2016 Starts with a Bang

Sometimes you have to wonder why it costs $800 dollars to fly to Vancouver via Air Canada but Delta can take me from Ottawa to San Diego, on to San Antonio, Florida then home for a little over $1000.

Well I did just such a trip between January 7th to the 13th (had to be back Sue was leaving on business to Ohio).

I was hoping to see 5 ABA, Code4 birds on this trip:  Streak-backed Oriole, Golden-crowned Warbler, Crimson-collared Grosbeak, Northern Jacana and Western Spindalis.

I left Ottawa on the 7th of January, at 3pm and arrived in San Diego at 10pm local time, picked up the rental car and headed out on Hwy. 8 for Yuma, Arizona, 3 hours away.  The weather had other plans, though, as I was crossing the mountains the temperature dropped to 34F, snow was falling and black ice seemed to be everywhere, slowing me to a crawl.

Making a long story short, I finally arrived at Riverside Park, in Yuma, Arizona at 9:00, having had a good nights sleep.  I found out from Ian McGregor and Mike Paulick, that they had just seen Oriole but it only stayed for a minute and left.  They were hoping it would return and they could get better looks.

We chatted about birds, birding and travels for 4 hours, watching and hoping the Oriole would come back.  At 11:40am the bird just appeared in the palm tree, and proceeded to feed for about 15 on berries.  New ABA Bird – Streak-backed Oriole.  Thanks Ian and Mike for keeping me company.



After feeding for a few minutes, it sat in a tree close by then disappeared again.


I now had time to walk the trails finding a few good birds…

My best ever Blue-gray Gnatcatcher photo, this bird must have been comfortable around people.  He was so close…..


Brewer’s Sparrow


White-crowned Sparrow


Feeling feverish, sore throat and achy, I decided to, head back to my hotel and crash.  Next morning I had planned to go back to Kitchen Creek Road and bird there until early afternoon then head back to San Diego to catch my flight.

Along the road I found…

American Kestral


Savannah Sparrow


Say’s Phoebe


Arriving at Kitchen Creek road I turned left under the highway then left heading east until I arrived at the Border Patrol Building.  Just east of the building there is a dirt road heading south and some lovely birding.  I saw Ian’s car and we birded together for a bit.

Lots of California Thrashers in the sage, Bell’s Sparrow’s again proved hard to see…small glimpses but no photos.


This lone coyote came in to see what we were up to…


We headed back to Kitchen Creek Road and drove up to the campgrounds in the hope of seeing a Mountain Quail, stopping along the 4 miles, listening and looking but no luck.

Arriving at the campgrounds we check out the feeders, lots of bird’s but no quail.

Western Scrub-Jay


Oregon Junco


Was fun meeting with Ian and spending the morning with him….hope we can bird again.


It was time to head to the airport so back on highway 8 and heading west, I saw a lovely far off Prairie Falcon and a close up Red-tailed Hawk.

Prairie Falcon


Red-tailed Hawk

RedtailedHawk (1)

I arrived at the airport and flew on to San Antonio arriving at midnight, drove to Karnville and that was all she wrote, chills, fever, aches and now sinus pain force me to stop and get in to bed.   It was so bad my teeth hurt.

After a crappy 7 hours sleep off I drove to Refugio, Texas.  Along the way I got these two beauties.




RedtailedHawk (2)

The GPS took me right to Lion’s City Park and the search was on for the Golden-crowned Warbler.

I saw a flash of yellow and my adrenaline started pumping, but not the warbler I wanted.

Wilson’s Warbler


Hermit Thrush


After spending 6 hours looking for the Warbler I got my first glance and only look at this bird.  One photo, no time for setup and very Photoshop enhanced but                                 ABA Bird – Golden-crowned Warbler was in the books.


On a sad note…I saw a bird while I was looking for this warbler that in the underbrush looked like a female Scarlet Tanager, was fleeting glimpse and never thought much about it until I got home read the ABA alert that a immature 1st winter Flame-colored Tanager had been reported.  Next time I’ll have to pay more attention.

Time to move on approaching dark and I had 3 more hour to drive.  Got as far as Harlingen and crashed.

I was up early the next morning and drove to Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge to see the young Northern Jacana, was fairly easy brisk walk to observation platform but got a far off better photo.

Northern Jacana


I then drove to Estero Grande State Park and said hello to Huck Hutchens one of the park guides and a person I consider a friend.  If you are at Estero, stop in, it’s one of the best birding spots in the Rio Grande area, in my opinion.

Altamira Oriole


Buff-breasted Hummingbird.


I drove over to Frontera Audubon’s Nature Preserve to look for the Crimson-collared Grosbeak but after freezing in the 47F temps for 7 hours, I came up empty.  Did manage to hear the bird once but in the thick foliage couldn’t see it.

Lots of other great stuff at the feeders.

Black and White Warbler


Cardinal’s Galore


White-tipped Dove


Plain Chachalaca’s Up-close

Chachalaca (1) Chachalaca (2)

Clay-colored Thrush


Never Would have called this an Orange-crowned Warbler but it is…..


Another Orange-crowned


Golden-fronted Woodpecker


First photo showing the Golden-fronted’s, yellow patch on belly


Inca Dove


Ruby-crowned Kinglet


South Texas Squirrel


Light was fading, I was freezing and it was time to head back to San Antonio Airport.  I grabbed something quick on the road and after dropping my car at Alamo, I arrived at the airport at 12:0o midnight.   an

I thought I could go through security and sleep at my gate for my flight at 4:50am but because San Antonio doesn’t have any flight outgoing after 9:00pm, security also closes.

Made the best of it, lots of people to talk to and slept on flight to Atlanta and Fort Lauderdale, so the minute I landed off I went for Broward County and the Spindalis.

Many interesting sights at the Western Spindalis site but after 9 hours over two days all I did was think I heard it.  Had lovely views of a group of 5 Spot-breasted Orioles.

SpotbreastedOriole (1)

SpotbreastedOriole (2)

SpotbreastedOriole (3)

Lots of insects to photograph

Female Band-winged Dragonlet, thanks Gillian for ID


Hover Fly Palpada vinetorum, Thanks Jeff


Three-spotted Skipper, Thanks Shelly


Julia Heliconian




Texas Leaf Cutting Ant (found in Florida)




White Peacock




Here’s a crappy photo of a Spindalis from the Dominican Republic


Seven day’s, three out of four target birds, 14,000 km flown, 5 days birding, 2 days in airports…….when I got home I slept for 20 hours.

Til the next trip…Ciao for now





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2 Responses to 2016 Starts with a Bang

  1. Dan Brown says:

    Great trip, great pix! Way to go Paul!

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