Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Birthday Birding, Part 2


Once again, thanks to DST, we arrived at Estero while it was still rather gloomy, but at least it was light enough to bird!  But at that hour it was more of a lesson on vocalizations, as Couch’s Kingbirds were doing their dawn songs, Clay-colored Thrushes were “ringing” (along with a single rising zhree from a hidden Hermit Thrush), and Green Jays were giving their varied raucous calls.  The hummingbird feeder in the middle of the Tropical Zone had a brilliant male Ruby-throated Hummingbird come in, and after some patient waiting, the Rufous also came in and posed for us, along with a male Wilson’s Warbler!  A feeding flock contained a Blue-headed Vireo along with a couple of kinglets, and we did get nice looks at the thrushes, along with a young Cooper’s Hawk that Pauline spotted.  We sat for 15 minutes at the Sniders’ feeders waiting for the Broad-tailed Hummer to come in, but only an Archilochus of some kind visited, which I suspected was a Rubythroat.  I heard some very distant Red-crowned Parrots, which counted for the day list but didn’t do my charges any good… L  Just before we headed to the VC Ranger Jose hailed us and called our attention to the “new” Screech Owl box, complete with Screech Owl!  That was a very nice surprise!  Then a Long-billed Thrasher sang for us right out in the open on a power line!

Pauline in the Tropical Zone

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird ©2018 Pauline Clark

Female Rufous Hummingbird

Pauline and Ginger by the exotic cactus

"McCall's" Screech Owl

Long-billed Thrasher

On the way to the deck we were waylaid by a trio of Chachalacas hogging the feeders!  (A Buff-bellied Hummer made a brief appearance in the tree next to us, but neither of the girls could get on him before he disappeared…)  The overcast skies made viewing from the deck very pleasant:  all three teal showed nicely, and both ibises were there as well (had a hard time telling if the “dark” ibis was my problem “Glossy” or not, as I couldn’t really discern the color of the face or the eye).  Several Snowy Egrets fed, but they were the only heron reps, and except for a solitary Long-billed Dowitcher, the only shorebirds were a gathering of Least Sandpipers, although we had heard a Greater Yellowlegs calling from back in the Tropical Zone, along with a Sora!  At the feeders, the Chachalacas had moved on, and the Redwings had taken over the place, so we moved on as well.

Black-bellied Whistling Duck

Great place for photo ops!

Red-winged Blackbird

Yellowthroats, Marsh Wrens, and Lincoln’s Sparrows called from the reeds but wouldn’t show themselves, and nothing of note was at Dowitcher Pond (except for some Black-bellied Whistling Ducks that flew by), so we headed to Alligator Lake to try and beat the crowd that was hot on our trail!  Grebe Marsh had an interesting-looking Soft-shelled Turtle (along with the more common Red-eared Slider), and at the turnoff I figured we had hit the “disappearing date” for the night herons, as we initially only found one Yellow-crowned!  Pauline had found the Alligator, however! J  A Neotropic Cormorant gave good views, and before we knew it the group (which also happened to be staying at the Inn) had overtaken us, but that turned out to be fine as one of them had found the Pauraque (and he wasn’t in his usual spot, either:  this was the one that sometimes hangs out at the foot of the overlook)!  So we all got great views, and Ginger even showed me a trick with the camera: how to tilt the viewscreen so that you can shoot something low without having to squat down!  After that we took a peek at the overlook, and that’s where all the night herons had gone!  We got great looks at several, along with several Neotrops and another Alligator. 

Soft-shelled Turtle

Subadult Black-crowned Night Heron ©2018 Pauline Clark

Yellow-crowned Night Heron


Another gentleman found a better angle and shows us his pics!

Ginger showed me how to tilt the viewscreen so you don't have to squat down (for those of us who can't do that any more... 😒)

We gave the feeders another chance before heading out (no hummer except another Blackchin), then decided to hit Quinta Mazatlan for the Blue Bunting.  Well.  We were about to turn in when we saw the tell-tale traffic control guy (and a long line of cars coming from the other direction) with the entrance closed off, so we shot that idea and headed straight to the National Butterfly Center to try for the Painted Bunting and Audubon’s Oriole!  (We would find out from another lady at the NBC that the “event” was a Monarch Festival…)  The girls were in seventh heaven once we got to the feeder area:  the perky volunteer had just put out some PB mixture, and the Chachalacas and Green Jays were going nuts!  White-tipped Doves and Lincoln’s Sparrows also gave great photo ops, and before long two Altamira Orioles came blasting in (one was chasing the other), and the victor indulged excitedly!  We were close to a log that also had some mixture, and almost immediately the Audubon’s came down in our faces – what a look!  About that time the volunteer mentioned that the Painted Bunting had just been seen in another part of the garden, so we headed over there but couldn’t kick up the thing (we did manage a Tropical Leafwing, however...can't go to the Butterfly Center without shooting at least one butter!).  We ended up back at the feeders, enjoying a cute little Hispid Cotton Rat amongst the throng, before the girls finally had their fill and agreed to give Wallace Road a shot!


Pauline captured this great portrait! ©2018 Pauline Clark

Green Jays

Ginger captured this scuffle!  ©2018 Ginger Hays

Altamira Oriole

Lost Audubon's Oriole, normally not found in Hidalgo County.

White-tipped Dove; note the lovely lavender flush!

"Hey!  Where'd YOU come from?!"

Hispid Cotton Rat

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Lincoln's Sparrow

Tropical Leafwing (©2018 Ginger Hays)

It was getting pretty warm by then, but even so we added some nice things:  a Loggerhead Shrike finally gave the girls some photo ops, while a Kestrel wasn’t so cooperative…  A Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was certainly a hit, and we found two more Vermilion Flycatchers at the canal where the old Monte Cristo Tract was.  Ginger (I think) spotted a White-tailed Hawk circling in the distance, and a few Lesser Goldfinches fed in the sunflowers along the roadside (an American called somewhere unseen as well).  Once we got to the wetlands (which were pretty dry to the east but had some shorebird habitat at least) we had stunning looks at two pairs of Harris’ Hawks (one pair which promptly joined the Turkey Vultures – and one Black – circling overhead)!  More Least Sandpipers were poking around, along with at least four Lesser Yellowlegs swiping their bills like avocets!  The girls also spotted a group of dowitchers a little farther down, and in the one pond that had deep water, several Shovelers, a few Coots, and a Least Grebe had been hanging out.

Loggerhead Shrike ©2018 Pauline Clark

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher ©2018 Pauline Clark

Vermilion Flycatcher ©2018 Pauline Clark

Harris' Hawk ©2018 Pauline Clark (can you tell they were all on her side of the car? 😊)

Ginger and Pauline checking out the wetlands

Long-billed Dowitchers (also below)

We had to head back after that, but it was a very productive day with 81 species under our belts!   

 Bird List:

  Black-bellied Whistling-Duck         
  Mottled Duck                         
  Blue-winged Teal                      
  Cinnamon Teal                        
  Northern Shoveler                    
  Green-winged Teal                    
  Plain Chachalaca                     
  Least Grebe                          
  Neotropic Cormorant                   
  Great Blue Heron                     
  Great Egret                          
  Snowy Egret                          
  Black-crowned Night-Heron            
  Yellow-crowned Night-Heron           
  White Ibis                           
  White-faced Ibis (until proven otherwise)                     
  Black Vulture                        
  Turkey Vulture                       
  Cooper's Hawk                        
  Harris's Hawk                         
  White-tailed Hawk                    
  American Coot                        
  Greater Yellowlegs                   
  Lesser Yellowlegs                     
  Least Sandpiper                      
  Long-billed Dowitcher                
  Rock Pigeon                          
  Eurasian Collared-Dove               
  White-winged Dove                    
  Mourning Dove                        
  White-tipped Dove                    
  Eastern Screech-Owl                  
  Common Pauraque                      
  Ruby-throated Hummingbird            
  Black-chinned Hummingbird            
  Rufous Hummingbird                   
  Buff-bellied Hummingbird             
  Golden-fronted Woodpecker            
  Ladder-backed Woodpecker             
  Crested Caracara                     
  American Kestrel                     
  Red-crowned Parrot                   
  Vermilion Flycatcher                 
  Great Kiskadee                       
  Couch's Kingbird                     
  Scissor-tailed Flycatcher            
  Loggerhead Shrike                    
  White-eyed Vireo                     
  Blue-headed Vireo                    
  Green Jay                            
  Purple Martin                        
  Black-crested Titmouse               
  House Wren                           
  Marsh Wren                            
  Carolina Wren                        
  Bewick's Wren                        
  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher                
  Ruby-crowned Kinglet                 
  Hermit Thrush                        
  Clay-colored Thrush                   
  Curve-billed Thrasher                
  Long-billed Thrasher                 
  Northern Mockingbird                 
  European Starling                    
  Orange-crowned Warbler               
  Common Yellowthroat                  
  Wilson's Warbler                     
  Olive Sparrow                        
  Lincoln's Sparrow                    
  Northern Cardinal                    
  Red-winged Blackbird                 
  Great-tailed Grackle                 
  Altamira Oriole                      
  Audubon's Oriole                     
  Lesser Goldfinch                     
  American Goldfinch                   
  House Sparrow                        


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