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2012 Big Year

July 8 - Sabal Palm Grove, Boca Chica NWR, and Tiocano Lake

Pat Heirs joined me this morning as news of a Yellow-green Vireo sent us to Sabal Palm Grove.  The Masked Duck (which turned out to be a male as it had molted into adult breeding plumage since I saw it in June) would have been a nice "cherry", but he hadn't been seen in close to a week; Pat and Joyce Davidson had seen the bird last Sunday, and commented that had a Common Gallinule not bullied the thing out into the open, they never would have seen it!  The vireo also hadn't been heard or seen since John Brush initially heard it earlier in the week, but knowing that this place was a traditional spot for them, we were hopeful.

Heading over to the big blind first off, we were entertained by many Black-bellied Whistling Duck families with various ages of kids; the little ducklings were absolutely exquisitely patterned!  Two adults and one immature Black-crowned Night Heron was nice, and Pat found a Least Grebe nest in the middle of the pond, as well as both a male and female Green Kingfisher.  We noticed the "teenage" ducks making their way by themselves to the middle of the pond where a semi-submerged stick was (it was great fun watching them try to perch on the thing only to flop head over heels over it) and by golly if that gallinule didn't come racing out and proceed to bully them away from "his" stick!  Mom or Dad whistling duck came over post haste and they all moved to another corner of the pond, but we both agreed that gallinule was definitely the Pond Bully!  Later Pat asked Seth (the guy on duty) what might be preying on the ducklings, as the "new" family had 13 babies and the "older" one was down to four, and he told her that the Bobcats really like "duckling" for breakfast!

Black-bellied Whistling Duck poses on a stump

Least Grebe on nest

"Teenage" Whistlers

A younger family

We decided to hike the resaca boardwalk hoping there might be some water over there, but it was dry as a bone; we did get nice looks at a Yellow-billed Cuckoo and a couple of Groove-billed Anis, an Altamira Oriole that flew across the trail, plus a Giant Swallowtail that was feeding on something high in the trees.  Along the wooded part of the trail we flushed several cicadas, and Pat spotted a male Tawny Emperor.  A Green Anole sat semi-hidden on a palm frond, but the trail started getting too overgrown for Pat's taste (the Guinea Grass is really taking over), so I went ahead and made the loop while she went back to the Visitor's Center.  No sign of any vireos (aside from White-eyed), but did have a pretty female Pin-tailed Pondhawk pose, and I narrowly escaped walking through a very complicated spider web that took up the whole trail, and that one did have a dragonfly in it!  (That's one reason you take a walking stick... ☺)  We had also encountered a presumed dead dragonfly in a web in the blind, but discovered it was very much alive when I pulled it out by the tail; I think it was also a female Pin-tailed Pondhawk, but it was fun getting such an up-close look as she sat on my finger!  Coming back by way of the Forest Trail I had a couple of Yellow-billed Cuckoos calling (the full song can be heard near the end of the recording, along with a zillion mosquitoes...)  


Cicada and Tawny Emperor along the trail

Giant Swallowtail at the resaca

Female Pin-tailed Pondhawk along the Vireo Trail

After wrapping that up (and enjoying a Hooded Oriole at the feeders) I really didn't have any plans (except maybe to scout out some possible Wood Stork hideouts), so since Joseph Kennedy was asking me about some of the back roads along Boca Chica Boulevard that he used to haunt (and didn't sound familiar at all), we decided to go exploring.  We took it slow near the spot where we had the Aplomado Falcon and Barn Owl last time, but this time got a pretty White-tailed Hawk.  We were familiar with Yolanda (not too far past the Border Patrol checkpoint) but found an unmarked road that turned out to be Gavito Road according to the map, and with lots of vegetation on either side and a mix of "cactus grassland" in spots as we zigged and zagged (and ended at some fields), it looked like it would have great potential during migration!  (It was too hot for much more than meadowlarks by now...)  We also found Kingston Avenue, which was right across from the road you take north through the refuge and towards the Brownsville Shipping Channel (we also tried that road but didn't get very far before it was undriveable...).  Kingston is very easy to miss as the entrance is narrow with a lot of vegetation on either side (plus some pretty good potholes), but it goes right to the River and gives you an excellent view; we had Cattle Egrets and Great Blue Herons down there.  Massey Way was the road that went to the Gun Club (there's a huge yellow ball with a smiley face at the entrance), and then we discovered Quicksilver (also unmarked), which also took us to the River.  So apparently what we've been calling "Dan Jones' Road" is actually Richardson, which turns into Tarpon Haven.  From Dan's descriptions (and some of Joe's, for that matter), he probably went further than I was comfortable taking my car! ☺  Even on the roads we did traverse, Pat was biting her nails!


White-tailed Hawk near the checkpoint on Boca Chica Blvd.

Crested Caracara with a full crop

Bob Becker had found a Red Knot somewhere along here (that would have also been a year bird), so we checked out a good swatch of beach that had several birdies on it, but no knot that we could pick out.  But we enjoyed four species of plover, both flavors of Reddish Egret, more Tricolored Herons than you could shake a stick at, and a mystery shorebird in bad light that was probably a Stilt Sandpiper, but I just couldn't tell for sure.  The beach was open this time, but crowded with "weekend warriors" with not much beach to drive on, so we called it quits and headed out.

On the way home we made a last minute decision to check out Tiocano Lake in the off-chance there might be a stork there, but only added Roseate Spoonbill, Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, and a young Yellowthroat singing a song that sounded like a cross between a House Finch and a Bell's Vireo (too bad it was too windy to tape it)!  A Yellow-crowned Night Heron entertained us with a yoga pose; I believe I've read that herons will pose like that in order to cool off, but I'm not sure on that.  Could have been sunning...

Yellow-crowned Night Heron catching some rays...

Headed home with 70 species for the day, but unfortunately no new ones for the year.  But it's always fun to get out into Creation with friends!

Bird List:

  Black-bellied Whistling-Duck          Dendrocygna autumnalis

  Plain Chachalaca                      Ortalis vetula

  Least Grebe                           Tachybaptus dominicus

  Neotropic Cormorant                   Phalacrocorax brasilianus

  Brown Pelican                         Pelecanus occidentalis

  Great Blue Heron                      Ardea herodias

  Great Egret                           Ardea alba

  Snowy Egret                           Egretta thula

  Little Blue Heron                     Egretta caerulea

  Tricolored Heron

  Reddish Egret                         Egretta rufescens

  Cattle Egret                          Bubulcus ibis

  Green Heron                           Butorides virescens

  Black-crowned Night-Heron             Nycticorax nycticorax

  Yellow-crowned Night-Heron            Nyctanassa violacea

  Roseate Spoonbill                     Platalea ajaja

  Turkey Vulture                        Cathartes aura

  White-tailed Hawk                     Buteo albicaudatus

  Crested Caracara                      Caracara cheriway

  Common Gallinule                      Gallinula galeata

  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

  Willet                                Tringa semipalmata

  Lesser Yellowlegs                     Tringa flavipes

  Ruddy Turnstone                       Arenaria interpres

  Sanderling                            Calidris alba

  Least Sandpiper                       Calidris minutilla

  Laughing Gull                         Leucophaeus atricilla

  Least Tern                            Sternula antillarum

  Caspian Tern                          Hydroprogne caspia

  Royal Tern                            Thalasseus maximus

  Rock Pigeon                           Columba livia

  Mourning Dove                         Zenaida macroura

  Common Ground-Dove                    Columbina passerina

  White-tipped Dove                     Leptotila verreauxi

  Yellow-billed Cuckoo                  Coccyzus americanus

  Groove-billed Ani                     Crotophaga sulcirostris

  Buff-bellied Hummingbird              Amazilia yucatanensis

  Green Kingfisher                      Chloroceryle americana

  Golden-fronted Woodpecker             Melanerpes aurifrons

  Ladder-backed Woodpecker              Picoides scalaris

  Brown-crested Flycatcher              Myiarchus tyrannulus

  Great Kiskadee                        Pitangus sulphuratus

  Couch's Kingbird                      Tyrannus couchii

  White-eyed Vireo                      Vireo griseus

  Green Jay                             Cyanocorax yncas

  Horned Lark                           Eremophila alpestris

  Barn Swallow

  Black-crested Titmouse                Baeolophus atricristatus

  Verdin                                Auriparus flaviceps

  Carolina Wren                         Thryothorus ludovicianus

  Northern Mockingbird                  Mimus polyglottos

  Long-billed Thrasher                  Toxostoma longirostre

  Common Yellowthroat                   Geothlypis trichas

  Olive Sparrow                         Arremonops rufivirgatus

  Lark Sparrow                          Chondestes grammacus

  Northern Cardinal                     Cardinalis cardinalis

  Red-winged Blackbird                  Agelaius phoeniceus

  Eastern Meadowlark                    Sturnella magna

  Great-tailed Grackle                  Quiscalus mexicanus

  Bronzed Cowbird                       Molothrus aeneus

  Brown-headed Cowbird                  Molothrus ater

  Hooded Oriole                         Icterus cucullatus

  Altamira Oriole                       Icterus gularis

  Lesser Goldfinch                      Spinus psaltria

  House Sparrow                         Passer domesticus



So far:  307 SPECIES

(The last post listed 308, but BirdBase is giving me 307; will have to do some research...)

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