Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Empidomania at Santa Ana NWR, 8/9/16

This morning I decided it would be a good day to work on Empidonax flycatchers and I wanted some exercise so I thought Santa Ana NWR would be the place to go.  In the parking lot I ran into the Crosbys from Georgia who have been searching for our specialty butterflies in the RGV heat.  They wanted an East-Mexican White-Skipper which I saw just last week. It happened to be on my Empidonax route so I told them where to go and figured I would catch up with them.  But first I wanted to check out the pond out by the highway.  There I got off to a good start with two Least Flycatchers and a Yellow-bellied fighting what look like a Tawny Emperor caterpillar.  Afterwards I heard it calling but not the usual "speet" call that I hear down here.  It was more like the "dwee" call that is described in the field guides.

I walked down the tour road past the parking lot and checked out the big hackberries by the canal.  It didn't take long to find a second Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.  This one came in close for some good photos.  The nice even eye ring and yellowish throat and belly are good field marks but the Yellow-bellies I saw today seemed much duller in color than the one I saw this past spring.  Are these worn adults?

I caught up with the Crosbys and took them down the first Pintail Lakes trail.  We stopped for good looks at a Least Flycatcher.  Round head with a big uneven white eye ring, brownish gray with short primary projections not to mention the repeated "fwit" calls made this ID easy.

Jon McIntyre also showed up for the rare butterfly which I was able to find without too much trouble.  East-Mexican White-Skipper was first found in the USA by birder extraordinaire Benton Basham back in 2004 But I've managed to find quite a few over the past few years.

I left the happy butterfliers and got back on my Empidonax search.  On the trail between the ponds I flushed a Killdeer and a second larger shorebird from some wet grass.  I was surprised when I heard the flutey call of an Upland Sandpiper.  It landed on the trail in front on me.

Nothing else was unusual on the ponds but I did get a nice closeup of this young Yellow-crowned Night-Heron.

I then followed the trail around the far east lake and picked up another Least Flycatcher and then finally got a calling Alder Flycatcher.  The backlighting messed up this photo and the breast is showing much too dark.

I checked out the Rio Grande and then followed the trail along the river and back to the tour road.  I found three more Alder Flycatchers calling their distinct musical "pep" note and managed a few good shots.  Right now I am finding it pretty easy to pick these guys out by the clean white throat that contrasts against the dark breast and the often yellowish belly.  They seem more colorful than the other empids.

I also saw two more that failed to call so they go down as Alder/Willow Flycatcher but I bet they were Alders.  My final tally for the day was 11 Least Flycatchers, 3 Yellow-bellied, 4 Alder, 2 Alder/Willow and 4 Empidonax sp. for a total of 24 empids.  And the empid season is just getting started.

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Hidalgo, Texas, US
Aug 9, 2016 8:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Protocol: Traveling
2.0 mile(s)
Comments: Lake out front to Pintal , along river to tour road and back.
55 species (+3 other taxa)

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (fulgens) 25
Mottled Duck (Gulf Coast) 6
Plain Chachalaca 1
Least Grebe 1
Great Egret 2
Snowy Egret 5
Little Blue Heron 1
Tricolored Heron 3
Cattle Egret (Western) 1
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 5
White-faced Ibis 2
Turkey Vulture 3
Killdeer 3
Upland Sandpiper 1
Least Sandpiper 1
Solitary Sandpiper 1
Inca Dove 4
Common Ground-Dove 4
White-winged Dove 200
Mourning Dove 10
Groove-billed Ani 5
Yellow-billed Cuckoo 2
Lesser Nighthawk 1
Buff-bellied Hummingbird 1
Green Kingfisher 2
Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Northern) 2
Ladder-backed Woodpecker 3
Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet 1
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher 3
Alder Flycatcher 4 all calling a musical "pep"
Alder/Willow Flycatcher (Traill's Flycatcher)
Least Flycatcher 11
Empidonax sp. 4
Brown-crested Flycatcher 2
Great Kiskadee 6
Tropical Kingbird 2
Couch's Kingbird 5
White-eyed Vireo 2
Green Jay (Green) 4
Black-crested Titmouse 4
Verdin 3
Carolina Wren 5
Clay-colored Thrush 2
Long-billed Thrasher 3
Northern Mockingbird 3
European Starling 3
Louisiana/Northern Waterthrush 1
Black-and-white Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 4
Yellow Warbler (Northern) 1
Olive Sparrow 2
Northern Cardinal 4
Painted Bunting 3
Red-winged Blackbird 80
Great-tailed Grackle 20
Orchard Oriole 1
Altamira Oriole 2
Lesser Goldfinch 8

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