Saturday, April 25, 2015

Balcones Songbird Festival 2015

Today we attended the Balcones Songbird Festival. Same as last year, we took the Endangered Ones bird tour guided by Bill Reiner and John Chenoweth, with the goal of seeing the two Central Texas endangered birds, the Golden-cheeked Warbler and the Black-capped Vireo.

First stop was the "Victoria Bank Tract" on the SE corner of the refuge next to the airport. The morning was still very foggy as we walked along a path though the clearings between Ashe Juniper, Red Oak, and Live Oak, looking and listening for the warbler. We were able to see several as well as a Black and White Warbler. I was only able to get one photo this year.

Golden-cheeked Warbler taking flight

Our next stop was the "Doeskin Ranch" site. Though technically a bathroom break, this location always offers a large variety of species. The Ash-throated Flycatcher I had seen here before on my own. Note the pale yellow breast compared to other Myiarchus sp. and the rufous on the under tail that does not extend to the tips.

Ash-throated Flycatcher
Ash-throated Flycatcher

A pair of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers were near the bathroom. One of the few times I have seen one that was not perched on a power line. The tree branches make a much more aesthetic perch.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
At Mustang Island a few weeks ago, we had gotten a nice photo of a female Summer Tanager but not the male. Here I filled in the matched set.

Female Summer Tanager (Paradise Pond, Mustang Island)
Male Summer Tanager
The final stop was the "Shin Oak Observatory", closer to the north end of the refuge We eagerly anticipated seeing a Black-capped Vireo at this location. We had dipped on this bird last year and hoped to add it to our life list this time. The tour allows us to enter the site further than the public observing deck. The habit here is very different consisting of low clumps of Shin Oak with occasional trees.

We were lucky and saw three vireos. A male and a female just down from the deck and a second male a 100 yards down the trail. I was extraordinarily lucky to get a clear photo of that second male as it flitted up onto an exposed branch of a Hackberry tree.

Male Black-capped Vireo
Many thanks to our two tour leaders for a great job again this year.

Returning the next morning to Doeskin Ranch, I figured out that the pishing calls in the tall oak trees were foraging Blue-gray Gnatcatchers

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Two days of fun birding ... capped off with a hellacious case of chiggers. Must use more DEET next time.

All images Canon 7DII, EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM, 400mm, Tv 1/640s, ISO-400.

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