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Day 3:  Elgin Area to Hornsby Bend

Was disappointed when I walked out to breakfast the next morning and saw that it was misting L, but in an ongoing effort to squelch complaining (one of my spiritual resolutions) I thanked the Lord that it wasn’t outright raining, and carried out the routine until it was time to go.  It pretty much let up by the time I got to the start of the route, but it was cold and windy all day (temps never got above 37 according to Bippy's thermometer), so I did almost all my birding from the car!  I pulled over to listen as often as I could safely (and without having anyone call the cops on me for parking in their drive...), but just couldn't kick up any longspurs (although almost every other “field bird” seemed to show up in numbers). I braved the cold to stroll along that woodland along Carlson Lane, which did indeed look perfect for sapsuckers, but just couldn’t kick up the Red-naped (got a Flicker instead).  Otherwise it was wonderful, as the Eastern Towhee did pop up for me after a bad Screech Owl imitation (along with a bunch of other sparrows)!  Unfortunately I was too slow with the camera…

Woodland along Carlson Lane that housed an Eastern Towhee

   

Vesper Sparrow

Harris' Sparrow song and chortle (looped once)

       

Carolina Chickadee

Hornsby Bend was the afternoon destination, and thankfully I noticed the Farm Road it was on as we drove past it on the way to whatever road I was heading for (which happened to be a toll road; obviously I hadn’t pulled back enough on MapQuest), and that was a great drive down!  After I checked in at the office, I noticed a bunch of birds feeding under a big tree, and wondering if that’s where the Rusty Blackbird had been seen I checked it out:  had Starlings, a Common Grackle, and a ton of White-winged Doves, including a “chocolate” one!  Turns out that later someone on the Austin RBA confirmed that that’s where the Rusty has been seen, but by the time I found that out I was getting ready to head back to the Valley!

 

"Chocolate" (melanistic) White-winged Dove with two normal-colored birds at Hornsby Bend

This place is great:  you have an “auto tour” around the ponds and back into the woods, with several places to stop and hike a short trail.  Ran into two other carloads, though, and you really have to scootch over to let them squeeze by!  The first guy had seen the Goldeneye and the Vermilion Flycatcher (my brain skipped over the rarities reported here that are somewhat common in the Valley), but bemoaned that his camera wasn’t working!  The next carload was very interested in the Canvasback I had seen (the first pond upon getting up there was virtually empty, but the back pond was just stuffed with ducks—mostly Shovelers, but also Lesser Scaup, Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Ruddies, a few Ringnecks, and a single Bufflehead on the back side)!  The first guy also told me he thought the Rusty had been seen in one of the corners with sludge on it, and that he had seen several Eared Grebes but no Horned.  I figured I’d pick up the Goldeneye when I got over there, but couldn’t find her—probably overlooked her.  After swinging around the back of a building and back up on the dike, there was the Vermilion, flycatching down by the water!  Cute little guy!

The duck mob at Hornsby Bend, a water treatment plant doubling as a wildlife sanctuary!

Most of the ducks are Northern Shovelers

Male in transitional plumage

       

Diving ducks utilizing the ponds include (L-R) Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck, and Bufflehead

Eared Grebe

Vermilion Flycatcher, apparently rather unusual for this area

   

Our two common winter warblers:  Orange-crowned (left) and Yellow-rumped.

Trail access about halfway through the driving loop

Back side of the driving loop

View from the south side of the loop

The trails were nice for exercise (and I’ll bet they’re gorgeous when they’re leafed out), but there wasn’t much besides the usual Cardinals, Butterbutts, and Orangecrowns down there.   After finishing up the ponds I headed up to the trailhead at the end of Platt Lane, and incongruously saw a hummingbird feeder set out shortly after the trail started!  After wondering what in the world they expected to attract in near-freezing weather, suddenly I heard the rattle of a Buff-bellied Hummingbird!  I suspected that may have been one of the rarities reported that didn’t register, and sure enough, when I went back and checked the Austin RBA, there it was!  Three deer and a Cardinal on the trail made for interesting photo ops.

 

Deer on the River Trail

A Cardinal on the same trail

   

Close-up of the Cardinal

Headed to the Best Western after that, getting turned around in construction traffic right where I needed to turn, but we eventually found our way there.  Too bad I’m not staying here for three nights—this is the best one so far!

Click here to continue to Hornsby Bend revisited; here to go back to Granger Lake.

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