Photo Gallery - 2013 Field Trips

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All photographs ©2013 by Mary Beth Stowe

 

April 20, 2013 - Annual Big Day

Left the apartment under crystal clear skies, delightfully cool temps, and no wind! J  A Mockingbird was already singing at 5:30, so he got the honor of being the first bird of the day!  When I pulled into Bentsen’s parking lot around six (an hour before sunrise), a White-winged Dove (2) was already going at it next to the light, with a Mourning Dove (3) competing in the distance.  Heading into the woods (after having a nice chat with the Border Patrol agent in the ladies’ room J) the Cardinals (4) and Couch’s Kingbirds (5) were song-battling, and close to the Nature Center, as if on cue, one of the Elf Owls (6) barked, followed closely by the trilling of a Screech Owl (7)!  The Pauraques (8) weren’t far behind, and closer to the Resaca area I was pleased to hear a Chuck-will’s-widow (9) sing!  Another Elf Owl chuckled somewhere in here as well, and several White-tipped Doves (10) cooed along the Kiskadee Trail, along with the Brown-crested Flycatchers (11) and Kiskadees (12) that were waking up.  Heading down to the Resaca I sat and enjoyed the breaking dawn, logging Red-winged Blackbird (13) from the wetlands, and surprisingly a House Wren (14) chattered and burbled from the vegetation near the shore!  A Long-billed Thrasher (15) joined the morning chorus, and I was really surprised I hadn’t heard a Great Horned Owl until one finally hooted in the distance (16)!  Soon Black-crested Titmice (17), Yellowthroats (18), and Green Jays (19) joined the cacophony while a couple of Spotted Sandpipers (20) flew in and had a little scuffle.  Added Golden-fronted Woodpecker (21) while a Mottled Duck (22) flew in, and a small flock of Long-billed Dowitchers (23) flew past in the distance.  A Ladder-backed Woodpecker (24) “picked” from the woods, and right at sunrise a Barn Swallow (25) swooped over followed by a couple of Great Egrets (26).  As I got up to leave a Beardless Tyrannulet (27) was singing his little heart out—that was the first time I’ve heard the dawn song in the Valley!  Olive Sparrows (28) started their bouncy-ball songs on the way out, as a Bank Swallow (29) chattered overhead.  While I was looking up logged a couple of Great-tailed Grackles (30) and a Cattle Egret (31) flying with another Great.  The cackling of a Common Gallinule (32) wafted through the woods, and closer to the feeder area an Altamira Oriole (33) chucked and whistled.  Behind me a Cooper’s Hawk (34) gave his “sapsucker call” several times, and a Black-bellied Whistling Duck (35) wheezed unseen.  The Gatehouse feeders had the attendant Chachalacas (36), and out in the open the Cave Swallows (37) were swooping around the canal.  I tried to pish up the reported Varied Buntings but got a nice pair of Painted Buntings (38) instead!  The tram stop had another House Wren singing along with a singing Orange-crowned Warbler (39), and the lamppost on the way to the parking lot had both Brown-headed (40) and Bronzed Cowbirds (41) displaying to each other!  A Caracara (42) powered over about then, and an Inca Dove (43) decided to sing as I got in the car.

A Pauraque tunes up, accompanied by an Eastern Screech Owl near the end.

A Couch's Kingbird sings his dawn song.

Ditto with this Northern Beardless Tyrannulet!

Northern Cardinals are all over at Bentsen.

Brown-headed (left) and Bronzed Cowbirds

From there I followed Old Military Highway, picking up a singing Eastern Meadowlark (44).  A stop along the road just past the Butterfly Center added Bobwhite (45), and the next stop at the bridge over the canal added the requisite Black Phoebe (46).  A Bewick’s Wren (47) sang along the paved portion of the levee, and once on the dirt portion I checked the wetlands and added Shoveler (48).  Continuing on added a singing White-eyed Vireo (49) and a chirping Verdin (50), but got a conflicting message from the Border Patrol guy I talked to shortly after Chimney Park:  several months ago I was told it was permissible to bird that stretch of the levee that continues to Anzalduas (about another half mile or so of levee), but this guy was saying that I really shouldn’t, as it’s not a public road; he let me go this time, though… J  Got a Laughing Gull (51) after that encounter!

A vigil at the park entrance added no Zone-tailed Hawk (not even any TV’s), but there were some House Sparrows (52) chirping in the bushes, and a Tricolored Heron (53) flew over the river (and they’re really making progress on the Mexican side:  they even have a little touristy riverboat!).  A quick look at the marsh along the spillway added Blue-winged Teal (54) and a real surprise:  a male Redhead (55)!  Wheeled into the park and over to the little pulloff by the river, where I added Great Blue Heron (56), Neotropic Cormorant (57), and a whistling Gray Hawk (58).  Dipped on the Royal Terns (although honestly I had a pair of suspicious-looking birds fly over at Bentsen, but I couldn’t get a definitive look), but there were certainly plenty of Laughing Gulls there!  A walk around the little grove was very productive, with a handful of Lark Sparrows (59) in the grass and a few Indigo Buntings (60) in the wetland grass, along with another Painted!  A Yellow-breasted Chat (61) was singing an interesting subsong, and I managed to spot a Nashville Warbler (62) while a Vermilion Flycatcher (63) sang in the distance.  Another “warbler” morphed into a Ruby-crowned Kinglet (64), and another peek at the river added Osprey (65) on a dead tree and and a couple of Lincoln’s Sparrows (66) in the vegetation.  Rock Pigeons (67) flew overhead (one looked awfully dark ) and a noisy Ringed Kingfisher (68) rowed by.  Scrutinizing the swallows finally bagged a Cliff (69—most were Caves), and a Snowy Egret (70) and Coot (71) had joined the gulls.  Cruising along the park road added a pair of twittering Tropical Kingbirds (72) and a Loggerhead Shrike (73) shooting from the wire.  Back by the dam a Killdeer (74) was on the lawn, and as I made the turn to the maintenance area to check for House Finches, a Clay-colored Thrush (75) sang from the woods.  (No finches, BTW…)  Did spot a couple of Turkey Vultures (76) catching a thermal, and as I made the loop again (seeing as it’s all one-way) added a singing Starling (77).  After a stop at the restroom a Yellow-billed Cuckoo (78) let loose with his song!  Up near the levee a Western Kingbird (79) sang his “fast tape recorder” song.

A lingering Redhead along the spillway at Anzalduas.

   

Couch's Kingbirds (the tail on the left bird isn't very notched, but the amount of yellow on his breast gives him away)

This Black-bellied Whistling Duck demonstrates why they used to be called Tree Ducks!

Lincoln's Sparrow 

I probably shoulda checked ahead of time so that I wouldn’t have been disappointed upon arriving there, but Quinta Mazatlan was having a big Earth Day event, so that spot got scrapped post haste, so on to Santa Ana we went, picking up a Swainson's Hawk (80) going down Alamo Road.  Once at the refuge a Hooded Oriole (81) in the parking lot wasn't bad, and heading to the "Trailhead Roundabout" added a Carolina Wren (82) singing an interesting song (could this be the Mexican subspecies I've heard about?).  I headed out on the Pintail Lakes Trail in hopes that the female Hooded Merganser might still be around, and on the way in the thornscrub, what I thought was a Brown-crested Flycatcher silhouetted against the sky (as one was calling) was actually a Rose-breasted Grosbeak (83)!  Another lingering winterer, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (84) buzzed and then later showed himself on the way out.  Breaking out into the wide open spaces added a batting Gull-billed Tern (85) and yapping Black-necked Stilts (86).  Alas, the mergansers were gone, but picked up a nice Solitary Sandpiper (87) in that pond, along with a couple of Lesser Yellowlegs (88).  I ran into a visiting couple, and as we discussed shorebird ID a White-tailed Kite (89) hovered over the marsh!  Continuing on some small peeps turned out to be Least Sandpipers (90).  Finally arriving at the Willow Lakes, added Greater Yellowlegs (91, and more shorebird ID discussion with visiting birders ), and at the bench were several lingering Gadwall (92).  Said visiting birders had alerted me to the presence of a Cinnamon Teal who finally showed himself (93), along with some lingering American Wigeon (94).  Some White Ibis (95) fed in the back, and on the walk out a Rough-winged Swallow (96) flew over the canal.

Interesting Carolina Wren near the trailheads (with Black-crested Titmouse and Golden-fronted Woodpecker)

Great Kiskadee sings his name!

Rose-breasted Grosbeak sings a tentative song and then gives several sharp pik calls.

   

Solitary Sandpiper along the Pintail Lakes Trail

Altamira Oriole

   

Northern Beardless Tyrannulet

Lingering American Wigeon

Colorful mystery lizard (Texas Spiny??)

The next stop was the Progresso Sod Farms, and thankfully there was a small patch with water that had several shorebirds; the only things I could positively identify without the scope (which was useless with the heat waves) were Baird's Sandpiper (97) and Pectoral Sandpiper (98), while a Horned Lark (99) called in the background.

Heading up to Frontera Audubon Thicket after that, I had lunch in the car and added bird #100 to the list (Chimney Swift)!  Upon signing in I learned that they were getting ready to have their event, so I needed to hurry if I was gonna miss the excited kids (got to see all the tables set up and ready to go with rubbing blocks and crayons with which to rub; looked like fun)!  I could tell that the warbler push of the day before had died down, and from what I heard of Dan Jones' day there on Friday, he woulda said, "You shoulda been here yesterday!" ☺ But I refused to get discouraged (as Charles Stanley likes to say, disappointment is inevitable, but discouragement is a choice) and pressed on, adding Lesser Goldfinches (101) at the water feature.  Slowly circling the loop I was able to add a singing Baltimore Oriole (102) and a chattering Buff-bellied Hummingbird (103), while on the back side (where all the skulky warblers like to hang out) a Great Crested Flycatcher (104) posed overhead, and almost at the gate another flycatcher briefly perched right overhead and then shot into a next-door tree; I thought it was an empid at first but then was surprised to find a ram-rod Eastern Wood Pewee (105)!  Things are sticking around later and arriving early; what a strange year!  Also had a bird calling near the "Golden-crowned Warbler Spot" that I couldn't place; my "gun to the head" guess would be a Myiarchus of some kind, but I'm really stumped.  A Purple Martin (106) gurgled overhead on the way out.

   

Great Crested Flycatcher in lousy light--the pale base to the bill helps separate it from Brown-crested.

Mystery call--any ideas? (The rattle might be a kinglet or hummingbird--wasn't paying attention--but the lower-pitched call is the mystery...)

I was kind of on the edge of my seat waiting to see if Estero Llano Grande SP was having an event as well, but they weren't, so I breathed a sigh of relief (at least until the baby shower party showed up! ☺)  There was still gobs of stuff off the deck and added several species right there:  Fulvous Whistling Duck (107), Avocet (108), a lingering Green-winged Teal (109), Ruddy Duck (110), and Least Grebe (111).  I opted to go back to Alligator Lake as I had gotten an Anhinga the last time I was there; a brief glimpse of Dowitcher Pond didn't add anything new, but after crossing the bridge a little body in front of me on the trail turned out to be a Common Ground Dove (112), and a big shadow alerted me to three White Pelicans (113) soaring overhead!  Once on the side trail to the lookout, a Yellow-crowned Night Heron (114) flushed from the vegetation, and I tried to help this British lady find her life Pauraque (couldn't do it)!  At the overlook a Least Tern (115) was batting around, but there was no Anhinga to be had (a big Alligator was delighting the tourists, however)!  Dragging myself back, the British lady was still looking, and about the time I got there her husband had found the Pauraque on the other side, so I went with her just to find out where the thing was, as we had looked there previously!  I never would have found it--it was way back there and facing us!  So after discussing where to find what in their remaining time here, I continued back to Dowitcher Pond, where wouldn't you know it--the Anhinga (116) sailed overhead!  The Least Tern pair was making strange noises as well, and from this vantage point I was able to add several Stilt Sandpipers (117) to the list.  Back at Ibis Pond a White-faced Ibis (118) had arrived (and the pictures showed he was indeed a White-faced and not the reported Glossy), and a 15 minute vigil at the hummingbird feeders produced, after many females, a brilliant male Ruby-throated Hummer (119) who was shortly challenged by a male Blackchin (120)!  Huck was on deck by that time and we chatted about Salineno, and in passing he mentioned that they had had several Wilson's Phalaropes right off the deck!  He managed to find me one waaay back there (121), and after saying good-bye a Black-and-white Warbler (122) materialized along the brick walkway.

I honestly thought this was a piece of trash until I took a closer look...

This Least Tern was making a strange sound at Dowitcher Pond; I assume it's some kind of alarm call.

These Blue-winged Teal came out of hiding at the same spot, peeping as they went!

   

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Black-necked Stilt from the deck

Young White Ibis

Picked up a Collared Dove (123) on the way to Sugarhouse Ponds where there was nothing of note, so headed on up to Delta Lake, seeing as Dan had reported Franklin's Gulls there among other things.  Pulled into the west parking area, and one of the first things I spotted was even better:  three Black Skimmers (124)!  Couldn't find any Franklin's. although there were lots of Laughing Gulls about.  A Forster's Tern (125) made its complaining call, and seeing as some different gulls were too far away for me to ID, I took another hike and walked all the way down to the south edge, where from there I could make out that they were indeed Ringbills (126).  Also managed to add a couple of Black Vultures (127) in with the TV's, and a Caspian Tern (128) loafed on the sandbar along with the skimmers.  There were several shorebirds there that I just couldn't ID because of the light and distance; I suspected Semipalmated amongst the Leasts, but I just couldn't tell.  While walking across the road, however, both Pectoral and Baird's Sandpipers flew from west to east, giving their distinctive calls.

From there I tootled up to the La Sal Tracts, cheating a little by going up Rio Beef Road (which is in Willacy County), but picking up a Summer Tanager (129) in the process!  Dipped on any Brewer's Blackbirds around the feedlot, but did manage to spot a couple of White-tailed Hawks (130) along with another Swainson's.  I was pleased to see that a couple of Kestrels (131) were still hanging around, and a pair of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers (132) was another target for this area.  At one stop a nice little flock contained some Lark Sparrows, another Painted Bunting, and a Clay-colored Sparrow (133)!  A Pyrrhuloxia (134) flew into a bush next to me and sang a little tentative song, and near the end of Brushline heading north had a Curve-billed Thrasher (135) land on the fence!  I stopped at some cactus and got Cactus Wren (136) but dipped on Cassin's Sparrow, but managed to pick up the resident Harris' Hawk (137) on the way out.  Decided to blast over to Wallace Road to wrap up as the sun was setting rapidly, and added Common Nighthawk (138) as the last bird of the day!

       

White-tailed Hawks

       

Swainson's Hawks

Pyrrhuloxia sings a tentative song.

And the "Where were you yesterday?!" prize goes to the Hudsonian Godwit that showed up at Delta Lake the next day!     

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