29 July 2013

Glossy Ibis, Yolo County

Yesterday (the 28th), Todd Easterla found a GLOSSY IBIS at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area in Yolo County.

A nice bird for California, I figured I'd stop by this afternoon on my return drive from Bodega Bay.

Things didn't look promising when I arrived, there were only 12 ibis in the flooded shorebird field (whereas there can be hundreds).  HOWEVER, the Glossy was one of them!  What are the odds?  Here's a picture:

You can also find this picture on my Flickr site.

Here's a quick map of where I saw the ibis this afternoon.  Note that you can pull off directly next to the shorebird field.  I labeled Parking Lot C just for reference:

View Glossy Ibis in a larger map

28 July 2013

Trippin' Texas

If you find birds/butterflies/dragonflies/damselflies boring, please move on!  This would be excruciating.

My travels had brought me back to Texas... again.  Of course, as a birder, I don't see much wrong with that!

Texas.  And a border wall:

My main reason for detouring down to Texas was to chase a long-time nemesis bird of mine, the Yellow-green Vireo.  My paths had never crossed with this tropical species despite several close calls.  So, upon arrival, I made a beeline to Resaca De La Palma State Park where at least one of these birds had been reliable.  Here's where it is:

View Resaca De La Palma State Park in a larger map

I was primed and ready, stocked up with fluids (it was hot, like 110 degrees), and mentally prepared.  A super-cool worker at the state park offered me a trolly ride out to the spot; I wouldn't pass that up.  Since I was the only person on the trolly, it was basically just the two of us birding our way out to the spot.  Shortly after we arrived, I heard the distinctive song of a Yellow-green Vireo nearby.  I had the audacity to think to myself "Man, that's just too easy".  That was my first mistake.  Although I had heard the bird, I COULD NOT see the thing.  Being impatient, I ended up walking the long way around a loop to maybe catch up to it on the other side; didn't work.  I got back to the original spot and the vireo was there, singing, just waiting for me.  However, I still couldn't SEE the thing!  Finally, after about an hour of stalking this thing, I finally got a glimpse.  And THEN it flew even closer.  It was at that point that I managed some pictures:

I was rather surprised when I heard another vireo singing not too far away.  "That's weird", I thought.  Turns out, sure enough, there were at least two of these birds in the area.  I later learned that up to 3-4 had been present this spring/summer.

After the vireo finally worked out, it was time to relax and enjoy all the other wildlife in Texas.  I ended up staying about 2 days, birding my way east to west through the Lower Rio Grande Valley.  Here are a bunch of pictures from the quick visit.

Hummingbirds, as you would expect in summer, only included BUFF-BELLIED HUMMINGBIRDS:

BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCKS were really quite common almost everywhere I went.  Here's a family at Sabal Palm:

In recent years, CLAY-COLORED THRUSHES have become commonplace in south Texas.  I bumped into some just about at every stop.  Here are a couple of pics of this relative of our American Robin:

Not particularly limited to south Texas, this BRONZED COWBIRD looked rather demonish either way:

One reason to pay attention to the swallows in south Texas are the CAVE SWALLOWS that breed under bridges.  It's not a great picture but you can see the pale cheek on this swallow perched above a bridge:

Who doesn't like GROOVE-BILLED ANIS?  Exactly.  I saw 2-3 dozen on this trip, mostly at Resaca De La Palma State Park.  Hell, I even managed to find a nest of one!

They're still a little camera-shy though.  Here's one through the brush:

Texas has some countable exotics too.  This GREEN PARAKEET was on a power-line near my hotel one evening:

... and a nearby local park had been hosting a sizable flock of parrots, mostly RED-CROWNED PARROTS.  Here's one in the fading light:

Orioles are fun in Texas; I ended up with 4 species:  AUDUBON'S, ALTAMIRA, BULLOCK'S, and then this HOODED ORIOLE at the feeders at Sabal Palm Audubon Sanctuary:

If you haven't been to Sabal Palm, go there!  It's here:

View Sabal Palm Audubon Sanctuary in a larger map

Another reliable species at Sabal Palm is the LEAST GREBE.  Here's an adult with a chick in the background:

And you can't forget the odd PLAIN CHACHALACAS!

Look closely and you'll see an adult chachalaca feeding a youngster in the shade of this thicket:

As I continued west through the Lower Rio Grande Valley, one of my last stops was at the San Ygnacio Seedeater Sanctuary.  I had been at this spot once before, probably 10 years ago or something, but MISSED the seedeaters.  I visited it again this time but found a singing WHITE-COLLARED SEEDEATER within 60 seconds of arriving.  Very cool.

It was fun being around different bugs too.  This might be my best picture of a BORDERED PATCH to date:

One of the highlights of my entire Texas visit was this tiny, somewhat bland butterfly.  It's called a GEMMED SATYR.  You might know I'm very partial to the family of satyrs but I've honestly wanted to see this species for years.  It finally worked out:

It's a pretty crappy photo but I believe the subject is a MIMOSA SKIPPER:

I was really excited to see this lifer butterfly known as a CLYTIE MINISTREAK...

...and then I realized that they were EVERYWHERE.  This entire hedge had hundreds swirling around it:

Another lifer was this TROPICAL CHECKERED-SKIPPER.  You might be able to see the distinguishing mark in this picture; the dark forewing fringe checks blending together into a dark bit:

It wasn't a lifer or anything but this EMPRESS LEILIA was still attractive:

Ok, brace yourself; I'm switching to dragonflies and damselflies for a bit.  BROAD-STRIPED FORCEPTAILS were pretty common:

This SMOKY RUBYSPOT was rather attractive, I thought.  Ok, I hadn't even heard of this species until I identified it later from the book.  :-P  Still counts!

This blazing little red damselfly is a DESERT FIRETAIL; it also was a lifer:

Another lifer damselfly came in the form of this DUSKY DANCER at the bank of the Rio Grande River at Salineno:

Yikes, watch your feet!  I saw dozens of tarantulas on this trip, mostly on the road and especially after a rain.  This particular one was just wandering closer and closer to my parked car.  At some point I figured it deserved to be photographed:

So, another visit to Texas was complete and I managed to stir up another ABA bird out of it.  But now it was time for me to continue west.  Next stop (with no offense to New Mexico) was the Chiricahuas of southeast Arizona.  Stay tuned for more bird/bug updates from my travels....

26 July 2013

Post NY, Pre TX

Yep, it was time to keep moving.  I made the drive from western New York state out to southwest Michigan in a short day.  I arrived in Berrien County just in time to get slammed with some nice thunderstorms; a huge highlight for me.  And no, I'm not being sarcastic, I truly relish monster thunderstorms.

Anyway, I didn't have much to target in SW Michigan other than year birds like Willow Flycatcher, Henslow's Sparrow, and Cerulean Warbler.  They all turned out to be easy.

I figured that seeing the endangered butterfly (Mitchell's Satyr) would also be easy.  THAT... was not.  In its place, here is a LITTLE WOOD-SATYR:

The only place I've ever seen APPALACHIAN BROWNS has been at this spot (Sarett Nature Center).  This visit was no exception:

However, a lifer butterfly was lurking nearby.  I was actually eager to see my first BALTIMORE CHECKERSPOT.  It didn't disappoint:

I didn't stay in Michigan long though, less than a day in total actually.  From here though I had a pretty open swath of country to cover.  Which way should I get back to California??  Well, there was a lifer waiting for me in southern Texas though.  Ok, I guess I'll drive to Brownsville!

En route, I got to bird in a couple of states that I had no lists for.  One of them was Arkansas.  I purposefully wanted to camp somewhere in AR just so that I could start a decent state list.  Yeah, I'm lame like that.  Nearby my campsite was this lightpole with a hole in it.  See the body of a bird sticking out?  Any guesses on what it is?

The nest hole belonged to a pair of GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHERS.

The campsite was actually pretty cool (as far as backwoods Arkansas goes!).  For one thing, I woke up to CERULEAN WARBLERS singing outside my tent!  Not only that, but there was a family of curious LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSHES nearby that would hop up into my campsite.  Here's one on the fireplace grill:

However, I didn't waste too much time.  Like I said, I was en route to southern Texas where I had a date with a sassy vireo species.

25 July 2013

Last peach pit

After Ash hopped on a plane in Florida, I was on my own again, this time to drive north to New York.  But first, I had some unsettled business awaiting me in northern Georgia.

See, I had worked in southern Georgia for a month and a half but my state list still hadn't hit the 200 mark.  This would not do.  The only logical way to take care of this was to stop in northern Georgia to do some birding as I drove north.  That brings me to this post.

I first stopped at Piedmont NWR to try for Red-cockaded Woodpeckers.  Piedmont is roughly about here:

View Piedmont NWR in a larger map

It was a hot and muggy afternoon with thunderstorms threatening but I had no choice but to try anyway.  It didn't take long to find woodpeckers, especially ones like this RED-HEADED WOODPECKER:

I did snag a lifer or two at Piedmont... but they weren't birds.  This was the first time I had found a BANDED PENNANT:

Here's another lifer, a BLACK-SHOULDERED SPINYLEG

Ok, yes, I eventually DID hear a couple of RED-COCKADED WOODPECKERS.  Success, a new state bird!  In fact, the rest of the refuge provided other state birds like KENTUCKY WARBLER and WOOD THRUSH.  I was aiming to get farther north though so on I went.

I eventually got to where I was going to camp for the night along the Chattahoochee River.  I knew I was going to like it when I saw this on the approach drive:

You have to remember that coastal Georgia looks nothing like this (hence me being excited enough to take a picture of the mountain road).  In fact, looking at it from satellite view you can see how remote the campground was (just the way I like it):

View Chattahoochee River in a larger map

Indeed, state birds came fast and furious.  Here's a grainy picture of a WORM-EATING WARBLER as dusk approached:

Another creature that came out as dusk approached was this BLACK BEAR along the road!  Neat stuff.

I ended up getting a slew of state birds such as:

Eastern Phoebe
Worm-eating Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Scarlet Tanager
White-breasted Nuthatch
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Veery (singing around me when I was changing a flat tire on my car!)
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Song Sparrow (you'd be surprised, you can't find this species in southern GA during the summer!)

As a last ditch effort to add state birds, I hopped off the interstate and went to a spot that eBird showed had breeding GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS and DICKCISSELS.  Indeed, I found both right where others have had them.  Here's a GRASSHOPPER SPARROW singing from a fencepost:

It was at this point that I had to continue driving north.  In the end, I got my Georgia list up to 211.

Because you're lucky, I can skip all the hours of brainless driving and transport you directly to New York State just by starting a new paragraph.  I was here to visit family and to chase another lifer.  But before I put effort into the lifer, I started seeing neat things just in the neighborhood I was in.  This RED-EYED VIREO must have been nesting in the yard:

I was surprised to find a pair of BLUE-WINGED WARBLERS just across the street.  Must be nice living somewhere that has yard birds like this!

There were some butterflies around too like this lifer, a EUROPEAN SKIPPER:

One of the very few breeding birds in the lower 48 that I still needed was the BICKNELL'S THRUSH.  It was because of this bird that I took a detour and drove up into the Catskills; I was going to make the hike up Slide Mountain to find this somewhat local breeder.

I started the hike around dawn and three miles up the mountain the habitat started to change from deciduous forests to this:

I was in the stunted spruce forests that the thrush calls home.  However, I wasn't seeing or hearing the right thrushes, only Swainson's and Hermit.  This "MYRTLE" YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER put on a show too:

Fast forward an hour.  I FINALLY heard a singing thrush somewhere tucked in the forest.  I did some scrambling and finally saw this long-awaited lifer:

Before I made the hike down the mountain, I looked around and realized that the view from the tallest of the Catskills was actually quite nice!

However, it was time for me to continue my 2013 adventures.  Next I was going to drive to Michigan and then probably down to Texas on my way back to California.  Stay tuned...