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2012 Big Year

February 5 - Sparrow Road Route, Anzalduas County Park, Santa Ana NWR, & Frontera Audubon Thicket

My first weekend in February started off with a major cold front with wind and desperately needed rain, but despite the lousy weather, I managed to log 71 species for the day and bag a bunch of year birds!  I had been surveying a new road-birding route known locally as "Sparrow Road" (FM 2221, joining Jara Chinas Road), so since some rarities had been sighted by Dan Jones earlier in the week (Mountain Bluebirds and Ferruginous Hawk to be exact), and this was an area I was eyeing to get needed wintering species, I planned to do the survey and then spend the rest of the day trying to chase down additional rarities.  Dipped on both of Dan's goodies, but the cold, blustery wind and spitting rain probably didn't help!  Caracaras were still out the yin yang despite the weather, and great flocks of Brown-headed Cowbirds ebbed and flowed over the fields!

The dirt portion of the route was an adventure, a road (when wet) made especially for Subarus! ☺  Thankfully it's a really wide road, as you needed the room to fishtail now and again (what was really nerve-wracking were the big rigs fishtailing in the opposite direction at warp 10)!  The route lived up to its name, and once again got the Black-throated Sparrow (a consistent target bird for this route), several Vespers, and the real target, a nice flock of Lark Buntings!  A pair of White-tailed Hawks was nice, and along the normally barren "north square", a flock of Long-billed Curlews fed by the road!  Although not a year bird, I was thrilled to see over 100 Sandhill Cranes in the field adjacent to the north leg of the "square", and the Horned Larks (also a year-round guarantee here) came through nicely.

Long-billed Curlews along the "north square" of the Sparrow Road Route 

Headed down to Anzalduas County Park in hope of bagging House Finch and to look for a reported Brown Creeper; Dan had also reported the finches (which, although considered "accidental" for the Valley, are somewhat consistent here), and I finally found his flock along the crossroad the cuts through the middle of the park!  Since it was still windy, I just crawled along and let Bippy do the "walking" so to speak, and managed to add Northern Beardless Tyrannulet wheeK!-ing, and while watching some Butterbutts in a tree I happened to notice a brilliant male Eastern Bluebird sitting all puffed up in one of the bare trees!  Western Meadowlarks were all over, and on the way out I heard some different chinks, and decided to go look for that one, which turned out to be a pretty male Black-throated Green Warbler.  I was tempted to hike out into the field to flush a Sprague's Pipit, but I didn't particularly care to get my feet soaked...

Western Meadowlark sitting in the dew


Eastern Bluebird

Part of the House Finch flock

Male House Finch

  Listen carefully for the little chirps of the finches; they are overshadowed by a Green Jay first doing his "roll call", then his standard tac tac tac!

On to Santa Ana to find the reported Hooded Merganser; no such luck at the Entrance Pond, but despite the spit I was itching to get out and stretch my legs, so made the loop around Chachalaca Trail.  An Altamira Oriole was coming in to the feeders, and a nice assortment of water birds was at the lakes, including a bedraggled Cinnamon Teal.  I thought I heard a Swamp Sparrow, but just couldn't get the thing to come out. 

Had just enough time to try once more for that silly Golden-crowned Warbler at Frontera, and thankfully it had been seen earlier in the day, but when I ran into Roy Rodriguez guiding a group from Houston Audubon, they hadn't found it yet, either, but he did get me my year Black-and-white Warbler!  I made a slow circuit around the thicket, kicking up Turkey Vulture after Turkey Vulture as I went, but alas, no Golden-crown.  A couple of Red-crowned Parrots sounded off as I got back to the car, however!  No complaints on this day, as the weather could have been a lot worse, and the year list increased considerably!  (A Muscovy flew over Ware Road on the way home, but I don't think he counts... ☺)

Bird list (new species in CAPS):

  Gadwall                               Anas strepera

  Mottled Duck                          Anas fulvigula

  Blue-winged Teal                      Anas discors

  Cinnamon Teal                         Anas cyanoptera

  Northern Shoveler                     Anas clypeata

  Plain Chachalaca                      Ortalis vetula

  Least Grebe                           Tachybaptus dominicus

  Pied-billed Grebe                     Podilymbus podiceps

  Great Blue Heron

  Great Egret                           Ardea alba

  White Ibis                            Eudocimus albus

  Black Vulture                         Coragyps atratus

  Turkey Vulture                        Cathartes aura

  Osprey                                Pandion haliaetus

  Northern Harrier                      Circus cyaneus

  Harris's Hawk                         Parabuteo unicinctus

  White-tailed Hawk                     Buteo albicaudatus

  Red-tailed Hawk                       Buteo jamaicensis

  Crested Caracara                      Caracara cheriway

  American Kestrel                      Falco sparverius

  Common Gallinule                      Gallinula galeata

  American Coot                         Fulica americana

  Sandhill Crane                        Grus canadensis

  Killdeer                              Charadrius vociferus

  Lesser Yellowlegs                     Tringa flavipes

  Long-billed Curlew                    Numenius americanus

  Rock Pigeon                           Columba livia

  Mourning Dove                         Zenaida macroura

  Inca Dove                             Columbina inca

  White-tipped Dove                     Leptotila verreauxi

  RED-CROWNED PARROT                      Amazona viridigenalis

  Buff-bellied Hummingbird              Amazilia yucatanensis

  Golden-fronted Woodpecker             Melanerpes aurifrons

  Yellow-bellied Sapsucker              Sphyrapicus varius

  Ladder-backed Woodpecker              Picoides scalaris

  NORTHERN BEARDLESS TYRANNULET           Camptostoma imberbe

  Eastern Phoebe                        Sayornis phoebe

  Great Kiskadee                        Pitangus sulphuratus

  Loggerhead Shrike                     Lanius ludovicianus

  White-eyed Vireo                      Vireo griseus

  Green Jay                             Cyanocorax yncas

  HORNED LARK                             Eremophila alpestris

  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

  Northern Mockingbird                  Mimus polyglottos

  Long-billed Thrasher                  Toxostoma longirostre

  BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER                 Mniotilta varia

  Orange-crowned Warbler                Oreothlypis celata

  Common Yellowthroat                   Geothlypis trichas

  Yellow-rumped Warbler                 Setophaga coronata

  BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER            Setophaga virens

  Olive Sparrow                         Arremonops rufivirgatus

  Vesper Sparrow                        Pooecetes gramineus

  BLACK-THROATED SPARROW                  Amphispiza bilineata

  LARK BUNTING                            Calamospiza melanocorys

  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

  Brown-headed Cowbird                  Molothrus ater

  Altamira Oriole                       Icterus gularis

  HOUSE FINCH                             Carpodacus mexicanus

  American Goldfinch                    Spinus tristis

  House Sparrow                         Passer domesticus



So far:  185 SPECIES


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