Friday, March 27, 2020

Restrictions Apply

3/26/20 

With our normally busy spring guiding season having gone bye-bye with the travel restrictions set in place as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, Birder Patroller Deb was moved to help out and actually hired me to help her with vocalizations!  J  So since Elf Owls had returned to Bentsen (and Whippoorwills were possible), we decided to head into the park an hour before dawn and hear what we could hear!  Thankfully the predicted wind advisory was not to materialize until noon, so it was quite pleasant, with a clear, star-studded sky.  But things were very quiet to start: we did pick up a distant Great Horned Owl (that we eventually got closer to), and a Cardinal was the first songbird to start tuning up.  Ironically it was when the sky started lightening in the east that the Pauraques started sounding off, and at one point we actually spotted one on the road behind us, doing “knee bends” like a Rock Wren, then periodically jumping up to snatch a bug!  The “McCall’s” Screech Owls were softly trilling, and thankfully a pair started calling close to the road so Deb could hear them!

Sadly, that was it for the night birds; the normal players (particularly Couch’s Kingbirds and Mockingbirds) brought the morning to life, and a Long-billed Thrasher started fussing right next to us, giving off all three common call notes (the smack, the duit, and the faaaaaa!)!  A Clay-colored Thrush called, but was a little too distant for Deb to pick out amongst the rising cacophony. 

Instead of “waiting in the dawn” at the resaca as I do on my Birdathons, we continued on and did the loop through Acacia Circle.  We heard a Beardless Tyrannulet do its dear dear dear song near the restrooms, sounding like we were right on top of him, but could we find him??  Of course not!  We finally gave up and continued on, when Deb spotted the Gray Hawk in a tree which was undoubtedly the same one we had heard whistling!  A White-tailed Kite sailed overhead, but in the gloom Deb couldn’t see any detail. 

Once in the loop we spotted a Bronzed Cowbird on the wire and a White-winged Dove in a dead tree.  We then took the Kiskadee Trail back to the resaca, where we found the trail’s namesake on the nest (there were two nests, in fact)!  They had a little spat when one of them tried to bring in some nesting material while the other was still sitting on said nest…  A Verdin was chinking brightly (but refused to come out as usual), and heading over to the resaca an Upland Sandpiper called overhead!  We logged a pair of Pied-billed Grebes and a distant Anhinga; Deb spotted a Great Blue Heron go past, and a Great Egret also flew over the road at one point.  

White-winged Dove

 It was shortly after that as we were headed out (and I was trying to video a singing Cardinal) that one of the rangers pulled up and informed us that they were closing the park! L  Hidalgo County had just issued their own “shelter in place” order the night before, but according to the order (of which I had a copy in my pocket with pertinent lines highlighted), one could still travel to parks and outdoor areas (in or out of Hidalgo County) to “recreate”, so long as you abided by the “Social Distancing Guidelines” (Deb and I had done our part by driving separately…)!  The ranger (who was very nice and really seemed pained to have to break this news to us) said this was a state-wide thing from Texas Parks & Wildlife, so we (along with several other people we passed who were also biking or walking their dogs) were horrified at the prospect that our beloved state parks were now off limits!  (Hold that thought…)



Video grab of a Cardinal

So we continued on, picking up a trio of Chachalacas and a lonely White-tipped Dove at the Nature Center area (they all seemed to be saying, “Where’s our breakfast??” as feeding had discontinued earlier in the month), and somewhere in here I heard a Roadrunner cooing amongst the similar-sounding doves!  Cave Swallows wheeled over the canal area while a single Barn sat on the wire, and the Black Phoebe actually sat up high in a tree near headquarters!  A buzzy “Zoo-zee-zoozoo-zee!” betrayed a Black-throated Green Warbler, who refused to come out…  We went to check the bathrooms (which were closed), logging a singing House Wren and Inca Dove on the way.

Chachalaca finding something else to eat besides oranges...

Barn Swallow

I was in dire need of said bathroom, so we agreed to meet at the El Tigre near the freeway.  While I was taking care of things (and grabbing a package of Ramen noodles that I haven’t been able to find anywhere J) Deb called Estero Llano Grande, where Ranger Javier assured her that “the wetlands awaited”! J  Apparently the decision to close was on a park-by-park basis (the Bentsen ranger told us that Resaca de la Palma had also closed), and I blessed Javier a million times over for keeping Estero open!  Once we got there we headed straight into the Tropical Zone (after enjoying a Long-billed Thrasher in the parking lot that was serenading us), but the migrant show that was so prevalent on Sunday seemed to have had dissipated, as the only warbler we encountered was the ubiquitous Orange-crowned. 

As we strolled, an Olive Sparrow sang his bright bouncing-ball song, and a Myiarchus flycatcher gave a fleeting glimpse, which could have been the reported Great Crested, but we never saw it again (and never heard it call L).  The Buff-bellied Hummingbirds were chattering around that exotic cactus they love, and an accipiter that blasted over revealed his identity as a Cooper’s when he started calling!  Over by the Indigo Blind a female Hooded Oriole wheeped (and got chased off by another), then I tried to remember exactly where Ben had showed me the Great Horned Owl nest!  We ran into a gal named Tracy who had worked with Deb at the RGV Birding Festival, and she pointed the nest out to us, this time with Momma in it!  While we were chatting a Ruby-crowned Kinglet actually sang a little of its bubbly song!

Tracy points out the Great Horned Owl nest (below) to Deb


From there we headed to the drip by way of the butterfly garden, where a Carolina Wren was sitting up and calling in plain sight, but unfortunately Deb couldn’t get on him before he ducked down… L  We gave the two drips about 15 minutes each, where someone had placed some grapefruit that a couple of Mexican Bluewings were taking advantage of!  Eventually a Green Jay and Orange-crowned Warbler came in to the “Pauraque Hall” drip, while only a White-tipped Dove came in to the “Picnic Table” drip.  Black-crested Titmice came to the tray feeder occasionally, and somewhere in here Deb spotted a Ruby-throated Hummingbird!  A Purple Martin wheeled overhead, and a young Altamira Oriole was working on sewing up the ever-present nest on the wire (even if it only consisted of a few strands J)!  The adult came blasting over before we ran into “Salineño Mike” and started chatting about the voluminous number of Red-billed Pigeons that were reported along the Seedeater Trail!

Carolina Wren

"Nuts - missed that one!"

Mexican Bluewing

He made it to the grapefruit!

A young Altamira Oriole practices weaving a nest from the wire


Continuing to the Park Host Area, we logged a bunch of Mourning Doves (MODOs to the jaded) and spotted a pair of Curve-billed Thrashers running around on the floor!  From there we decided to check out “Mary’s Drip” at the start of the Green Jay Trail (so called because she was the one to cotton me onto that one J), but since the bench was in the sun and it was currently inactive, we decided to go to the deck and finish the morning there.

We had the usual players in Ibis Pond:  Least Grebes, Shovelers, Blue-winged Teal, Mottled Ducks, and tons of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks – a whole herd was resting under the “feeder tree” next to the building like so many lazing cows on a hot day!  A Common Gallinule was poking around some lily pads that looked great for Purple (which would have gotten a lot of people excited), and another White-tailed Kite sailed by amongst the Turkey Vultures!  More Purple Martins wheeled around (expected since their martin house was just out of sight), and Deb looked in vain for Vermilion Flycatchers …

Deb on deck

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks



Finding a bit of shade...

The back trail from the Tropical Zone to the VC

We called it a day, but not before watching a little White-eyed Vireo quivering his wings right next to us in the parking lot!  We finished with a modest 61 species for the morning.  Bird list:

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Mottled Duck
Plain Chachalaca
Least Grebe
Pied-billed Grebe
Rock Pigeon
Inca Dove
White-tipped Dove
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove
Greater Roadrunner
Common Pauraque
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Buff-bellied Hummingbird
Common Gallinule
Killdeer
Upland Sandpiper
Anhinga
Neotropic Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Cooper's Hawk
Gray Hawk
Eastern Screech-Owl
Great Horned Owl
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet
Black Phoebe
Great Kiskadee
Couch's Kingbird
White-eyed Vireo
Green Jay
Black-crested Titmouse
Verdin
Purple Martin
Barn Swallow
Cave Swallow
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
House Wren
Carolina Wren
European Starling
Curve-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Northern Mockingbird
Clay-colored Thrush
House Sparrow
Lesser Goldfinch
Olive Sparrow
Hooded Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Red-winged Blackbird
Bronzed Cowbird
Great-tailed Grackle
Orange-crowned Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Northern Cardinal

Monday, March 23, 2020

Grateful Guiding

3/22/20 

Considering the Coronavirus Crisis, I was very grateful that Kurt and Lawrence decided to come on in to the Valley anyway (they had driven from San Francisco and were in the middle of their road trip when the madness started)!  They had been birding all over the world yet didn’t consider themselves “hard core” competitive birders – they just liked to see what the places had to offer (Kurt was also a “plant guy”)!  So we started with my favorite all-around birding spot: Estero Llano Grande State Park (especially since some good birds had been reported there lately J)!

It was a little foggy and dreary starting out, but at least it wasn’t windy, and thankfully it was that way all day!  As we headed into the Tropical Zone, I saw an odd-shaped bird in a tree across the way, and thinking it might be the reported Red-lored Parrot, I got the scope on it, only to discover it was a Harris’ Hawk in an odd position (which was still a nice bird for the guys)!  A Clay-colored Thrush made a brief appearance, and unfortunately Lawrence missed that one… L  A oriole landed on a wire behind the RVs that I initially thought was an Altamira, but after it flew I heard a Hooded Oriole chattering from the palms that we could never get on, so the “wire oriole” might have been that.  Thankfully at the intersection we had a lovely adult Altamira give us wonderful views, along with two immatures!  A Buff-bellied Hummingbird also put on a show for us, even spreading his rufous tail!  A robust Wheep! made me think we had the reported Great Crested Flycatcher, but when other sounds started coming from the same direction I realized it was just a Mockingbird…   White-tipped Doves were cooing all over, but unfortunately none showed… L

Video grab of the Altamira Oriole (this is how you do it when the light is too low for a regular still shot...)

Video grab of the Buff-bellied Hummingbird

But it wasn’t long before we heard the hardy, buzzy zhreeeeeee-tsup! of the reported Tropical Parula!  He was indeed hanging out with the feeding flocks (which consisted mostly of gnatcatchers and titmice), and that little stinker was hard to spot; we eventually pinned him down at the end of the Flycatcher Trail, but I was the only one to get an identifiable look (we all did get a decent look at the Nashville Warbler, however).  He kept moving to the south, so we followed, and he led us on a merry chase all around the Tropical Zone; every time we gave up he’d start singing in another spot!  In the meantime we got looks at Couch’s Kingbirds, Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, and even a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher going overhead!  A Sharp-shinned Hawk sailed through at one point, and that quieted things down a bit, but by the time we got to the Indigo Blind (which was closed due to virus concerns), guess who started singing again!  But we also heard a more wobbly version, and sure enough, three Northern Parulas were bopping around right over our heads!  Kurt caught sight of a Black-and-white Warbler, as well as a lovely male Hooded Warbler that thankfully everyone saw!  Then, after much aggravation J, the Tropical Parula finally came out in the open and gave everyone great views of his black mask!  Another couple showed up just in time to see him, so we left him with them, about ready to collapse after that high-tension search!

About then Ben Basham was backing out of his drive and said, “Did you see the owls?”  I thought he was talking about one of the “McCall’s” Screech Owls, but he was referring to the Great Horned Owl nest!  Kurt actually thought he saw something about that size fly earlier, so Ben took us over to the site, and there were the two fluffy babies!  Adorable!!

Great Horned Owl babies
  
From there we went to the drips and ran into park hostess Laura Paulson who said they were still feeding, and indeed we saw some seed in the “picnic table feeders”, but nothing was coming out except three Chachalacas we saw crawling through the bushes.  That was also the area that the Worm-eating Warbler was hanging out, but we missed him (but was seen later in the day, apparently).  Birding buddy Huck Hutchins showed up about then, and offered to show me where the “Mailbox Pauraque” was so I could show the guys (I left them at the feeders).  When I finally spotted him Huck went on his way and I fetched the guys (who reported no activity at all), and it was an exercise in patience before they both found this cryptic bird “just in front of the yellow leaf and to the left of the white trunk”!

"Mailbox" Pauraque

We then took the back trail (stopping to check on the screech owl hole – nothing) next to Ibis Pond and logged Green- and Blue-winged Teal, Shovelers, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, a nice White-faced Ibis, and a banded Harris’ Hawk!  By the time we got to the little boardwalk, I got a Rare Bird Alert on my phone about a Louisiana Waterthrush that was seen over by the park host area (which is where we had just come from)!  So we schlepped back there to where two other couples were, spotting a pair of Inca Doves on the way!  It was one of those “it was just here” scenarios, and it wasn’t something the guys wanted to wait 15 minutes for J, but the good news was that the Clay-colored Thrush made a return appearance, and this time Lawrence got to see him!

Banded Harris' Hawk

Forlorn lady birder looking for the Louisiana Waterthrush

I sent the guys to the deck while I shed my coat, and by the time I got there the same duck players were in Ibis Pond, along with a couple of Coots, and a nice Bronzed Cowbird was in with the redwings at the feeders, along with a Collared Peccary that came in!  An Archilochus hummingbird came up to the feeder but took off before giving us a good look… We then headed straight out to Alligator Lake, stopping briefly to check Dowitcher Pond and picking up some Gadwall and the requisite Spotted Sandpiper on his log!  Grebe Marsh had the Least Grebes, and a couple of night herons of both flavors were still hanging around at Alligator Pond.  At the “little overlook” Lawrence pointed over my shoulder and said, “What’s that?”  Turns out he was looking at a female Anhinga about six feet away from us!

Collared Peccary

Great Kiskadee

Least Grebe

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Anhinga

Since we had already seen the Pauraque we took the left trail to see if the screech owl was in his box (he wasn’t), then headed to the Big Overlook, where we found another Anhinga, more night herons, a pair of Green Herons, and an Alligator!  Backtracking, Lawrence spotted a couple of Olive Sparrows on the ground very close, and we did take a cursory look for the “easy” Pauraque (which I couldn’t find anyway; the area looked somewhat cleared, actually).  A White-tailed Kite was hovering over Dowitcher Pond, and four Black-necked Stilts flew over the trail as we headed back towards the little bridge.  The guys begged off making the big loop through the mesquite savannah and were ready to hit the Stripes for a taco!  But on the way back a lady Green-winged Teal showed well, and the Chachalacas were visible on the "Restroom Feeders", so that was great!

Yellow-crowned (left) and Black-crowned Night Herons

Alligator

Anhinga

Green Herons

Olive Sparrow

Cardinal having a Bad Hair Day

Female Green-winged Teal

Being shy behind the reeds...


Plain Chachalaca

Green-winged Teal (bottom left) and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

Once procuring said tacos we headed over to Dan Jones’ house, where he already had his chair and scope set up and a Great Egret lifted from his perch in the pond-side sticks!  We spent about an hour there just chilling (I told him that he lived in the perfect place to be quarantined if it came to that J), enjoying the piles of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, a couple of Black-crowned Night Herons, a pair of Mottled Ducks, at least four Green Herons, a distant Osprey, and singletons of Snowy Egret, Black Phoebe, Savannah Sparrow, and a singing Tropical Kingbird.  We had good comparative looks at Double-crested and Neotropic Cormorants, and Dan’s Fulvous Whistling Duck showed up way down the Resaca!  But right after I got the scope on him, the Green Kingfisher went darting across the pond (don’t know if anyone saw him), and when I looked again the duck was gone! L  We did spot his Lesser Scaup slowly coming into view, however…  At one point we both thought we heard a Summer Tanager pik-a-chooing, but upon closer inspection I think it was a White-eyed Vireo incorporating that into his song…  His Altamira Oriole pair made an appearance, and thankfully the White-tipped Dove that was singing went blasting across the resaca giving everyone a great view!  Kurt admitted he was a fan of pelicans, so we were very happy when two big White Pelicans sailed overhead!  Dan spotted a couple of Swainson’s Hawks circling with the Turkey Vultures, and while he was inside getting something, a youngster soared low overhead!

Immature Swainson's Hawk over Moon Lake

Our hour was up, so we reluctantly bid Dan goodbye and headed over to Santa Ana, seeing as none of the Green Jays we were hearing at Estero deigned to let us see them…  On the way out I stopped for a Krider’s Hawk that was circling in front of us (we took separate cars to honor Social Distancing), and while we were enjoying him I noticed a big kettle of vultures overhead that included a nice Broad-winged Hawk!  Heading west on US 281, at one point I wheeled off onto the shoulder for a pair of Caracaras, and yet another presumed Krider’s was on the post in front of us – he was pretty skittish, but he was even more white-headed than most Krider’s I had seen, but the tarsi initially looked unfeathered, which would rule out Ferruginous.  However, a closer look at the photos seemed to indicate that the tarsi may indeed be feathered, so I sent them to raptor expert Bill Clark for analysis!  A Harrier flew close to the road as we continued on.

Awful pictures of the presumed Krider's Hawk; experts are analyzing the photos to determine if the tarsi are truly feathered or not, which would make it a young Ferruginous Hawk instead!


He was really patchy in flight!

The Caracaras were more cooperative...

We finally made it to Santa Ana, where the feeders were quiet, but we made our way up onto the levee where tons of Broad-winged Hawks were circling overhead, along with a couple of Cooper’s!  (Dan was bemoaning the lack of raptors, and after I texted him saying that they were all at Santa Ana, he texted me back saying that about 80 Broadies and 180 Turkey Vultures showed up after we left!)  It was pretty quiet by that time, and after the big rain the day before, we opted to stick to the mud-less Chachalaca Trail.  Verdins were calling but being stubborn as per usual, but the lakes had quite a bit of action:  a couple of Pied-billed Grebes were being very feisty, and a Common Gallinule cackled off to the side.  Just before the blind I heard the Ringed Kingfisher fly by, and we barely got a glimpse as he rowed past!  (I heard a Gray Hawk whistle but was so focused on the kingfisher that it went into mental storage…)  A lovely Cinnamon Teal was in with the bluewings, and a Sora cried unseen.  Some Black Vultures soared overhead while a Long-billed Thrasher shot across the trail.  Nothing was at the deck, but we did hear a Green Jay doing its “roll call”, so we went tearing after that!  Unfortunately, we just couldn’t coax the guy out…  Another couple who was keeping a discreet distance behind us mentioned the Butterfly Center as an option for the jay, as (even though they were closed) they were apparently still feeding!  After mulling it over (and feeling the heat) the guys voted to call it a day, and I mentioned that they could still stop there on their way back west the next morning, which sounded like a better plan.

Cinnamon Teal

Least Grebe

The immediate plan was to follow me back up Alamo Road to the Inn, but as I pulled up to the exit, I saw them suddenly pull back into a parking spot, so I wheeled around to see what was up; they were both out of the car, and Kurt said, “Does the Green Jay have yellow outer tail feathers??” J  Bingo!  I joined them as they finally got a great look at their Green Jays!

We finally called it a wrap and headed back to the Inn with an impressive 93 species (plus 1 “sp.”) for the day!  Bird list:

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
Fulvous Whistling-Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Gadwall
Mottled Duck
Green-winged Teal
Lesser Scaup
Plain Chachalaca
Least Grebe
Pied-billed Grebe
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Inca Dove
White-tipped Dove
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove
Common Pauraque
Buff-bellied Hummingbird
Archilochus sp.
Sora
Common Gallinule
American Coot
Black-necked Stilt
Killdeer
Spotted Sandpiper
Anhinga
Neotropic Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant
American White Pelican
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
White-faced Ibis
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
White-tailed Kite
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Harris's Hawk
Gray Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Swainson's Hawk
“Krider’s” Red-tailed Hawk (one for sure; second one until told otherwise)
Great Horned Owl
Ringed Kingfisher
Green Kingfisher
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Crested Caracara
American Kestrel
Black Phoebe
Great Kiskadee
Tropical Kingbird
Couch's Kingbird
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
White-eyed Vireo
Green Jay
Black-crested Titmouse
Verdin
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Purple Martin
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
House Wren
Carolina Wren
Bewick's Wren
European Starling
Long-billed Thrasher
Northern Mockingbird
Clay-colored Thrush
House Sparrow
Olive Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Hooded Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Red-winged Blackbird
Bronzed Cowbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Great-tailed Grackle
Black-and-white Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
Northern Parula
Tropical Parula
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Northern Cardinal


Sunday, March 22, 2020

An Impromptu Outing

3/18/20

Today Norma, Fran, Deb, and I went on a spur of the moment trip up to Rancho Lomitas, a native plant nursery and guest ranch out in the boonies north of Rio Grande City!  If you call ahead, Toni (the owner) will put out food for the birds, as this is about the only truly reliable spot in the Valley any more for Scaled Quail!  (Contact info:  https://rancholomitas.com/ )  Since we left from Deb’s house off Monte Cristo Road in North McAllen, we took the back way through McCook, and saw that the Scissor-tailed Flycatchers had returned in force along FM 490!  We eventually wound up on La Sagunada Road, which was quite birdy:  we heard lots of Verdins, Bewick’s Wrens, and Pyrrhuloxias, along with at least one Ash-throated Flycatcher and Black-throated Sparrow.

Once we got to the ranch we opened the gate and let ourselves in, then rolled down to where the casitas were (which are very nice:  every suite is fully furnished and equipped, so all you need to do is stock up on groceries in Rio Grande City and you can easily chill here for a week)!  Toni had put out oranges, seed, and marshmallows (!) for the birds, so after using the facilities we settled down and waited for the show!  The quail had made a brief appearance while we were lined up to use the bathrooms, but when we came back things quieted down (except for the Pyrrs and Cardinals coming in at point blank), and Teri was so apologetic!  But as I often declare to my guests (and they thankfully concur J), I assured her, “You’re not in charge of the birds!”  

Norma and Deb get ready to settle in!

Male Pyrrhuloxia studies the feeder

Check out that crest!

Female

The Scaled Quail sneak in while we're taking a bathroom break!

And stuff did start trickling in:  the Hooded Oriole dined on the orange to the right, the Altamira whistled and dined on the suet feeder to the left, and the Audubon’s dined in the middle!  The Orange-crowned Warbler favored the marshmallow, and Green Jays blasted in, grabbed a peanut, and then took off, while Inca and White-tipped Doves strutted around on the floor.  A single White-winged Dove skittishly tried to land on the bird bath, while a couple of Bronzed Cowbirds joined the other ground feeders (thankfully the Red-winged Blackbirds weren’t as plentiful here as in other feeder areas).  A couple of Curve-billed Thrashers ran around in front of us, and the girls were particularly thrilled with the Cactus Wren that showed off!  A Long-billed Thrasher came in to the suet feeder, and a Black-throated Sparrow was just a little ham as he chewed his seed on the ground!  Even the little Mexican Ground Squirrel was a hit!  But eventually the Scaled Quail came running in and gave great views, along with a pair of Bobwhite that snuck in as well!

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Orange-crowned Warbler

Green Jay

Audubon's Oriole

Grabbing a PB ball...

With his nose in the marshmallow...

Hooded Oriole

His face mask is more rounded compared to the Altamira (below)

Notice how the Altamira's orange cheek angles in!


More Altamira Orioles...
  
  
Curve-billed Thrasher

Face on...

Pondering a peanut...
  
Several shots of the very cooperative Cactus Wren









And the stars of the show, the Scaled Quail!


Easy to see why they're nicknamed "Cottontops"!

He's got a different-looking friend behind him...

A Northern Bobwhite!

Bronzed Cowbird


Long-billed Thrasher

Inca Dove

Black-throated Sparrow



Mexican Ground Squirrel (token mammal)

A Kiskadee spooked everything away, so Toni used the opportunity to show us one of the casitas, then pulled out the “Bad Boy” (she described it as a souped-up golf cart) so we could swing down to the pond and see if we could log anything else for the day!  We did spook a pair of Blue-winged Teal, and Fran (I think it was) spotted an Eastern Phoebe on some sticks across the way.  A mystery bird drinking on the opposite end struck us as a dove before it flushed; my gut feeling was a Common Ground Dove, and thankfully we heard one sing as we swung back around to the main area.  We also saw that the Purple Martins had arrived in force in their two martin houses!

The Purple Martins are back!
 
Closeup of one of the martin pairs (female left, male right)

Deb holds the gate open for us...

I actually went too far, and as I was turning around Norma spotted a Roadrunner sitting up on a rock!  Not being able to help myself J, I started messin’ with him, and he came right over and practically hopped into the Bad Boy!  When he started singing back the girls were just awestruck!  Some felt that was worth the whole trip!

This Roadrunner came right up to us after I cooed at him!


...and he cooed back!

I had driven separately to honor the Coronavirus Social Distancing Rule, so at that point the others headed to Wallace Road before dropping Deb off, and I continued to scout La Sagunada to its north end terminus as a possible new road-birding route (including a stop at Rancho Lomitas, of course J)!  I really didn’t have time left to “BBS” it, but it was a lovely drive through the desert scrub, and I ended up picking up three new birds for the route: a Turkey trying to keep ahead of me, a singing Cassin’s Sparrow, and a brilliant Vermilion Flycatcher!

"Windshield shot" of the Turkey trying to stay ahead of me...

The north end of La Segunada Road (looking south)

Vermilion Flycatcher

Including the Great Egret I saw at Deb’s, the Scissortails along 490, the Collared Dove along the ranch road, and the Cattle Egret back home, I ended up with a modest 44 species for the morning, but the quality couldn’t be beat!  Bird list:

Blue-winged Teal
Northern Bobwhite
Scaled Quail
Wild Turkey
Eurasian Collared Dove
Inca Dove
Common Ground Dove
White-tipped Dove
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove
Greater Roadrunner
Great Egret
Cattle Egret
Killdeer
Turkey Vulture
Harris's Hawk
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Crested Caracara
American Kestrel
Eastern Phoebe
Vermilion Flycatcher
Ash-throated Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
Couch's Kingbird
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
White-eyed Vireo
Green Jay
Black-crested Titmouse
Verdin
Purple Martin
Bewick's Wren
Cactus Wren
Curve-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Northern Mockingbird
Cassin's Sparrow
Black-throated Sparrow
Hooded Oriole
Audubon's Oriole
Red-winged Blackbird
Bronzed Cowbird
Orange-crowned Warbler
Northern Cardinal
Pyrrhuloxia