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All photographs ©2015 by Mary Beth Stowe

 

May 19, 2015 - Santa Monica Wetlands & "Primrose Path"

 

The "Santa Monica Wetlands Loop" actually weaves around several roads between Willamar and Santa Monica, with part of the route abutting one of the many spotty tracts of the Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge.  The first three stops are along FM 1420 turning south from Willamar and FM 490, and it was along here I picked up my only Blue Grosbeak of the day, but also had White-tipped Dove and a chattering Baltimore Oriole, among other things.  The bridge over the canal had both Cliff and Cave Swallows, and Yellow-billed Cuckoos were scattered along the road.

 

When the road curves left, you continue straight on the dirt road, which is Citation.  This is where I most often get Altamira Oriole for the route, and they didn't disappoint today!  From here on in the roads are a mix of thornscrub, agricultural, grasslands, and ephemeral wetlands, which of course had water now, but I didn't hear any hidden water birds today.  In one wet spot in a field I had two Fulvous Whistling Ducks (new for my route list) and a pair of Blue-winged Teal.  What I did have lots of (and was shocked that was new for my Santa Monica list) were Dickcissels - they were all over, just singing away!  In one of the open areas a Swainson's Hawk was being harassed by a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.  Overall this was a good place for Cactus and Bewick's Wrens, Lark Sparrows, and even a couple of Botteri's singing their stuttering songs.  Painted Buntings were also singing unseen.

 

   

Dickcissel along Citation Road

 

After the road swings south you make a left on Wildlife, which dead ends at the north end of the NWR tract.  Here I ran into a Groove-billed Ani family who whined back and forth for awhile.  At the end of the road a kingbird went after a Harris' Hawk.

 

A pair of Groove-billed Anis volley alarm calls to each other across the road.

 

Backtracking to Citation and heading south, you follow this all the way to Old Alice Road (with a quick look at the old "barn" to check for owls - none today that I could see), then hang a left and follow this as it zigs and zags all the way to the levee.  Most of the waders I get along this route are flyovers, and that was the case today with a flock of young White Ibis, a couple of immature Little Blue Herons with just a few blue feathers, and a single Cattle Egret.  At one stop had both a Cardinal and a Pyrrhuloxia on the wire, and up on the levee a young White-tailed Hawk got chased off by something and followed me all the way down to the locked gate, where I also had my only Cassin's Sparrow of the day!  The levee was good for Horned Larks (and more Dickcissels), and of course more Red-winged Blackbirds, Great-tailed Grackles, and Mourning Doves than you could shake a stick at!

 

At the gate you turn around (carefully) and head back, going past Old Alice Road and continuing to the actual Santa Monica Wetlands, which are on the right and very obvious when there's water in them!  Today about the only birds utilizing them were some amorous Laughing Gulls and a single Mottled Duck.  The levee dumps you back off on FM 1420.

 

"Primrose Path" is actually the route made famous by a wintering Prairie Falcon that haunted the area for several years (along with a Peregrine which hung around the water tower right there on the corner of FM 1018 and Primrose, making a nice landmark for the start of the route), but it's also an access road for Mesquite, which used to have Mountain Plovers in the winter (I don't think any were found there this winter).  When passable, I like to take Primrose up to Mesquite, hang a left, and take this road (which also zigs and zags) all the way to US 77 (in the winter this can be good for Sprague's Pipits as well), but it wasn't to be today, as there was a big lake in the middle of the road not too far past the zag.  But wanting to see what was along this route in the "non-winter", I was very pleased, picking up both flavors of whistling ducks in a flooded field, some stilts, a Pied-billed Grebe, a Neotropic Cormorant, and three Great Egrets in the little wetland on the east side of Primrose.  Most of the route is agricultural, but there are some nice stretches of grassland as well; Horned Larks were all over, and lots of Common Nighthawks batting around as well!  The grackles were having a field day with the big farm mower working the side of the road, and I tried not to get downwind of the crop-duster buzzing his crops...

 

Fulvous Whistling Ducks along Primrose Court

 

Since I couldn't get through I just backtracked to Primrose, checked out the canal going north, and took FM 498 to Lyford and eventually back home.  Google Maps is really confusing, as it calls Primrose "Jansen" and Mesquite "Salinas".  But both Google and TexMaps use the correct county road numbers, which are CR 375 and CR 1600 respectively.

 

  Black-bellied Whistling-Duck          Dendrocygna autumnalis

  Fulvous Whistling-Duck                Dendrocygna bicolor

  Mottled Duck                          Anas fulvigula

  Blue-winged Teal                      Anas discors

  Northern Bobwhite                     Colinus virginianus

  Pied-billed Grebe                     Podilymbus podiceps

  Neotropic Cormorant                   Phalacrocorax brasilianus

  Great Egret                           Ardea alba

  Little Blue Heron                     Egretta caerulea

  Cattle Egret                          Bubulcus ibis

  White Ibis                            Eudocimus albus

  Black Vulture                         Coragyps atratus

  Turkey Vulture                        Cathartes aura

  Harris's Hawk                         Parabuteo unicinctus

  White-tailed Hawk                     Geranoaetus albicaudatus

  Swainson's Hawk                       Buteo swainsoni

  Black-necked Stilt                    Himantopus mexicanus

  Killdeer                              Charadrius vociferus

  Laughing Gull                         Leucophaeus atricilla

  Eurasian Collared-Dove                Streptopelia decaocto

  Mourning Dove                         Zenaida macroura

  Inca Dove                             Columbina inca

  Common Ground-Dove                    Columbina passerina

  White-tipped Dove                     Leptotila verreauxi

  Yellow-billed Cuckoo                  Coccyzus americanus

  Groove-billed Ani                     Crotophaga sulcirostris

  Common Nighthawk                      Chordeiles minor

  Golden-fronted Woodpecker             Melanerpes aurifrons

  Ladder-backed Woodpecker              Picoides scalaris

  Crested Caracara                      Caracara cheriway

  Brown-crested Flycatcher              Myiarchus tyrannulus

  Great Kiskadee                        Pitangus sulphuratus

  Couch's Kingbird                      Tyrannus couchii

  Scissor-tailed Flycatcher             Tyrannus forficatus

  White-eyed Vireo                      Vireo griseus

  Horned Lark                           Eremophila alpestris

  Purple Martin                         Progne subis

  Cliff Swallow                         Petrochelidon pyrrhonota

  Cave Swallow                          Petrochelidon fulva

  Black-crested Titmouse                Baeolophus atricristatus

  Verdin                                Auriparus flaviceps

  Bewick's Wren                         Thryomanes bewickii

  Cactus Wren                           Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus

  Northern Mockingbird                  Mimus polyglottos

  European Starling                     Sturnus vulgaris

  Olive Sparrow                         Arremonops rufivirgatus

  Botteri's Sparrow                     Peucaea botterii

  Cassin's Sparrow                      Peucaea cassinii

  Lark Sparrow                          Chondestes grammacus

  Northern Cardinal                     Cardinalis cardinalis

  Pyrrhuloxia                           Cardinalis sinuatus

  Blue Grosbeak                         Passerina caerulea

  Painted Bunting                       Passerina ciris

  Dickcissel                            Spiza americana

  Red-winged Blackbird                  Agelaius phoeniceus

  Eastern Meadowlark                    Sturnella magna

  Great-tailed Grackle                  Quiscalus mexicanus

  Bronzed Cowbird                       Molothrus aeneus

  Brown-headed Cowbird                  Molothrus ater

  Altamira Oriole                       Icterus gularis

  Baltimore Oriole                      Icterus galbula

  House Sparrow                         Passer domesticus

 

62 SPECIES

 

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