RUSK CO., TEXAS — Yellow-rumped Warblers and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were noisy and abundant in the New Hope Cemetery. Jason was watching them when Courtney and I arrived, and he said he hadn’t seen much else yet. We found a singing Blue Grosbeak and a few bluebirds and Chipping Sparrows. I had a quick glimpse of a Red-eyed Vireo. A bobwhite called intermittently in the distance.
We headed back down the entrance road on foot in search of the Prairie Warbler we had heard singing. Along the way, we also heard a Sedge Wren jittering. We ended up hearing three more throughout the day, but none gave us even so much as a glimpse. Happily, the Prairie Warbler was more cooperative. He sat up in a sapling, throwing back his head, opening wide his slender bill, and singing his rising, buzzy song. I love to hear the Prairie Warblers sing, and this bird’s black-streaked golden body was a welcome sight.
We stopped at the second swallow bridge and watched the small storm of Cliff Swallows swirl and flutter. Meanwhile, a phoebe and a handful of red-wings moved about, and three Cedar Waxwings (all lacking their bright waxy tips) perched in a small willow.
Along 254, we saw scissor-tails, doves, and Savannah Sparrows, and a Lark Sparrow flushed as we drove past, flashing white tail corners on the way. A beautiful young red-tail dropped down from a power pole into the field, where it sat for a while before flying up into a small tree.
All three vireos sang in close proximity at the bridge. A Summer Tanager flew overhead. Two Indigo Buntings flamed brightly in the bushes. A chat chuckled mysteriously in the distance, and three vultures — two blacks and a turkey — loitered atop a power pole. Carolina Wrens, cardinals, and a Summer Tanager sang continually.
A truck pulled up, and a man, Surveyor Jr., got out and questioned us rather rudely about our behavior and motivations. Surveyor Sr. sauntered around the truck and took over, more pleasantly but with similar levels of disbelief. He told us about an “Indian burial ground” and “really good wetland” in the area. Eventually, they went back to work. Two Red-headed Woodpeckers flew across the road.
Back on 782, we found nine Blue-winged Teal at the edge of the big pond. Jason found his kingbird, and a Pileated Woodpecker flew out onto one of the power poles and climbed it, giving us a very nice (if distant) view. A brief walk along the highway yielded a pair of thrashers, a few white-throats (yes, still here) and a Lincoln’s Sparrow that fled before Courtney could see. Much is made of the subtle distinctions between Lincoln’s and Song Sparrows. Seeing that bird reminded me that it’s really quite simple. If it’s a Lincoln’s, you just know.
We checked the pond again upon returning to my car and discovered a few Calidris sandpipers. They were distant, and I couldn’t make much out of them at all. Jason said they looked consistent with birds he had seen better a few days ago in the same spot, and he’d called those Baird’s. Well, OK. I called them Calidris. I’m not particularly afraid of sandpipers, but I do need to be able to see them.
We made our way to Millville, where we heard a Black-throated Green Warbler (less wheezy than this recording) and a Northern Parula. Jason got a quick glimpse of the black-throated green, but we never did see the parula, which was singing the “William Tell” alternate song (something, but not exactly, like this).
By that time, the day was heating up, and we all had things to do. We talked briefly about our upcoming trip to the Gulf and went about our ways.
ydhttmwfi: The learning continues…