Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Off the Beaten Track


Don and Dorca were from New Brunswick, and they were interested in seeing “out of the way” places, as they planned on visiting the well-known parks on their own.  I though the La Sal Del Rey area would be a good choice, as I often get a variety of birds along that route.  We went straight to Brushline Road, to the area north of SR 186, where many birds came right out:  a Brown-crested Flycatcher showed nicely, as did a Long-billed Thrasher, Olive Sparrow, Pyrrhuloxia, Bewick’s Wren, and a friendly Curve-billed Thrasher up on a wire!  A Cassin’s Sparrow sang on a bush for scope views, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers posed on the wires, and a big surprise was a flock of Cedar Waxwings down the road!  An even bigger surprise was a big flock of Lark Buntings, when they should have been long gone by now! 

Don and Dorca check out Brushline Road

Coy Olive Sparrow

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Small part of a large flock of Lark Buntings!

Here the tell-tale buffy wing patch is evident on these birds.

Close-up of one of the birds (with an inconvenient fence wire through the middle...)

Curve-billed Thrasher

The pond at the end of Brushline had some interesting birds to pad the list, including American Wigeon, Black-necked Stilts, Cattle Egrets grazing with the horses, and an Emu!  (He didn’t go on eBird… J)  Backtracking, a pair of Harris’ Hawks posed on a pole, and Don got to see his Roadrunner!  (I missed that one, but heard one later…)  Because of the angle of the sun, I opted to blast down to SR 186 and head east to Rio Beef, come up that road, and go west on Ken Baker so the sun would be to our backs, but on the way we nearly went in the ditch stopping to enjoy a tom Turkey “in the strut”!  Continuing to Ken Baker, I was sweating the White-tailed Hawk until one finally gave us a good view! 

An Emu seems out of place with horses and Cattle Egrets (at least in North America)!

Harris' Hawk

We stumble upon a tom Turkey trying to impress a hen!

"She's not even looking!"

"Fine - be that way!"

Another cute Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Delta Lake was too high for shorebirds, so we swung in the park mainly to use the restrooms, but birdwise it was pretty much a bust except for Cave Swallows swirling around the little bridge and a Green Heron in the same area.  Conversely, the “Back Pond” along FM 1015 was great with Fulvous Whistling Ducks and others water birds!  Sugarhouse Pond had the proverbial “zilch, zero, nada,” but after that disappointment that “still small voice” suggested I give Javier over at Valley Acres Reservoir a call, and he gave the go-ahead to come on in and bird!  (This is a restricted area, but so long as you call Javier and ask, they usually don’t have a problem with birders coming on the property…)  That was a great decision:  tons of White Pelicans, Franklin’s Gulls, and shorebirds graced us (including Baird’s Sandpiper)!  A gorgeous Roseate Spoonbill was a hit, too, and a nice surprise was an American Golden Plover!  The “back leg” had a line of tamarisks that were hiding tons of Black-crowned Night Herons, which took off one by one as we passed!

Valley Acres Reservoir

American Avocet

Baird's Sandpipers (close-up below)

American Golden Plover

Stilt Sandpiper

Roseate Spoonbill
Our last stop was the Progresso Sod Farms, where we found several Upland Sandpipers and a few more Golden Plovers, along with some nice Swainson’s Hawks.  Discovered to my chagrin that you can no longer drive up on the levee to access Pomelo Road to the east, but thankfully you can at least drive the road the parallels the levee to get there!  There was simply a “No Trespassing” sign that was enough to deter me, but I’m glad I didn’t cave to temptation and get up there anyway, as we saw a huge block of concrete crossing the old access road down to Pomelo!!

Headed home after that, with 91 species for the day!  Bird list:

  Black-bellied Whistling-Duck         
  Fulvous Whistling-Duck               
  American Wigeon                      
  Mottled Duck                         
  Blue-winged Teal                     
  Northern Shoveler                    
  Northern Bobwhite                    
  Wild Turkey                          
  Least Grebe                          
  Neotropic Cormorant                  
  American White Pelican               
  Great Egret                          
  Snowy Egret                           
  Little Blue Heron                    
  Cattle Egret                         
  Green Heron                          
  Black-crowned Night-Heron            
  Roseate Spoonbill                    
  Black Vulture                         
  Turkey Vulture                       
  Harris's Hawk                        
  White-tailed Hawk                    
  Swainson's Hawk                      
  American Coot                        
  Black-necked Stilt                   
  American Avocet                      
  American Golden-Plover               
  Greater Yellowlegs                   
  Lesser Yellowlegs                    
  Upland Sandpiper                     
  Stilt Sandpiper                      
  Baird's Sandpiper                    
  Least Sandpiper                      
  Pectoral Sandpiper                   
  Semipalmated Sandpiper                    
  Long-billed Dowitcher                
  Franklin's Gull                      
  Gull-billed Tern                     
  Rock Pigeon                          
  Eurasian Collared-Dove               
  White-winged Dove                    
  Mourning Dove                         
  Common Ground-Dove                   
  Greater Roadrunner                   
  Lesser Nighthawk                     
  Golden-fronted Woodpecker            
  Ladder-backed Woodpecker             
  Crested Caracara                     
  Brown-crested Flycatcher             
  Great Kiskadee                       
  Tropical Kingbird                    
  Couch's Kingbird                     
  Western Kingbird                     
  Scissor-tailed Flycatcher            
  Loggerhead Shrike                    
  White-eyed Vireo                     
  Green Jay                            
  Horned Lark                          
  Northern Rough-winged Swallow        
  Purple Martin                        
  Tree Swallow                          
  Barn Swallow                         
  Cave Swallow                         
  Black-crested Titmouse               
  House Wren                           
  Bewick's Wren                         
  Curve-billed Thrasher                
  Long-billed Thrasher                 
  Northern Mockingbird                 
  European Starling                    
  Cedar Waxwing                        
  Common Yellowthroat                  
  Olive Sparrow                        
  Cassin's Sparrow                     
  Lark Sparrow                         
  Black-throated Sparrow               
  Lark Bunting                         
  Northern Cardinal                    
  Indigo Bunting                       
  Red-winged Blackbird                 
  Eastern Meadowlark                   
  Great-tailed Grackle                 
  Bronzed Cowbird                      
  Brown-headed Cowbird                 
  Bullock's Oriole                     
  House Sparrow                        


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