Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Sun Returns!


And what a glorious day it was!  Still was bitterly cold first thing (freeze warning was still in effect), but the sun came out and energized the birds!  We decided to start along the Old Military Highway levee, first checking the wires along Business 83 in hopes of Green Parakeets, but they had found another resting place.  So starting at the east end of the accessible levee, we headed west with the sun to our backs, and after logging the requisite columbids around the residential areas, we came upon a very birdy spot that had both Couch’s and Tropical Kingbirds vocalizing, Lincoln’s Sparrows popping, and a cooperative Olive Sparrow that sat right up and sang for us!  A little further down the road we had knockout looks at a young White-tailed Hawk, along with a juvie Redtail!  The gang dutifully oohed and ahhed at the Rio Grande right there next to us!  As we passed the Butterfly Center a gorgeous Peregrine Falcon posed on a power pole!

Couch's Kingbird

The identical (except for voice) Tropical Kingbird

Olive Sparrow

Subadult White-tailed Hawk

Showing off the white tail and the still-immature underparts

The gang enjoying the hawk

The restrooms at Bentsen State Park beckoned us, so since we were there we decided to check the Gatehouse Feeders, picking up a cooperative Buff-bellied Hummer at the feeder by the tram stop.  We checked the canal, and I had just finished telling the gang how once a Ringed Kingfisher had barreled right down the canal at us, when guess what!  I caught sight of one in the distance that banked, and here he came, right down the middle of the canal and over our heads!  What a show!  The feeder birds were almost anticlimactic after that, but we enjoyed Chachalacas fighting over the peanut butter, knockout Altamira Orioles doing the same (Kathie and Dale said they couldn’t not look at them!), Green Jays galore, and the best bird, a Long-billed Thrasher that gave extended views for Fran, as she had missed the one at Salineño!  A pair of Coyotes were the mammalian highlight, and White-tipped and Mourning Doves gave good comparative views.  A Verdin chirped on the way out but wouldn’t show, but back at the canal the Black Phoebe showed nicely.  Kathie was very excited about the Cattle Egret on the bank until she realized she had already seen one… J

White-tipped Dove


Yes, it was cold!

Altamira Oriole

Green Jay with an attitude...

Gang of Greens...

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers looking for gnats...

From there we headed to Anzalduas, and again I guess we lingered a little too long along the spillway, even though I made sure no one got out (their life Least Grebes and Mottled Ducks were there, along with a pair of White-fronted Geese), as the Constable once against chastised us!  After the Pipit Poke I went over and again apologized to him, and we actually had a great chat – he clarified that a quick look is okay, but don’t linger, because if a BP agent comes through in pursuit, you could get hurt!  He also enlightened me as to why the park is sometimes closed on “non-holidays” as it was last week:  if there’s criminal activity going on across the river, they’ll close the park for public safety reasons – makes perfect sense!

Anyway, we parked, and although the wind was nippy, Dale, Kathie, and I opted to take the Pipit Poke across the field, which was thankfully dry!  On the way out there a nice Red-shouldered Hawk powered by, followed by a Red-tailed Hawk that started soaring overhead!  We didn’t have to go far before we flushed a Sprague’s, but as per usual, it wouldn’t land where you could get a scope view (as Dale quipped, “He knows what he’s doing!” J)!  We wandered over to the edge of the river to check out the scaup mass and flushed a snipe in the process!  I was surprised that there were no Western Meadowlarks out there!

Kathie wills a Sprague's Pipit to show itself...

After we got back to the cars we continued on, and didn’t have to go far before the other pipit, the American, was bathing right in front of us; in fact, a whole flock of about 20 birds took off, wheeled around several times, and then settled down for scope views!  I heard a “chink” warbler, so we wandered over into the grove, and while we couldn’t find what I suspected was a Black-throated Green, we had several Orange-crowned and Butterbutts, along with a group of Eastern Bluebirds!  Swallows were swooping all around us at eye level, almost running into us at times, so we eventually all got great looks at both Cave and Rough-winged!  Continuing on we saw a pair of Caracaras, and pulling onto another road Fran was able to get some pictures, while I heard a Pine Siskin shoot overhead (but never found)!  After enjoying them we made the rounds and picked up a couple of Vermilion Flycatchers and the House Finches on that “central” road.  On the way out the caracaras were fighting over a fish, so the gang enjoyed watching that!

American Pipit

From there we really had to scoot to Estero, so after a requisite stop at Starbucks (nearly had a coup on my hands when I suggested Stripes instead J), we wheeled in and headed straight to the deck, but not before I heard a Clay-colored Thrush “ringing” that of course didn’t want to come out (a White-eyed Vireo was more cooperative)!  Ibis Pond had a few of the regulars, including an incredible White Pelican Ballet in the distance, but no Least Grebe or Mottled Duck, which Fran never saw at Anzalduas because we had to scoot…  So we headed toward Alligator Lake, making a stop at Dowitcher Pond, where finally a Least Grebe materialized within a group of Gadwall!  He was so cute!  Some Pintail were in with the other ducks as well, but Grebe Marsh was the real jackpot, with the sun beautifully highlighting Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Shoveler, and Gadwall, but a nice Spotted Sandpiper as well (Fran missed the one at Salineño, so this was a major celebration)!  At the turnoff to Alligator Lake another couple with a gorgeous English Setter had spotted the coveted Anhinga (along with a clueless Yellow-crowned Night Heron in plain sight), and then they pointed out the Pauraque, which dutifully blew away the crew with its cryptic plumage!  I then heard the Green Kingfisher, so going back to the heron spot I found her in front of the Anhinga, so everyone got great looks (and also at a Black-crowned Night Heron across the way)!

The Starbucks Crew (L-R:  Jim, Fran, Kathie, and Dale)

Puffy little Least Grebe

American Wigeon


Green-winged Teal

Front and back views of a Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron

Hiding Pauraque

Lady Green Kingfisher through the foliage

Trudging back to the deck

It was time to head home after that, but we took another quick look at Ibis Pond, spotting another Snipe across the way!  I pointed them towards the Tropical Zone when we got there so they could explore on their own, while I headed back to Alamo.  We had managed 84 species for the day!  Bird List:

  Greater White-fronted Goose          
  American Wigeon                      
  Mottled Duck                         
  Blue-winged Teal                      
  Northern Shoveler                    
  Northern Pintail                     
  Green-winged Teal                    
  Lesser Scaup                         
  Plain Chachalaca                     
  Least Grebe                           
  Pied-billed Grebe                    
  Neotropic Cormorant                  
  Double-crested Cormorant             
  American White Pelican               
  Great Egret                          
  Snowy Egret                          
  Cattle Egret                         
  Black-crowned Night-Heron            
  Yellow-crowned Night-Heron           
  Turkey Vulture                       
  Northern Harrier                     
  Harris's Hawk                        
  White-tailed Hawk                    
  Red-shouldered Hawk                  
  Red-tailed Hawk                      
  American Coot                        
  Spotted Sandpiper                    
  Least Sandpiper                      
  Wilson's Snipe                       
  Rock Pigeon                          
  Eurasian Collared-Dove               
  White-winged Dove                     
  Mourning Dove                        
  Inca Dove                            
  White-tipped Dove                    
  Common Pauraque                      
  Archilochus Hummingbird            
  Buff-bellied Hummingbird             
  Ringed Kingfisher                    
  Green Kingfisher                     
  Golden-fronted Woodpecker            
  Ladder-backed Woodpecker             
  Crested Caracara                     
  American Kestrel                     
  Peregrine Falcon                     
  Black Phoebe                         
  Eastern Phoebe                       
  Vermilion Flycatcher                 
  Great Kiskadee                       
  Tropical Kingbird                    
  Couch's Kingbird                      
  Loggerhead Shrike                    
  White-eyed Vireo                     
  Green Jay                            
  Northern Rough-winged Swallow        
  Cave Swallow                         
  Black-crested Titmouse                
  House Wren                           
  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher                
  Ruby-crowned Kinglet                 
  Eastern Bluebird                     
  Clay-colored Thrush                  
  Long-billed Thrasher                 
  Northern Mockingbird                 
  European Starling                    
  American Pipit                       
  Sprague's Pipit                      
  Orange-crowned Warbler               
  Common Yellowthroat                  
  Yellow-rumped Warbler                
  Olive Sparrow                        
  Lincoln's Sparrow                    
  Northern Cardinal                    
  Red-winged Blackbird                 
  Great-tailed Grackle                 
  Altamira Oriole                      
  House Finch                          
  Pine Siskin                          
  House Sparrow                        


No comments:

Post a Comment