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All photographs ©2015 by Mary Beth Stowe


March 14, 2015 - Estero Llano Grande SP & Santa Ana NWR



When I read down the list of rarities for the week, Mary Jane jumped on the Gray-crowned Yellowthroat, so since I dipped on it the last time I went out there, we decided to hit Estero Llano Grande first, then hit Santa Ana to see if we could find the Rusty Blackbird.  It turned out to be an absolutely gorgeous day:  nice cool temps in the morning, and no wind at all!  When we arrived at the parking lot right around dawn, a Long-billed Thrasher was serenading us up in a tree, and as we headed in, for the first time in my recollection (even though Huck says it's a great spot), there was a Green Kingfisher in the little canal!  I kept hearing Red-crowned Parrots flying by in the distance, but we couldn't spot them, much to MJ's chagrin as that was another life bird!


We headed down the brick walkway when this weird noise turned out to be a Green Jay, and it was at that moment that I realized I left my recorder at home!!!  I was so bummed (and especially later, as you'll see...)!!  We nevertheless checked out the deck first, adding the normal duck collection to the list (including a nice couple of male Cinnamon Teal), when MJ spotted our FOS Scissor-tailed Flycatcher chasing a grackle!  (Or was the grackle chasing him?  I forget...)  Steve the Volunteer showed us on the big park map where the Gray-crowned Yellowthroat was being seen, and warned us that portions of the Spoonbill Trail were underwater, so he sent us the back way.  To my recollection, I had never been down that portion of the Llano Grande Trail, and we had some nice things such as a friendly Eastern Phoebe, a flyover White Ibis, some Lincoln's Sparrows, and tons and tons of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks flying by in the distance!  We could hear Long-billed Dowitchers, Black-necked Stilts, and Least Sandpipers in Dowitcher Pond, and a classic Sharp-shinned Hawk flew overhead and blended in with a group of flyover grackles!


When we got to the general area where the bird had been seen, we just combed the area for a bit, and at one point a yellow bird did zip into a mesquite close at hand, but didn't want to show itself.  About that time birding buddies Bert and Ken showed up, we exchanged phone numbers, and they braved the flooded trail to head to the southern area.  MJ and I had started rechecking the area closer to the levee when Bert called me and said he had the bird!  So we picked our way through the muck (MJ described it as walking through brownie mix) and finally got to where they were, where I was hearing a Common Yellowthroat-like song, but before long the classic bunting-like song of the Gray-crowned Yellowthroat came across loud and clear!  (Now I was really kicking myself that I forgot the recorder...)  The bird was not visible, but they had had scope views and confirmed it's identity, even when it was singing a very uncharacteristic song!  Finally it did pop up on a reed, and I was able to get a good view through the "V" in the tree, but MJ only got a glimpse before the thing dropped.


The sun wasn't the best from our angle, and the bird was moving towards the Llano Grande Trail, so we decided to brave the flooded trail again, only this time we just barreled right down the middle (which was solid footing, actually), getting good and wet and washing off all that mud that had accumulated on our shoes!  A couple other people were on the Llano Grande Trail as well, and we could hear the bird clearly, when suddenly MJ grabbed me and hissed, "There it is!!  There it is!!"  Sure enough, he had popped up in a little tree practically in front of us, but with his back to us, but when he turned his head he gave a wonderful view!  It was about that time that I remembered that the movie feature on my camera picked up sounds, and I figured I could at least get a recording that way, but a major senior moment prevented me from remembering how to shoot movies on the thing!  I was so frustrated!!  Finally Ken rescued me and pointed at the little red "record" button (I could have clobbered myself), but by that time the bird had quit singing, and unfortunately the couple who arrived at about that time reported later that the bird never did reappear, so it was done performing for the morning.



Our main quarry for the morning:  a vagrant Gray-crowned Yellowthroat from Mexico!


From there we decided to hit the Tropical Zone, but on the way back, what should go pumping by but a pair of Red-crowned Parrots!  MJ was doubly happy!  ☺  We never did make it to the TZ:  after hitting the restrooms and checking in, Ranger Hector told us that the Tropical Parula was being seen right behind the VC at the water feature, so we decided to go down there and sit for about 15 minutes.  The place was inundated with Red-winged Blackbirds and House Sparrows (which is why most places quit feeding after March), but we were entertained by a Fox Squirrel who was using the drip hose as a water fountain, and a Black-and-white Warbler crawling around overhead.  A Clay-colored Thrush was singing nearby, along with both a White-tipped and White-winged Dove, but MJ thought she saw something that got her up and on the footbridge, and that's when we saw Ranger John and company over in the garden where they had the parula!  So we scooted over there where he pointed out a nice Cooper's Hawk that had been hanging around, and eventually we heard the thing sing, but I only saw Ruby-crowned Kinglets (although MJ said she saw enough of a glimpse of the parula to count it).  It moved into the park host area, so Rick Snider led the charge, but all we found (and this was a pretty nice "all") was a sunning Mexican Bluewing, a nice consolation prize!



Fox Squirrel making use of the water feature hose...



Cooperative Mexican Bluewing back in the park host area


It was getting on about 10:30, so we headed back to the car and headed over to Santa Ana, where we took the Chachalaca Trail back to Willow Lakes.  Their feeders were full of Redwings as well, along with some Chachalacas, and we heard the usual suspects heading back along the mesquite trail, with the addition of Verdin and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher for the day.  The main lake was full of fighting Common Gallinules (kicking myself again for forgetting the recorder) and a few ducks, but a young lady and her mom spotted a Sora out in the open!  (They were looking for a Palm Warbler that had been reported there the day before, but we never did find that one...)  We ran into John Hoene who reported a Northern Waterthrush, but we couldn't kick that one up, either.  There were lots of Blue-winged Teal here, and we saw a suspicious raptor soaring that looked like it had a huge schnozz, but the shape was all wrong for Hook-billed Kite, and I wrote it off as either being a young Gray or Red-shouldered Hawk, and later we had a bona fide young Gray sitting on a snag (in terrible light), and the Green Jays were having a fit!  Over by Willow 1 (where the Rusty had been seen), we added Olive Sparrow and a ft-fting Marsh Wren in the reeds (to MJ's chagrin), and while we couldn't find the Rusty Blackbird, I did hear a waterthrush pink, but couldn't spot it.  We circled around to the main road, and indeed flushed an LBJ from the water's edge, but it turned out to be an Ovenbird!  A Beardless Tyrannulet whistled sadly for us, and as we pished trying to get the Ovenbird (or the invisible waterthrush) to come out, an Altamira Oriole called overhead and another Black-and-White Warbler hitched along the branches.



Trail to the "roundabout" at Santa Ana, from whence all other trails begin!



Some of several Blue-winged Teal hiding in the lakes.



Thistle ready to pop


It was right about noon then and I had to get back home, so we called it a day, but a very successful one with 71 species, two lifers for MJ, and an ABA bird for me! ☺  Bird List:


  Black-bellied Whistling-Duck          Dendrocygna autumnalis

  Blue-winged Teal                      Anas discors

  Cinnamon Teal

  Northern Shoveler                     Anas clypeata

  Green-winged Teal                     Anas crecca

  Ruddy Duck                            Oxyura jamaicensis

  Plain Chachalaca                      Ortalis vetula

  Least Grebe                           Tachybaptus dominicus

  Pied-billed Grebe                     Podilymbus podiceps

  Neotropic Cormorant                   Phalacrocorax brasilianus

  American White Pelican                Pelecanus erythrorhynchos

  Snowy Egret                           Egretta thula

  White Ibis                            Eudocimus albus

  Turkey Vulture                        Cathartes aura

  Sharp-shinned Hawk                    Accipiter striatus

  Cooper's Hawk                         Accipiter cooperii

  Gray Hawk                             Buteo plagiatus

  Sora                                  Porzana carolina

  Common Gallinule                      Gallinula galeata

  American Coot                         Fulica americana

  Black-necked Stilt                    Himantopus mexicanus

  Killdeer                              Charadrius vociferus

  Spotted Sandpiper                     Actitis macularius

  Least Sandpiper                       Calidris minutilla

  Long-billed Dowitcher                 Limnodromus scolopaceus

  Eurasian Collared-Dove                Streptopelia decaocto

  White-winged Dove                     Zenaida asiatica

  Mourning Dove                         Zenaida macroura

  Inca Dove                             Columbina inca

  White-tipped Dove                     Leptotila verreauxi

  Buff-bellied Hummingbird              Amazilia yucatanensis

  Green Kingfisher                      Chloroceryle americana

  Golden-fronted Woodpecker             Melanerpes aurifrons

  Ladder-backed Woodpecker              Picoides scalaris

  Red-crowned Parrot                    Amazona viridigenalis

  Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet         Camptostoma imberbe

  Eastern Phoebe                        Sayornis phoebe

  Great Kiskadee                        Pitangus sulphuratus

  Couch's Kingbird                      Tyrannus couchii

  Scissor-tailed Flycatcher             Tyrannus forficatus

  White-eyed Vireo                      Vireo griseus

  Green Jay                             Cyanocorax yncas

  Purple Martin                         Progne subis

  Tree Swallow                          Tachycineta bicolor

  Black-crested Titmouse                Baeolophus atricristatus

  Verdin                                Auriparus flaviceps

  House Wren                            Troglodytes aedon

  Marsh Wren                            Cistothorus palustris

  Carolina Wren                         Thryothorus ludovicianus

  Bewick's Wren                         Thryomanes bewickii

  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher                 Polioptila caerulea

  Ruby-crowned Kinglet                  Regulus calendula

  Clay-colored Thrush                   Turdus grayi

  Long-billed Thrasher                  Toxostoma longirostre

  Northern Mockingbird                  Mimus polyglottos

  European Starling                     Sturnus vulgaris

  Ovenbird                              Seiurus aurocapilla

  Black-and-white Warbler               Mniotilta varia

  Orange-crowned Warbler                Oreothlypis celata

  Gray-crowned Yellowthroat             Geothlypis poliocephala

  Common Yellowthroat                   Geothlypis trichas

  Tropical Parula                       Setophaga pitiayumi

  Yellow-rumped Warbler                 Setophaga coronata

  Olive Sparrow                         Arremonops rufivirgatus

  Lincoln's Sparrow                     Melospiza lincolnii

  Northern Cardinal                     Cardinalis cardinalis

  Red-winged Blackbird                  Agelaius phoeniceus

  Great-tailed Grackle                  Quiscalus mexicanus

  Altamira Oriole                       Icterus gularis

  Lesser Goldfinch                      Spinus psaltria

  House Sparrow                         Passer domesticus




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