Monday, May 8, 2017

Alamo Inn Spring Tour, Part 1


(I need to make a caveat:  the Spring Tour blogs only reflect the days *I* took Mike and Sally out; Michael Marsden and Keith Hackland were the guides when I wasn't available, so there are actually more "parts" than what I've published here!)

Mike and Sally were the only participants on Alamo Inn’s “Spring Tour”, but that certainly made things easy logistically as we just hopped in “Heppy” and took off! J  We had had a thunderstorm the night before (that Sally flew through in order to get in late last night L), so since it was supposed to clear up that morning and start raining again in the afternoon, I planned on taking them to Frontera Audubon Thicket for some hopeful migrants, and then road bird the La Sal del Rey area so we could stay dry in the car!

Frontera turned out to be extremely productive: we arrived at about 7:40 and didn’t get out of there until about 2:00!!  They had just opened the gate and I was wheeling in to park, expecting my charges to follow me in, when what would have been their life White-tipped Doves pranced across the parking lot!  Thinking they went in another way, I went ahead and parked, then discovered that they had been waylaid by a perched Mississippi Kite!  I was sure hoping to see one of those this season!

Things were quiet at the water feature at first, so we headed into the woods and tried to get on every little seep we heard and every little body we saw!  Most of them wanted to stay high in the trees and behind the leaves (or in the sun), but during the course of the morning we did manage to get decent looks at Philadelphia and White-eyed Vireos, Black-throated Green and Nashville Warblers, and even a Yellow-billed Cuckoo that flew in!  At the big pond overlook a male Green Kingfisher shot back and forth, and in the little muddy section in the middle had both Solitary and Spotted Sandpiper (with the spots), plus a fluffy Snowy Egret!  Along the back fence a pair of Carolina Wrens doing some nest-building allowed Mike to get a great shot, and at the view into the cemetery we had great looks at Inca Doves hopping around.  A rest at the feeder areas gave us wonderful views of Chachalacas, White-tipped Doves, and finally a Cardinal for Mike to photograph!  The “new” feeder area boasted a Painted Bunting, and at the “old” feeder area a nice Blue-winged Warbler came in close, along with both Great Crested and Brown-crested Flycatchers!  Both Sally and Mike enjoyed the antics of the Fox Squirrels and Eastern Cottontails as well! J

Male Green Kingfisher

Mike and Sally birding from the boardwalk

Nest-building Carolina Wren

Eastern Cottontail

Chachalacas and a White-tipped Dove at the feeders

This Myiarchus flycatcher generated much discussion, but we finally settled on Great Crested Flycatcher!

After checking in we covered one last trail and managed to flush two Chuck-will’s-widows!  Green Parakeets were shooting over occasionally, but only allowed brief looks through the trees.  Chimney Swifts were all over, and at one rest stop we actually got a view of a liftoff of Mississippi Kites – yippee! J  While we were trying to zero in on a feeding flock we were distracted by a Gulf Fritillary and a Brown Anole extending his bright red gular flap!  We then checked the butterfly garden (as they were both interested in having those pointed out as well – at least the big, pretty ones J) where we were hoping a titmouse would come in to the feeders, but only got House Sparrows.  We had run into Simon K., however, and he called over to say he had a Bell’s Vireo!  So we all rushed over and saw glimpses of said bird, but not enough to really tell what it was.  He then found a Wood Thrush, which thankfully Mike and Sally saw, but I didn’t L. 

Ultra-cooperative Olive Sparrow

Brown Anole extending his brilliant gular flap (below)

Female Brown Anole has a white stripe down the back.

Gulf Fritillary

Texan Crescent

Female Carmine or Roseate Skimmer - they can be tough to tell apart!

Female Northern Parula

We finally tore ourselves away from there, picking up a Loggerhead Shrike on the wire on the way out!  Chris had told us about a good sandwich shop in Weslaco called the Chef’s Club, so we ordered some sandwiches to go, and they were really quite good!  We munched while heading up to La Sal del Rey (getting many Scissor-tailed Flycatchers on the wires), but the threatened storm apparently dissipated, so I felt emboldened to go up CR 20 and see if there were any goodies in that wetland that the road crosses!  Indeed there were, with both Pectoral and Baird’s Sandpipers giving a show, along with a couple of Horned Larks!

Baird's Sandpiper on the far side of the pond

We continued on and enjoyed the butterfly show in the flowers along the roadside, including a Giant Swallowtail and a Snout right by the car!  From there we just crawled through the refuge area; despite the heat we saw some good birds, including three Indigo Buntings that were eating seeds along the fenceline, a Bullock’s Oriole that gave a distant view, and a wonderful Bewick’s Wren that came in with a little prompting!  Lots of Common Ground Doves flushed left and right, and then the star showed up:  a Roadrunner with a big lizard in his beak!  That was definitely the highlight!

Giant Swallowtail

Sally and Mike along CR 20 in the La Sal Viejas Tract

We had to get going after that, but not before enjoying a Harris’ Hawk being chased by a kingbird, and then on the way home passing a tremendous wetland that had all sorts of shorebirds, including stilts, avocets, both yellowlegs, Stilt Sandpipers, a dowitcher, and another Baird’s in with the Leasts!  My FOS Western Kingbird also landed on the wire while we were enjoying a couple of Bronzed Cowbirds making chests at each other…

Finally headed home after that with 84 species for the day!  Bird List:

  Black-bellied Whistling-Duck         
  Mottled Duck                         
  Plain Chachalaca                     
  Northern Bobwhite                    
  Snowy Egret                          
  Green Heron                          
  Mississippi Kite                     
  Harris's Hawk                        
  Black-necked Stilt                   
  American Avocet                      
  Spotted Sandpiper                    
  Solitary Sandpiper                   
  Greater Yellowlegs                   
  Lesser Yellowlegs                    
  Stilt Sandpiper                      
  Baird's Sandpiper                    
  Least Sandpiper                      
  Pectoral Sandpiper                   
  Long-billed Dowitcher                
  Laughing Gull                         
  Gull-billed Tern                     
  Rock Pigeon                          
  Eurasian Collared-Dove               
  White-winged Dove                    
  Mourning Dove                        
  Inca Dove                             
  Common Ground-Dove                   
  White-tipped Dove                    
  Yellow-billed Cuckoo                 
  Greater Roadrunner
  Chimney Swift                        
  Buff-bellied Hummingbird             
  Green Kingfisher                     
  Golden-fronted Woodpecker            
  Ladder-backed Woodpecker             
  Crested Caracara                     
  Green Parakeet                       
  Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet        
  Great Crested Flycatcher             
  Brown-crested Flycatcher             
  Great Kiskadee                       
  Tropical Kingbird                    
  Couch's Kingbird                     
  Western Kingbird                      
  Scissor-tailed Flycatcher            
  Loggerhead Shrike                    
  White-eyed Vireo                     
  Philadelphia Vireo                   
  Green Jay                            
  Horned Lark                           
  Purple Martin                        
  Black-crested Titmouse               
  Carolina Wren                        
  Bewick's Wren                        
  Clay-colored Thrush
  Wood Thrush                   
  Long-billed Thrasher                 
  Northern Mockingbird                 
  European Starling                    
  Blue-winged Warbler                  
  Black-and-white Warbler              
  Tennessee Warbler                    
  Nashville Warbler                    
  Northern Parula                      
  Chestnut-sided Warbler               
  Black-throated Green Warbler         
  Wilson's Warbler                     
  Olive Sparrow                        
  Lark Sparrow                         
  Summer Tanager                       
  Northern Cardinal                    
  Indigo Bunting                       
  Painted Bunting                      
  Red-winged Blackbird                 
  Eastern Meadowlark                   
  Great-tailed Grackle                 
  Bronzed Cowbird                      
  Bullock's Oriole                     
  Lesser Goldfinch                      
  House Sparrow                        


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