Thursday, March 29, 2018

Birthday Birding, Part 3


For their last morning, the girls wanted to go somewhere “pretty”, so what better place to visit than Santa Ana NWR?  I suggested doing a nice long loop walk with regular resting intervals, and they were game to do that (and that allowed both Pauline and myself to keep a running eBird list), so we left the Inn a little later than the usual departure time in order to arrive at the refuge (only a 15 minute drive from the Inn, if that much) by sunrise.

We took the Willow Lake Trail to start, picking up all the regulars:  Couch’s Kingbirds were particularly plentiful, and hundreds of Red-winged Blackbirds wafted overhead.  We got glimpses of a few members of various feeding flocks (a titmouse here and a kinglet there), and near the turnoff to the Cattail Lakes Trail (where that beautiful, Spanish Moss-laden forest is), a couple of Clay-colored Thrushes sat up on a dead tree while a third one tuck-tucked near the pond next to us!  Although we heard the happy whistle of the Altamira Oriole several times (Ginger said it reminded her of some of the lilting Norwegian languages she’s heard), we never did spot one, although we had a great look at one of their huge bag nests!  The Chachalacas were beginning to chorus, which was fun, but as we continued on, we suddenly heard the buzzy trill of a parula!  Knowing the Tropical Parula was around and singing, but also knowing that their songs (at least around here) can sound identical to a Northern Parula’s, I wanted to track this guy down for a visual!  We backtracked, getting turned around on the Cattail Lakes Trail before finally connecting with the continuation of the Willow Lake Trail, but we could no longer hear the bird.  We did have terrific views of various ducks (including some stunning Cinnamon Teal) and a lone Common Gallinule at the little “viewing window” at the culvert, though!  Birding buddy Huck Hutchins caught up with us about then, also looking for the parula, so after exchanging pleasantries he continued on while we went back to the Chachalaca Trail.

Clay-colored Thrush

Ginger snuck this shot of Pauline and myself on the Willow Lakes Trail (©2018 Ginger Hays)

There’s a little trail that connects the Willow Lake Trail to the short-n-easy Chachalaca Trail, so we took that and headed to the first Willow Lake overlook.  After enjoying Black-necked Stilts, Least Grebes, and more ducks, we heard the parula again, and it sounded like he was coming closer!  So we hurried back to the “window” where Pauline waited for Ginger while I went on ahead, and the bird was singing right in front of me!  I couldn’t see the thing naturally, and Huck was just ahead, so I got his attention, and he confirmed that it was the Tropical as he had gotten terrific looks!  I was just about ready to go running back for the girls (my texts to Ginger apparently hadn’t gone through L), but they had just arrived, so as Huck continued on the three of us chased the thing as he worked his way back the way we had come, then finally flew up into a somewhat open tree right over the trail!  Perfect looks, and a great concert, too!  That was worth working for! J

Ginger on the Willow Lake Trail

A few shots of the Tropical Parula; the bottom picture shows his wing bars.

Returning to the Chachalaca Trail, we took our time enjoying the rest of the birds in the lakes:  more ducks of course (including some American Wigeon), but also Lesser Yellowlegs, and even a Nutria!  A Beardless Tyrannulet sang nicely, but started to lead us on a Wild Tyrannulet Chase back to the trailhead, so the girls were very willing to accept a good “listen” with that one!  Conversely, a Long-billed Thrasher sat right out in the open for us for great photo ops!  An Olive Sparrow showed well for Ginger at the large blind, but Pauline missed it… L 

Cooperative Long-billed Thrasher

Blue-winged Teal

American Wigeon

Northern Shoveler ©2018 Pauline Clark

Black-necked Stilt

In a circle...

Lesser Yellowlegs

Stilt and two Lesser Yellowlegs together
We made our way to the old butterfly garden, where at the turnoff what may have been the same Rosebelly Lizard from the last time I was there was sunning on the same log, doing his little pushups! J  At the bench along the sidewalk we rested again and had a nice Red-shouldered Hawk circling overhead, and a Ladder-backed Woodpecker that laughed and darted from the dead tree we were staring at.  The girls were game for the Tree Tower, so up we went (they beat me up there where they ran into Huck again, who had seen a Broad-winged Hawk)!  The view is always stupendous, but we didn’t see much except a pair of Couch’s Kingbirds and a Kiskadee…  We also checked out the photo blind, as some other birders I had run into somewhere else the previous week told me they were stocking it, but it looked pretty empty when we got there, except for a little Lincoln’s Sparrow that was checking things out.

Our Rosebelly Lizard is back on his log!

View from the Tree Tower (looking towards Pintail Lakes)

Ginger and Pauline

From there we headed to Pintail Lakes, where we ran into Huck again J, and he pointed out a few things he had seen such as some lady Scaup and a Ruddy Duck.  He also spotted both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs behind us, and as we made our way to the end of the trail we enjoyed hooting Pied-billed Grebes and a pretty Vermilion Flycatcher high up in the tree.  Huck had heard a Ringed Kingfisher earlier that I missed, so I was anxious to see if it might be in that last pond, and sure enough, a nice female was perched up in plain view!  (Huck failed to conjure us up a Green Kingfisher, though… J)  Several White-faced Ibis lifted off as we approached, and a Solitary Sandpiper called and made haste towards one of the other ponds.  After resting on the bench and trying to tally all the waterfowl we were seeing, we finally headed back to the parking lot and ultimately back to the Inn, with a respectable 66 species for the morning (which included some Scissor-tailed Flycatchers seen on the way home)!  Oh, and another Olive Sparrow finally did pop up for Pauline! J 

Huck and Ginger check out Pintail Lakes

White-faced Ibis

Ringed Kingfisher ©2018 Pauline Clark
Bird List:

  Black-bellied Whistling-Duck         
  American Wigeon                      
  Mottled Duck                         
  Blue-winged Teal                     
  Cinnamon Teal                        
  Northern Shoveler                    
  Lesser Scaup                         
  Ruddy Duck                           
  Plain Chachalaca                     
  Least Grebe                          
  Pied-billed Grebe                    
  Neotropic Cormorant                  
  Double-crested Cormorant             
  Great Egret                          
  Cattle Egret                         
  White-faced Ibis                     
  Turkey Vulture                       
  Red-shouldered Hawk                  
  Common Gallinule                      
  American Coot                        
  Black-necked Stilt                   
  Solitary Sandpiper                   
  Greater Yellowlegs                   
  Lesser Yellowlegs                    
  Least Sandpiper                      
  Long-billed Dowitcher                
  Eurasian Collared-Dove               
  White-winged Dove                    
  Mourning Dove                        
  White-tipped Dove                    
  Ringed Kingfisher                    
  Golden-fronted Woodpecker            
  Ladder-backed Woodpecker             
  Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet        
  Vermilion Flycatcher                 
  Great Kiskadee                       
  Tropical Kingbird                    
  Couch's Kingbird                     
  Scissor-tailed Flycatcher            
  White-eyed Vireo                     
  Green Jay                            
  Purple Martin                        
  Tree Swallow                          
  Black-crested Titmouse               
  House Wren                           
  Marsh Wren                           
  Carolina Wren                        
  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher                 
  Ruby-crowned Kinglet                 
  Clay-colored Thrush                  
  Long-billed Thrasher                 
  Northern Mockingbird                 
  European Starling                    
  Orange-crowned Warbler               
  Common Yellowthroat                  
  Tropical Parula                      
  Olive Sparrow                        
  Lincoln's Sparrow                    
  Northern Cardinal                    
  Red-winged Blackbird                 
  Great-tailed Grackle                 
  Altamira Oriole                      
  House Sparrow                        


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