Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Texas: Kerr Wildlife Management Area and Big Bend-July 23 and 24

I flew to San Antonio on Tuesday, July 23 arriving between 12:00 and 12:30 and drove to Kerrville and Kerr WMA.  Kerr WMA has both Golden-cheeked Warblers and Black-capped Vireos, an efficient place to get these birds assuming that they are still on territory.  “Warblers” by Dunn and Garret, a Peterson Field Guide, states that Golden-cheeked Warblers remain on territory until late July, stating “Most birds have departed the breeding grounds by the beginning of August.”  I have a chance to still add these birds, but they will not be singing, so they may be tough to find.  I arrived at Kerr WMA at 3:00 to 3:30 pm, and checked out the posted information on the bulletin boards.  It had been ten to twelve years since I had been to Kerr WMW to see Black-capped Vireo and Golden-cheeked Warbler.  All the paper maps at the kiosk were depleted.  I stopped in the office and asked for a map and a bird list, both of which were provided.  There were two good areas for Black-capped Vireo.  I went to the area near a shelter up the entry road from the office in the area named Doe on the map near North Owl Meadows, where I had last seen Black-capped Vireo 10 to 12 years ago.  I had first seen Black-capped Vireo and Golden-cheeked Warbler during my first visit to Texas in 1978.  During this visit, I was prepared to wait until later in the afternoon closer to sunset when bird activity would pick up or even stay overnight and try again in the morning.  Between 5:00 and 5:30 pm, I found my first Black-capped Vireo.  I had attracted a noisy Bewick’s Wren, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Northern Cardinals with young, Field Sparrows with young, a Lesser Goldfinch as well as a singing Painted Bunting.  First, I heard the Black-capped Vireo call note, a series of rapid scolding notes like a mixture of titmouse, chickadee and vireo.  It flew into an opening near the Bewick’s Wren showing the bold wing-bars, the olive back, yellow flanks and the black cap with the white spectacle.  There appeared to be two birds in the area, feeding low in the underbrush.  These birds were not singing, but were calling and giving the scolding notes.  I was able to get a few poor photos in the late day bright sunshine, resulting in washout in the photo.  See photo below.  I heard one more bird in this area near the shelter but back more towards the main entrance.  I left the Doe shelter area at about 5:30 pm and drove about 0.7 miles back toward Kerrville on FM 1340 to the Spring Trap Gate where Golden-cheeked Warbler breeds at Kerr WMA.  There was a report on Tex Birds in the second week of July of Golden-cheeked Warbler being seen here.  The woods along the path were very quiet and dead with no activity at first, but then I started to hear quiet bird calls and eventually found a Golden-cheeked Warbler.  This bird was in a stand of large cedars surrounded by oaks further up the hill.  I managed a few photos, (See photo below) and saw the golden cheeks, the dark eye line and the white under-parts with no yellow or yellowish tinges.  I stayed a while walking further up the hill, hoping for luck to strike again, but eventually gave up and walked back toward the gate.  With the gate in sight, I found two more Golden-cheeked Warblers that flew into an oak and stayed in the upper canopy.  One of these birds showed the solid black back, a male.   I never saw the second bird well enough to see if it was a female or another male.  I left Spring Trap at about 6:30 pm and drove to the second entrance road beyond the main entrance road and continued up the second entrance road to a windmill.  This area is another good area for Black-capped Vireo and was full of birds, Field Sparrows with fledged young, Lark Sparrows, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Ash-throated Flycatcher.  I heard a Black-capped Vireo scold at this site, but left after a short while at about 7:30 pm, feeling very fortunate about my success in finding these birds.  In a few more weeks, it would not have been possible.  However, the vireo and warbler seemed to still be on their breeding territories, but not singing.  I drove back toward Kerrville and without my GPS (data connection lost!) found my way back to the next exit west of Kerrville on I-10.  On my way back to I-10, I was stopped by a local Sheriff for speeding.  I had not seen the first speed limit sign, because it was too close to a blind intersection turn, but slowed down immediately when saw a 35 mph speed limit sign in what appeared to be a rural area to me.  I thought I was going 40 mph, but the Sheriff said I was going 48 mph.  He asked me what I was doing in the area, and when I told him that I was visiting Kerr WMA and he saw my camera equipment still on the front passenger seat, he realized that I was a tourist to the area.  He let me off with a warning stating that he did not want to discourage tourism to the area.  How lucky can I get!

I  headed west on I-10 toward Fort Stockton on my way to Big Bend National Park to try for Colima Warbler. At about 10:30 pm, I started getting tired, and pulled into a rest area to take a nap.

Black-capped Vireo and Golden-cheeked Warbler increase the list to 549.

Black-capped Vireo, not great photo, in bright sunlight

Golden-cheeked Warbler

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