Monday, January 18, 2016

Two Brothers Seek Flycatchers & Falcons

12 JAN 2016

            “Manny and Danny” (names changed to protect identity) were two brothers, both from Texas originally, who had been to the Valley many times, but Manny’s nemesis bird was the Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, and Danny wanted to get a “countable” view of an Aplomado Falcon, so those were our two main targets for the day.  Both of them were an absolute hoot – the bantering never seemed to stop, and we had just a great day!

            I was planning on taking them to Anzalduas, seeing as Greater Pewee had also been a target bird, but they had beaten me to it the day before, where they both got the pewee but Manny missed the tyrannulet, so Plan B was Santa Ana NWR, seeing as that was right down the street.  That was fine with them, as Danny commented that this was one of his very favorite places!  We beat the gatekeeper, and even before hitting the trail we saw Chachalacas darting across the picnic area and shooting over the fence to the feeding area!  An Inca Dove rattled its wings in takeoff as we walked by, and on the way to the “roundabout” several things chattered including Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Black-crested Titmouse, Hermit Thrush, and Olive Sparrow, the latter being characteristically elusive.  We happened to be talking about Estero’s cooperative Pauraques when one suddenly flushed and swooped across the trail in front of us!  We heard what I suspected was a Green Jay mimicking a Gray Hawk, and when we got to the overlook and started checking out the ducks, poor Manny had just sat down when I heard the dear-dear-dear of a tyrannulet!  We followed the call down the Willow Lake Trail connector, but it never called again; what did vocalize on the way back, however, was a Least Flycatcher doing his little whit call! 
Danny checks his photos along the Willow Trail connector

Checking out the birdies at Willow Lake

Back at the overlook, we checked out all the waterfowl and looked in vain for the Jacana, then made the rest of the loop around Chachalaca Trail where miraculously a couple of Olive Sparrows popped right out into the open, apparently having a bit of a territorial dispute as they both were facing off with beaks open and tails flipping!  We ran into David Wolf leading a VENT tour, and after exchanging reports we mentioned we were looking for the tyrannulet, whereupon he jokingly said, “Good luck!”  Well.  Upon entering the “roundabout” I heard a WheeeK! right over our heads, and there was the tyrannulet, just putting on a great show!  That was certainly the best look I’ve ever gotten!
Ultra-cooperative Northern Beardless Tyrannulet

We figured there wasn’t much that could beat that, but since the falcon was our next target, we headed straight out to Old Port Isabel Road, and the guys were very glad they didn’t try this excursion on their own, because (as I warned them) the directions to get there are very confusing, and the road can be dicey!  Once on the dirt portion of the south end, it was overcast enough to get a decent view of Loma Alta Lake, which had White Pelicans, Roseate Spoonbills, and distant cormorants, egrets, coots, and ducks.  The fields past the railroad tracks had Long-billed Curlews, but we could spot no falcons around the usual hangout places.  Not only that, but we had only gone about a mile when the road became absolutely impassable with a large lake in the middle (along with a bunch of glass bottles lined up that apparently someone had been shooting at; the guys rightly figured there would be broken glass at the bottom of the “lake”), so we turned around at that point.  The consolation prize (for me anyway), was the huge marsh there where Soras were calling up a storm, but also what sounded like several King Rails were sounding off!  It was at that point we were trying to convince Manny that he needed to start counting heard-only birds… J

            The next best spot was Boca Chica Boulevard, so we headed there next, but could find no falcons; we just gawked at all the Turkey Vultures and gulls swarming around the landfill, and joked about the fact that we were seeing practically every raptor but the Aplomado:  several Harris’ and White-tailed Hawks posed nicely, and we had both male and female Northern Harriers, and of course tons of Kestrels.  A White-tailed Kite even made an appearance.  After looking and scanning as far as the overlook, we decided to head up to Port Isabel and lunch, where we all had a terrific grilled snapper plate at Pirate’s Landing!
White-tailed Hawk

Manny and Danny at the overlook
            EBird had reported the falcons along SR 100 a couple of days ago, so we headed out that way, stopping at a few promising places (including the traditional stop across from the blue shack).  Not a thing (besides Ospreys and more of the regulars), so after trying out the north end of Old Port Isabel Road (which was even more of a disaster) and being mesmerized by the workers hanging from a helicopter line while working on the high tension wires, we headed back to Buena Vista Road for a last ditch effort.  Proud Caracaras and pretty White-tailed Kites were the highlights along here, and I can’t tell you how sorely tempted I was to head down General Brandt Road as there wasn’t a truck in sight (and hasn’t been for the last several months, according to several folks I spoke to), but I didn’t want to risk getting dinged by law enforcement, so we headed back to 100 and headed home from there.  We ended the day with 77 species!
Bird List:
  Snow Goose                            Chen caerulescens
  Gadwall                               Anas strepera
  Mottled Duck                          Anas fulvigula
  Blue-winged Teal                      Anas discors
  Northern Shoveler                     Anas clypeata
  Northern Pintail                      Anas acuta
  Green-winged Teal                     Anas crecca
  Ruddy Duck                            Oxyura jamaicensis
  Plain Chachalaca                      Ortalis vetula
  Least Grebe                           Tachybaptus dominicus
  Pied-billed Grebe                     Podilymbus podiceps
  Neotropic Cormorant                   Phalacrocorax brasilianus
  Double-crested Cormorant              Phalacrocorax auritus
  American White Pelican                Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
  Brown Pelican                         Pelecanus occidentalis
  Great Blue Heron                      Ardea herodias
  Great Egret                           Ardea alba
  Snowy Egret                           Egretta thula
  White Ibis                            Eudocimus albus
  Roseate Spoonbill                     Platalea ajaja
  Turkey Vulture                        Cathartes aura
  Osprey                                Pandion haliaetus
  White-tailed Kite                     Elanus leucurus
  Northern Harrier                      Circus cyaneus
  Harris's Hawk                         Parabuteo unicinctus
  White-tailed Hawk                     Geranoaetus albicaudatus
  King Rail                             Rallus elegans
  Sora                                  Porzana carolina
  Common Gallinule                      Gallinula galeata
  American Coot                         Fulica americana
  Black-necked Stilt                    Himantopus mexicanus
  Killdeer                              Charadrius vociferus
  Greater Yellowlegs                    Tringa melanoleuca
  Lesser Yellowlegs                     Tringa flavipes
  Long-billed Curlew                    Numenius americanus
  Wilson's Snipe                        Gallinago delicata
  Laughing Gull                         Leucophaeus atricilla
  Gull-billed Tern                      Gelochelidon nilotica
  Rock Pigeon                           Columba livia
  Mourning Dove                         Zenaida macroura
  Inca Dove                             Columbina inca
  White-tipped Dove                     Leptotila verreauxi
  Common Pauraque                       Nyctidromus albicollis
  Belted Kingfisher                     Megaceryle alcyon
  Golden-fronted Woodpecker             Melanerpes aurifrons
  Ladder-backed Woodpecker              Picoides scalaris
  Crested Caracara                      Caracara cheriway
  American Kestrel                      Falco sparverius
  Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet         Camptostoma imberbe
  Least Flycatcher                      Empidonax minimus
  Eastern Phoebe                        Sayornis phoebe
  Great Kiskadee                        Pitangus sulphuratus
  Loggerhead Shrike                     Lanius ludovicianus
  White-eyed Vireo                      Vireo griseus
  Green Jay                             Cyanocorax yncas
  Black-crested Titmouse                Baeolophus atricristatus
  Verdin                                Auriparus flaviceps
  House Wren                            Troglodytes aedon
  Marsh Wren                            Cistothorus palustris
  Carolina Wren                         Thryothorus ludovicianus
  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher                 Polioptila caerulea
  Ruby-crowned Kinglet                  Regulus calendula
  Hermit Thrush                         Catharus guttatus
  Long-billed Thrasher                  Toxostoma longirostre
  Northern Mockingbird                  Mimus polyglottos
  European Starling                     Sturnus vulgaris
  Black-and-white Warbler               Mniotilta varia
  Orange-crowned Warbler                Oreothlypis celata
  Common Yellowthroat                   Geothlypis trichas
  Yellow-rumped Warbler                 Setophaga coronata
  Olive Sparrow                         Arremonops rufivirgatus
  Savannah Sparrow                      Passerculus sandwichensis
  Swamp Sparrow                         Melospiza georgiana
  Northern Cardinal                     Cardinalis cardinalis
  Red-winged Blackbird                  Agelaius phoeniceus
  Eastern Meadowlark                    Sturnella magna
  Great-tailed Grackle                  Quiscalus mexicanus

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