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2012 Big Year

February 26 - Old Military Hwy, Anzalduas County Park, Santa Ana NWR, & Frontera Audubon Thicket

What a glorious day!  Since I needed data for late February for Anzalduas County Park (and several rarities had been seen there of late), I decided to road-survey Old Military Hwy as I usually do before heading to Anzalduas, as the latter doesn't open until 8:00.  There was nothing out of the ordinary along this route (picked up the requisite Black Phoebe at the canal bridge), but the potential is always great as you get a good view of the treeline along the river from the levee, always a good spot to look for raptors (and I did indeed pick up a White-tailed Kite and Caracara along here).  The best show was several Snowy Egrets in the canal doing their little shuffle-feeding behavior and making grunting noises as they did so!  Just before swinging into Anzalduas Park, another Black Phoebe sat on a post next to the car!

Snowy Egret using his feet to stir up food. 

Headed into the park where I had the whole place to myself practically; stopped just past the entrance kiosk and decided to take a hike out into the "Pipit Field" to try and kick up a Sprague's Pipit.  Was unsuccessful there, but several American Pipits did fly over along with a single House Finch, and a flock of Western Meadowlarks were feeding while an Eastern Meadowlark sang elsewhere.  I peeked into the river and found a small flock of Lesser Scaup, but no sign of the reported Horned Grebe.  An Osprey sat across the way, along with the roosting Turkey Vultures that were soon to take off.  Scoured the river at several other points, picking up only some Killdeer and a Spotted Sandpiper, and some Coots closer to the dam.  At least three Green Kingfishers were ticking and squealing and chasing each other, and some Mexican teens or young adults were across the river doing a clean-up day it looked like, having a big time!  Got the Beardless Tyrannulet at the first intersection as per usual, and at least one of the feral Yellow-headed Parrots was Ralph!ing, but I never could spot him.  Cutting through on the center road I picked up the requisite Eastern Bluebird and a rattling Ringed Kingfisher, but neither the reported Zone-tailed Hawk nor Hook-billed Kite showed.  On the way out, however, the Snowy Egrets had moved closer to the entrance road along the canal and had been joined by a Greater Yellowlegs, two Great Egrets, and three Roseate Spoonbills!

Fuzzy Green Kingfisher

Having finished up the two surveys, I figured it was a good day to take that hike out to Cattail Lakes at Santa Ana NWR to try for the lady Mountain Bluebird that was still hanging around, so headed east along US 281 to the refuge.  Surprisingly, despite all the rain yesterday, the trail was mud-free!  The sun came out during this stretch, and if anyone had to see a Red Admiral or they were gonna die, this was the day to be out on the trails, as they were all over, and very fresh!  As is often the case when hitting mid day, while the birds were quieting down, the butters were becoming active, so I enjoyed many of the common species such as Lyside and Dainty Sulphurs, Brown Longtails, Reakirt's Blue, and a Vesta Crescent.  A Checkered White was also a nice bug to see.  At one point in the trail a White-eyed Vireo was just begging to be recorded, so as I started the little digital recorder, he was suddenly joined by a Black-crested Titmouse, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, and Carolina Wren, all making a very nice concert!

Red Admiral

Checkered White


Dainty Sulphur

Vesta Crescent (although I'm willing to be corrected on this one--sometimes they can be tough!)

Great Pondhawk (token ode)

  The recording starts with the dry rattle of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, followed by the Quick, get the beer, chick! song of the White-eyed Vireo, then the nasal scolds of a Black-crested Titmouse.  After the vireo's third song a Ladder-backed Woodpecker enters with its explosive "laugh", and then you'll hear the whistled dear dear dear song of the titmouse.  Then the vireo sings two samples of a new song type, then launches into a rambling "whisper song", shortly joined by the loud cheedle-cheedle-cheedle-cheedle of a Carolina Wren.

Finally made it out to Cattail Lakes, which were dry as a bone.  Seeing a Kestrel in the big dead tree where the bluebird normally hung out wasn't a good sign, and at the other end of the crossover trail a Merlin, although a great bird, had me worried, too!  A Gray Hawk gave his whistled song (as opposed to the descending call that the jays like to mimic--my conscience won't let me count that one by ear anymore...), and a Loggerhead Shrike sat on an "island" a little further out.  I was just about ready to give up when, just like last time, suddenly there was lady Mountain Bluebird sitting pretty in the big dead tree!  The light was terrible for a photograph, but she did fly across to where you see a flash of blue in the tail against the greenery as she hovered over the barren lakebed!

Female Mountain Bluebird (same bird, but photo taken in December of 2011)

Dragged myself back and over to Willow Lakes in hopes that the Hooded Mergansers might still be around (although they hadn't been reported this past week).  Picked up a nice Clay-colored Thrush just over the wooden bridge, and a wrong turn put me at the west (?) side of Willow Lakes where I was able to pick out a pair of Cinnamon Teal.  Backtracking to the overlooks, just had the regulars; both Least and Pied-billed Grebes were being particularly noisy!  Cave Swallows were all over the place, but there were also a few Rough-winged Swallows making their raspy noises along with a Purple Martin and Barn Swallow.  On the way back I had a striking dragonfly that had just caught a skipper (it looked like); the closest match seems to be Tamaulipan Clubtail, but that's such a restricted-range species that I want to get confirmation from the experts first!

Best guess is Tamaulipan Clubtail

Had about an hour to try once again for that silly Golden-crowned Warbler at Frontera, so over I went, not really having much hope but willing to give it a shot anyway (it was my fourth or fifth try; I had lost track...)!  The bird had been seen that day, so I headed on over to its usual hangout at the little pool, along with several other folks!  One couple had been standing guard for about a half hour with no luck, so I hung around for about 15 minutes, adding some flyover Sandhill Cranes to the list, and then decided to walk around.  I was just about ready to call it a day when the Lord said, "Make one more loop back there!"  So I did, and one couple came towards me triumphantly announcing that the bird was putting on a show!  One lady very graciously took me right to the bird, and not only was he showing himself, but he was tacking up a storm!  What a bird!!  After we thought he had taken off across the trail, I headed back towards the parking lot, only I heard him again, and this time he came in for shots!  An acquaintance from California, Al Schmierer, had a "big gun" and was able to get some knockout shots the first time (I was too busy recording the thing), so I truly felt like this "second chance" was a special gift!


Aptly-named Golden-crowned Warbler, a vagrant from Mexico

    The original recording was quite entertaining with all the comments about flash photography, etc., but I edited that out...

That put me at 80 species for the day, and over the 200 mark for the Big Year!  Bird List (new species in CAPS):

  Gadwall                               Anas strepera

  Blue-winged Teal                      Anas discors

  Cinnamon Teal                         Anas cyanoptera

  Northern Shoveler                     Anas clypeata

  Ring-necked Duck                      Aythya collaris

  Lesser Scaup                          Aythya affinis

  Ruddy Duck                            Oxyura jamaicensis

  Plain Chachalaca                      Ortalis vetula

  Least Grebe                           Tachybaptus dominicus

  Pied-billed Grebe                     Podilymbus podiceps

  Neotropic Cormorant                   Phalacrocorax brasilianus

  Double-crested Cormorant              Phalacrocorax auritus

  Great Blue Heron                      Ardea herodias

  Great Egret                           Ardea alba

  Snowy Egret                           Egretta thula

  Roseate Spoonbill                     Platalea ajaja

  Black Vulture                         Coragyps atratus

  Turkey Vulture                        Cathartes aura

  Osprey                                Pandion haliaetus

  White-tailed Kite                     Elanus leucurus

  Northern Harrier                      Circus cyaneus

  Red-shouldered Hawk                   Buteo lineatus

  GRAY HAWK                               Buteo nitidus

  Crested Caracara                      Caracara cheriway

  American Kestrel                      Falco sparverius

  Merlin                                Falco columbarius

  American Coot                         Fulica americana

  Sandhill Crane                        Grus canadensis

  Killdeer                              Charadrius vociferus

  Spotted Sandpiper                     Actitis macularius

  Greater Yellowlegs                    Tringa melanoleuca

  Rock Pigeon                           Columba livia

  Eurasian Collared-Dove                Streptopelia decaocto

  Mourning Dove                         Zenaida macroura

  Inca Dove                             Columbina inca

  White-tipped Dove                     Leptotila verreauxi

  YELLOW-HEADED PARROT                    Amazona oratrix

  Ringed Kingfisher                     Megaceryle torquata

  Green Kingfisher                      Chloroceryle americana

  Golden-fronted Woodpecker             Melanerpes aurifrons

  Ladder-backed Woodpecker              Picoides scalaris

  Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet         Camptostoma imberbe

  Black Phoebe                          Sayornis nigricans

  Eastern Phoebe                        Sayornis phoebe

  Great Kiskadee                        Pitangus sulphuratus

  Loggerhead Shrike                     Lanius ludovicianus

  White-eyed Vireo                      Vireo griseus

  Green Jay                             Cyanocorax yncas

  NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW           Stelgidopteryx serripennis

  Purple Martin                         Progne subis

  Barn Swallow                          Hirundo rustica

  Cave Swallow                          Petrochelidon fulva

  Black-crested Titmouse                Baeolophus atricristatus

  Carolina Wren                         Thryothorus ludovicianus

  Bewick's Wren                         Thryomanes bewickii

  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher                 Polioptila caerulea

  Ruby-crowned Kinglet                  Regulus calendula

  Eastern Bluebird                      Sialia sialis

  MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD                       Sialia currucoides

  Clay-colored Thrush                   Turdus grayi

  Northern Mockingbird                  Mimus polyglottos

  Long-billed Thrasher                  Toxostoma longirostre

  European Starling                     Sturnus vulgaris

  American Pipit                        Anthus rubescens

  Orange-crowned Warbler                Oreothlypis celata

  Common Yellowthroat                   Geothlypis trichas

  Yellow-rumped Warbler                 Setophaga coronata

  GOLDEN-CROWNED WARBLER                  Basileuterus culicivorus

  Olive Sparrow                         Arremonops rufivirgatus

  Lincoln's Sparrow                     Melospiza lincolnii

  Northern Cardinal                     Cardinalis cardinalis

  Pyrrhuloxia                           Cardinalis sinuatus

  Red-winged Blackbird                  Agelaius phoeniceus

  Eastern Meadowlark                    Sturnella magna

  Western Meadowlark                    Sturnella neglecta

  Great-tailed Grackle                  Quiscalus mexicanus

  House Finch                           Carpodacus mexicanus

  American Goldfinch                    Spinus tristis

  House Sparrow                         Passer domesticus



So far:  201 SPECIES

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