Migrants and gi-normous spider colonies
DUNCANVILLE, TEXAS — Before my unsuccessful twitch yesterday, I birded Cedar Ridge Preserve and Village Creek Drying Beds. White-eyed Vireos were plentiful and vocal at Cedar Ridge. Residents included cardinals, Blue Jays, chickadees, and Carolina and Bewick’s wrens. Other migrants were one Great Crested Flycatcher and one Nashville Warbler — a brightly plumaged male even showing hints of an orange crown.
I found the drying beds — a favorite spot when I lived in Arlington two years ago — unlocked and full of birders. Fort Worth Audubon was on a field trip. Water was very high in all the units, so there was practically no shorebird habitat. Egrets littered the fringes of the pools, and a Red-shouldered Hawk flew over, showing off gorgeous plumage.
Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were conspicuous. A pair (or more?) of adults kept flying around and squealing, and a group of about 10 juveniles huddled close together, which made me suspect that a pair had bred here or nearby. I also saw a pair of Mallards, several dozen Blue-winged Teal (some of the earliest migrants), and a single Northern Shoveler. Pied-billed Grebes were also plentiful, and I’d imagine that they breed here too.
Here’s a Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea) that isn’t blue. Juveniles are white. I also saw Green and Great Blue herons and Cattle, Snowy, and Great egrets. No spoonbills, ibises, or storks, which are long shots but definitely possible.
As I walked in the general direction of a photographer from the FWAS group, I heard a warbler song. “Yellow?” I wondered. A moment later, the man hailed me and said he was trying to photograph a pair of “Common Yellow Warblers.”
“I heard one singing,” I said.
“That was my phone,” he said.
Oh, how embarrassing. He was trying to lure the birds out into the open for a picture. He kept talking, and I soon realized that the birds he was actually after were Common Yellowthroats, not Yellow Warblers. Perhaps one reason that they hadn’t responded to the cell phone.
After he left, I did get a look at a young male yellowthroat, but I couldn’t find the Sora that the group had seen just before I arrived. And later, I did find a real Yellow Warbler too.
A Swainson’s Hawk joined a kettle of Black Vultures overhead.
Before I left Arlington, I checked out the unit of River Legacy Park on north Cooper, and I found water in the wetland that was dry two years ago. There were Red-shouldered Hawks and Turkey Vultures in the area, but no water birds that I could see. Nearby, however, I found a flooded patch of woodland with several migrants: Wilson’s Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Yellow Warbler, and White-eyed Vireo.
At Tawakoni, I didn’t do much other than look for the Sabine’s Gull and jaeger that had been seen earlier in the day. As I have already related, I was not successful. I did, however, see several Ospreys, one of which plunged into the lake and came up with a fish. There was a distant flock of several dozen American White Pelicans — what a combination of ungainliness and grace!
Of course, I had to make a pilgrimage to the giant spider web that’s been making news and attracting thousands of visitors to the park. The glory days of the phenomenon are over, but it’s still a weird and eerie sight, calling to mind images from the Wizard of Oz or countless other stories. For photos and information about the “happening,” to borrow a term from the arts, see the link above.
This oak is shrouded thickly in spider webs — so thickly, in fact, that most of the leaves have died. Much of the webbing has been shredded by rain and wind, but it’s still impressive.
Here’s a closeup of one twig wrapped in spider silk. It’s all very weird. Entomologists seem puzzled by the event. This behavior is not normal for most spiders.
Here’s a less-than-amazing photo of one of the spiders responsible for the spectacle. It’s a Tetragnatha spider, and its very long jaws are just visible here.
As I left the area of spider activity, I came upon a Carolina Wren (Thryothrus ludivicianus) dustbathing on the path. I had not observed wrens dustbathing before.
This little bird was serious about its bath. It laid on its side and dragged itself in circles through the dust. Cute!
Blue Sage, Salvia azurea. More plant and spider web photos available in the gallery.