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Part 9:  Warbler Woods  (13-14 APR)

We arrived at Warbler Woods, and what a place Susan has!  Unfortunately I didn’t get to meet her (I didn’t feel right invading their privacy by going up to the house and knocking on the door…), but we got our checklists (with the map printed on the back, and a very professional job they did, too!) and took off for the feeding areas!  We kept running into these two gals who had “rented” a golf cart, and they told us that you could use one for a donation – that’s great for people who can’t walk!  We could, however, so we started at the feeders behind the house, picking up the normal Cardinals and House Finches, but also hearing a White-throated Sparrow tuning up for his northern home! 

Susan had alerted me to the fact that as of last week the Harris’ Sparrow was still hanging around the Old Barn, so that was our next destination.  That place was hopping after awhile:  several White-crowned Sparrows came in, along with a Lincoln’s and Chipping (and Cardinals of course), but eventually we spotted a black-faced, pink-billed sparrow hiding back in the grass – it was the Harris’!  I was so jazzed – that was the bird of the day for me!

Lincoln's Sparrow at the Barn Blind

From there we followed the huge power lines to the next feeding area, but not before taking a peek at First Field, which was lovely with all the blooming flowers – you wanted to run out and play in it! J  I had texted Susan to tell her the Harris’ was still there, and she texted back and said that Clay-colored Sparrow and Indigo Bunting had been seen at Chat Pond, so we headed that way.  First we checked out Sparrow Hole, where the two ladies with the golf cart reported a bunch of Chippies, and sure enough, after awhile they came in droves!  When the big Golden Retriever decided to come and say hello, we used that opportunity to head over to Chat Pond, which had more Chippies in addition to a couple of Lark Sparrows, more Whitecrowns, and another Lincoln’s.  Before long we had to start heading back so Marsha could get home before rush hour and I could check into the hotel, so we quickly found our way back to the parking lot, said our goodbyes, and went our separate ways. 

First Field

Flower show in the First Field

Checkered White

Lark Sparrow at Chat Pond

Immature White-crowned Sparrow

Was able to take advantage of the hotel’s breakfast again (haven’t had to use those instant oatmeals I bought), but getting out of there was a little hair-raising!  First off, the traffic coming down that frontage road was pretty fast (and when it’s dark, I have a hard time telling how fast those lights are coming at me), and when I did finally get on, I happened to notice a sign on the freeway indicating that I was heading towards San Antonio instead of away from it!  So I had to find a place where I could make a right turn, Uie, and head over the overpass to get to the other frontage road!  Then I turned on the wrong Farm Road, so I had to turn around there, and get back on the frontage road!  When I finally got to Old Wiederstein, the next sweat was finding the green mailbox on that dark little road, but thankfully I did!

Pulled in and thankfully a Chuck-will’s-widow was singing, so I was happy to get that!  Susan had suggested I start at the Second Field, and that was a great plan, because it ended up being a terrific loop around the property that eventually did bring me back to the house, and after I had settled myself at the big water feature (yapping with a lady named Desha from Austin) Ninja the Border Collie came over, and although he seemed wary, he did let me love on him, then went his way.

But I’m getting ahead of myself; decided to do the Point Count Protocol, and in reality ten minutes got me right to the Scout Pond blind!  There was no activity there, and there was some kind of construction going on on Old Wiederstein in addition to the traffic, so it was kinda hard to hear stuff, plus I was kicking myself for not bringing my warmer jacket, because even though it was pleasant in the parking lot, that breeze was cold!  As I got away from the traffic I was able to pick up some singing Grasshopper Sparrows, which was nice.

Scout Pond

Taking the trail into Don’s Woods was able to scare up a pair of Brown Thrashers for the trip, and a big surprise was flushing a pair of Bobwhite in the woods (although I was right next to the field, so I suppose I shouldn’t have been too surprised…)!  It’s just that these are deep woods with huge trees (oaks, I guess), and that’s the last place I’d expect to see a quail! J

Hiked the trail around the Old Growth Forest and to the high tension wire right-of-way, where several Black Vultures were roosting!  Checked out Chat Pond and Sparrow Hole, and neither were as active as they were yesterday afternoon (was still a bit early, or maybe just too wet), so headed back into the woods to cover that trail, turned left at the Chimney Swift tower (apparently built by the Boy Scouts as it was actually called Scout Tower), and wound up at a clearing where several trails intersected, enjoying a dogfight between a Sharp-shinned Hawk and three Barn Swallows (looked like the swallows were winning)! J  A White-throated Sparrow sang tentatively, but never showed himself. 

Right-of-way with Chat Pond

Chat Pond as viewed from the Sparrow Hole Blind

A few steps later I discovered Thomas’ Meadow, which was very active:  several Chipping Sparrows came in, and I was hoping the towhee would also, because both Spotted and Eastern can show up here, and apparently both can make that rising rrrRRR! sound.  He never did show, but he also sang, Drinks-drinks-FREEEE! which is what the Spotted Towhees in Arizona sing!  So as I put on EBird, that would be my “gun to the head” guess, but I really wasn’t sure.  Two Nashville Warblers were also tentatively singing here, and at the aptly named Towhee Bramble I tried again to get that towhee to come out, but got two Lincoln’s Sparrows instead (and I’m really surprised to hear a lot of these guys singing as well)!

   

Chipping Sparrows at Thomas' Meadow

Continued down Nightjar Pass where a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was upset with someone along the edge, and just where the trail dumps out on that right-of-way again, I was hearing more Grasshopper Sparrows, so I was scanning in hopes of spotting one when a golf cart crossed my view! J  I’m terrible at remembering names, but I think the guy said his name was Merle (or Marvin – started with an M anyway), and he was a weekly volunteer who came and birded and filled the feeders!  So we chatted a little bit (he called me a “reverse birder” because I’m from the Valley, when most birders are heading towards the Valley J), and by the time I reached the Old Barn feeders he had restocked them, and that place was hopping!  All the crew from yesterday afternoon was there, including the Harris’ Sparrow, who actually came out on the road for fabulous looks!  In addition, a little Inca Dove came out, and a pair of Bobwhite fed alongside the road.

Bobwhite hiding along the edge of the trail

Camera-shy Carolina Chickadee...

   

Wintering Harris' Sparrow that decided to hang around for awhile (long enough to start showing some stunning breeding plumage)!

From there just hugged the trails that take you through South Woods, around Margie’s Woods, and beside North Woods, adding a Hermit Thrush and House Wren to the list.  Before I knew it I was back at the house, and as mentioned, sat and yapped with Desha for a good while (as there was nothing but Cardinals and White-winged Doves coming in); her take on it was that the migrants were late, as right now is supposed to be the best time for migrants here at the Woods (she mentioned a MacGillivray’s Warbler that showed up every year)!

South Woods Trail

Anyway, finished that up, adding a calling Great Crested Flycatcher in the parking lot while eating some chicken (and thankfully the predicted rain never happened), and I texted Susan to say thanks and goodbye, as she had gone to the doctor, so I never got to touch base in person (I did tell her that Ninja came over and made friends J). 

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