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Spring Blitz

Part 20:  Port Aransas Area  (28-29 APR)

Port Road

Got to Port Aransas in good time (and for the first time in my life I didn’t get turned around in Aransas Pass J) and found Charlie’s Pasture without getting lost to boot!  It was still windy, so while migrants were passing through in the little trees and bushes there, they weren’t really sticking around.  Wasn’t sure exactly where the reported Townsend’s Warbler was, but I didn’t have high hopes of finding it considering the wind!  Took the trail to the right as far as the first shelter (about 10 minutes in), and Rex was right:  the place was stuffed with shorebirds!  I wasn’t prepared to venture any further, however (looks like a pretty long trail), and the birds were too far away for me to ID with certainty, but was able to add a flyover Upland Sandpiper, Least Tern, some Ruddy Ducks and Shovelers, a Willet, Least Sandpipers, and Greater Yellowlegs to the list.  A couple came by just about the time I was ready to leave, and I pointed out a couple of Nashville Warblers that had just blasted in, and they in turn pointed out some Spoonbills further out!  They were pretty friendly, and we ended up chatting all the way back to the cars!

From there headed over to Paradise Pond (once you know where the place is it’s easy to find), and the first thing to greet me (besides the couple enjoying the birds) was a pair of Scarlet Tanagers!  A Catbird got jealous and came in close J, and I couldn’t believe the water level compared to last year when I was here:  it’s practically overflowing onto the boardwalk!  The Northern Waterthrushes were all over, and also added a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Nighthawk for the day.  I saw on the board where some birds I could still use for the trip had been seen, so there’s hope! J

   

Male (left) and female Scarlet Tanager at Paradise Pond

   

Somewhat backlit Northern Waterthrush

Finished up with the Turnbull Birding Center, and that was great fun; I went straight to the boardwalk as I didn’t want to disturb the gentleman at the picnic table, and was greeted by a very friendly lady Black-throated Green Warbler in the willows!  A Yellow Warbler also showed up, along with a pretty cooperative Least Flycatcher!  Out in the marsh had the usual suspects, with the addition of a White Pelican and a Redhead of all things!  At the end of the boardwalk I was hearing this funny little clucking, and turned in time to see a pair of Coots mating, but afterwards the wife gave her hubby what for!  Guess he needed practice whispering sweet nothings…

Female Black-throated Green Warbler along the boardwalk at the Turnbull Birding Center

       

Least Flycatcher

American Coot

The similar Common Gallinule sports a red bill and white side stripe.

   

Fuzzy shots of a late Redhead

Green Heron hiding in the reeds

The table was free after that so I joined the others who were focused on a Gray-cheeked Thrush coming in close (one guy observed there were two of them, but the second one turned out to be a Swainson’s)!  The Black-throated Greens came in to say hello again, along with a Black-and-white, and all of them provided great photo ops for the many folks with cameras!  On the way out another couple had a Magnolia Warbler in their sights as well; it was tough to leave, but I needed to get to the hotel (and that’s where I did get lost… L)!

       

Both Gray-cheeked (left) and Swainson's Thrushes migrate up the Texas coast in spring, although the latter is more numerous.  Can you tell them apart?

Male Black-throated Green Warbler

       

Male Black-and-white Warbler

Because it was only a hop, skip, and jump to the Birding Center, I actually got to have breakfast the next morning and then got going right on time!  But as one of Judy Kestner’s friends reportedly said, “Holy Popsicles!!”  It was cold when I stepped out the room!!  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, but obviously that cold front that blasted through the day before left its mark!

All in all, everyplace was pretty productive:  the show started at the Birding Center with both Orchard and Baltimore Orioles attacking the bottlebrush tree in the parking lot (I think that's what it was, anyway)!  The Gray-cheeked Thrush was still at the drip, and a very friendly male Northern Parula posed for pictures, along with a lady Black-throated Green!  I had a late female Myrtle Warbler on the boardwalk, along with a female Redhead (no sign of the male from yesterday).  But the real show was along Port Road on the way out; I was planning on including that for my EBird list just because I happened to see some shorebirds on the way in, but on the way out, now that I had a chance to really look, it was incredible! There were tons of Wilson’s Phalaropes, Stilt Sandpipers, and peeps, including lots of White-rumped Sandpipers!  (I thought I had a Baird’s, but the photo proved it to be a dull Whiterump…)  Goodies at Paradise Pond included an extremely friendly Swainson’s Thrush, a Philadelphia Vireo that made a lot of people happy J, and Bay-breasted, Magnolia, and Chestnut-sided Warblers. 

   

Young male Orchard (left) and Baltimore Orioles; you can see the Orchard starting to get some of his chestnut coloration around the bib!

   

Ruby-throated Hummingbird; the red is only apparent when the light hits it right!

Summer Tanager

Chipping Sparrow on the treatment plant fence

   

Northern Parula

Shy female Black-throated Green Warbler

View of the wetland and boardwalk

Pied-billed Grebe

Male Ruddy Duck coming into breeding plumage

Spotted Sandpiper

Tricolored Heron with blowing filoplumes

Blue-winged Teal and Wilson's Phalaropes feed together along Port Road

Male Wilson's Phalaropes

Stilt Sandpipers (background) and Dunlin (foreground, with the black bellies)

Stilt Sandpipers in breeding plumage show chestnut ear patches and barred bellies.

Semipalmated Plover (surrounded by two Least Sandpipers)

   

Non-breeding White-rumped Sandpipers can superficially resemble Baird's, but the reddish coloring at the base of the bill is diagnostic.

   

Back at Paradise Pond, the Swainson's Thrush is being ridiculously cooperative!

A Gray Catbird comes in for a bit of orange...

When I came here last year, the place was dry as a bone - look at it now!

Black-bellied Whistling Duck

       

On the way out, a Nashville Warbler goes after an orange

Charlie’s Pasture was another great place for shorebird photography, as well as for spoonbills and other waders.  I kept leap-frogging with this elderly couple, who initially asked a lot of questions about the birds, and we had a good conversation about the place in general (he asked if “it was somehow connected”, and I thought he was talking about the trail looping back; turns out he meant the tidal areas), and after I discovered that the trail did not loop around (that was quite the walk – I’m still sore from it), I was glad to see that they had turned back already, because they seemed rather frail to be hiking that whole thing! And I discovered to my chagrin that Semipalmated Sandpipers aren’t the only peeps to make that little warble that I thought was unique to them:  I caught some Least Sandpipers doing the same thing… L

View from the boardwalk at Charlie's Pasture

Roseate Spoonbills with a token Snowy Egret

The boardwalk provided great photo ops for shorebirds...

    

Semipalmated Sandpiper (non-breeding left, breeding right)

The Western Sandpiper is very similar, and sometimes only birds with obviously longer, more droopy bills are safety identified.

Least Sandpipers are most easily separated from other peeps by their yellowish legs.

   

Another non-breeding White-rumped Sandpiper conveniently shows off his white rump!

       

Stilt Sandpipers

Non-breeding American Avocet

More Wilson's Phalaropes dot the water; the more brightly-colored ones are actually the females!

   

Female Wilson's Phalarope

Semipalmated Plover

Familiar Bluet??

Rambur's Forktail (thankfully one of the easiest damsels to ID...)

    

Chipping Sparrow at the end of the trail

Ditto this female Tennessee Warbler

Click here to continue to the Corpus Christi area

Click here to return to Aransas NWR

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