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Day 3 (Monday, 18th April)

Map of Santa Ana


As we arrived at the Santa Ana refuge, this was the first time that any rain had been falling, so as soon as we got out of the car, it was on with the macs and the mosquito repellent. The refuge office didn’t open until 8am, and we arrived just after 7, so we did the ¾ hour walk around the short loop A trail, which included an overlook on to Willow Pond. We had hoped for potential Green Kingfisher here, but the lagoon is well vegetated, and the views from the 2 hides quite limited, so all we ended up with were a few Least Grebes and some Moorhen and Coot. The rain started to ease up as we proceeded, which had been quiet, and very enclosed, being surrounded by thick woodland. As we approached the half way mark, some high pitched chipping calls which were difficult to pinpoint at first turned out to be a pair of Olive Sparrows. They were keeping to the undergrowth at first, but did make their way on to the path in front of us. As we continued, bird calls increased (when they could be heard over Chachalacas), and towards the end of the trail, one was pinned down as Long-billed Thrasher directly above us.

Willow Pond

A Trail

Willow Pond

Trail 'A'

Olive Sparrow

Long-billed Thrasher

Olive Sparrow

Long-billed Thrasher

By 8am we had paid our $8 fee, and the park assistant gave us some tips on where to look for some target species. As we exited the office, the single hummingbird feeder had a brief visit from Buff-bellied Hummingbird. After leaving here and crossing the imminent bridge, we turned to the right and followed the levy, which bordered a concreted stream. This had apparently been very good through the week for cuckoos, orioles and raptors. We walked a couple of hundred meters to an opening in the trees, which we had been told would be the best spot. We didn’t catch up with any of the species mentioned, but did see at least 3 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, a couple of pairs of Couch’s Kingbirds, and a single Eastern Kingbird.

Canal

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Canal walk

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

We then decided to walk the road loop for a short distance along to C trail. Apparently, the only days that cars are allowed to drive the loop are Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but this might also result in many birds being missed. After a short distance, we came to the intersection of B and C trails, with a small pool nearby, which yielded Clay-coloured Robin. This is apparently one of the more difficult species to see in the States. Just after this, at the actual intersection of the paths, was a small patch of more open woodland, and this proved an excellent spot for bird parties. We first picked up singing Tropical Parula, which is what stopped us from our wandering, but did put us on to a party of Black-throated Green & Nashville Warblers, along with singles of Painted & Indigo Buntings before the Parula was located. Continuing on, we made a mistake by ignoring the short cut off on to C trail, and walking further along the loop drive, which would have been an eventual 7 mile walk around the reserve. We thankfully realised this after about a mile, and returned to C trail. This part of the trail was again well wooded, but we were rewarded almost immediately with Swainson’s Thrush. We were by now specifically looking for tracks to the right to see the Rio Grande river, which we did find, but the view was quite limited, and the hoped for Green Kingfishers would have needed some luck to be seen. Apparently river trips along here almost guarantee sightings! We eventually came across the larger lagoons, which were open and all full of water. Birds were only in small numbers – Blue-winged Teals, Black-necked Stilts, Lesser Yellowlegs, and single White Ibis. This was almost the end of the C trail, although the intersection with B trail again proved to be reasonable for warblers – not quite as many this time, but some superb male Nashville Warblers as well as Tennessee, and perhaps the most obliging Black-crested Titmouse yet. This was also one of the best places to see the already common Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, with at last 4 birds displaying constantly.

Road loop

Pintail Pond

Road loop

Pintail Pond

Black-crested Titmouse

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Black-crested Titmouse

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Back at the visitor centre, we decided to take a break and watch the hummingbird feeder. Buff-bellied Hummingbird alighted within 5 minutes, and obligingly perched to the rear for a short time. While watching this, a male Kentucky Warbler was found more or less at our feet, slowly walking and feeding in the undergrowth. Our luck was in – this was one of the only warblers we had missed out on 10 years ago at Point Pelee in Canada, and one of the first we had seen here. It remained skulking around the same patch for 5-10 minutes, and when we tried for closer views, we picked up a couple of Hooded Warblers also feeding on the ground around the hummingbird feeder.

Buff-bellied Hummingbird

Hooded Warbler

Buff-bellied Hummingbird

Hooded Warbler


Bentsen

Resaca

Former RV area within Bentsen

Resaca from Kingfisher Overlook

When we arrived at the gates at Bentsen, we found that all had changed with the park. What was once a popular RV site for sporting Americans was now closed to all traffic, with a metal gate across the park entrance. However, we were fortunate that one of the park staff pulled up next to us, and pointed out a new visitor centre on the other side of the levy, and explained that the park was now closed to all recreation apart from watching wildlife, with vehicles banned to protect the natural environment. So we paid the $5 each entrance fee, and caught the last tram to the centre of the park. It’s likely that this tram normally ferries lazy birders around the whole of the track, since he went very slowly, stopping at times until we let him know that we wanted to go straight to the lagoon area. We alighted at Green Jay blind, which was next to what had been the epicentre of the RV hookup area. After going briefly into the blind, where there was very little action, we wandered amongst the now spring cleaned parking lots. Amongst many grackles and White-winged Doves were our first Inca Doves of the trip. Then after one or two Green Jays, we found a pair of Altimira Orioles, which were feeding in the trees above, and seemed not at all bothered by our presence. After gorging on these for 15 minutes, we approached the Kingfisher Overlook which is next to a large curved lake (“Resaca”). This housed at least a dozen Least Grebes, and 4-5 Pied-billed Grebes, one of which had a juvenile in tow. While watching these, a Green Kingfisher appeared about 30 metres away, and just before diving to catch a fish, flew a little way further up. We chanced our arm, and relocated the bird almost straight away, finding the bird just beyond our position behind the shoreline trees. On the way back to the overlook, we found a feeding Long-billed Thrasher, which was particularly keen to dig around in one small dirt patch under the trees. Spurred on by the earlier views of Green Kingfisher, we returned again to Kingfisher Overlook, and reward was at hand with not one, but two Kingfishers, one flying directly past and in front of us, while the second had returned to the former perch. A pair of Pied-billed Grebes also put on a bit of a display directly in front of us, in the shallow water below the concrete wall. One could even be made out chasing fish underwater, some of which subsequently tried evading capture by skimming out of the water. We decided to walk slowly back to the car, and thought that the day’s birding had finished, when a pair of Clay-coloured Robins flew into the tree above us, and started to pluck away at the berries. On the way back to the car, we did see a few raptors, with only Swainson’s Hawk identified, but the most prolific beasts were mosquitoes, which would have been more of a burden but for the invaluable “Off” spray.

Green Kingfisher

Pied-billed Grebe

Green Kingfisher

Pied-billed Grebe

Couch's Kingbird

Long-billed Thrasher

Couch's Kingbird

Long-billed Thrasher


Home

Paintings gallery

Video clips

Images

DVD

Contact

Site map

Links

Content

Introduction

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Species list

Text only