered towards the “back yard” where we ran into Daryl again (he and Mary had to return to Sequin to take care of a few things, but then came right back when I told them about potential fallout conditions later in the week!), and more “jewels”: American Redstart, Yellow-breasted Chat, Gray-cheeked Thrush, and more orioles came to the fore! Annu almost died when someone pointed out the male Scarlet Tanager – what a stunner! Further down was a herd of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, plus a small group of Indigo Buntings in all plumages, plus the vagrant “Oregon” Junco that had been reported earlier in the week (yes, they really are rare down here J)! Annu just plopped herself down close to the action, and soon yet another Painted Bunting came out! She was definitely in Heaven! J Arun spotted an Eastern Kingbird flopping around in the back, and both Clay-colored and Savannah Sparrows were still around. I took a cursory look at the Flats just to pad the list (Annu had gotten plenty of waterbird photos in Florida, so she preferred to concentrate on the songbirds): Skimmers, Royal and Least Terns, shorebirds that were too far out for me to ID with the bins L, plus tons of Franklin’s Gulls wafting over throughout the morning were the main players in that department. Annu was also delighted with the multitude of Barn Swallows swooping around, and we enjoyed a mom Mottled Duck leading her brood back to the Flats while fending off an opportunistic grackle trying to make a snack out of one of her little ones!
Annu in the "Back Yard"
Despite having been in Florida, she hadn’t seen either Purple Gallinule or Least Bittern, so we went out on the boardwalk to find them. The bittern was uncharacteristically cooperative (as the pair had been throughout the week), as was a nice Pectoral Sandpiper, but the gallinule was a no-show (Arun was delighted with the Coot J). We staked out the Magic Mesquite for a while and found a Wilson’s Warbler and Yellow-breasted Chat, but in the meantime local birding buddy Kristy found the gallinule and came running over to tell us! So we went traipsing back over and got “here and there” looks as he kept hiding under the boardwalk (which is why we probably couldn’t find him in the first place)! A Kentucky Warbler was hiding in the grass, and a quick look at East Pond added Redhead and Stilt Sandpiper to the list. While all this was going on the local yellow-nosed Snowy Egret flew over!
We moseyed back to the Back Yard and enjoyed more tanagers on the ground, plus a Northern Parula in one of the mesquites. After that we headed to Stripes for one of their famous tacos, then checked out the Sheepshead lots; while Arun and I chilled on the “Sunny Side”, Annu was able to approach a Summer Tanager almost within petting distance! She was beyond thrilled (and running out of room on her card J)! The drip hosted a Yellow Warbler and another chat, and while we were watching a sapsucker flew in under our noses and attached herself to a nearby tree! We also logged Swainson’s Thrushes and tame Hooded Warblers, and when Arun came running over from the “dark side” to tell us to come look at some huge birds, they turned out to be Yellow-headed Blackbirds! A stunning male Rose-breasted Grosbeak was also at the drip, but aside from those two additions, it was pretty quiet.
Annu and Chip photograph a tired Scarlet Tanager (below)
So we headed over to the Birding and Nature Center, where most of the reported goodies were being found right in the parking lot! In addition to tons of Tennessee Warblers, the Cape May Warbler had apparently migrated over from the Convention Centre bottlebrush tree to the “Orange Tree” that Javi, the resident naturalist, had created out of a freeze-killed Sea Grape tree! A Green Heron was hanging around the big waterfall, and Javi himself found us a Bullock’s Oriole in Songbird Alley! We took a quick look at the “free” end of the boardwalk, where a Black-throated Green Warbler was hiding from the wind near the nursery, but that was about it.
A dead Sea Grape tree makes for a handy place to stick oranges!
We still had time, so Annu was certainly game to go back to the Convention Centre, so I dropped her off at the entrance (figures that the bus would pull up behind me as I was doing that L), then parked in my usual spot at the “top” of the Circular Area and weaved around the “maze” there (Arun had opted to stay in the car and take a nap J), but only picked up the two “dirty” young White Ibis. Annu was in Heaven again as she had found another Painted Bunting and was sitting with him, so I hung at the water feature and enjoyed an Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, and Worm-eating Warbler, plus the Buff-bellied Hummer. But the big surprise was another junco that came in for a drink! (Several people suspected there were actually two birds, because the “back yard” bird and the “water feature” bird were being seen almost simultaneously!
We finally had to tear ourselves away from there, ending the day with 76 species (which isn’t bad considering we virtually avoided the water birds)! Bird list:
Cape May Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler