April 15, 2019

Puryear Ranch 2019-04-13 to 14

I was fortunate to be able to join Hill Country Conservancy's EPIC camp out last weekend on the Puryear Ranch just west of Austin. I spent Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning taking photos and listing birds, mostly along Rocky Creek. The ranch has these cool old stone fences that I can't imagine building:

Rock Wall - 1

Rock Wall - 2

The wildflowers were stunning, and I got lots of help identifying plants from iNaturalist's recently updated Seek app. Here are my eBird lists from Saturday afternoon, a few heard-only birds over night, and Sunday morning:


Sunday morning I climbed a nearby hill and took this panoramic photo:

Panorama - 2

Posted on April 15, 2019 22:19 by mikaelb mikaelb | 41 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 31, 2019

Inspiring Oaks Ranch 2019-03-30

I was privileged to attend Hill Country Conservancy's celebration of its latest conservation easement, on the beautiful Inspiring Oaks Ranch southwest of Austin. Here are a few photos from an amazing creek on the property:

Descending to the creek:
Landscape - 1

Limestone cliff:
Landscape - 3

Waterlilies (genus Nymphaea)

Cypress Trees:
Landscape - 4

Mexican Buckeye:
Mexican Buckeye (Ungnadia speciosa)

Here are a few photos from around the barn where the party was.

Landscape - 6

Landscape - 7

Yellow-rumped Warbler

It made me happy to learn how interested the current owners and their young adult children are in conservation and good land stewardship of this amazing property!

Here are a few more photos on Flickr.

And see the attached observations.

Posted on March 31, 2019 21:44 by mikaelb mikaelb | 15 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 16, 2019

Nalle Bunny Run 2019-03-16

Out of nine registered people, only four showed up to join me on the monthly group walk on Hill Country Conservancy's Nalle Bunny Run wildlife preserve this morning. The no-shows missed out on a beautiful cool and birdy morning! We found 39 species of birds and here are some highlights.

With the spring, the birds are singing, and we heard birdsong through the entire walk. The most common songs were Northern Cardinal, Carolina Wren, and Black-crested Titmouse. We also heard songs from Bewick's Wren, Lesser Goldfinch, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Carolina Chickadee, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, White-eyed Vireo, Field Sparrow, Yellow-throated Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo, House Finch, Northern Parula, and Eastern Phoebe at one point or another.

We found three birds flagged as rare for the Austin area by eBird, a briefly heard Yellow-throated Warbler, an early Yellow-throated Vireo, and a female Eastern Towhee, probably the same one I saw back in January. Here's the Towhee:

Eastern Towhee

After several fleeting glimpses of newly returning Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, we finally got great looks at two foraging low near the lake. Here's one of them, a brilliant male sporting the dark brow of its breeding plumage:

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Near the end of the walk, we were treated to brief looks at a newly returned White-eyed Vireo. This summer-resident species is much more easily heard than seen. It prefers to stay hidden in low dense brush. So we were fortunate to see one singing out in the open. Here's a so-so photo I got of it. You can just see its white eye:

White-eyed Vireo

Right before we got back to the preserve gate, we finally got a good look at a few Cedar Waxwings, a species we had been seeing flying over us in large flocks all morning. I got this photo of three of them:

Cedar Waxwings

See the attached observations, and here are a few more photos on Flickr.

And here's our complete eBird list.

Posted on March 16, 2019 22:31 by mikaelb mikaelb | 7 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 24, 2019

Port Aransas Whooping Crane Festival 2019-02-19 thru 2019-02-24

I was fortunate again this year to participate in the Port Aransas Whooping Crane Festival. This journal entry covers my time in Port Aransas from a few days before the festival to the last day of the festival.

On Tuesday 2/19 I birded around Port Aransas in cold, wet, overcast weather. My favorite observation was from the Wetlands Park. This stunning white-phase Reddish Egret came in close and was sporting amazing colors on its bill and lores:

Reddish Egret (White Phase)

On Wednesday 2/20 Ray Dillahunty and I scouted the Lamar area for the Birds of Lamar Peninsula field trips I led on Friday and Saturday. We had an amazing morning that included an early Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and a few close fly-overs by Whooping Cranes:

Whooping Crane - 2 - 1

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - 1 - 1

When we returned to Port Aransas we checked the Turnbull Birding Center and were treated to this stunning male Vermilion Flycatcher, which was seen there again on Sunday morning (2/24):

Vermilion Flycatcher

On Thursday afternoon I led my first field trip of the festival, a 1.5 hour bird and nature boat tour around ship channel. These short tours are always fun and I was disappointed I only got to lead one this year. Highlights included a first-year White-tailed Hawk, Northern Harriers talon-grappling, Common Loons, and these American Avocets with their bright blue legs:

American Avocets

Friday morning and Saturday afternoon I led field trips to the Lamar area. On both trips we were able to get good looks at Whooping Cranes, despite heavy fog on Friday morning. Very special thanks to Goose Island park ranger Sarah Nordlof for taking both groups into the newly acquired Big Tree Natural Area where Friday's group saw the early Scissor-tailed Flycatcher we saw on Wednesday, and Saturday's group got to see nine Whooping Cranes. Here's part of Friday's group walking through the fog:

First Lamar Field Trip

And here are some of the cranes that Saturday's group got to see there:

Whooping Cranes - 8 - 4

On Saturday morning I got to attend a bird walk led by field guide author and expert birder Richard Crossley. The walk was called "Learning to Look" and Richard presented a very well structured and passionate approach to observing birds in extreme detail, with and without optics. He emphatically explained that if you rely on gestalt bird identification (general impression, size, and shape) and cannot articulate what you are basing your identification on, then you are not really looking at the bird.

On Sunday morning I slept in, and did some casual birding later in the morning at Paradise Pond and the Turnbull Birding Center. I enjoyed seeing and sharing many of the common birds including this amazing Red-winged Blackbird:

Red-winged Blackbird

Here are a few more photos on Flickr:

Here's my eBird summary, and below are attached observations.
Can't wait for next year!

eBird Checklist Summary for: Feb 19, 2019 at 12:00 AM to Feb 24, 2019 at 11:59 PM

Number of Checklists: 11
Number of Taxa: 92

Checklists included in this summary:
(1): Port Aransas - Beach Access Road 1
Date: Feb 19, 2019 at 9:18 AM
(2): Port Aransas- Charlie's Pasture South Boardwalk (off TX-361)
Date: Feb 19, 2019 at 10:15 AM
(3): Port Aransas Wetland Park (CTC 059)
Date: Feb 19, 2019 at 10:42 AM
(4): Port Aransas Jetty (CTC 058)
Date: Feb 21, 2019 at 8:02 AM
(5): Port Aransas Community Park
Date: Feb 21, 2019 at 9:37 AM
(6): Copano Bay State Fishing Pier (CTC 049)
Date: Feb 22, 2019 at 8:25 AM
(7): 4th Street, Lamar
Date: Feb 22, 2019 at 8:45 AM
(8): Copano Bay State Fishing Pier (CTC 049)
Date: Feb 23, 2019 at 1:57 PM
(9): 4th Street, Lamar
Date: Feb 23, 2019 at 2:06 PM
(10): Port Aransas--Holt Paradise Pond
Date: Feb 24, 2019 at 9:13 AM
(11): Port Aransas- Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Ctr. (CTC 057)
Date: Feb 24, 2019 at 10:14 AM

44 Black-bellied Whistling-Duck -- (7),(9)
9 Blue-winged Teal -- (7),(11)
26 Northern Shoveler -- (3),(7),(9),(11)
1 Mallard -- (3)
6 Mottled Duck -- (3),(5)
30 Northern Pintail -- (2),(9),(11)
104 Green-winged Teal -- (11)
2 Lesser Scaup -- (5)
1 Red-breasted Merganser -- (8)
1 Ruddy Duck -- (11)
10 duck sp. -- (5)
5 Pied-billed Grebe -- (5),(7),(10)
20 Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) -- (4)
2 Eurasian Collared-Dove -- (10)
2 Mourning Dove -- (7)
1 Common Gallinule (American) -- (11)
137 American Coot -- (5),(7),(9),(11)
12 Sandhill Crane -- (7),(9)
18 Whooping Crane -- (7),(9)
1 American Avocet -- (3)
7 American Oystercatcher -- (1),(4)
6 Black-bellied Plover -- (1),(5)
6 Piping Plover -- (1)
6 Killdeer -- (5),(9),(11)
2 Long-billed Curlew -- (2)
5 Ruddy Turnstone -- (1),(7)
52 Sanderling -- (1)
6 Dunlin -- (5)
17 Short-billed/Long-billed Dowitcher -- (3),(7),(9)
2 Wilson's Snipe -- (11)
1 Greater Yellowlegs -- (9)
45 Willet -- (1),(2),(4),(5),(9),(11)
6 Lesser Yellowlegs -- (5),(7),(11)
7 Bonaparte's Gull -- (4)
191 Laughing Gull -- (1),(3),(4),(5),(7),(8),(9),(10)
93 Ring-billed Gull -- (1),(2),(3),(4),(5),(7),(10),(11)
7 Herring Gull -- (1),(4),(7)
1 Lesser Black-backed Gull -- (1)
3 Gull-billed Tern -- (3),(5)
2 Caspian Tern -- (9)
17 Forster's Tern -- (1),(3),(9)
66 Royal Tern -- (1),(4)
3 Common Loon -- (6),(7),(8)
2 Anhinga -- (7),(9)
18 Neotropic Cormorant -- (3),(9)
56 Double-crested Cormorant -- (1),(4)
128 American White Pelican -- (3),(5),(6),(7),(8),(11)
156 Brown Pelican -- (1),(3),(4),(5),(6),(10)
6 Great Blue Heron -- (4),(5),(7),(9)
13 Great Egret -- (3),(4),(9)
78 Snowy Egret -- (3),(4),(5),(9)
2 Little Blue Heron -- (2),(9)
4 Tricolored Heron -- (9),(11)
21 Reddish Egret -- (3),(4),(5),(11)
41 White Ibis -- (2),(3),(5),(9),(11)
3 Glossy/White-faced Ibis -- (3),(9)
101 Roseate Spoonbill -- (3),(4),(5),(9),(11)
10 Black Vulture -- (7),(9)
8 Turkey Vulture -- (5),(7),(9),(11)
1 Osprey -- (5)
1 Northern Harrier -- (5)
1 Red-tailed Hawk -- (5)
1 owl sp. -- (5)
1 Crested Caracara -- (2)
2 American Kestrel -- (5),(7)
1 Peregrine Falcon -- (11)
2 Eastern Phoebe -- (7),(11)
1 Vermilion Flycatcher -- (11)
2 Scissor-tailed Flycatcher -- (7),(9)
2 Loggerhead Shrike -- (5),(11)
19 Purple Martin -- (5),(6),(7)
5 Tree Swallow -- (9)
1 Cliff Swallow -- (8)
7 Sedge Wren -- (2),(5)
1 Carolina Wren -- (7)
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet -- (10)
3 Gray Catbird -- (5),(7)
9 Northern Mockingbird -- (5),(7),(11)
5 European Starling -- (10),(11)
1 American Pipit -- (11)
1 American Goldfinch -- (5)
1 Vesper Sparrow -- (7)
5 Savannah Sparrow -- (7)
20 Western/Eastern Meadowlark -- (7)
62 Red-winged Blackbird -- (7),(10),(11)
6 Brown-headed Cowbird -- (7),(10)
276 Great-tailed Grackle -- (1),(2),(3),(4),(5),(7),(9),(10),(11)
1 Orange-crowned Warbler -- (10)
1 Common Yellowthroat -- (5)
26 Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) -- (5),(7),(10),(11)
4 Northern Cardinal -- (7)
3 House Sparrow -- (6)

Posted on February 24, 2019 23:08 by mikaelb mikaelb | 35 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 16, 2019

Nalle Bunny Run 2019-02-16

Twelve people joined me this morning for the monthly group walk on Hill Country Conservancy's Nalle Bunny Run wildlife preserve. Despite record-setting high temperatures in the low 90s yesterday, this morning it was 42 degrees with a light north wind blowing when I arrived at around 8:15 AM, and it did not warm up much more all morning.

The group was lucky to see two very short-lived seasonal events on the preserve. The first was the presence of hundreds (maybe thousands) of American Robins and Cedar Waxwings in the air and in the trees. This time of year (late winter or early spring) robins and waxwings that have been wintering further south than central Texas have started moving north and join the robins and waxwings who were already here for the winter, creating huge flocks of these two species. We could almost constantly hear the robins, and large numbers flew overhead almost continuously. For my eBird list I estimated 1000 robins and 500 cedar waxwings but this could have been low. Photos really couldn't capture this phenomenon, but here's a shot of one robin and one waxwing perched together I took before the group arrived:

American Robin and Cedar Waxwing

The second event was the blooming of Agarita, one of the most common shrubs on the preserve. This prevalent native species is popular among people and wildlife for the sweet berries it produces. (Some people create jam out of them.) But its yellow flowers only bloom for a week or two once a year. We were lucky to catch the tail-end of this year's bloom!

Agarita in Bloom

Near the lake we spotted probably the same Merlin I've seen previously this winter, perched in a partially dead cottonwood it's been in before. As we gradually got closer to it I stared hearing Common Ravens, and then we saw the ravens chasing a Red-tailed Hawk. These three birds passed close by the Merlin which flew away from them and towards us, letting us walk almost right under its new perch where I got this photo:

Merlin - 1

Near the same spot we found a pile of feathers from a Ring-billed Gull, probably killed by a predator. And soon afterwards we saw about a dozen Ring-billed Gulls fly over us in a loose V formation.

Here's our complete bird list on eBird.

And here are a few more photos on Flickr.

See the attached observations or the photos on Flickr for photos of the gulls.

Posted on February 16, 2019 22:47 by mikaelb mikaelb | 7 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 26, 2019

Nalle Bunny Run 2019-01-26

I was fortunate to spend a beautiful morning on Hill Country Conservancy's Nalle Bunny Run wildlife preserve this morning. Temperatures were in the low to mid fifties with a very light noth wind blowing. When I started out a single dark cloud was directly overhead but the sun was shining below it, and a short distance down the driveway I was able to get maybe my best photo of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker ever:

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker female

In years past, Eastern Bluebird was a hard bird to find on the Bunny Run. But I've been seeing them more often here for the past year, and this morning I was excited to see this pair inspecting one of the many nest boxes on the preserve (between the white house and the lake):

Eastern Bluebirds on Nest Box - 1

Maybe they're here to stay!

I found the best bird of the day below the huge cottonwood trees on the east fence line. The dense vines and brush looked like a good place to do some "pishing" and when I did, I immediately heard a Spotted Towhee call in response. But the next bird I saw was a female Eastern Towhee. These two species used to be considered one species, the Rufous-sided Towhee. But years ago they were split into the western Spotted Towhee and the, well, eastern Eastern Towhee. Spotted Towhee is an expected winter resident in central Texas, but Eastern Towhee is rare here. (Although this winter a few have been found around Austin.) I wasn't able to photograph the male Spotted Towhee but I got a few shots of the female Eastern Towhee. Here's one of them:

Eastern Towhee - 1

I cropped the photo wide to show the preferred dense cover both of these species prefer.

It's fun to anthropomorphize about these two birds that seemed to be together. Was this a chance encounter? Is this eastern gal spending the winter with this western guy? Will they split up and head their distant eastern and western breeding grounds come spring?

I had pretty good luck finding mammal tracks this morning. There were a few muddy patches around, and some spots in the sandy prairie area were moist enough for the loose sand to hold tracks a little better. I found many White-tailed Deer tracks, a few Gray Fox, Coyote, and Common Raccoon tracks, and these small five-toed tracks which I'm pretty sure are from a Striped Skunk:

Squirrel Tracks - 3

UPDATE: Kim Cabrera (@beartracker) corrected me on the above track identification. (See the attached observation.) They are hind tracks from a squirrel, and since both fox squirrels and rock squirrels could be at this spot, I don't 'think we can know which these tracks are from. Thanks Kim!

Since we found that scat that looks so much like it's from a bobcat last weekend, I was hoping to find more evidence of bobcat today, which I've never seen signs of before here. But alas, none of the tracks I could find were feline. And I didn't find any similar scat.

All in all it was a fun morning. I visited some corners of the preserve I haven't seen in a long time, the weather was great, and I found a rare bird! I found 36 species of birds total, in almost 3 hours covering about 1.7 miles.

Here's my complete eBird list.

Here are a few more photos on Flickr.

And attached are some observations.

Posted on January 26, 2019 23:09 by mikaelb mikaelb | 14 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 19, 2019

Nalle Bunny Run 2019-01-19

Ten people joined me this morning for the monthly group walk on Hill Country Conservancy's Nalle Bunny Run wildlife preserve. It was cold and clear, and very windy! A norther came through early this morning and when we started at 9:00 AM the wind was blowing steady at 10-15 mph with gusts up to 30! Temperature started in the mid-40s and probably got up to 50 by the time we finished the walk shortly after 11:00 AM. Despite the wind we found 24 species of birds and here are some highlights.

I joked to the group that we might not even leave the parking area by the gate, because before we even started walking a Common Raven flew over us croaking, then an Osprey, then a Red-tailed Hawk! We did eventually leave the parking area and on our way to the spring we found a nice mixed-species foraging flock of songbirds that included Carolina Chickadees, Black-crested Titmice, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Chipping Sparrows, Bewick's Wrens, and a single briefly seen Blue-headed Vireo. The spring was overflowing, and a small Rio Grande Leopard Frog made a brief appearance just before we closed the spring box lid.

On the sandy prairie area the cute little boy with the group found a really cool feather. When I got home I looked it up and I'm 99% sure it's a tail feather from a Red-tailed Hawk:

Red-tailed Hawk Feather - 2

Shortly after starting back up the hill we spotted our best bird of the morning, a Merlin perched in a bare tree not far from the driveway. As we watched it we realized it was eating something, and when I got home and looked at my photos I found this:

Merlin - 1

That's a little bird foot hanging from its mouth!

On our way back up the hill through the cedar elm parkland habitat the birds were slow. But I found this very interesting scat in the trail:

Possible Bobcat Scat

I've never seen any evidence of bobcat on the preserve, but this scat sure does look like it could be from a small bobcat. The hard and white surface, and the segmented structure are the clues I'm going by. I'll have to get out my tracking field guides and research it more.

Here's our complete bird list on eBird.

And here are a few more photos on Flickr.

Attached are a few observations.

Posted on January 19, 2019 22:31 by mikaelb mikaelb | 4 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 26, 2018

White-cloaked Tiger Beetle in Texas

While I was participating in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Christmas Bird Count, I found this tiger beetle on the mud flats by St. Charles Bay:

White-cloaked Tiger Beetle (Eunota togata) - 1

A couple days later I uploaded it as an observation and identified it as a White-cloaked Tiger Beetle. I've seen this species a few times before on the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture. Later I noticed that the observation had automatically been added to the iNat project Texas Invertebrate Species of Conservation Need. This project tracks observations of invertebrates that are listed on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) list. Very interesting! And on this list this species is listed as occurring in the Chihuahuan Deserts ecoregion out in west Texas. But none of the Texas observations in iNaturalist are in this region. They are mostly along the coast in the Gulf Coast Prairies and Marshes ecoregion.

Here are all the Texas observations.
(All Texas image records in BugGuide.net are also from this ecoregion.)

So what's the story here? Did the Texas SGCN list mis-categorize this species? Is it only of conservation need within the Chihuahuan Deserts ecoregion? I don't know. But world-wide, there are currently only 36 observations in iNaturalist of this species, so I think it's probably of concern everywhere. I'll certainly keep my eyes out for it in the future, and I'd love to know more about its status.

I'm happy that this little investigation got me to read more about the Texas SGCN list, and about the Texas Conservation Action Plan it's a part of. I was impressed by how readable and accessible the list and the action plan are on TPWD's web site. I encourage anyone who wants to learn more about the big picture of conservation in Texas (and how you can be a part of it) to read at least the action plan overview document.

Also, I'm impressed with Tiger Beetles. They're a diverse, colorful, active, interesting, and accessible group of animals to observe.

Posted on December 26, 2018 15:58 by mikaelb mikaelb | 1 observations | 5 comments | Leave a comment

December 23, 2018

Port Aransas Christmas Bird Count 2018-12-17

Once again I got to participate in my original hometown's Christmas Bird Count this year, the Port Aransas CBC on December 17. This was its 42nd year! This year I counted birds in Aransas Pass, the town on the mainland just west of Mustang Island. The count circle was created to include Aransas pass so we could get species that don't occur on the island, like most woodpeckers, Black Vulture, and many songbird species like Black-crested Titmouse and Carolina Wren.

I've never birded Aransas Pass, and the folks who used to cover this area were not available to share their experience. Aransas Pass has lots of good dense oak woods habitat, but it's almost all private property. I ended up relying on my iPhone to plan and perform the count. Before count day I drove around Aransas Pass and recorded possible good birding spots as GPS waypoints in my Gaia GPS app. On count day I drove to most of these points and at each one got out and counted birds. (I wore a reflective safety vest to look a little more official, and to be more visible to cars.)

Many points were just on roads in neighborhoods near dense woods. At each point I made a separate eBird location and checklist using the mobile eBird app. I used David Sibley's field guide app to play an Eastern Screech-Owl recording to attract songbirds at most points. Throughout the day I kept a paper list of birds I saw between points, and at the end of the day I put these birds on a new incidental eBird checklist. Then at the end of the day, using the Trips feature of the eBird iPhone app, I had my complete bird list. (Unfortunately at this time, the Android version of the eBird app does not have the Trips feature.)

To record effort, at the beginning of the day I started recording my path in the Gaia GPS app and reset my car's trip odometer. At the end of the day I had my car miles on the car's odometer, and got my foot miles by subtracting the car miles from the total miles on my phone's GPS path distance. Hours in car and on foot were estimated.

So how was the birding? It was pretty good for my first time in this area! I found 85 species and here are some highlights. The Don-Ell RV park was one of my first stops and it turned out to be great. In their pond were a pair of Mottled Ducks, Least Grebes, and this Anhinga:

Anhinga - 1

The dense woods and brush around their pond had lots of invasive Brazilian Pepper bushes and Chinese Tallow trees, but it also had lots of Gray Catbirds, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, Hermit Thrushes, and this first-winter Black-throated Green Warbler:

Black-throated Green Warbler - 1

At the neighborhood points I found lots of Eastern Phoebes, House Wrens, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Northern Cardinals, a few Carolina Wrens, Black-crested Titmice, and White-eyed Vireos, a Pine Warbler, a Blue-headed Vireo, a Golden-fronted Woodpecker, and even had a flock of Snow Geese fly over me:

Snow Goose Flock - 1

The area around the Prairie View Cemetery was a good spot. I found a Loggerhead Shrike, a pair of Red-tailed Hawks, three Vermilion Flycatchers, and my only Yellow-bellied Sapsucker of the day, eating Chinese Tallow Tree berries:

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - 1

Colleen Simpson (@colleenm) had previously created a Google Map of the Port Aransas count circle with all the separate areas marked. The day after the count I figured out how to add my Aransas Pass waypoints to it as a separate layer. Each has some notes about the spot. Hopefully we can build on Colleen's map to help us plan and improve the count in the future. Here were my Aransas Pass areas and waypoints:

Screen Shot 2018-12-23 at 1.28.44 PM

Here are a few more photos on Flickr. And see attached observations below.

Posted on December 23, 2018 20:59 by mikaelb mikaelb | 21 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 21, 2018

Corpus Christi CBC 2018-12-15

My first Christmas Bird Count this season was the Corpus Christi count. Like last year I was fortunate to spend it on the Angelita Ranch in the northwest part of the count circle. This year Joan and Scott covered roughly the south part of the ranch and I and Mel Cooksey covered the north part. I've never spent much time birding with Mel and it was a real treat to be around such an experienced birder.

The ranch let us use a Polaris UTV to drive the truck trails and we mostly birded dense patches of low trees and brush both upland and along the Nueces River. We'd periodically stop the UTV and play an Eastern Screech-Owl recording to see what birds responded. And it was a big treat for me to hear and sometimes see south-Texas specialties and southwestern birds that responded, like Long-billed Thrashers, Verdin, and Green Jays. We were lucky to hear and then briefly see a pair of Audubon's Orioles at one stop. Here's a poor photo I got of one of them:

Audubon's Orioles - 1

By the river the composition of birds we attracted with the screech-owl recording changed a bit, and started to include a few Carolina Wrens, Pine Warblers, and even a couple Nashville Warblers. The bird of the day was this striking warbler which Mel spotted and first identified as a Northern Parula:

Northern Parula - 1

After some analysis of the photos and research by Mel, we first thought it was a hybrid Northern/Tropical Parula, but now we think that despite its eye-arcs this is a Tropical Parula. Consensus here on iNaturalist agrees. (See the attached observation.) What an interesting bird!

Other birds it was especially fun to see included Anhingas, Couch's Kingbirds, lots of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Sandhill Cranes. Sometimes we could only hear the cranes in the distance, sometimes they were flying overhead, and once we got close enough to a group on the ground to get this shot:

Sandhill Cranes on Ground

I don't have our official tally, but Mel and I spent most of a fun day finding over 60 species of birds. Here we are in the UTV:

Me and Mel in Polaris

Here are a few more photos on Flickr.

Posted on December 21, 2018 21:39 by mikaelb mikaelb | 19 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment