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2012 Big Year

July 9 - Santa Ana NWR Lunch Break

On Payroll Mondays I get a two-hour lunch break (due to coming in early), so I usually zip down to Santa Ana for an exercise/bird walk.  Nothing new for the year on this particular day, but I was surprised to find a Black-and-white Warbler along the Chachalaca Trail!  (I was informed by those in the know that they do start coming back this early, and indeed John's checklist lists them as "scarce" in July, but come next month they should become "uncommon"...)  Other fun stuff included an Olive Sparrow taking a bath in the standing water along the trail, and several cool damselflies in the mat in the canal (Dan Jones cottoned me on to checking that)!  Snouts were all over the place.

Two of gazillions of Snouts "mudding" along the trails (check out the "nose")


Early Black-and-white Warbler

Bathing Olive Sparrow along the Chachalaca Trail

Blue-ringed Dancer


Desert Firetail (left) and Neotropic Bluets (right)

July 15 - Cannon Road, Boca Chica Beach, and Delta Lake

Today Joyce Davidson joined me in a quest for a Yellow-green Vireo along Cannon Road, some Red Knots along Boca Chica Highway, and a Wood Stork at Delta Lake.  Dipped on all three targets, but we had a fun adventure and some great photo ops along the way.  Cannon Road was quite lively with the usuals, including tons of Tropical Kingbirds as per usual (in this recording, you can also hear the harsher call of its look-alike cousin, the Couch's Kingbird, towards the end):    Common summering specialties were about (Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Groove-billed Ani, Brown-crested Flycatcher), as well as the resident specialties (Long-billed Thrasher, Olive Sparrow, Carolina Wren).  Orchard Orioles were moving through (and even singing), but alas, the only vireo we had was of the White-eyed variety.  Several Dickcissels sang in the fields, and a pair of Caracaras posed (in the sun, unfortunately).  We also had a few singing Yellowthroats, presumably of the Brownsville variety.

Ubiquitous Red-winged Blackbird begging for a photo

We decided to check out Adams Garden Reservoir just in case, and while we could find no storks, we had several Green Herons, Neotropic Cormorants, and Cattle Egrets out in the sod fields (along with tons of grackles).  Bank Swallows were out the yin yang, along with a few Caves (and probably some others I couldn't get on).  An unpleasant surprise was a big wall of dirt halfway around on the north side, so one can no longer circle the entire lake!

From there we backtracked and made another run through the forest, then checked out the forest tract going up Weaver Road, picking up a pretty Blue Grosbeak in the thornscrub.  We then went down Jimenez to Rangerville to check out the pond there.  That had quite a bit of action with several Stilts, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, and more cormorants, along with token Tricolored Herons, Mottled Ducks, another "yoga" Yellow-crowned Night Heron, and a White Ibis across the way!  From there we checked out the Las Palomas wetland (which was gated off but you could still walk in), where we had both grebes, a pair of Ruddy Ducks, several Common Gallinule, a Spoonbill, and a yellowlegs that was kinda between the two, so I was hard-pressed to pin a name on it (the jizz felt more like a Lesser).


Black-necked Stilt (you don't get to see the red eye very often!)


Immature Tricolored Heron


Great Kiskadee

Odd yellowlegs

From there got onto US 281 and headed straight to Boca Chica Beach (that was a first for me, taking 281 all the way in to Brownsville), where we didn't stop until we came to some wetlands towards the south.  Thankfully no white mastiff was about, but the smell that Bob Becker and Rex Stanford warned us about sure was (maybe I didn't notice it last time; when you've birded the Salton Sea for years you learn to tune the stench out...)!  We had a nice variety of shorebirds (those close enough to ID through the heat waves, anyway):  four plover species, several Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers (the latter doing their little warble), a couple of Ruddy Turnstones, Dunlin, and Stilt Sandpipers, a lone Long-billed Curlew, and lots and lots of Willets and both flavors of yellowlegs.

 From there we tackled the beach, and we were really surprised that there weren't more vehicles on the beach on a Sunday afternoon!  We drove all the way down to the river mouth (I think Joyce was clenching the armrest a few times ☺), but we had great studies of several species of terns (including some begging Sandwich Terns with their ochre-colored bills), a pair of skimming Skimmers, a huge flock of Semipalmated Plovers, lots of Sanderlings, and even a few ratty-looking oversummering Herring and Ring-billed Gulls, but alas no knots.  One gull had us scratching our heads, as it superficially looked like a young Lesser Black-backed Gull with its dearth of slaty-looking mantle feathers against a whitish head and body, but it also had a somewhat bulky bicolored bill, and the overall feel was more "Herring", but I'd appreciate feedback on that (it appeared only slightly larger than a nearby Ring-billed).  Update:  the gull was unanimously confirmed as a 2nd year Lesser Black-backed Gull.


Sandwich Terns


Begging youngster with harried-looking parent (Royal Tern in the background)

Royal Tern flanked by two Sandwich Terns

Juvenile Least Tern

Caspian Tern

Beat-up Herring Gull

Lesser Black-backed Gull (left) with Ring-billed Gull on the right.  The white eyelid is apparently diagnostic!

More shots of the Lesser Black-backed Gull



I upped the exposure on this one because of the harsh lighting...

It was threatening to rain so we didn't go up towards the jetty, but rather headed straight to 77 and up to Delta Lake.  Nothing new at all (lots of families out fishing, though), so we called it a day after that, with a respectable 93 species for the day!  Bird list:

  Black-bellied Whistling-Duck          Dendrocygna autumnalis

  Mottled Duck                          Anas fulvigula

  Ruddy Duck                            Oxyura jamaicensis

  Northern Bobwhite                     Colinus virginianus

  Least Grebe                           Tachybaptus dominicus

  Pied-billed Grebe                     Podilymbus podiceps

  Neotropic Cormorant                   Phalacrocorax brasilianus

  Brown Pelican                         Pelecanus occidentalis

  Great Blue Heron                      Ardea herodias

  Great Egret                           Ardea alba

  Snowy Egret                           Egretta thula

  Tricolored Heron                      Egretta tricolor

  Reddish Egret                         Egretta rufescens

  Cattle Egret                          Bubulcus ibis

  Green Heron                           Butorides virescens

  Yellow-crowned Night-Heron            Nyctanassa violacea

  White Ibis                            Eudocimus albus

  Roseate Spoonbill                     Platalea ajaja

  Turkey Vulture                        Cathartes aura

  Harris's Hawk                         Parabuteo unicinctus

  Crested Caracara                      Caracara cheriway

  Common Gallinule                      Gallinula galeata

  American Coot                         Fulica americana

  Black-bellied Plover                  Pluvialis squatarola

  Snowy Plover                          Charadrius nivosus

  Wilson's Plover                       Charadrius wilsonia

  Semipalmated Plover                   Charadrius semipalmatus

  Killdeer                              Charadrius vociferus

  Black-necked Stilt                    Himantopus mexicanus

  American Avocet                       Recurvirostra americana

  Greater Yellowlegs                    Tringa melanoleuca

  Willet                                Tringa semipalmata

  Lesser Yellowlegs                     Tringa flavipes

  Long-billed Curlew                    Numenius americanus

  Ruddy Turnstone                       Arenaria interpres

  Sanderling                            Calidris alba

  Semipalmated Sandpiper                Calidris pusilla

  Least Sandpiper                       Calidris minutilla

  Dunlin                                Calidris alpina

  Stilt Sandpiper                       Calidris himantopus

  Laughing Gull                         Leucophaeus atricilla

  Ring-billed Gull                      Larus delawarensis

  Herring Gull                          Larus argentatus

  Lesser Black-backed Gull

  Least Tern                            Sternula antillarum

  Caspian Tern

  Black Tern                            Chlidonias niger

  Forster's Tern                        Sterna forsteri

  Royal Tern                            Thalasseus maximus

  Sandwich Tern                         Thalasseus sandvicensis

  Black Skimmer                         Rynchops niger

  Rock Pigeon                           Columba livia

  White-winged Dove                     Zenaida asiatica

  Mourning Dove                         Zenaida macroura

  Common Ground-Dove                    Columbina passerina

  White-tipped Dove                     Leptotila verreauxi

  Yellow-billed Cuckoo                  Coccyzus americanus

  Groove-billed Ani                     Crotophaga sulcirostris

  Common Nighthawk                      Chordeiles minor

  Golden-fronted Woodpecker             Melanerpes aurifrons

  Ladder-backed Woodpecker              Picoides scalaris

  Brown-crested Flycatcher              Myiarchus tyrannulus

  Great Kiskadee                        Pitangus sulphuratus

  Tropical Kingbird                     Tyrannus melancholicus

  Couch's Kingbird                      Tyrannus couchii

  Scissor-tailed Flycatcher             Tyrannus forficatus

  Loggerhead Shrike                     Lanius ludovicianus

  White-eyed Vireo                      Vireo griseus

  Green Jay                             Cyanocorax yncas

  Horned Lark                           Eremophila alpestris

  Bank Swallow                          Riparia riparia

  Cave Swallow                          Petrochelidon fulva

  Black-crested Titmouse                Baeolophus atricristatus


  Carolina Wren                         Thryothorus ludovicianus

  Bewick's Wren                         Thryomanes bewickii

  Northern Mockingbird                  Mimus polyglottos

  Long-billed Thrasher                  Toxostoma longirostre

  Curve-billed Thrasher                 Toxostoma curvirostre

  European Starling                     Sturnus vulgaris

  Common Yellowthroat                   Geothlypis trichas

  Olive Sparrow                         Arremonops rufivirgatus

  Lark Sparrow                          Chondestes grammacus

  Northern Cardinal                     Cardinalis cardinalis

  Blue Grosbeak                         Passerina caerulea

  Dickcissel                            Spiza americana

  Red-winged Blackbird                  Agelaius phoeniceus

  Eastern Meadowlark                    Sturnella magna

  Great-tailed Grackle                  Quiscalus mexicanus

  Bronzed Cowbird                       Molothrus aeneus

  Brown-headed Cowbird                  Molothrus ater

  Orchard Oriole                        Icterus spurius

  Lesser Goldfinch                      Spinus psaltria

  House Sparrow                         Passer domesticus



So far:  307 SPECIES

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