Josey Ranch Lake – July 2019

Last April when I walked around Josey Ranch Lake, there were grackles, coots and cedar waxwings.

The coots and cedar waxwings were gone, but the grackles were around – and noisy. The Great-tailed Grackles are probably the most noticeable bird at Josey Ranch Lake (along with pigeons) but what made them more interesting this time were fledglings – new enough that their parents were still feeding them occasionally. Note that the adults have yellow eyes that is indicative of Great-tailed Grackles rather than Boat-tailed Grackles (dark eyes). The juvenile grackle has dark eyes…but since a yellow eyed adult was feeding it, I expect it is a Great-tailed juvenile.

There were white feathers on the grass.

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And three kinds of white birds that I saw in the short time I was there: 1) a Great Egret. At first it was fishing in the water then strutted out onto the concrete walk. Those toes are long…and the feathers were ruffling in the breeze!

A resident 2) Mute Swan was on the lake. I didn’t see one in April, but they were probably there. I’ve seen one juvenile years ago, but I don’t think there have been any cygnets in the past few years.

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A 3) Snowy Egret preened and hunted in the shallows. The wind ruffled its feathers. It stayed in the water, so I didn’t see its yellow socks, but the beak and size are distinctive enough for the identification.

As I walked around the lake, I noted spider webs and shelf fungus. The cloudy day was not the best for photography, but the morning was my only chance to be there.

The high point of the morning was an accidently sighting of a Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron. I wondered if it was the same one I had seen there in June of 2018. This one was in one of the smaller ponds near the lake. I was looking through the vegetation to see if there were any ducks on the pond when I saw it…the only bird in the pond. It didn’t seem to notice me. It was casually hunting the area; I didn’t see it catch anything.

Back Bay Birding Boat Trip

Our afternoon session on the second day at the Cape May Spring (birding) Festival, was a pontoon boat trip around Cape May’s back bay (Cape May Harbor and tidal wetlands along the Intracoastal Waterway). I saw more birds than I could photograph…but the boat was steady enough for photography as well. Can you identify the birds in this picture?

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They are easy enough: American Oystercatcher, Black-bellied Plover (2 of them), and a Laughing Gull. I didn’t identify the one facing the water.

There were lots of Laughing Gulls and they were close enough for portraits.

There were a few Brant (geese) that hadn’t left yet. From far away they look a little like a Canada Goose but smaller; taking a closer look…the markings are quite different.

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I took a picture of the Great and Snowy Egrets to provide a comparison of the two birds in the same photo: size, bill color, etc.

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There was an island where there were a lot of nesting Laughing Gulls and Forster’s Terns.

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The terns (different stages of development) were feeding on the mud flat.

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A Least Tern seemed to enjoy the bobbing of a barrel.

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By far the ‘star’ of the nesting birds were the Osprey.  They seemed to be nesting on everything sticking out of the water that could hold a nest!

The Peregrine Falcons were also using a man-made structure for their nesting site: a bridge. The bird was protecting her young as our boat went underneath the bridge. The female was with the chicks. The male was having lunch on the next bridge support over.

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Being on a boat provides a different perspective….and we would not have seen the falcon any other way. Even though many of the birds seemed to be watching our progress…they were not disturbed by the boat as they are by large groups of people moving about on land.

Estero Llano Grande State Park

We stopped at Estero Llano Grande State Park after our walk around Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. The day was still relatively cold and getting damper…but there were still birds active. A Snowy Egret was actively searching for lunch.

We also saw Blue Winged Teal. The males are easier to identify than the females!

A Scarlet Tanager posed on a lamp post across the water. It was far enough way that I had to maximize the zoom on my camera – not the best picture but clearly a scarlet tanager.

A Tricolored Heron was fishing the pond

As were the White-Faced Ibis.

And American Coots have become familiar to me.

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The Least Grebes were a little too far away for a good picture in the dim light of the cloudy day…but their silhouette is distinctive.

We were a little damp, cold and hungry by the time we made a short hike. We decided to find someplace for a late lunch and discovered The Smoking Oak in Mercedes, Texas. Great barbeque!