My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Rewarding Day of Birding in the Texas Valley

It started at Santa Ana NWR. We joined my friend Winnie's Audubon group at 8:00 A, after only having to drive forty-five minutes, since we stayed with her son in Rio Hondo. Within minutes of starting our walk, we saw a Bullock's oriole, a  rarity at this time and place.  A few minutes later, we saw a clay-colored thrush, a common species at this park but a life bird for me.  Then we got into a mixed flock of little birds that had titmice,and blue gray gnatcatchers as well as a male yellow-throated warbler. We put up four olive sparrows while moving around for views of the flock.

Meanwhile a long-billed thrasher sang tirelessly until we had time to to get a look at him. By this time we already had around twenty species. Just a few yards further, I noticed a grayish bird foraging with red-winged blackbirds. We soon realized we had a rusty blackbird. I got  pictures of her in two different places and saw a second female fly into the brush behind where I was photographing her.

My favorite pose of the female rusty blackbird

A plain chachalaca showing its throat patch
The young male Bullock's oriole

A distant view, in dim light, of the singing long-billed thrasher

A solitary sandpiper - as identified by it's size,
yellow legs and huge eye ring

Great Kiskadees were calling and flashing their yellow breasts everywhere

The birding group, except for Winnie and me who were on the observation towers

Lovely spring blooming shrub - if you know it, please tell me in the blog comments - Thanks to   Angie, I now know this is Colima'- Zanthoxylum fagara

The red-winged blackbirds almost took over the feeders at midday

I love every part of the Texas Olive which is blooming now

View down one of the trails we walked in one of the few minutes of nice light

A distant view of the Couch's kingbird

A young male vermilion flycatcher who has almost completed his molt into adult plumage

We also saw ducks, black-necked stilts, and neotropic and double-crested cormorants. But the conditions did not allow decent photos of them.  The best ducks we saw were fulvous whistling ducks.

A olive sparrow stopped his foraging for just long enough for me to capture his picture

Fulvous whistling duck  - love their "watermarks"

If you are interested in the full list of birds we saw, here is the link to my eBird checklist. I had to prove we really saw the rusty blackbird and Bullock's oriole and wanted to have the olive sparrow picture in the list for myself.

Here is a link to the bar charts for birds seen over the last ten years at this refuge. It shows the best time of the year to look for each species.

We finally stopped birding this refuge after 1:00 P, continuing after the rest of our group drove off to lunch.  The wonderful birding day continued after we got to Estero Llano Grande State Park.  See my next blog for details.