Sirimon et al had booked a half day the next day, so we opted to drive separately to Estero Llano Grande State Park in case they wanted to head to another birding spot after we were done. Even though there was a Red Flag Warning still out, it was a lovely day, and since “Pam in the Palm Now in the Box” (one of their staked-out McCall’s Screech Owls) was so close to the parking area, we opted to see if “she” was peeking out of her hole, and she certainly was! (I explained that the bird’s gender was arbitrary, of course, only because “Pam in the Palm” had a nice ring to it, just as we have no idea if “Fred in the Shed” is really a male…)
After enjoying “her” we headed to the deck and just hung around until the office opened; Ibis Pond was stuffed with Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, of course, but miracle of miracles, the Fulvous was among them, right out in the open! Right around the time the office opened the blackbirds and ducks made a beeline to the lawn feeders in anticipation of being fed (although the volunteer we ran into said they were waiting in vain as they only put food out for them occasionally, because they had gotten so out of hand)! We then spent about 15 minutes at the “restroom feeders” hoping a Buff-bellied Hummer would come in, but were entertained by the redwings and House Sparrows instead. But we soon had another miracle: a Verdin popped up right out in the open in one of the trees! (Don’t read this, Jen… J) A singing Long-billed Thrasher was quite cooperative as well!
Sirimon and Sarida check out something along the Brick Walkway while Sak returns from the truck...
Fulvous Whistling Duck
Black-bellied Whistling Ducks
From there we headed out to the boardwalk, enjoying the Purple Martins, followed by the morning bird walk, where we actually negotiated our routes so that we wouldn’t be stumbling over each other (especially as Sirimon’s desire was to get some nice photographs)! They headed to Alligator Lake while we continued on the boardwalk (where the lighting was much better for photography) and enjoyed more whistling ducks and a pair of Shovelers. Things were naturally quiet circling around the mesquite savannah until we got to Curlew Pond, where we had a trio of Mottled Ducks (until proven otherwise), a couple of Lincoln’s Sparrows in the brush, and a semi-cooperative Great Crested Flycatcher over the trail! Crossing Dowitcher Pond, the reeds were way too high to spot the Soras that were plaintively calling back and forth (Sarida described their chicks as black cotton balls with legs J), but we did glimpse a Cooper’s Hawk batting over the marsh. A female Hooded Oriole was in a tree along the trail, and Yellowthroats called and sang unseen. Where we could look in was devoid of birds, but a nice Harrier swooped low towards the end of the trail.
Heading over the little footbridge we checked out Grebe Marsh which also had no birds, so we headed to Alligator Lake, where a White-tailed Kite made a brief pass over the levee. The night herons of both flavors were still there (more Yellow-crowned than Black-crowned), and the Anhingas (called Darters in Thailand Sak told us) showed well (actually, “American Darter” would probably be a more appropriate name)! From there we looked carefully for the Pauraque when another miracle took place: Sirimon actually spotted the thing way back in the brush! Sarida also spotted it, but Sak and I were having a hard time of it (from Sarida’s directions, I was convinced they were actually looking at a piece of wood J)! But Sirimon was able to get a picture of it, and she indeed had the bird (which was partially obscured by a log)! Another gentleman and his wife came by who happened to have a laser pointer, so Sarida used it (appropriately – wanted to assure our readers about that) to get everyone on the bird – then I could see where it was! I was amazed that Sirimon was able to spot it in the first place! The good news was that the Bird Walk Bunch was coming back from the overlook and had not seen the Pauraque, so Sarida took them back and got them on the bird, while the rest of us focused on the feeding flock the group leader cottoned us onto, which included a gorgeous Black-throated Green Warbler and a cooperative (!) White-eyed Vireo!
We had nice looks at both “Greg” and “Sneg” at the overlook (banding codes for Great Egret and Snowy Egret), and several Neotropic Cormorants, including several that entertained us with their grunting! A grackle nearly as big as the Anhinga next to it took off before I could get a documentation photo J, and a Great Blue Heron joined another Yellow-crowned Nightie, but no kingfishers were to be found. L So we headed out, enjoying both Least and Pied-billed Grebes (and a grackle “escorting” a Turkey Vulture out of the area J), and after passing the turnoff to Camino del Aves I took a quick look in the little wetland that looked perfect for Green Kingfishers. Sure enough, Sak (I think it was) spotted one, and I only got on him because he moved! Not sure Sirimon was able to get a picture before he took off again for the canal, but he sure was a cutie! Three White Pelicans sailed by on the walk back.
After using the facilities we headed for the Tropical Zone and the Indigo Blind, taking one more quick look at “Pam” on the way. We ran into a couple of ladies who had spotted a Clay-colored Thrush, which was new for the gang, and also Huck Hutchins who was leading a tram tour and told us that an Olive Sparrow was coming in to the blind. The Bird Walk Bunch was already there, but apparently they had spent enough satisfactory time observing the birds that they were more than willing to “change the guard”! So we took over, and even though it seemed dead quiet, I insisted on giving it 15 minutes to let the birds get used to us. And after what seemed like an eternity, in they came, one after the other: feisty Kiskadees (I was waiting for that “crown flare” that they never gave me L), Green Jays, titmice, both woodpeckers, Cardinals, another Long-billed Thrasher, and eventually one of Sirimon’s targets, the Buff-bellied Hummingbird! We also had female-types of both Archilochus come in, based on the wingtip shape and tail-pumping (or lack thereof), and the Olive Sparrow finally gave a view as well! After crossing the forest floor several times the White-tipped Doves eventually gave great views, and a young Altamira Oriole came in to the peanut butter, along with an Orange-crowned Warbler. But the star of the show was another Clay-colored Thrush who posed beautifully on the log!
Another lady came in who mentioned the baby Great Horned Owl, so we “changed the guard” again and took off down the path and found where park personnel had moved the cones down to where the baby was being seen (quite a ways from the nest)! I was mildly distracted by a singing Black-and-white Warbler, but we eventually made it down to the cones where we didn’t see a thing at “the spot”. Sarida and I headed back towards the nest site, scanning the trees, when we heard a shout behind us: Sak had found the owls! So we hightailed it back and saw Momma (assumed) and the grown fluffy baby right next to her! That was a great end to the morning!
Since we hadn’t seen any Chachalacas, I recommended Valley Nature Center as an after lunch destination (and the Golden-crowned Warbler was still being reported), so after kissing goodbye I headed back towards the parking lot, checking out the Green Jay Drip first, where I added Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (we had heard one coming in earlier that morning), and a Nashville Warbler, along with a posing Great Pondhawk. The butterflies weren’t bad, either, as a Giant Swallowtail floated by only to be chased by a Zebra Heliconian, with a Mexican Bluewing batting by as an encore!
We wrapped up the morning with 63 species! Bird list:
Muscovy Duck (Domestic type)
American White Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Eastern Screech-Owl (McCall's)
Great Horned Owl
Great Crested Flycatcher
Black-throated Green Warbler