Thursday, March 2, 2017

Fishing for Birds (and Butterflies), Part 3

There was a big blob of red on the weather radar this morning, so I was glad we decided to head up to Salineño today where it was supposed to be dry!  By the time we got up there it had cleared up nicely, and the temperature was just perfect with a cool breeze!  Apparently a whole lotta other folks were on the same wavelength, as the place was packed with two vans of tour groups along with several lone ranger birders!  One group (that turned out to be an Eagle Eye Tours group) was already at the boat ramp and had a Red-billed Pigeon in their sights, but it’s a good thing that Ken and Keith had gotten fabulous looks last Thursday, because this bird was well hidden in the tree!  (I was happy to get it for the year, anyway…)  So while the tour river-watched, Ken and I decided to hike the trail first, and we hadn’t gone five steps it seems before his target Audubon’s Oriole teed up on a tree right in front of us!  I got him in the scope for Ken, then went back to tell the group (as this bird doesn’t always cooperate at the feeders)!  The group made a beeline, but the bird had evidently been chased away by a blackbird the minute I left! L  Interestingly, upon processing the pictures, there turned out to be two birds up there – didn’t even see the second one we were so focused on the one!

Audubon's Oriole - we didn't even notice the second bird below at first!

So the gang decided to continue on the trail while Ken and I went back to the boat ramp and set up watch.  More people trickled in here and there, and by that time the pigeon had slunk away inside the tree.  A Pied-billed Grebe was hauled out on a rock, interestingly, and was eventually joined by a Green Kingfisher!  (The grebe seemed okay as he occasionally got in the water to bathe and dive, then got back on the rock…)  The Ospreys were about along with the ever-present Spotted Sandpiper and both cormorant species, and a flock of Gadwall floated along as well.  The only other raptors we had were both flavors of vulture and a couple of Caracaras, and we did see a distant kingfisher rowing over the island’s horizon before going the wrong direction, but couldn’t get a definitive look.  Before long Mary Gustafson emerged from the trail with a couple of clients; she did report a Ringed Kingfisher they flushed off a snag (which made me think that was probably the same bird), but they couldn’t find any seedeaters.  Skye (the guy leading the tour) came back and reported the same thing, but we waited it out the whole hour before heading up the trail ourselves.

Pied-billed Grebe uncharacteristically hauled out on a rock (you can see how far back on his body his legs are attached)!

He doesn't seem to mind sharing his rock with a Green Kingfisher, however!
It was pretty quiet going in, with most of the action being at the cul-de-sac:  a male Vermilion Flycatcher was pretty tame, and a Kiskadee came out to investigate, but that was pretty much it.  On the way back, however, I heard a crac….crac… and stopped Ken in his steps – the Ringed Kingfisher was flying by!  He saw enough to tell it was a large kingfisher and could tell the flight call was different from a Belted, so that was good enough for him!

Vermilion Flycatcher
Not needing to sit at the feeders for the oriole (he figured it was probably gonna be a tight fit in there today anyway), we headed down Dump Road in hopes of sparrows.  The wind was starting up, so things were low (got a chattering Pyrrhuloxia, but that was about it), therefore we continued on to Falcon State Park to check the butterfly garden.  Ken was anxious to learn new butterflies, so we saw several expected species including Black and Giant Swallowtails, Empress Leilia, both Vesta and Phaon Crescents (along with a little Elada Checkerspot), Funereal Duskywing, Southern Dogface, and several Queens and sulphurs.

Empress Leilia

Funereal Duskywing

Phaon Crescent (above and below)

Elada Checkerspot (above and below)

The similar Vesta Crescent (above and below)

Beat-up Southern Dogface

By that time we both agreed that wandering the back roads in search of sparrows probably wouldn’t be very productive, so Ken readily agreed to head over to the National Butterfly Center for more butter-hunting!  Even though it was breezy, the temperature was just perfect, and the place was alive with stuff:  in the Sunken Gardens we had both Zilpa and White-striped Longtails, several Black and Giant Swallowtails, Dusky-blue Groundstreak, Silver-banded Hairstreak, and Checkered Whites.  Luciano had suggested we cut over to the Walking Trail at the halfway point, and along there we had lots of Red Admirals and a single South Texas Satyr on a bait log. 

Dusky-blue Groundstreak

Silver-banded Hairstreak

Zilpa Longtail

White-striped Longtail

Red Admiral

Once down in the old main garden we sat at the feeder area for a while, enjoying the common birds, then hit the gardens again, being overwhelmed by the butter action:  Ken’s coveted Zebra Heliconian finally came by and gave us a show, along with a Julia and Gulf Fritillaries.  A rare Double-dotted Skipper was uncooperative for photos, but a male Chestnut Crescent made up for it!  It was hard pointing out the little guys, but we had plenty of Clouded and Fiery Skippers along with the occasional Whirlabout and Sachem.  Bordered and Crimson Patches were a hit, and finally the Mexican Bluewing showed off as we started back, along with a beat-up Band-celled Sister!  I told Ken that one has to see the Valley’s signature butterfly, especially since it’s painted on the Mission water tower! J

Chachalaca (above and below)

Green Jay grabbing the nail... 

Chestnut Crescent

Zebra Heliconian (above and below)

Fuzzy Mexican Bluewing

Beat-up Band-celled Sister

Mexican Fritillary

Headed home with a meager bird list, but the quality of both birds and bugs couldn’t be beat (birds beat out the bugs by only two species)! 

Bird list:

  Plain Chachalaca                     
  Pied-billed Grebe                    
  Neotropic Cormorant                  
  Double-crested Cormorant             
  Great Blue Heron                     
  Great Egret                          
  Black Vulture                        
  Turkey Vulture                       
  Spotted Sandpiper                    
  Rock Pigeon                          
  Red-billed Pigeon                    
  Eurasian Collared-Dove               
  White-winged Dove                    
  Mourning Dove                         
  Inca Dove                            
  Common Ground-Dove                   
  Greater Roadrunner                   
  Ringed Kingfisher                    
  Green Kingfisher                     
  Golden-fronted Woodpecker             
  Ladder-backed Woodpecker             
  Crested Caracara                     
  American Kestrel                     
  Eastern Phoebe                       
  Vermilion Flycatcher                 
  Great Kiskadee                       
  Loggerhead Shrike                    
  White-eyed Vireo                     
  Green Jay                            
  Northern Rough-winged Swallow        
  Black-crested Titmouse               
  House Wren                            
  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher                
  Ruby-crowned Kinglet                 
  Long-billed Thrasher                 
  Northern Mockingbird                 
  European Starling                    
  Orange-crowned Warbler                
  Olive Sparrow                        
  Northern Cardinal                    
  Red-winged Blackbird                 
  Western Meadowlark                   
  Great-tailed Grackle                  
  Altamira Oriole                      
  Audubon's Oriole                     
  Lesser Goldfinch                     
  House Sparrow                        


Butter List:

Pipevine Swallowtail
Black Swallowtail
Giant Swallowtail
Checkered White
Southern Dogface
Cloudless Sulphur
Large Orange Sulphur
Little Yellow
Sleepy Orange
Silver-banded Hairstreak
Mallow Scrub Hairstreak
Dusky-blue Groundstreak
Reakirt’s Blue
Fatal Metalmark
American Snout
Gulf Fritillary
Julia Heliconian
Zebra Heliconian
Mexican Fritillary
Bordered Patch
Crimson Patch
Elada Checkerspot
Texan Crescent
Chestnut Crescent
Vesta Crescent
Phaon Crescent
Red Admiral
White Peacock
Common Mestra
Band-celled Sister
Mexican Bluewing
Tropical Leafwing
Empress Leilia
South Texas Satyr
White-striped Longtail
Zilpa Longtail
Brown Longtail
Sickle-winged Skipper
Funereal Duskywing
White Checkered Skipper
Tropical Checkered Skipper
Laviana White Skipper
Turk’s Cap White Skipper
Clouded Skipper
Double-dotted Skipper
Fiery Skipper


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