Sunday, August 28, 2016

Santa Ana NWR, 8/28/16

I thought I would get some exercise and do some sweating this warm morning at Santa Ana NWR.  Birding started a little slow but things picked up as the morning progressed and I finished with a pretty good for August 73 species.  Checking out the tall trees just before the canal on the tour road I found my first Red-eyed Vireo of the fall.

And then just across the levee was a Yellow-breasted Chat.  I only found three of them today.  I expected more.

Plenty of Yellow Warblers around.

Empids were a disappointment with only one calling Alder, a Least and a couple that went unidentified.  But there were buckets of Groove-billed Anis as I walked the tour road and the lane into Pintail Lakes.

Water is dropping fast making for good shorebird habitat and concentrating fish for the herons, egrets and ibises.

Walking around the east end of Pintail Lakes I failed the find the warblers and empids I expected.  So I continued along the river back in the direction of the tour road and finally found this sharp Mourning Warbler.

And this not so sharp Black-throated Green-Warbler.

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are arriving in numbers.  I saw ten today.

Back at the tour road I took the trail that winds to the tree tower and heard a sharp "tink".  I was pretty sure it was a Hooded Warblers and was happy to finally see it.

It was getting too hot for me so I called it quits.

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Hidalgo, Texas, US
Aug 28, 2016 8:00 AM - 12:20 PM
Protocol: Traveling
2.5 mile(s)
Comments: Tour road to Pintail Lake and along river back to tour road
73 species (+3 other taxa)

Mottled Duck (Gulf Coast) 2
Plain Chachalaca 10
Least Grebe 5
Pied-billed Grebe 12
Neotropic Cormorant 4
Great Blue Heron (Blue form) 1
Great Egret 12
Snowy Egret 15
Tricolored Heron 4
Cattle Egret (Western) 1
Green Heron 1
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 4
White Ibis 15
Roseate Spoonbill 4
Turkey Vulture 3
Cooper's Hawk 1
Harris's Hawk 1
Gray Hawk 1
Common Gallinule (American) 2
Black-necked Stilt (Black-necked) 4
Killdeer 5
Stilt Sandpiper 20
Least Sandpiper 12
Western Sandpiper 4
Long-billed Dowitcher 30
Solitary Sandpiper 1
Lesser Yellowlegs 1
Inca Dove 1
Common Ground-Dove 10
White-tipped Dove 2
White-winged Dove 150
Mourning Dove 15
Groove-billed Ani 30
Greater Roadrunner 1
Yellow-billed Cuckoo 2
Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Northern) 5
Ladder-backed Woodpecker 5
Olive-sided Flycatcher 1
Alder Flycatcher 1
Least Flycatcher 1
Empidonax sp. 2
Brown-crested Flycatcher 2
Myiarchus sp. 1
Great Kiskadee 5
Tropical Kingbird 3
Couch's Kingbird 10
Tropical/Couch's Kingbird 5
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher 1
White-eyed Vireo 6
Red-eyed Vireo 1
Green Jay (Green) 3
Purple Martin 6
Barn Swallow 1
Cave Swallow (Texas) 10
Black-crested Titmouse 5
Verdin 1
Carolina Wren 6
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 10
Clay-colored Thrush 1
Long-billed Thrasher 1
Northern Mockingbird 3
Mourning Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 1
Hooded Warbler 1
Yellow Warbler (Northern) 16
Black-throated Green Warbler 1
Yellow-breasted Chat 3
Olive Sparrow 5
Northern Cardinal 2
Dickcissel 10
Red-winged Blackbird 5
Great-tailed Grackle 5
Orchard Oriole 5
Altamira Oriole 4
Baltimore Oriole 4
Lesser Goldfinch 3

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Santa Ana NWR, 8/17/16

With the unsettled weather I ran over to Santa Ana NWR this morning hoping for some migrant passerines.  I checked the pond up front by the highway and found some White Ibis.

But no warblers or empids so I walked on down the tour road.  I found a couple of silent Traill's Flycatchers.  This one is less colorful than the calling Alders I had last week and has a very narrow eye ring so it might be a Willow Flycatcher.

Walking on the Pintail Lakes trail I saw a small greenish bird fly into a tepeguaje and thought it was going to be a Lesser Goldfinch but then it sounded "".  Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet has been easy to see lately at Santa Ana.

Wood Storks up ahead!  They have been a little late for me this year.  I wasn't too worried about flushing them as I knew they would just go over to the other pond.

I studied these two teal in eclipse plumage.  I guess they are Blue-winged Teal.  I don't think the bill is large enough for Cinnamon.

Four Long-billed Dowitchers and a Stilt Sandpiper.

Young Tricolored Heron.

Lastly a "clacking" Ringed Kingfisher.

Then I got rained on and the almost dry trail turned back into tacky mud.  I was getting hot anyway.

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Hidalgo, Texas, US
Aug 17, 2016 8:20 AM - 11:20 AM
Protocol: Traveling
1.0 mile(s)
Comments: Tour road to Pintail Lakes
66 species (+3 other taxa)

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (fulgens) 30
Blue-winged Teal 2
Plain Chachalaca 6
Least Grebe 6
Pied-billed Grebe 1
Wood Stork 51
Neotropic Cormorant 1
Great Blue Heron (Blue form) 3
Great Egret 14
Snowy Egret 12
Little Blue Heron 2
Tricolored Heron 3
Cattle Egret (Western) 1
Green Heron 2
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 3
White Ibis 25
Gray Hawk 1
Common Gallinule (American) 1
American Coot (Red-shielded) 2
Black-necked Stilt (Black-necked) 8
Killdeer 1
Upland Sandpiper 1
Stilt Sandpiper 4
Least Sandpiper 6
Western Sandpiper 1
Long-billed Dowitcher 4
Spotted Sandpiper 1
Solitary Sandpiper 1
Inca Dove 1
Common Ground-Dove 5
White-tipped Dove 2
White-winged Dove 30
Mourning Dove 8
Groove-billed Ani 5
Greater Roadrunner 1
Yellow-billed Cuckoo 1
Buff-bellied Hummingbird 1
Ringed Kingfisher 1
Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Northern) 5
Ladder-backed Woodpecker 2
Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet 2
Alder/Willow Flycatcher (Traill's Flycatcher) 2
Least Flycatcher 1
Brown-crested Flycatcher 3
Myiarchus sp. 1
Great Kiskadee 2
Tropical Kingbird 2
Couch's Kingbird 5
Tropical/Couch's Kingbird 1
White-eyed Vireo 3
Green Jay (Green) 1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 5
Purple Martin 5
Barn Swallow 1
Cave Swallow (Texas) 25
Black-crested Titmouse 5
Verdin 2
Carolina Wren 3
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
Northern Mockingbird 2
Black-and-white Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 2
Olive Sparrow 5
Northern Cardinal 1
Dickcissel 12
Red-winged Blackbird 20
Great-tailed Grackle 5
Altamira Oriole 2
Lesser Goldfinch 2

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Davis Mountains Preserve, 8/12/16

This past weekend I made a last second decision to drive up to the Davis Mountains for the Nature Conservancy's Davis Mountains Preserve open weekend.  Last year at this time a few White-eared Hummingbirds, a species I've never seen in Texas,  were present up in Tobe Canyon.  Although I had heard no reports of the species from this summer, I saw no reason why they would not return to the same area.

After spending Thursday night in Alpine, I was at the gate of the Preserve at 8 AM.  All of this part of the Trans-Pecos was really green and rain was in the forecast for this weekend as well.  But the sky was clear as they opened the gate and I drove up to the McIvor center to register.  Also arriving early were Denis Cook and Greg Lavaty who had made an equally long drive from Houston.  This being their first visit to the Preserve, I was happy to let them follow me up Madera Canyon to the Tobe Canyon trailhead.   I resisted the urge to stop and check out the dozens of Chipping Sparrows that flushed along the roadside, but when we reached the large pines that stand by the steep hillside a little before the trailhead I could hold back no more.  We stopped and I pished and the first bird to come in was a surprise Tropical Parula.  This one has the eye arcs present on most Texas birds.  There's probably some Northern Parula in this bird's ancestry.

Also seen at this stop were Western Wood-Pewee, Gray Flycatcher, Plumbeous Vireo, Lesser Goldfinch and lots of Chipping Sparrows.  We drove on up to the trailhead and followed the sign that pointed toward Tobe Canyon.  More Chippies flushed from the trail and among them were a few young Black-chinned Sparrows.

The second warbler to show up on the day was this Grace's Warbler.  They love the pines.  We also saw Hepatic Tanager, Hutton's Vireo and White-breasted Nuthatch in the area.

A real surprise were the many young Painted Bunting that accompanied the flocks of Chipping Sparrows.

It's good to learn something new and I did on this trip.  The species of red tubular flowers that were attended by swarms of mostly Selasphorus hummingbirds was not a Penstemon or Salvia as I had thought.  It is called Scarlet Gilia  Ipomopsis aggregata.

After a while we reached the large opening with a single tall pine and I remembered this was my rest spot and the narrow trail up to Tobe Spring starts here.  We followed the faint overgrown trail that had seen little use since last year's White-eared Hummingbirds.   We carefully listed as we walked along for the call of Montezuma Quail, but they were quiet.  I wonder if they are nesting now during the fall monsoon season. We reached a stone cairn that I thought might have been a marker for White-ears but they weren't around.  At this point, the clouds were starting to assemble and Dennis and Greg decided they had better start down before the storm started.  But we were just getting to the good part of the trail so there was no was I was quitting at this point.  So I said goodby to them and just a short way up the trail I was looking at my first Mountain Chickadee for the year.

It was at this point where I had the good fortune to meet Chris Runk.  Chris was just voted onto the Texas Bird Records Committee this past weekend and I was happy to finally put a face with the name.  I was even happier to find that he was scouting for next day's Davis Mountains Preserve bird walk and that he had just relocated the White-eared Hummingbirds.   I guess the last time I had seen this species was in 2006 when Honey and I made a trip to Chiapas.  Chris took me to the spot which was off the trail on the hill side.  In a few minutes I was looking at my first White-eared Hummingbird for Texas.

Chris also told me he had seen several Virginia's Warblers and I managed a glimpse of one as I hiked up to the spring.  Also saw a flyby Steller's Jay.  I had them up here last year when I visited in December.  The next bird to pop up was an early MacGillivray's Warbler.

Then at the spring were a couple of mottley young Painted Redstarts.  I bet they nested up here this year.  I was glad to see them as I did not do the hike up to Boot Springs this year.

Thunder was starting to rumble overhead so I knew it was time to make my way back to the car.  I met birders on the way up and told them about the hummers.  I was glad to be on my way down and not up as a few drops of rains started to fall.  Made it back to the McIvor Center and though it ws dripping, I had to stay a bit with the amazing bank of nineteen hummingbird feeders.  Among the common Black-chinned and Rufous Hummingbirds were smaller numbers of Broad-tailed, Lucifer and my favorite, Calliope Hummingbirds.

I heard there were several Lucifers present but I only got a poor shot of this young male.

There were lots of Black-chinned and Rufous Hummers.  I know there were Broad-tails also but I can't find any in my photos.

The cold front was blowing in and it just got colder and wetter so I headed back to Alpine.  Saturday morning was even wetter so I gave in and just headed back home with a White-eared Hummingbird twitch in my pocket.  I hope Sunday was nice for the people that made the long drive out there.

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