The Canadian Rockies ~ Limosa Holidays

Day 1, May 29 – At YYC the group of 5 familiar faces and 2 more that classify as ‘new blood’ all from the U.K., this evening. We headed for our hotel in Calgary and went off pretty much straight to bed. The time change had them beaten tonight.

Day 2, May 30 – After breakfast we headed south from Calgary to High River where we had a short pit stop before making our way to Frank Lake. Along the way to Frank Lake we were side-tracked by several ponds and puddles, most of them teeming with shorebirds, waterfowl and the likes. Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Gadwall, Mallard, Blue-winged and Cinnamon teal and Lesser Scaup dabbled and dove for food

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Eared Grebe. Frank Lk, AB. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

, while along the shore Willet, American Avocet, Spotted Sandpiper and lovely breeding plumage Wilson’s Phalaropes foraged. Our first Red-winged Blackbirds were seen, though soon thereafter we had all but forgotten their beauty before a steel, blue male Tree Swallows stole the show. A few less spectacular, but still charismatic birds followed, such as Clay-colored and Savannah Sparrows and overhead groups of calling Franklin’s Gulls. A walk along the shore of the lake was very enjoyable this morning, partly due to the lovely sunny and calm weather, and partly due to the sheer number of birds present. Waterfowl on the lake included Canvasback, Redhead, Bufflhead, Ring-necked Duck, and Ruddy Duck, the latter always a bird that folks from the U.K. like to see. Ruddy Ducks, are an introduced bird and species considered invasive in Europe. This is due to the fact that Ruddy Ducks interbreed with the rare White-headed Duck in Spain, so authorities have shot and killed all but a very few of them in the U.K. Grebes including dozens of Eared

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Forster’s Tern. Frank Lake, AB. May 2017. Photo: Peter Birtchnell.

Grebes and up to a dozen elegant Western Grebes provided us with entertainment. White-faced Ibis numbers increased through the morning, nearing 15 by the time we went for lunch. Several Black-crowned Night-Herons slowly flapped as they went by, and the sky was abuzz with noisy Franklin’s Gulls. Forster’s Terns foraged around the perimeter of the lake, while in the marshes ringing the water there was a cacophony of songs permeating the air as Yellow-headed and Red-winged blackbirds chattered and Marsh Wrens and Common Yellowthroats sang. A lonely American White Pelican floated out on the lake, and a couple of Great Blue Herons were nice to see this fine morning. Soras called, but remained, as usual, hidden in the reeds. We returned to High River for lunch and after that we had a look around the parking lot, finding our only Common Grackles for the tour. A female and brood of Common Mergansers, or Goosanders as the Brits call them, were on a small wastewater pond.

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Swainson’s Hawk. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

After lunch we returned to Frank Lake area, this time exploring a range road north of the lake itself. In the farm fields were Vesper Sparrows and a few singing Horned Larks. Gray Partridge scurried across the road in front of us, and by the end of the day we had seen quite a few of them. Swainson’s Hawks were numerous this afternoon and we saw several sitting on nests. Another bonus sighting was a fluffy young Great Horned Owl sitting in a nest in a hedge row. Lucky for ‘The Brits’ I had been through this area the previous week with my own tour group as we covered Southern Alberta, so I knew where a few things were hiding. Richardson’s Ground-Squirrels scampered about, keeping watchful eyes to the sky for raptors. We returned to the blind at the lake where we enjoyed lovely views of Marbled Godwits and a rather ungainly Black-necked Stilt. It had been a lovely day, we all agreed, as we made our way back to Calgary.

Day 3, May 31 – Again, a sunny morning greeted us for our morning drive, which today, took us through the western suburbs of Calgary to Cochrane. From here we explored a couple of roads, which I won’t name, but I’ll describe what we found. Along the first road we cruised into the forested habitat, interspersed with open fields, where Great Gray Owls could be found. I told the group to keep their eyes on the fence posts for potential owls, and not long after this advice, Jean shouted ‘there!’ It was a Great Gray Owl, and he

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Great Gray Owl. Cochrane, AB. May 31, 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

was hunting from a fence line in an open meadow. We watched him searching for prey and eventually he leapt from his perch into the grass, but seemed to come up empty handed. This, no doubt, will remain the bird of the tour for many, if not all, on the trip. After drinking in the magnificent sighting of the Great Gray we carried on searching for birds and we found some nice ones such as Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and a nice Boreal Chickadee. We focused on finding ‘eastern’ species today and did quite well; Tennessee Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Blue Jays, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Baltimore Oriole, White-throated Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Le Conte’s Sparrow and Upland Sandpiper to name a few. We heard several Yellow Rails, but did not see them. The same goes for Sora. Mammal of the day was a cow Moose with her calf, trotting, in an ungainly manner, up a wooded gully. We then drove on to Canmore,

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Blackpoll Warbler. Banff, AB. June 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

nestled in amongst the Rocky Mountains.

Day 4, June 1 – At 6 AM we left our hotel and headed for Banff, spotting a herd of Elk along the way. We explored Vermilion Lakes this morning, and our first bird was perhaps our best bird, a lovely male Blackpoll Warbler. Warbling Vireos, White-crowned Sparrow, American Redstart and Willow Flycatcher all showed nicely, as did an obliging ‘Slate-colored’ Fox Sparrow. Paul D. spotted one of the best mammals of the day, a Beaver, as it slowly drifted about in the water. Throughout this tour over and over again, the participants commented on the sheer beauty of the locations I took them to. Vermilion Lakes, with its placid waters and stunning views of Mount Rundle, certainly did not disappoint.

The nagging feeling of hunger and the dull and steady shakes of coffee withdrawl drove us into a Melissa’s Missteak, a restaurant in Banff, where we had breakfast. The weather was very much off and on today and we experienced a bit of everything from cold rain

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Pileated Woodpecker. Banff, AB. June 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

and wind, with temperatures just a few degrees above freezing, to warm and sunny periods. We slowly cruised down roads, hoping for wildlife to appear and it did. We saw Mule and White-tailed deer, the latter of which were wagging their stunning white tails in the air as they dashed away. Up on a grassy slope above us I put the scope on a herd of Bighorn Sheep as they grazed. We stopped to do some birding at various view points and picnic areas today, with our first such a stop yielding views of Bufflehead, Common Loon and Ring-necked Duck on a distant wetland. A lovely male Rufous Hummingbird sat atop a young Douglas Fir right next to the busy railway track as massive trains barreled past. We were plagued this day, by ‘looky loos’, people that just have to stop and ask what you are looking at. Perhaps they don’t speak English so they get themselves right into the

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Am. Three-toed Woodpecker. Banff, AB. June, 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

middle of the group to make sure they’re not missing anything. Whenever our van pulled over, there was immediately a mini traffic jam behind us, as people stopped to see what we had found. Most of the time it was a bird, and we found many today, with Wilson’s Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Townsend’s Warbler and Hammond’s Flycatcher to name just a few.

At Muleshoe Picnic Area we were entertained by a pair of American Three-toed Woodpeckers that were poking around in the aspens. A pair of Hairy Woodpeckers showed nicely here as well, and just as we were about to leave I spotted a Pileated Woodpecker peering out of a nest hole! Next, we had lunch and then hiked up into Johnston Canyon, where water levels were unexpectedly high. This is probably the reason we saw no dippers here today, and the rushing water also made it rather hard to pick out the calls of other birds nearby. The scenery in the canyon was spectacular, and this alone, if nothing else, made the walk very worthwhile.

At Lake Louise we joined the throngs of tourists as they admired one of Canada’s more

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American Porcupine. Banff, AB. June 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

scenic lakes. It was cold up here today, and a light rain fell as we visited the area. That didn’t stop us from enjoying the entertaining tactics of the Clark’s Nutcrackers as they swooped about in the parking lot for scraps. Also lingering around the edges of the parking lot were Gray Jays and Black-billed Magpies. Before we got back into the van I located an American Porcupine as it munched on grasses on a roadside hill. After snapping as many photos as we wanted of the porcupine, a creature we all decided was rather un-photogenic to begin with, we made the return trip to Canmore.

Day 5, June 2 – To finish off our Rockies experience we set off for Moraine Lake, one of the region’s most beautiful lakes and certainly one of the best known scenic areas in the country. It was cold, with mixed overcast skies and there was a breeze. Much of the lake was still covered in ice, though we did see several Barrow’s Goldeneye about. There were a few birds about, including Hermit Thrush, Yellow-rumped (Audubon’s) Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Dark-eyed Juncos, Boreal Chickadee, and a couple of Pine Grosbeaks that disappeared before they could be officially tallied to the list. Along the way up here this morning we saw a lovely Snowshoe Hare, sporting nifty white ‘socks’.

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Boreal Chickadee. Alberta, June 2017. Photo: Peter Birtchnell.

The next portion of our journey took us along Hwy 1, through Golden, where we paused for lunch, and on to the Beaver Valley. We had some exceptional sightings at Beaver Valley, with the best for me being a male Magnolia Warbler, an eastern species that inhabits moist, wooded forests in the Rocky Mountains. Other nice warblers today included our first views of MacGillivray’s Warbler, which was a skulking little so and so, as is so often the case. We had nice looks at a showy male American Redstart as he pranced about through the trees. Three Chestnut-backed Chickadees came down to check us out, perhaps stealing ‘award’ for the most attractive North American chickadee species. We scoured the hillsides and forests for bears, but came only as close as several piles of bear dung. The wildflowers were lovely, and Penny

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Magnolia Warbler. Beaver Valley, Rogers Pass, BC. June 2017. Photo: Peter Birtchnell.

went to great effort to identify as many of them as possible. Some of the more prevalent flowers in the mountains included milk-vetch, lupines, Arrow-leaved Balsam Root, Heart-leaved Arnica and one of the more attractive varieties, an orchid known as a Fairyslipper.

Following the winding highway from the Kicking Horse pass, and back up into Rogers Pass, we eventually found ourselves on the outskirts of Revelstoke at the Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk. The bird was exceptional as usual at this location, with birds in full song including American Redstarts, Common Yellowthroats, Northern Waterthrush, Varied Thrush, Gray Catbird, Veery, Warbling Vireo and Song Sparrow all adding to the cacophony. Rufous Hummingbirds put on a lovely show here, zipping too and fro, buzzing noisily as they sped by. Males were engaged in aerial displays, where they climbed high into the sky and then plummeted straight down

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Warbling Vireo. British Columbia, June 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

towards the ground, pulling up at the last moment with an emphatic buzzy call at the end. Giant Skunk Cabbage plants covered the ground beneath the boardwalk, which took us through a flooded forest of cedars, willow and alder. Fluff balls from cottonwood trees drifted through the air, giving the effect of snowfall drifting down on a warm, breezy spring day. Following the Eagle River down through Sicamous, we soon found ourselves driving along the south shore of Shuswap Lake, where we found our next port of call, Salmon Arm. We visited a local pub for dinner this evening, and we had a great time. In fact, this group meshed so well together, providing excellent company throughout the holiday. Paul C. is ridiculously funny and had us in stitches whenever there was a break in the birding.

Day 6, June 3 – Before breakfast we made our way down to the pier in Salmon Arm to check out the birds on Shuswap Lake. Before we even left the parking lot we had seen Cedar Waxwings, House Finches, Northern Rough-winged Swallow and American Goldfinch. Down at the pier it was a lovely morning. We scanned through dozens of elegant Western Grebes and I found a single Clark’s Grebe after a bit of searching. The Clark’s was paired up with a Western Grebe and the two swimming side by side together made for an excellent comparison. Other birds noted here included a locally rare Sanderling, spotting by Isabel, and a pair of Caspian Terns, also an uncommon species in the B.C. interior. From the pier we walked a short distance down a little boardwalk

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Muskrat. Salmon Arm, BC. June 2017. Photo: Peter Birtchnell.

towards a wetland where Pied-billed Grebes were nesting. Other waterfowl nestled away at this wetland included Blue-winged and Cinnamon teal, Hooded Merganser, Gadwall and American Wigeon. Yellow-headed Blackbirds were constantly within earshot, and we decided that this bird would not win the prize for the best songster of the local avifauna. We returned to our hotel on the hill for breakfast, then loaded up the van with our luggage, before returning to the waterfront of Salmon Arm to carry on with our explorations. A stop at Peter Jannink Nature Park provided us with a different perspective on the bay, and there were songbird tucked away in the shrubs such as Willow Flycatcher, House Finch, Common Yellowthroat, Gray Catbird, Cedar Waxwing and American Goldfinch. We watched a Muskrat devour some vegetation, our only one for the entire tour, and at one point today a Water Vole dashed across the trail in front of us. Ospreys seemed to be everywhere

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Osprey. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

around Salmon Arm, and we saw a few Bald Eagles today as well. Our walk to Christmas Island got cut a little short by flooding, as this year proved over and over again to be the wettest on record. Luckily for us, however, we enjoyed mostly fantastic weather throughout our entire tour! A colony of Ring-billed Gulls had been displaced by the flooding and they were gathered on the busy railway and on the viewing platform that no person in their right mind would attempt to climb onto at this stage.

A pub patio on the lake shore provided the backdrop for our lunch today, and we were routinely interrupted by sightings of Osprey, Great Blue Heron and other species. After lunch we began the journey to Kamloops, which only took about 1.5 hours, and was very scenic as the Trans Canada Hwy took us along the Thompson River. The habitat changed quickly, from wet forest to sage covered grasslands around Kamloops, but many of the group may have missed this rather sudden change as a few appeared to be snoozing in

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Lazuli Bunting. Kamloops, BC. June 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

the back of the van. Once in Kamloops we made our way to an area of grasslands near town where we saw the usual residents of semi-arid desert habitat, such as Western Meadowlarks, Clay-colored and Vesper sparrows, American Kestrel, Mountain Bluebird and Black-billed Magpies.  Farther along we found some patches of aspens where birds were numerous. Dusky Flycatchers sang and eventually perched long enough for everyone to get scope views. We had our first rather stunning Red-naped Sapsuckers here, as well as Western Tanager and a gorgeous male Lazuli Bunting. We finished off the day with tasty meal at Boston Pizza. As usual, nobody

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Red-naped Sapsucker. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

starved on this trip and we enjoyed good meals at 99% of the places we went to eat.

Day 7, June 4 – Our luck with the weather continued as we enjoyed mostly sunny conditions today, once again. We made our way to Tranquille, an area along the N.E. corner of Kamloops Lake. Upon arrival the gate was locked so we parked and walked in along the dirt track. Just as we were pulling up to the gate, I spotted a Peregrine Falcon chasing pigeons near an old barn. Not a bad start! Though the mosquitoes were quite hungry here this morning, we still enjoyed the walk, along which we found birds including Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Western Kingbird, Downy Woodpecker, and our first Say’s Phoebes of the tour. Several chunky Yellow-bellied Marmots entertained us as well as they peeked at us from their hiding spots along the road. Next, we picked up lunch and took it with us up the Paul Lake Road. Our first stop, along the creekside habitat at the Paul Creek Trail, produced views of Veery, Red-eyed Vireo and a cheeky little Nashville Warbler. Farther along the road we found some ponds and lakes where we had Barrow’s

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Nashville Warbler. B.C. June 2017. Photo: Peter Birtchnell.

Goldeneye, Ruddy Ducks, Ring-necked Ducks and other wetland species. We had lunch at Louis Lake, where we watched loons diving in the placid waters.

After lunch we headed up to Harper Mountain Ski area. It was the middle of the day and birds were not overly active, however I did pique the interest of Mountain Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Dark-eyed Juncos and our first Cassin’s Vireo of the tour. I had planned on heading to the ski slopes to look for bears but when we arrived we found hundreds of people had gathered there for mountain bike races. Abandoning Harper Mountain we found ourselves next at Paul

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MacGillivray’s Warbler. B.C. June 2017. Photo: Peter Birtchnell.

Lake Campground, where a stroll through the mixed forest produced some nice birds. We had great looks at warblers here including Nashville, Orange-crowned, and the usually quite elusive MacGillivray’s Warbler. This particular MacGillivay’s had obviously not read the manual on being a member of that species and staying hidden in the thick bushes. We returned to Kamloops and enjoyed Indian food at a buffet restaurant with an incredible view over the city.

Day 8, June 5 – From Kamloops we climbed up and out of the Thompson River Valley and made our way onto the plateau of grasslands, dotted with lakes and wetlands. Our first stop was at Separation Lake, where we found it to be rather cool and breezy this morning. There were a few ducks around; Lesser Scaup, Ruddy Duck and Redhead, as

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Lewis’s Woodpecker. British Columbia. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

well as Spotted Sandpiper and Killdeer. On a distant fence post we found our 4th species of owl, a Short-eared Owl, and another new addition to our growing list was a singing male Horned Lark. Our next stop was along Planet Mine Road, where towering Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir dot the grassland landscape, making for perfect habitat for Lewis’s Woodpeckers. We found a pair of nesting Lewis’s in an old pine snag, and watched for 20 minutes or so, as the adults came in to feed young. Also nesting in the same tree was a Pygmy Nuthatch and each time the nuthatch approached, the woodpecker swiftly saw it off. Gliding over the hills, I spotted our only Black Swifts of the tour, and though they were a bit distant, they counted nonetheless. A Common Nighthawk, surprisingly the only one seen by our group on this tour, flapped by over the horizon. At Beaver Ranch Flats, always a great stop, we watched a M

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Rufous Hummingbird. Peachland, BC. June 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

arsh Wren build a nest at close range to us, every now and again nipping up to the top of the reeds to let out some noisy chatter. Common Yellowthroat, a bird we saw over and over again on this trip, showed nicely. Numbers of waterbirds seemed to be down from what I remember in recent years, perhaps due to the high water levels. Nonetheless, there were dozens of Eared Grebes, several Pied-billed Grebes, American Coot, Redhead, Gadwall, Mallard, Northern Shoveler and Lesser Scaup to name a few species present. A stop at Quilchena for Vaux’s Swift was successful, but ended abruptly as we noticed the mosquitoes were extremely thirsty here, so we carried on a little farther along the shore of Nicola Lake and had lunch. As we ate, up to 4 Common Loons played in the calm waters, while a Pileated Woodpecker whacked away at the trunk of a large cottonwood, before flying off up the

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Black-chinned Hummingbird. Peachland, BC. June 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

hillside, calling all the way. We left Hwy 5A at Merritt and followed the Okanagan Connector back towards Kelowna, our destination for the next two nights. Along the way, we popped in to say hi to my better half Cindy, and our one year old boy Carsen. Always on point, Cindy had coffee and cookies out for us to snack on while we checked out what was visiting our feeders. Black-chinned and Rufous hummingbirds jostled for position at the hummingbird feeders, while Pine Siskins nibbled thistles. At the seed feeder were Cassin’s Finches and best of all several Evening Grosbeaks, the only ones we saw on the entire tour it turns out. Carrying on into Kelowna, we crossed Okanagan Lake via the Bennett Bridge and headed for our hotel via a rather roundabout and scenic route that took us into the downtown and along the waterfront, up and over Dilworth Mtn. We had dinner, along with Cindy and Carsen, at Montana’s, where the ribs were scrumptious.

Day 9, June 6 – Before breakfast we headed out to Sutherland Hills Park, a pine-clad forest along the edge of Mission Creek in Kelowna. This is the area I grew up in and these hills I have visited many times before, so I knew exactly where to look for a roosting Western Screech-Owl, though the bird wasn’t in the tree I thought it might be. After a little searching, and we could hear two birds calling, a male and a female, and we saw the female of the pair. Everyone had lovely scope views and we let them be in peace. Up into Sutherland Hills, I led the group to a tree where a male Calliope Hummingbird has

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Western Bluebird. Kelowna, BC. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

sat every June in the last 15 years, and there he was again today, glowing in the morning sunlight. Not a bad start to the day.

We returned to the hotel, had breakfast, and then began exploring the Joe Rich Valley and Big White area, east of Kelowna. Our first stop was a bit of grassland along Hwy 33 where we had Western Kingbirds, Western Meadowlark, Brewer’s Blackbirds and Red-tailed Hawk. Along Goudie Road we saw a gorgeous male Western Bluebird, potentially nesting in one of the next boxes along the fence line. Quite a few other open country bird species appeared here as well such as Lazuli Bunting, Vesper Sparrow and Tree Swallows. In the coniferous forests along Sun Valley Road we encountered our first Steller’s Jays of the tour, along with a mob of other passerines such as Townsend’s Warbler, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Western Tanager and Dark-eyed Juncos. A Pileated

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Golden-crowned Kinglet. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

Woodpecker showed nicely at the top of a dead cedar tree, calling loudly before flying off. We took a detour down Philpott Road, hoping for Ruffed Grouse or N. Pygmy Owl, but we didn’t find either of them. We did find a lovely nest of Townsend’s Solitaire with 4 eggs in it however. Also, we had a Hairy Woodpecker coming and going from a nest hole in an aspen.

We had lunch where Mission Creek and Belgo Creek converge on Three Forks Road. Isabel and Peter perched themselves right on the edge of the rushing creek, which proved to be a smart move since they spotted the American Dipper first. There were two adults and they appeared to be foraging for food for young. As soon as they caught some larva or other insects the adults would fly upstream towards the bridge under which they nest. With the dipper ‘in the bag’, so to speak, we carried on towards Big White, the local ski hill. A little exploration of the spruce / fir forest near the ski village, turned up some goodies such as Boreal Chickadee, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Wilson’s Warbler and Fox Sparrow, but best of all a singing male Varied Thrush, a target bird for several people on the tour. Once at the ski village of Big White, everyone was shocked to find a city up in

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Yellow Pine Chipmunk. BC. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

the middle of nowhere. We had a look at some feeders where Steller’s Jays, Dark-eyed Juncos, Mountain Chickadees and the likes were coming in to gather any leftovers. On the ground beneath the feeders were Red Squirrels, Columbian Ground-Squirrels and several cute little Yellow Pine Chipmunks. We had a much needed cup of coffee before making the descent of the mountain. Dinner in Kelowna at an Asian buffet was excellent, and we were joined again by Cindy and Carsen, as well as my two brothers, Connor and Cory.

Day 10, June 7 – This morning we left Kelowna and after stopping to pick up lunch in West Kelowna, we carried on south to White Lake Road. Our first stop was at Three Gates

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Black-headed Grosbeak. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

Farm where my friend Doreen let us watch feeders that had Black-chinned, Calliope and Rufous hummingbirds, Cassin’s Finches, Spotted Towhees, Pine Siskins and our first looks at the rather attractive Black-headed Grosbeak. All three nuthatches, White-breasted, Pygmy and the omnipresent Red-breasted Nuthatch, were tallied in the pine trees at Doreen’s place.

We then took in the sagebrush habitat around White Lake itself. It didn’t take us long to find a couple of uncommon and local target species including Brewer’s Sparrows and the nationally endangered Sage Thrasher. The thrashers (we saw two of them), were singing from the tops of the sage and from fence posts, and posing nicely for scope views. After White Lake we stopped at Mahoney Lake where a short walk produced another of the day’s target bird species, a Gray Flycatcher. After a short stop in Okanagan Falls we ventured up a bumpy logging road that climbs into the mountains east of town. We found a quiet, cool and shady spot along Dutton Creek to have lunch. I imitated a Northern Pygmy-Owl, since the habitat looked promising, and it didn’t take long for the tiny owl to respond and come in to check me out. As if that weren’t already enough, a Barred Owl started calling

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Barred Owl. Okanagan Falls, BC. June 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

and we tracked him down in his roosting spot. Owls number 6 and 7 for the tour! Vying for our attention, our first Pacific Wren, a tiny buffy colored wren that inhabits the west coast of North America, bobbed up and down on fallen branches along the little creek.

A brief stop along Road 22 to scan through the hay fields turned up a couple of distant male Bobolinks, as well as all the other usual suspects. We headed to Osoyoos, checked in to our hotel, and then went for a delicious dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, Campo Marina.

Our day wasn’t finished yet, as several of us made our way back out to Road 22 at dusk to do some owling. We saw an adult Great Horned Owl twice along the telephone wires, but we decided it was probably two sightings of the same bird. Water was everywhere, with all the usual fields and meadows covered in feet of it. As a result, mosquito populations had exploded at Road 22. The bugs chased us off and we headed for Kilpoola Lake Road, on the west side of town. Scanning the road for Common Poorwills as we bumped up the dirt road, produced no sightings, but whenever we got out of the vehicle we could hear poorwills calling. We heard the soft ‘boot’ calls of a Flammulated Owl high in the trees and after about 30 minutes of trying to see the bird, we were finally rewarded as the tiny, cryptically colored owl, perched on bare branches and flew from tree to tree as we watched in the moonlight. Our 8th species of owl for the tour was special indeed!

Day 11, June 8 – We returned to Road 22 this morning, and found it to be quite pleasant as cool morning temperatures and a breeze kept the mozzies away, for the most part. A

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Canyon Wren, British Columbia. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

walk to the arid cliffs of ‘The Throne’ was very enjoyable. We had excellent luck with the cliff dwelling birds this morning, as Canyon and Rock wren both appeared and let us enjoy scope views. A Chukar perched on a boulder, also cooperating enough so we could scope him. A nesting pair of Peregrine Falcons gave us plenty of entertainment, and high above the cliffs we found White-throated Swifts sailing by. Not only were the birds fantastic, but the flowers and plants were also stunning.

Back at the hay field on Road 22 we had even better looks this morning at Bobolink, as several males engaged in flight songs over the swaying grasses. We were treated to great views of a Yellow-breasted Chat, the odd man out, when it comes to North American warblers. In a little corner of marsh we finally got the views of Sora that we had been hoping for. As if that wasn’t already enough, we had views of a Virginia Rail as it skulked about in the reeds.

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American Badger. BC. June 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

Leaving Road 22, we stopped to pick up lunch in Osoyoos before climbing up to Anarchist Mountain. The weather began to change as we arrived at our destination, and a light rain, accompanied by strong winds kept us on our toes. Several big branches began falling off trees so we decided to get out of the forest before anything else started to come down. From the road we could hear our target species, a Williamson’s Sapsucker, calling in the larch trees. Eventually the male Williamson’s, an attractive study in black, white, yellow and red, appeared on an open trunk next to us. OOohhs and ahhhhs ensued. As if we weren’t already feeling lucky enough, Paul and Sue D shouted, ‘Stop!’, as we drove back towards Osoyoos. I backed up the van and in the side of a large dirt mound there were 3

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Brewer’s Sparrow. BC. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

American Badgers peering out of a den. Wow, my first sighting in B.C.  We enjoyed dinner so much the previous night at Campo Marina, we returned again tonight.

Day 12, June 9 – It was not easy leaving the Okanagan Valley this morning, as the lovely sunshine bathed the lakes and vineyards, but that’s exactly what we did. We stopped at the Nighthawk Border Crossing for just one last taste of sagebrush birding. Vesper, Lark and Brewer’s sparrows were all of note, and we saw our last Western Meadowlark and Mountain bluebirds of the tour. As we neared Princeton, along the Similkameen River, a few of us caught a glimpse of a female Harlequin Duck as she raced towards shore in the rapids. The Beaver Pond in Manning Park kept us occupied for about half an hour, and we really enjoyed the excellent views

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Yellow-rumped Warbler. BC. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

of several species of swallow feeding low over the water. Violet-green Swallows were particularly stunning, with some lovely colors, as the name implies. A Song Sparrow fed a baby Brown-headed Cowbird chick, the latter species, of course, being parasitic. In the trees overhead were Yellow-rumped, Wilson’s and Townsend’s warblers, Warbling Vireos, Chipping Sparrows and more. An Olive-sided Flycatcher put on a nice show as it returned several times to the same perch after sallying out for insects. At the Manning Park Lodge we had lunch with, while the Clark’s Nutcackers, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Common Ravens and Columbian Ground-Squirrels all try and steal your attention, or even try to steal your lunch if you’re not careful. We

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Red-breasted Sapsucker. BC. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

took a drive down to Strawberry Flats, finding a large pile of bear poop, but unfortunately, no bear. A little exploration of the trails at Strawberry Flats proved to be exciting. There was still snow on the trails, and I decided to wear my sandals today. Sightings of note included a gorgeous Red-breasted Sapsucker as well as a Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Hermit Thrush, and some very tame Gray Jays. This species, now widely regarded as Canada’s national bird, often comes in to beg for scraps and that is exactly what they did to us. Wrapping things up in Manning Park, we carried on to Hope, where we had a short coffee break, before completing the final leg of the journey to our hotel in Richmond. Dinner tonight, at the hockey arena, was very Canadian (it’s called Stanley’s Grill).

Day 13, June 10 – From Richmond we took advantage of a weekend morning and drove right smack dab through the middle of downtown Vancouver. It was yet another sunny morning and we enjoyed the scenery as we crossed English Bay on the impressive Lions Gate Bridge. The drive out to West Vancouver’s Lighthouse Park was very nice, with good views of the ocean and some impressive houses to daydream about. Not long after we had left the van and started walking the trail a young man asked, ‘Would you like to see a big owl?’. ‘Yes, of course’, we replied, and he pointed out a Barred Owl perched atop a stump not far from the edge of the path. We soon found that there was a fledged chick

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Barred Owl. Lighthouse Park, West Vancouver, BC. June 2017. Photo: Peter Birtchnell.

sitting nearby as well, explaining the adults daytime hunting behavior. Typical west coast temperate rainforest species were present this morning; Pacific Wrens, Brown Creeper, Townsend’s Warbler, Hutton’s Vireo, Spotted Towhee, Swainson’s Thrush, etc. By the lighthouse itself we were treated to excellent views of both Rufous and Anna’s hummingbirds, the latter, our fourth species of hummingbird for the tour. New for the mammal list was a Douglas’s Squirrel, the coastal equivalent to the Red Squirrel.

We picked up lunch at Safeway and took it down with us to Ambleside Park where we sat on the driftwood on the beach and ate. Glaucous-winged Gulls and Northwestern Crows eyed up our lunches. Jean made a scientific discovery, that Northwestern Crows don’t like salt and vinegar chips. Out on the ocean we had our first good views of Pelagic Cormorant, a slighter bird than the nearby Double-crested Cormorants. Five Harlequin Ducks were seen at Ambleside Park, as were our first Bushtits, as a little group of them foraged in trees next to a little pond. Harbor Seals poked their heads out from the water, investigating all the happenings on the shore. The view from Ambleside was also rather nice, with the city in the background, and large tankers entering the bay underneath the Lions Gate Bridge.

After lunch we visited Maplewood Flats, a Wild Bird Trust property, in North Vancouver. Some feeders at the park entrance had our first Purple Finch of the trip, as well as Black-capped Chickadee, America Goldfinch and Bushtit. We scanned the poles out in the water for Purple Martins, but didn’t find any. There was, however, an Osprey and its mate sitting on a nest. I found our one and only Pigeon Guillemot for the tour, here, and we got even better looks at the ‘shag-like’ Pelagic Cormorant. Continuing on our loop walk of the property, we ran into a few little groups of Black-capped Chickadees, Bushtits and Song Sparrows, and eventually I found our one and only Black-throated Gray Warbler of the tour here. Tonight marked the final dinner of the tour, and we celebrated an excellent trip over good foods, good drinks and good company at Boston Pizza. Sounds a bit like an advertisement doesn’t it?

Day 14, June 11 – Our final day of birding in Canada, and we set out with an ambitious goal, to find 7 new species for the trip and bring the list to 220 birds. We began at Tsawwassen Ferry Jetty where several Black Oystercatchers showed very nicely, one pair

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Black Oystercatcher. B.C. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

with a couple of cute, little, fuzzy and black chicks. Scanning through the Glaucous-winged, California and Ring-billed gulls I was able to pick out a single immature Mew Gull, and out on the water we scoped both Surf and White-winged scoters. With just three more birds to go, and most of the day to find them, we headed the Reifel Refuge with confidence. On the way we stopped in to look for a Barn Owl that was not home. However, we were rewarded with our 5th new bird of the day, a Bewick’s Wren. Once at Reifel we hoped for some lingering shorebirds, and we succeeded, finding a couple of Greater Yellowlegs, new bird number 6. The final bird of the tour, and a lovely one at that, was Purple Martin. Several were at nestboxes in the marshes of Reifel, and we later enjoyed up close and personal views of martins at Iona in Richmond before I took the group to the airport and we said our goodbyes. 220 species of birds is a new high count for me on the Rockies tour. We saw over 20 species of mammals as well. Thanks to everyone for coming along and making this a really enjoyable trip.

Chris Charlesworth

 

Southern Alberta with Avocet Tours, May 2017

Day 1, May 20 – Myself and a group of 7 tours from British Columbia, Alberta, Switzerland and Massachusetts gathered this evening and we went out for dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant in the vicinity of the Calgary Airport, before heading to bed.

Day 2, May 21 – Chomping at the bit to get some prairie birding in, we made our way south through Calgary via the Deerfoot Trail to High River. We then headed east towards Frank Lake, pausing along the way to check out various pools and puddles which held a

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Female Wilson’s Phalarope. Frank Lake, Alberta. May 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

number of different ducks; Blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Mallard, Gadwall and more. Our first Wilson’s Phalaropes were tallied on these pools, as were American Avocets, Killdeer and Spotted Sandpiper. We turned off towards Frank Lake and sparrows kept interrupting our progress as we made our way to the bird blind. Most were Clay-colored Sparrows, with Savannah Sparrows mixed in for good measure. Brown-headed Cowbirds and Yellow-headed Blackbirds were common along the approach to the blind. Franklin’s Gulls, White-faced Ibis and Forster’s Terns flew about, while swarms of Tree Swallows with a few Barn Swallows caught bugs on the wing. Two or three Gray Partridge burst into flight from the grass, one landing nice and close to us, a lifer for Lin. In the marsh were chattering Marsh Wrens, and whinnying Soras, as well as singing Common Yellowthroats. By now the wind had picked up so we happily took shelter in the blind for a while, as we scanned the lake. Ruddy

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Yellow-headed Blackbird singing its lovely song. Frank Lake, AB. May 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Ducks were seen not far away, as were both Western and Eared grebes. A few Black Terns were seen feeding in a distant corner of the lake, barely visible through the scope. Bird of the day, in my books, was a Prairie Falcon that passed by our van quite closely, as it flew along with some large prey, which, unfortunately, it dropped.

After lunch in High River, we chased down a Lincoln’s Sparrow behind the parking lot, and then we headed back out towards Frank Lake. Along a range road north of the lake we searched for raptors, having some luck, as we found several nesting Swainson’s Hawks. Also, Red-tailed Hawks were noted flying overhead and I spotted a nest with an adult and two fluffy young Great Horned Owls. Vesper Sparrows and Western Kingbirds were new trip birds as well. Janet suggested we try an area out toward Brant, so off we

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Great Horned Owls. Frank Lk, AB. May 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

went. We didn’t make it far, however, since I nearly ran over an Upland Sandpiper, so I stopped, backed up, and low and behold, there were 5 of the little suckers out in a field. Great scope views were had by all. Down the road towards Brant, spotting our first Northern Harriers of the tour. Later, a Coyote dashed across the road far in front of us, and Monica spotted a pair of lovely baby Great Horned Owls roosting in the trees not far from the road. Back to Calgary we headed, and as we had dinner, we tallied up our species list for the day. We had seen just under 70 species, a formidable total.

Day 3, May 22 – From ‘Cowtown’ we headed west towards the towering Rocky Mountains to the city of Cochrane. We picked up lunch and drove north on the Horse Creek Road to wetlands, excellent for birding. These wetlands are rich in birds, especially sparrows, and we had half a dozen or so species of sparrows here including Le Conte’s, Swamp and White-throated sparrows. Yellow Rails were ticking from various points in the marsh, but of course, we didn’t see any. Soras were also calling intermittently, while Wilson’s Snipe seemed to be everywhere. Cinnamon Teal and Blue-winged Teal both showed off well, with the male Blue-winged in perfect lighting, showing a lovely purplish sheen to its head. Other species noted included Yellow

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Cape May Warbler. Cochrane, AB. May 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Warbler, Least Flycatcher, Western Wood-Pewee and a nice adult Peregrine Falcon perched in a nearby aspen. We carried on down the road, and I spotted a large cow Moose trotting across a field. Mule Deer were also new for the trip mammal list. We stopped near a community center to look for Eastern Phoebe and as soon as we got out of the vehicle we heard one singing. We got side-tracked by other things like Tennessee Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Mountain Chickadee, Ruby-crowned Kinglet and a stunning male Cape May Warbler. By the time we refocused on finding the phoebe it was not to be seen again. Down at a little boggy area we stopped again and were treated to nice views of White-throated Sparrow, and a distant male Purple Finch. We had lunch and then made our way west towards Grand Valley.

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White-throated Sparrow. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Along Grand Valley Road our main objective was to find a Great Gray Owl. Despite a good effort, we did not find one today. We did, however get a number of other nice species such as Townsend’s Solitaire, a male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and a lifer for Josh, a Boreal Chickadee. I caught a glimpse of a Snowshoe Hare dashing across an open lane in the forest. A couple of Solitary Sandpipers flew over the treetops, calling, our first and only for the tour. Before we left the area we tried one more time for the phoebe, but it was nowhere to be found. We took a walk through an aspen forest and got three new additions to the trip list, Warbling Vireo, Hermit Thrush and ‘Red-shafted’ Northern Flicker.

Day 4, May 23 – This morning we left Calgary behind us and followed the Trans Canada Hwy east to the prairie farm town of Brooks. As we stood in the restaurant picking up

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Sprague’s Pipit. Brooks, AB. May 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

our lunch, a group of 13 American White Pelicans sailed by outside. We headed south of Brooks and explored some prairie range roads where the birding was very good. Our first Ferruginous Hawk, otherwise coined a Ferengi, by other members of the group, was a nice surprise as it circled above. Clay-colored, Savannah and Vesper sparrows, sang loudly, along with Western Meadowlarks from all directions. Overhead I could hear the jingling song of a Sprague’s Pipit and after a little searching we spotted it doing a flight song high overhead. Just after I finished saying ‘that’s about the best look you’ll get at a Sprague’s Pipit’, the bird dropped like a stone from the sky and landed about 30 feet from us in plain view, while foraging for about 5 minutes.

The marsh at the entrance to Kinbrook Island Provincial Park was teeming with activity this morning. Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Marsh Wrens, Song Sparrow and Common Yellowthroat all sang loudly from the reeds. The first Red-necked Grebes we’ve seen thus far were here this morning, and the usual variety of ducks with Mallard, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Redhead, Canvasback, and Lesser Scaup were observed. In the campground we had lunch and then went for a stroll through the cottonwoods where we found several smashing Baltimore Orioles. Both Eastern and Western kingbirds were common and as Art commented, it was nice to see

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Baltimore Oriole. Alberta. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

them side by side. Yellow Warblers, House Wrens, Common Grackles and a few Swainson’s Thrushes were spotted by our group members, and Art found the first White-crowned Sparrow of the tour.

Following the Trans Canada east to Tilley, we checked a range road, excellent for prairie birds, and we were not disappointed. We must have seen and heard about 15 Chestnut-collared Longspurs here this afternoon. Just as we arrived a handsome Ferruginous Hawk flew by, showing off all its regal features. We walked down towards a wetland and upon arrival noted another Sprague’s Pipit, this one drinking from the edge of the pond. Also drinking from the pond were Chestnut-collared Longspurs. Shorebirds were the real highlight here, with 20+ Wilson’s Phalaropes and close to a dozen Red-necked Phalaropes being the real treats, along with a breeding

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Chestnut-collared Longspur. Tilley, AB. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

plumage adult Black-bellied Plover. Semipalmated Sandpipers numbered close to 2 dozen, as did Marbled Godwits. There were several American Avocets about, and Spotted Sandpipers were calling. Two Pronghorn, North America’s fastest land mammal, somewhere in between an antelope and a deer, lazed about in the grasses, while Richardson’s Ground-Squirrels popped in and out of their burrows.

Our last stop of the day was at Tillebrook Provincial Park. It was a lovely afternoon with sunshine and temperatures in the upper 30 degrees Celsius. We hoped to find a Brown Thrasher here, and after a short walk, we did just that! I heard, and shortly thereafter spotted, a singing male Blackpoll Warbler in the trees, a nice late migrant. American Goldfinches eventually showed themselves, and we had a lovely pure male ‘Yellow-shafted’ Northern Flicker here. We headed to Brooks, checked in to our hotel and had a tasty dinner at Boston Pizza.

Day 5, May 24 – Our first birding destination this morning was Dinosaur Provincial Park, north of Brooks. Along the way we had our first Loggerhead Shrike of the tour, and our first Say’s Phoebe. When approaching Dinosaur Park from the south over the prairie, one would never know there was an area of stunning badlands tucked away down along the

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Loggerhead Shrike. Alberta. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Red Deer River. We stopped first at the top of the park to drink in the scenery from a viewpoint. Our first Rock Wren of the tour sang from the peak of a rock, and both Vesper and Lark sparrows hopped about on the path next to us. Ominous weather finally caught up with us and we birded from the car for a bit as we drove through the badlands, spotting Mountain Bluebirds, Western Meadowlarks, Violet-green Swallows, and Lark Sparrows. The rain let up a bit so we ventured out along the Cottonwood Flats Trail. A few sprinkles, and a steady wind, made finding birds a little difficult, but we did see our first Spotted Towhees of the tour here, along with Yellow Warbler, Least Flycatcher and Brown Thrasher. Before we left the area we had one last little stroll along a creek where we enjoyed lovely views of a male Common Yellowthroat.

We had lunch in the van, during another shower, at the rest stop along Hwy 1, just E. of Tilley. After we were done munching, the rain had mostly stopped so we walked over to the edge of the fence to scan Tilley ‘O’ Marsh. There were quite a few birds here

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Common Yellowthroat. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

including Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Black-bellied Plover, Killdeer, Wilson’s and Red-necked phalarope, Willet, Marbled Godwit, and best of all, a group of 40 or so Red Knots in stunning breeding plumage! Nice sighting Josh.

We made the drive east to Medicine Hat and then turned south towards our next destination, Cypress Hills Provincial Park. Along the way, two Long-billed Curlews vlew over the van and up a hill, new for the trip list. Upon arrival in Elkwater we stopped to check out a little pond and there were 6 species of swallows foraging here, including Barn, Bank, N. Rough-winged, Cliff, Violet-green and Tree swallows! A pair of Bufflehead were seen each time we passed by this pond as well. We explored the Spruce Coulee area this afternoon, and it was decidedly quiet out there, perhaps because of the wind. Nonetheless we did find some interesting birds, including Dusky Flycatchers, a species that reaches it’s easternmost Canadian range in Cypress Hills. A male American Redstart played hide and seek with us, eventually being seen by most of the group. While up on a trail I found several group members a Red Crossbill, and down by the reservoir Josh, Art and Monica had some White-winged Crossbills. A Ruffed Grouse was heard drumming in the woods along a small creek, and Monica caught a glimpse of the bird as it flew across the road. This evening we had a lovely dinner at the Camp Cook House restaurant.

Day 6, May 25 – Planned pre-breakfast birding at 5:30 AM did not go ahead this morning due to high winds and rain. We had breakfast and then started off towards the S.E.

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Ferruginous Hawk. Alberta. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

corner of Alberta and the Wild Horse area. The rain let up as we drove south, and we spotted several Ferruginous Hawks, as well as Swainson’s Hawks and Red-tailed Hawks, along the way. Pronghorn were also very common today and we probably saw 20-30 of these mammals out on their native habitat, the plains. As we turned off the highway onto a gravel range road, we began seeing interesting birds; Horned Larks, several Chestnut-collared Longspurs and eventually Monica spotted a McCown’s Longspur at the edge of a pond. Soon thereafter a male came and sat on the road right in front of the van. We carried on down the road, ‘kicking sparrows out from our boots’ as we went along, with Clay-colored, Savannah and Vesper sparrows everywhere, as well as Western Meadowlarks. We braved the strong winds and walked through the grasses in search of more sparrows and after a little searching we were rewarded with great views of both

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Red-naped Sapsucker. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Baird’s Sparrow and Brewer’s Sparrows. Lark Buntings seemed to be everywhere today, on fence lines, on bushes, foraging on the ground and doing flight displays over the fields. A single Bobolink was the one and only one we had on the tour this year. In a wetland area there were great numbers of waterfowl and shorebirds. At the end of the day today we had tallied close to 100 species of birds!

Day 7, May 26 – At 5:30 AM several of us gathered for some early morning birding in the Cypress Hills area. We began with a trip out to the Fire Rock Campground where after a little searching we found our target, a Wild Turkey. The male strutted and gobbled away as he retreated into the woods. White-winged Crossbills again appeared in the spruce forests here, and we saw several Red-naped Sapsuckers noisily arguing with one another. On our way back towards town, we spotted a Belted Kingfisher along the lake, and we heard a Lazuli Bunting, but it wouldn’t show itself. Bird of the morning was a local rarity, a Sedge Wren, singing in the marsh next to Elkwater Lake. We had incredible views of this usually elusive species as it sang from the bushes next to the boardwalk. In

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Sedge Wren. Elkwater Lake, Cypress Hills, AB. May 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

talking to local birders, this could be just the third record for the Cypress Hills area. As we were about to head to our next stop, a Caspian Tern flew high over the lake, new for our trip list. To finish off our morning we headed out towards Reesor Lake, spotting several Mountain Bluebirds along the way. Once there we had a few more new species such as a Veery and a very nice Alder Flycatcher.

After breakfast we returned briefly to the edge of Elkwater Lake, so the rest of the crew could see the Sedge Wren, and they all did. We left the Cypress Hills, and took gravel roads west through the rolling hills towards the towns of Manyberries and Etzikom. We stopped in at the north end of Pakowki Lake where there was quite a bit of action. Waterfowl were abundant, with Ring-necked Duck, Canvasback and Cinnamon Teal being highlights. Shorebirds were numerous, and we tallied our first Sanderlings of the

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Lark Bunting. Alberta. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

tour, though they were a bit distant. We had lunch at Pakowki before continuing on towards Writing on Stone Provincial Park. The scenery here, with the Milk River and magnificently eroded banks, was stunning on this sunny afternoon. The Sweetgrass Hills in Montana added a fine backdrop to the scene. There were not a load of birds here, and all of them we had already seen, but nonetheless there were Rock Wren, House Wren, Least Flycatcher, Yellow Warbler, American Goldfinch, Gray Catbird and several Northern Harriers sailing over the grasslands. Several Ring-necked Pheasants could be heard calling in the distance, and on our way out of the park, a male was spotting trotting along the fence beside the van. Also in the same area were two Gray Partridge. On our way to Lethbridge we stopped at a little side of the road pond where there were shorebirds, including 3 Dunlin, locally uncommon, and the only ones we got on our entire tour. We had dinner at the Casino in Lethbridge tonight, always an experience.

Day 8, May 27 – Our first stop this lovely morning was at Stirling Lake, south of Lethbridge. We stood on the viewing platform and amassed quite a nice list of birds. One species, new for the trip list, was Snow Goose. Three of them hid in the reeds at the edge of the lake. Other waterfowl were abundant here and we found a Blue-winged Teal nest with 5 eggs right beside the path. Shorebirds were scoped in a distant corner of the lake, and included Black-bellied Plover, American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, Sanderling, Wilson’s Phalarope and an unidentified dowitcher. Quite a few White-faced Ibis were noted here, and Soras, again, could be heard whinnying from the marsh nearby, but remained elusive.

As we drove towards Waterton Park, the majestic Rocky Mountains got larger and larger as we neared them. A stop in Mountain View was entertaining, not only because we got our first House Finch of the tour, but also because a cattle drive came parading down the main street of town. Once at Waterton Park, we headed for a viewpoint overlooking

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American Dipper. Waterton Park, AB. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Maskinonge Lake. Here, we had our first Common Loons, a pair in gorgeous breeding plumage, as well as distant Sandhill Crane and Black Tern. A drive through the bison paddock provided views of about  8 American Bison of pure stock. Lakes and ponds here had a few Barrow’s Goldeneye, and fence lines had Mountain Bluebirds. In the town of Waterton we visited Cameron Falls where a pair of American Dippers tended to a nest. Also here were our only Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels of the tour. Driving through town we encountered several groups of ‘Rocky Mountain’ Bighorn Sheep during our stay. We had lunch and then explored the bottom half of the Cameron Lake Road, since the top portion was closed, most likely due to lingering snow. We found four Black Bears on our drive, a rather large brown colored individual that was traveling along the side of the road as it grazed grass and dandelions, and a sow with two cubs. In the avian department, we enjoyed our first views of Townsend’s Warbler,

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Black Bear. Waterton, AB. May 2017. Photo Chris Charlesworth.

Cassin’s Finch and Northern Waterthrush, and then our visit was interrupted by the appearance of a Black Bear that came quite close to us. Our final stop was at the Fire Rock Campground where, after a little patience, we finally got a nice view of a male MacGillivray’s Warbler. Also new here was Wilson’s Warbler, and we got repeat views of Mountain Chickadee, Warbling Vireo, Pine Siskin and Red-breasted Nuthatch. Our last full day in Alberta was topped off with a nice dinner before heading off for some well deserved rest.

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Cattle drive in Mountain View, AB. May 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

Day 9, May 28 – Our morning began early as we revisited Cameron Lake Road, targeting a few high elevation species. Our efforts were paid off with the likes of White-winged Crossbill, Pine Grosbeak, Boreal Chickadee, ‘Slate-co’ Fox Sparrow and some nice Varied Thrushes. We then headed for the Red Rocks Parkway, where a number of excellent bird species were noted including a male Calliope Hummingbird and a gorgeous male Lazuli

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Lazuli Bunting. Chris Charlesworth.

Bunting. We got back into the van and began our return trip to town for breakfast. A brown colored Black Bear dashed across the road in front of us, exactly where we had walked 3 minutes before!

After breakfast we gathered our luggage and returned to Red Rocks, however we found the road was closed for a cycling event. Plan b took us to the Hay Barn area, a nice old growth patch of cottonwood bottomland forest. Veeries sang and one appeared for us, while a lovely male Black-headed Grosbeak sang from a high perch in a cottonwood, illuminate by the sun. Least Flycatchers were singing everywhere, as were Yellow Warblers and American Redstarts. It was really quite active with birds so we were well entertained for an hour while we waited for the parkway to open up. Once the cycling was done we headed up towards Red Rocks Canyon. On the way we paused so everyone, including any who didn’t come along for the pre-breakfast session, got to see the male Calliope Hummingbird,

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American Redstart. Chris Charlesworth.

since he was still sitting on the same perch. A little farther up the road we found a stunning male Rufous Hummingbird sitting high on a cottonwood, watching over his patch of territory. High overhead, a Golden Eagle sailed by. We walked up the path at Red Rocks Canyon, admiring the inspiring scenery. A few last species, such as Western Tanager and a Pacific Wren were tallied here before we left the Rockies and made our way back to Calgary. We had seen close to 190 species on the trip and I think all of us would agree the trip was unforgettable.

Chris Charlesworth, Avocet Tours

SOUTHEASTERN ARIZONA WITH LIMOSA HOLIDAYS

Day 1, May 3 – This evening, I greeted 7 birders from the U.K. at the arrivals hall of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. We made the short transfer from the airport back to our hotel and some of use went for dinner, while others disappeared into their rooms to get some rest after a long day of travel.

Day 2, May 4 – Our first day of birding in Arizona was exceptional, with the usual Arizona standard of gorgeous blue sky and warm temperatures throughout. At our hotel many of the group had assembled and were already ticking off birds, including Great-tailed Grackle, White-winged Dove, American Kestrel and Black-crowned Night-Heron, before we had even left the parking lot. Our first official birding stop was at the Gilbert Water Ranch where, at a little grove of Saguaro Cactus, we ticked off some nice species

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Gila Woodpecker. Phoenix, AZ. May 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

including several Gila Woodpeckers, a Gambel’s Quail, Curve-billed Thrasher, and tiny Verdins. We carried on along the trails and checked out a number of puddles and ponds where waterfowl included Mallards with young, a pair of male Cinnamon Teal and a female Ruddy Duck pointed out by David. Shorebirds, or what the ‘Brits’ call waders, were about in small numbers with American Avocet, Black-necked Stilts, Least Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper and Long-billed Dowitcher noted. Green Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, and Snowy Egret were all about, though I was surprised to see no Great Egret and Great Blue Heron here. In numbers were Neotropic Cormorants, and we saw a few American Coots. Patrolling the skies above the ponds were N. Rough-winged Swallow, Cliff Swallow,

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Black-chinned Hummingbird. AZ. May 2017. Photo: Roger Cresswell.

Barn Swallow and a couple of Bank Swallows. Formations of White-winged Doves sped by, and we had good views of several diminutive Inca Doves along the trails edge. A few migrant passerines were hiding in the bushes along the edges of the trail, including White-crowned Sparrows, Green-tailed Towhee, Wilson’s Warbler, a hybrid Myrtle X Audubon’s Yellow-rumped Warbler and Western Wood-Pewee. We watched the pewee catch and devour a white butterfly of some sort. Also doing a fair amount of flycatching were Anna’s and Black-chinned hummingbirds! For our mammal tally we saw the first of many Desert Cottontails today, and for the reptile list we saw a number of Red-eared Sliders basking in the sun.

As we drove towards Globe we paused to look for raptors several times, getting excellent views of Red-tailed Hawks. A tiny and adorable Round-tailed Ground-Squirrel won over the group as it peered at us from beside the road. A little group of Black-tailed

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Round-tailed Ground Squirrel. Phoenix, AZ. May 2017. Photo: Roger Cresswell.

Gnatcatchers showed briefly in a Palo Verde tree before flying off. After lunch in Globe, we carried on down Hwy 77, and turned in towards Aravaipa Canyon. The scenery here with rugged canyons and hillsides studded in giant Saguaros was rather spectacular. I spotted a pair of Harris’s Hawks, with one bird sitting on a nest in a cactus. Farther into the canyon we stopped and showed the group a Common Black-Hawk sitting on a nest, a rather uncommon species here despite its name. Colorful birds popped out us from the greenery of the canyon with a male Northern Cardinal, a lovely Yellow-breasted Chat and a stunning male Vermilion Flycatcher some of the real treats. Western Kingbird and Olive-sided Flycatcher were seen in tall dead trees, and a Gray Hawk posed nicely on a bare branch for extended scope views. After checking through dozens of Turkey Vultures today, our scrutiny was finally rewarded with the sighting of a Zone-tailed Hawk sailing above the canyon. Another new mammal, the Rock Squirrel, was an added to the list, and

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Gray Hawk. AZ. May 2017. Photo: Roger Cresswell.

our first butterflies, American Snout and Red-spotted Purple, were discovered here. On our way out of the canyon, one of the most sought-after species of the tour ran straight in front of our van and disappeared into the desert. It was a Greater Roadrunner, a bird a number of the members of the group had told me they would not leave Arizona without seeing. Pressure off on the first day, phew! The drive into Tucson was quite lovely as we followed the jagged peaks of the Santa Catalina Mountains. We checked into our accommodations and then went for a

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Zone-tailed Hawk. Aravaipa Cyn, AZ. May 2017. Photo: Roger Cresswell.

delicious dinner nearby at the Texas Roadhouse.

Day 3, May 5 – Bright eyed and bushy tailed, everyone gathered for some pre-breakfast birding at 6AM. We made our way to Tucson’s Agua Caliente Park where we enjoyed some very nice birds. The morning weather was sunny and a comfortable temperature, and the wind picked up increasingly as we went along. Lucy’s Warblers showed well as adults fed begging youngsters in the mesquite trees. Northern Beardless Tyrannulet cooperated nicely as well, foraging at eye level on a couple of occasions. A stunning male Hooded Oriole sat up in a tree in the morning sunshine, and sharp-eyed Cyndy spotted a male Vermilion Flycatcher. We saw

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Vermilion Flycatcher. AZ. May 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

several female Vermilions and a couple of youngsters as well this morning. All went quiet in the passerine department when a male Cooper’s Hawk sailed overhead. It didn’t take long for the birds to gain confidence again and carry on with their morning activities. Big and boisterous Brown-crested Flycatchers appeared and allowed us nice views through the scope. A pair of male Western Tanagers exploded with color atop a dead tree as we drooled while looking through the scope. Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Yellow Warbler all appeared, but very briefly, leaving us wanting more. Our first Phainopeplas provided the usual pronunciation problems associated with this species, while a pair of Cactus Wrens sang from a perch for a lengthy period of time. Along the edge of a man-made lake, three Spotted Sandpipers poked along while a female Purple Martin flew overhead. Even before breakfast we felt we’d already seen a full day’s worth of birds!

After breakfast we began our ascent of the Santa Catalina Mountains. The scenery was stunning with jagged and bizarre rock formations and sweeping views of Tucson below. Our first stop was at Chihuahua Pines picnic area where we encountered a nice selection of birds; Grace’s Warbler, Black-throated Gray Warbler, White-breasted Nuthatch, Hutton’s Vireo, Spotted Towhee, and the comical Acorn Woodpeckers. Lovely butterflies

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Red-faced Warbler. Mt. Lemmon, AZ. May 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

called Arizona Sister were about today at various locations. We next explored the shady confines of Bear Wallow, an excellent place to find warblers and other coniferous forest species. We were not disappointed and had fantastic views of several stunning Red-faced Warblers, as well as the uncommon Olive Warbler. American Robins gathered nesting material, while House Wrens sang their bubbly songs from every corner of the little gully. We had a picnic lunch at Bear Wallow and then continued on, almost being overwhelmed with excellent birds. Hermit Thrush, Brown Creeper, Pygmy and Red-breasted nuthatches and Mountain Chickadee all appeared, as if on cue.

We carried on up towards Mt. Lemmon where we hiked around at close to 9000 feet elevation. Violet-green Swallows appeared from out of nowhere and began buzzing about all around us. One of them perched on a snag long enough for some of us to get a scope view. Northern Flickers were noted here, along with a male Hairy Woodpecker. A male Broad-tailed Hummingbird was engaged in an impressive aerial display of diving from a dizzying height and swooping back up again. Male and female Western Bluebirds were a highlight, and it was very impressive to watch Red-tailed

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Hairy Woodpecker. Mt. Lemmon, AZ. May 2017. Photo: Roger Cresswell.

Hawks hover in the wind almost at eye level in the stiff wind. A Steller’s Jay gave its raucous call from a snag in the distance and I got him in the scope for the group. We then went to the Cookie Cabin in Summerhaven, the ski village atop Mt. Lemmon, and had coffee while American Robins, Yellow-eyed Juncos and other birds kept us occupied. A walk back through the village along a creek produced Warbling Vireo, American Robins, Black-headed Grosbeak and more Acorn Woodpeckers. Up at a feeding station we watched as over a dozen Pine Siskins, several Black-headed Grosbeaks, Lesser Goldfinch and Pygmy Nuthatch came in to the feeders. Cliff Chipmunk also fed on the seeds beneath. Before we left Summerhaven I showed the group a lovely Virginia’s Warbler, and feeling very happy with our Santa Catalina experience we headed back down to Tucson. We had enjoyed the restaurant so much the night before we returned to the Texas Roadhouse once again for a delicious supper. Back at our hotel we tallied up the bird list for the day, and it came out to 69 species.

Day 4, May 6 – It was another sunny and hot day, as is the norm in Arizona, as we headed over to Sabino Canyon. As we waited for the first tram to depart and take us up into the canyon we were entertained by the antics of the Round-tailed Ground-Squirrels. Alastair pointed out a rather large Desert Spiny Lizard that was basking in the morning sun. The ride up to the top of the canyon was pleasant and was narrated by the driver, who pointed out various trees, landmarks and and told us the history of the canyon. As we strolled back down the canyon we saw some nice birds including an immature male Summer Tanager, decked out in yellow and red as he sang from a perch in a large cottonwood. Desert species including Black-throated Sparrow, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Verdin, and the like were seen quite well. High over a large cliff known as the Acropolis Wall, we watched through the scope as a Peregrine Falcon dive bombed a Prairie Falcon several times! White-throated Swifts also made a brief appearance as did a Cooper’s Hawk that swooped past right at eye level, making his way down the middle of the road. A few new butterflies encountered included Empress Leila, Sleepy Orange, Checkered White and Southern Dogface, and we had a nice Black-necked Garter Snake slithering

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Giant Centipede. Sabino Cyn, Tucson, AZ. May 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

through a tree. I spotted two venomous critters on a dirt back, a rather impressive Giant Centipede, decked out in black, red and yellow, that was about 8 inches long, and a pair of Black Widow spiders, the shiny black female sitting next to her adoring mate, a small, unasuming looking spider with no idea about what his lady had planned for him. We had lunch near the visitor’s center and a couple of Round-tailed Ground Squirrels mooched scraps off us, one female being very pregnant.

The drive over to the Sonoran Desert Museum took about 45 minutes and once we arrived we explored various parts of this splendid exhibit. A few wild birds were noted, including a young male Costa’s Hummingbird, several Cactus Wrens, and some very nice Black-tailed Gnatcatchers. We had a little break for ice cream before setting off to look for a Gilded Flicker that I had discovered. The flicker didn’t want to give itself up to us, so we had to settle for a flight view as it disappeared into the giant Saguaros. It was very windy at this point in the afternoon so I decided to call it a day and we drove on to Green Valley. We had dinner and then retired for some well deserved rest.

Day 5, May 7 – We met early for breakfast today, and then made our way up into the Santa Rita Mountains and Madera Canyon. With hopes of finding one of the more sought-after species of this canyon, the Elegant Trogon, we set off on a hike up into the mixed pine / oak forest where this species can be found. Though we heard one ‘barking’ we never did see it today, as was the case with most other birders we met on the trails. A couple of lucky souls proclaimed they had seen the bird, frustratingly. In the process of

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Painted Redstart. AZ. May 2017. Photo: Roger Cresswell.

trogon hunting we did see quite a nice selection of birds nonetheless, including a pair of Painted Redstarts that were building a nest right below us in a bank, seemingly not at all worried about our presence. Other birds we encountered included Plumbeous Vireo, Hutton’s Vireo, White-breasted Nuthatch, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Mexican Jays, a Townsend’s Warbler and Yellow-eyed Juncos. We got back down to the parking lot and found it to be overrun with bikers, making for an interesting combination (birders and bikers). Down at the Kubo Cabin feeders we watched as the birds zipped in and out to feed. There were quite a few hummingbirds, including our first Magnificent

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Broad-billed Hummingbird. AZ. May 2017. Photo: Roger Cresswell.

Hummingbirds, as well as Broad-billed Hummingbirds and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds. Mexican Jays came in to feed and drink along the small creek and hordes of House Finches and Black-headed Grosbeaks fed voraciously on the seeds. A female Hepatic Tanager appeared several times, our first sighting of this species. Western Gray Squirrels and a few Rock Squirrels picked up seeds from the ground beneath the feeders.

We had lunch at the Madera Picnic area, which was quite a popular location with the locals today on this fine Sunday. A short walk after lunch provided sightings of Hermit Thrush, and a Pacific-slope Flycatcher, as well as a lovely male Hepatic Tanager. An Arizona Woodpecker appeared briefly but didn’t hang around long enough for the group to get on to. We then visited the Santa Rita Lodge feeders which were abuzz with activity. Hummingbirds were particularly numerous and we had great views of the Black-chinned Hummingbirds here. A group of Wild Turkeys were feeding away under the

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Acorn Woodpecker. AZ. May 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

feeders and at one point several of the males erupted into a display, puffing all their feathers up and strutting around. Acorn Woodpeckers came and went, while flocks of Lesser Goldfinches jostled for position on thistle feeders. A male Blue Grosbeak appeared briefly, but did not show himself for the group. Another group of birders arrived and exclaimed they had seen a trogon up at the Kubo, we piled back into the van and returned to the area that it had been seen. No luck for us, so we turned around and visited Proctor Road, in search of gnatcatchers, and we did find a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Also here was a singing American Robin. On our way back to Green Valley, Cyndy spotted a Swainson’s Hawk soaring.

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Elf Owl. Madera Cyn, AZ. May 2017. Roger Cresswell.

In the evening, after dinner, we returned to Madera Canyon, hoping for some nocturnal birds and perhaps even some mammals. We succeeded in both, with fantastic views of an Elf Owl at its nest hole near the Santa Rita Lodge. Later, we enjoyed crippling views of a Whiskered Screech-Owl, and we had quick but good views of a Western Screech-Owl. In the mammal department we saw several ‘Coue’s’ White-tailed Deer alongside the road in the canyon this evening. On our way back to Green Valley, I showed the group several Lesser Nighthawks feeding beneath the street lights. What a night!

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Whiskered Screech-Owl. Santa Rita Mtns, AZ. May 2017. Photo: Roger Cresswell.

Day 6, May 8 – It was a lovely morning today; cool, mostly sunny and fairly calm. We began birding at Florida Wash where I spotted one of the best birds of the day, a Crissal Thrasher, as it sat atop a Mesquite and sang in the morning sunshine. We also had great looks at some nice sparrows here including Black-throated, Botteri’s and Rufous-winged sparrows, the latter two new for the trip list. Swainson’s Hawk was seen quite well this morning and I screeched the van to a halt to show the group a nice Loggerhead Shrike on the telephone wire beside the road. Not a bad start to the day.

Over in Florida Canyon we hiked up the somewhat rugged trails, thinking just maybe we’d see the rare Rufous-capped Warbler, but luck wasn’t on our side. We met a fellow up there who had been ‘camped out’ in the spot for two hours and had not seen or heard the bird, so we didn’t feel too bad about missing it. In the process of searching we did

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Scott’s Oriole. AZ. May 2017. Photo: Roger Cresswell.

find some other goodies however; Ash-throated Flycatcher, Scott’s Oriole, Hooded Oriole, and Summer and Hepatic tanagers. We watched a male Hepatic Tanager feasting on a giant hawk moth here. Alastair identified a couple of new butterflies for the trip list; Tiny Checkerspot and Marine Blues, and we all saw a couple of impressive Giant Swallowtails as well.

Back in Madera Canyon we had a picnic lunch and then took a stroll through the pine / oak forest, dreaming of the Elegant Trogon once again. I overhead several members of the group say ‘I think the trogon is just a myth’, so now I really have to find them one. Today was not the day however. A few Plumbeous and Hutton’s vireos, Painted Redstart, Brown Creeper and Dusky-capped Flycatcher singing in the canyon this afternoon, but not at all easy to see. We headed for the relative ease of watching the feeders at Santa Rita Lodge and this was a good move. Many of the same birds we had seen here the previous day were again present, such as Wild Turkeys, Mexican Jays, Acorn Woodpeckers, Lesser Goldfinch and White-breasted Nuthatch. A lovely male and immature male Scott’s Oriole came in to feed on orange halves and our first Rufous-

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Rufous-crowned Sparrow. Madera Cyn, AZ. May 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

crowned Sparrow of the tour hopped about near a brush pile. At the water feature a Lincoln’s Sparrow paused for a drink. Hummingbird feeders were bustling with Black-chinned, Broad-billed, Broad-tailed and aptly name Magnificent hummingbirds. I heard the squeaky calls of a Rose-breasted Grosbeak in a tree nearby so after a little searching I located the bird, a female, and showed this local rarity to my group. Quite a few other birds were also jumping about in the same tree including Black-headed Grosbeaks and Western Tanagers and soon I discovered why. There was a Northern Pygmy-Owl nestled away in the branches of the juniper tree! We had fantastic views of this tiny, yet vicious diurnal hunter. Beneath the feeders, yet another mammal to add to the trip list, a Hispid

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Cassin’s Kingbird. AZ. May 2017. Photo: Roger Cresswell.

Cotton Vole.

Before calling it a day we took a stroll around Proctor Road, again hoping for gnatcatchers with little black caps, but no luck there. Roger spotted another good bird here, a Red-naped Sapsucker. The cool weather seemed to have knocked a few migrants down this afternoon, with good numbers of Black-headed Grosbeaks, Western Tanagers, Wilson’s Warblers and Pacific-slope Flycatchers about. A Cassin’s Kingbird was another new addition to the trip list here, and we also saw just our third Gray Hawk of the tour.

Day 7, May 9 – Today was the coldest day I have ever experienced in Arizona and I’ve done 10 tours here now. The temperature hovered between 6 and 15 degrees Celsius and we encountered a bit of everything with sun, clouds, rain and wind. Cyndy excitedly reported she had found a Greater Roadrunner outside of our Nogales hotel so everyone

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Greater Roadrunner. Nogales, AZ. May 2017. Photo: Roger Cresswell.

headed outside and watched the roadrunner collecting various bits of food from the road. Nice start! We then headed to Rio Rico to see if there were any flooded fields this year and we were in luck as there was a little strip of water along the edge of some fields. In the water were 16 Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks and several ‘Mexican’ Mallards. A pair of Swainson’s Hawks perched nicely in a cottonwood in the morning sun, and the first of a number of Vermilion Flycatchers for the day, were found along the fence line.

Next stop was at Patagonia Lake State Park, and this was a very productive location this morning with a good number of resident birds present as well as a healthy number of migrants knocked down by the weather. Most common migrants included Western Tanagers, Warbling Vireos, Yellow Warblers, Townsend’s Warblers and Pacific-slope Flycatcher. Smaller numbers of Lincoln’s Sparrow, Lazuli Bunting, MacGillivray’s Warbler and various swallows also were tallied. We had an impressive count of Vermilion Flycatchers here, with several family groups about, and also we had Say’s Phoebes feeding young. Other nests discovered included a White-winged Dove and a Gila Woodpecker. Bright splashes of color came in the form of Summer Tanagers and Northern Cardinals and we enjoyed watching a male Common Yellowthroat put on a nice performance for us. Bell’s Vireo, Lucy’s Warbler, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, and

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Ladder-backed Woodpecker. AZ. May 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Cassin’s Kingbird also put in appearances. After hearing a number of Dusky-capped Flycatchers we were happy to finally get a view of a pair of them in the mesquites. A Yellow-breasted Chat appeared in the tree above our head, showing rather nicely, especially for this normally somewhat elusive species. Out on Patagonia Lake were the usual American Coots, with broods of cute little red headed babies, as well as a single Pied-billed Grebe. A group of 25 or so Neotropic Cormorants rested on a sand bar while a single immature Double-crested Cormorant was the first for our trip list. In the mud along the edge of the lake were several White-faced Ibis, as well as a Great Blue Heron, Spotted Sandpiper and Killdeer. Green Heron and Black-crowned Night-Heron were seen as they flew past. All in all, it was a very birdy visit to Patagonia Lake Park.

Lunch at the Gathering Grounds in Patagonia was lovely as usual and after we finished we took half an hour to explore the artsy little village before heading over to the Paton’s Center for Hummingbirds. It was nice to run into fellow BC birder Thor Manson here,

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Violet-crowned Hummingbird. Patagonia, AZ. May 2017. Photo: Roger Cresswell.

and he pointed out to us which feeders to keep our eyes on for the local area specialty, Violet-crowned Hummingbird. No longer than he had just pointed out the feeder and bird arrived showing off its lovely violet crown and gleaming white underparts. Other hummers here included Black-chinned, Anna’s, Broad-tailed and Broad-billed hummingbirds. Seed feeders attracted the usual hordes of Lesser Goldfinches and House Finches. On the ground were White-crowned Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Curve-billed Thrasher, Inca Doves and Gambel’s Quail. Just as we left the Paton’s the rain began so we drove down towards Sonoita Creek Preserve and just birded the road from the car. We didn’t see too much, but we did find an Olive-sided Flycatcher and Graham spotted a Black Phoebe.

The rains carried on as we birded at the Patagonia Roadside Rest Stop, though after a short ‘rain delay’ in the van, we headed back out into the field to find some goodies. Our target species, Thick-billed Kingbird, appeared as if on cue and showed well through the scope. We hoped for a Rock Wren on the cliffs here, but only came up with Canyon Wren instead. The mequite trees had migrants in them; Western Tanagers, Warbling Vireo,

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Canyon Wren. Patagonia, AZ. May 2017. Photo: Roger Cresswell.

Yellow, Wilson’s and Townsend’s Warblers. Ash-throated and Brown-crested flycatchers showed themselves here and we finally saw two Black Vultures sitting high up in a giant sycamore drying off their wings. A couple of Gray Hawks appeared, one sitting in a bush on a hillside, allowing nice scope views. The rain fell even harder as we drove back to Nogales where we had a little break before heading out for dinner at a local Italian establishment called Orenccio’s.

Day 8, May 10 – The Greater Roadrunner made an appearance at our hotel in Nogales again this morning before we left, as did Curve-billed Thrasher, and nesting Cliff Swallows. We took a short detour down to the Mexican border for photo ops before heading off to Pena Blanca Lake, west of Nogales. Along the way we had a Collared Peccary scoot across the road in front of the van, our first for the trip. The drive to Pena Blanca was very scenic and the sky was crisp and clear after overnight rains. As we neared the lake, a male Bronzed Cowbird sat obligingly in a tree near the van, another new species for the tour. Birding was very enjoyable at Pena Blanca with nice mixed

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Olive-sided Flycatcher. AZ. May 2017. Photo: Roger Cresswell.

flocks of sparrows about, including Lark, Rufous-winged, Chipping and Song sparrows. Violet-green Swallows were abundant as they foraged low over the water and perched on wires and on mesquite trees for scope views. In the lakeside bushes were migrants with the likes of Olive-sided Flycatcher, Wilson’s Warbler, Warbling Vireo and Western Tanagers fattening up. We had our first Nashville Warbler of the tour here, along with Yellow Warblers and Lucy’s Warblers. Vermilion Flycatchers continued to light up the desert with their magically bright plumage, and other comparatively drab flycatchers like Brown-crested, Dusky-capped and Western-Wood Pewee also put in appearances. Not much was about out on the lake itself, other than a few Mallards (one of them a ‘big-bottomed’ girl), a couple of American Coots and along the shore a Spotted Sandpiper.

Another stop at the Patagonia Roadside Rest was starkly different than when we had stopped the previous day, when it was cold and rainy. Today the temperature was perfect and the sky was blue. Our best sightings included a lovely Canyon Wren that sang right in front of us. Also, an adult Gray Hawk showed nicely while an immature bird sailed

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Phainopepla. AZ. May 2017. Photo: Roger Cresswell.

overhead. We had another delicious lunch at my favorite cafe in all of Arizona, the Gathering Grounds, in Patagonia. A Phainopepla greeted us from a tree overhead as we headed in to have lunch. Then, we headed off to check the grasslands around Sonoita and found the access road I normally take in was closed due to a fire. I found an alternate route into the grasslands, though the habitat wasn’t quite as nice as I would have liked. Turns out, it still produced most of the birds I was after, ‘Lilian’s’ Eastern Meadowlark, Horned Lark, Chihuahuan Raven and a lovely little Grasshopper Sparrow. From the front seat of the van, Janice spotted Pronghorn Antelope out in the grasslands.

Once we arrived in Sierra Vista we checked in to our hotel and then made our way to the foothills of the Huachuca Mountains at Ash Canyon B & B. We sat in the chairs and indulged in some ‘lazy mans’ birding as hummingbirds, jays, woodpeckers, grosbeaks, finches and more came in to feed. A Wild Turkey sneaked up behind us and let out a loud ‘gobble gobble gobble’, and I’ve never seen a group of birders jump faster with fright

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Lucifer Hummingbird. Sierra Vista, AZ. May 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

than I did at that moment. Broad-billed, Anna’s, Broad-tailed, Black-chinned and Magnificent hummingbirds all came in to feed, but the Lucifer Hummingbird, our most wanted hummer, made us wait for a long time before he finally made an appearance. It was definitely worth the wait let me tell you. After the Lucifer appeared, Cyndy led the cheer as we let out a group ‘Texas Yeeehaw’. Several mammal species were noted here including a Pocket Gopher, a Hispid Cotton Rat and the usual Western Gray Squirrels. We enjoyed another great Arizona meal this evening at Applebee’s.

Day 9, May 11 – Another picture perfect morning in Arizona today, as we headed for Subway to pick up our lunch. Upon arrival at the restaurant, a Greater Roadrunner was giving it’s ‘whining dog’ call atop a bed and mattress store roof. The girl behind the counter at Subway was very friendly and efficient today and had us on our way in no time. We bumped and bounced our way up the Carr Canyon Road, pausing briefly at the bottom to search for Eastern Bluebird. No bluebird here, but we did see quite a variety of species including Ash-throated Flycatcher, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Bridled Titmouse, Bewick’s Wren and Hutton’s Vireo. After a bumpy ride up, we were happy to get out of the van and do some birding at about 7000 feet elevation around the Reef Townsite Campground. It didn’t take us too long to find some of our target species including over a dozen Buff-breasted Flycatchers, a species that breeds only in the Huachuca Mountains in the USA. The ‘Jose Maria’ call of the Greater Pewee was heard incessantly this morning and we enjoyed several good views of them as well. Eastern

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Greater Pewee. Carr Cyn, AZ. May 2017. Photo: Roger Cresswell.

Bluebirds thankfully appeared at the campground, showing nicely, as did a nice male Arizona Woodpecker. Other species that put on a nice show this morning included several Painted Redstarts, as well as Grace’s Warblers, Hermit Thrush, Brown Creeper and American Robin. Cyndy spotted a couple of distant Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays on a ridge above the road. We had a nice picnic lunch in the forest before we began our descent. I think we all breathed a sigh of relief when we were finally on flat ground and paved road at the bottom of Carr Canyon Rd.

The latter part of the afternoon was spent in the cool, shady confines of Ramsey Canyon. Being the early afternoon, bird activity was a bit slow, though nonetheless, we did find some interesting species amongst the oaks and sycamores. Painted Redstarts, Western and Hepatic tanagers, Mexican Jays and other usual canyon suspects were noted, along

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Northern Pygmy-Owl. Ramsey Cyn, AZ. May 2017. Photo: Roger Cresswell.

with Acorn Woodpeckers, and a very noisy Northern Flicker that we eventually got great views of in the scope. The sighting of a Northern Pygmy-Owl was a highlight at Ramsey Canyon. While there were some nice birds in the canyon, the butterflies were even better, with the likes of Red-spotted Purple, Arizona Sister, Mourning Cloak, Two-tailed Swallowtail and others putting on quite a show. We watched some feeders where hummingbirds included Broad-tailed, Magnificent, Black-chinned and Broad-billed. Back down in Sierra Vista we went out for dinner and later tried our luck at finding Common Poorwills in lower Miller Canyon. We did find one or two, though they were a bit distant. With the help of my flashlight we could see the red eye shine of one individual as it leapt up into the air several times, presumably to catch bugs, and then returned to the same perch. The ‘poorwill’ calls of about 4 birds could be heard this evening.

Day 10, May 12 – This morning we returned to Ramsey Canyon. Up at the Bledsoe Loop we were ecstatic to hear and soon after see, a male Elegant Trogon. The bird posed nicely for scope views and photo ops and this was easily one of the top bird moments of the

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Elegant Trogon. Ramsey Cyn, AZ. May 2017. Photo: Roger Cre

trip. Here, our group split up, with some opting to hang out in Lower Ramsey Canyon to see what they could see, and the rest heading up into Upper Ramsey Canyon, a bit of a grueling hike, with elevation gains of over 1000 feet. It was a lovely hike, and we saw quite a few interesting species along the way, though none as exciting as the Tufted Flycatcher, the sole bird that urged us to do this march. The tiny Tufted Flycatcher is a Central and South American species, and it has only occurred north of the Mexican border a handful of times. I first detected the bird by call and soon thereafter we were enjoying views through the scope. A couple who was also there at the same time spotted the nest of the Tufted Flycatcher, tucked up against the trunk of a large deciduous tree. Our walk back down to Lower Ramsey Canyon was comparatively easy and we all had big smiles on our faces.

After lunch we began the journey towards Portal and the Chiricahua Mountains,

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Ultra-rare Tufted Flycatcher in Upper Ramsey Cyn, AZ. May 2017. Photo: Roger Cresswell.

stopping along the way at San Pedro House. I hoped we might find a Common Ground-Dove here, a species still missing from our list. There were quite a few birds around the house in the large cottonwood trees and at feeders. Blue Grosbeaks were seen well here, and we had brief views of a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, locally fairly rare. We were directed to the location of a roosting Western Screech-Owl in a cottonwood and the bird, half hidden in the trees, played hide and seek with us as we searched for the best possible gap in the leaves to view the bird through. Later, we bumped into a birder from Texas who pointed out to me a Common Ground-Dove! I thanked him and asked if he would like a Western Screech-Owl in return.

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Western Screech-Owl. Sierra Vista, AZ. May 2017. Photo: Roger Cresswell.

He said yes, of course, so off we went to show him the owl. As luck would have it, the bird had moved and I couldn’t spot it anywhere, so feeling a bit embarrassed I explained that it had just been there. Soon thereafter we noticed the owl had repositioned itself and was now showing better than ever as it sat the entrance to a cavity in the trunk. We carried on through the dusty border city of Douglas, making our way eventually across the New Mexico border, where for just a brief moment, David’s wrist watch was finally on the correct hour. We swung back into Arizona and before we knew it we were at Portal. I showed the group a nest of Great Horned Owls and they watched the fluffy chick peering out of its nest as I checked us into the lodge. After dinner we took a little stroll down the main street and had very good views of an Elf Owl.

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Great Horned Owl. Portal, AZ. May 2017. Photo: Roger Cresswell.

Day 11, May 13 – Pre-breakfast we made our way out towards the New Mexico border at State Line Road where it didn’t take us too long to find our target species, Bendire’s Thrasher. A pair of them, first perched on a post on the New Mexico side of the border, later flew west into Arizona, so it was a tick on both state lists. Also in this area this morning were our first Scaled Quail. With some time to spare before breakfast we tried our luck with finding two more species; Black-chinned Sparrow and Juniper Titmouse, both often found in the juniper habitats around Paradise. We heard a Black-chinned Sparrow, but despite our efforts it just wouldn’t show itself. Luckily, all was not lost, since

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Portal, AZ. May 2017. Photo: Roger Cresswell.

we had fantastic views of a pair of Juniper Titmouse this morning. We headed back to Portal and had a delicious breakfast.

Eight happy birders with full bellies jumped back into the van and we began our ascent of the Chiricahua Mountains. We tried again for the Black-chinned Sparrow on the way up, with no luck, so we carried on up to the upper elevations at around 7000 feet. The views of the desert below and the mountains in the distance was breathtaking. We stopped at Rustler Park to use the bathrooms, and as luck would have it, Alastair spotted a couple of Mexican Chickadees here. This excellent sighting, no doubt, saved us quite a bit of time searching for the chickadee. Our next stop was in Pinery Canyon where we

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Juniper Titmouse. Paradise, AZ. May 2017. Photo: Roger Cresswell.

had lunch in the shade of, you guessed it, the pine trees. After we ate, I put the scope on another new species for our trip list, a Cordilleran Flycatcher. There were several of them singing in the canyon. We searched for a previously reported Slate-throated Redstart, and had no luck finding it, but did see quite a few other birds in the process; Yellow-eyed Junco, Painted Redstart, Olive-sided Flycatcher and Hermit Thrush to name a few.

Back down to Portal we headed, via the very scenic Cave Creek Canyon. Once in Portal we strolled along the main street towards some feeders and it didn’t take us too long to find another of our target species, North America’s largest hummingbird, the Blue-throated Hummingbird. A swarm of bees had us retreating from this location rather quickly, so we headed for another popular feeding station not far from town. The Rodriguez feeders were quite

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Crissal Thrasher. Portal, AZ. May 2017. Photo: Roger Cresswell.

busy this afternoon. At orange halves were stunning and colorful birds like Bullock’s Orioles, alongside Black-headed Grosbeaks, Western Tanagers and Pyrrhuloxias. Somewhat more drab feeder visitors included Canyon Towhee, Black-throated Sparrow, and best of all a Crissal Thrasher! Hummingbirds of several species were busy at the feeders as well. We headed back to Portal, had dinner and enjoyed the funky sounds from a local musician on the outdoor stage.

Day 12, May 14 – Before breakfast we headed out one last time to try for the rather elusive Black-chinned Sparrow. Unfortunately, we didn’t find one this morning, though of course, there were plenty of other birds to be seen. We had breakfast at Portal and then began the drive back towards Phoenix. The first hour or so of the journey took us through a rather remote portion of western New Mexico. We entered back into Arizona and soon thereafter stopped in at Willcox. No birding tour would be complete without at least one visit to some good old fashioned sewage ponds, so we spent about an hour scanning through the birds at the Willcox lagoons. New birds tallied for the trip list included waterfowl such as American Wigeon, Gadwall and Lesser Scaup. A flock of about 40 Wilson’s Phalaropes were fantastic to find, and even better once we discovered there were two Red-necked Phalaropes mixed in with them. As we left the area, I spotted a female Lark Bunting on the grass next to the road, our one and only member of this species spotted on the entire tour. We paused for lunch at Benson, and then carried on through Tucson to the Santa Cruz flats. Following up on a tip from a friend of mine, I was on the hunt for one last bird to add to our trip list, a Burrowing Owl. We got to the spot and sure enough there were two Burrowing Owls posing for us in the afternoon sun. This was a fantastic bird to end the trip on, and we drove on into Phoenix, where I said goodbye to the group at Sky Harbor Airport.

Chris Charlesworth

Upper Texas Coast with Limosa Holidays

Day 1, April 22 – I met up with the group of 5 folks from the U.K on this Limosa tour this afternoon. Two people currently live in the U.K. One lives in Melbourne, Australia and the other two live in Calgary, Canada. We went out for dinner at the Olive Garden and then got a good night’s rest before all the excitement begins tomorrow morning.

Day 2, April 23 – A cold front arrived overnight bringing with it cool temperatures and northerly winds, so as we emerged from the hotel we reached for our warm fleeces. The sun was shining all day and by noon it was a comfortable temperature in the low 20 degrees Celsius range. Before we had left the parking lot a few species were added to the

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Red-cockaded Woodpecker. W.G. Jones State Forest, TX. April 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

trip list such as House Finch, White Ibis and Little Blue Heron. We drove north to W.G. Jones State Forest where the birding was very good this morning amongst the Loblolly Pines. It didn’t take us too long to find our big target species for the day, a Red-cockaded Woodpecker, foraging on the trunk of a large pine tree. Woodpeckers in general were quite cooperative here this morning with lovely views of both Red-bellied and Red-headed woodpeckers as well. A Pileated Woodpecker called in the distance, but remained unseen. Eastern Bluebirds appeared as if on cue, and paused long enough for me to get them in the scope for all to enjoy. Other goodies that performed for us included two studies in red; Northern Cardinal and Summer Tanagers, and studies in yellow; Yellow-breasted Chat and Pine Warbler. Carolina Wrens sang from every corner of the woods and eventually we laid eyes on one, pointed out by Aiden. Flitting in the pines were both Brown-headed Nuthatches and Carolina Chickadees, while overhead,

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Brown-headed Nuthatch. W.G. Jones State Forest, TX. April 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Turkey and Black vultures, and Broad-winged Hawk sailed by. A group of Cedar Waxwings posed nicely in the morning sun, and Blue Jays were numerous, their calls ringing throughout the woods.

We took a short break to use some nearby facilities and pick up some lunch before venturing out on the Middle Lake Trail, where the good birds continued to roll in. Two lovely warbler species appeared and showed quite well in the undergrowth, a male

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Kentucky Warbler. W.G. Jones State Forest, TX. April 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Hooded Warbler and a male Kentucky Warbler. As we watched for birds in the undergrowth, the shadows of passing Turkey Vultures overhead kept us raising our eyes towards the sky, and this paid off with sightings of several Red-shouldered Hawks, one of which was carrying a snake, and one or two Mississippi Kites sailing over. Some of the first butterflies of the trip began to appear as the day warmed up with Painted Lady and Black Swallowtail noted on our pre-lunch walk. Also, the first mammal was seen, a pair of Eastern Fox Squirrels squabbling along an old fence. We had a picnic lunch, and then piled back into the van

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Black Swallowtail. W.G. Jones State Forest, TX. April 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

and made our way to Jesse Jones Nature Park, not far from our hotel in the area just north of Houston. We attempted, and failed, to find a reported Swainson’s Warbler here, though as a consolation prize we were rewarded with lovely views of a singing male Prothonotary Warbler. A Green Heron called as it came in for a landing in the lovely cypress trees at a little swamp, and Red-eared Sliders popped up from the murky water. A Wood Thrush sang its lovely song from the forest, but only Joan got a glimpse of the bird. A short stop at the visitor’s center provided us with views of several Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, including a male, as they fed on flowers and feeders. House Finch, White-winged Dove and Northern Cardinal patronized seed feeders nearby. Flowers attracted more butterflies as well with Gulf Fritillary, Pipevine Swallowtail, Black Swallowtail and an

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Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Jesse Jones Nature Park, Houston, TX. April 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

unidentified duskywing appearing. Our first Eastern Gray Squirrel, not the most popular mammal for many, appeared in Jesse Jones Park this afternoon. To finish off our exploration of the park we strolled along the Cypress Boardwalk trail, catching a glimpse of another gorgeous male Prothonotary Warbler. Northern Parulas sang from high in the trees, and eventually we got a view of a male as he  bobbed about amongst the leaves. Several Indigo Buntings skulked in the underbrush along with our first Gray Catbird of the trip. Feeling as though we’d had a very productive day we returned to our hotel, and took a little rest before venturing out for a tasty dinner.

Day 3, April 24 – We left Houston this morning, joining the rush hour, and made our way down to Winnie in fairly good time. After a short stop at our hotel to drop off luggage, and then a stop at the grocery store to pick up provisions for lunch we headed out to do stflsome birding. It was a lovely sunny day with pleasantly warm temperatures as we began our birding along FM 1941. The first bird we encountered were a couple of stunning Scissor-tailed Flycatchers along a fence line next to our van. Next, Eastern Meadowlarks appreared, followed by Eastern Kingbirds and Savannah Sparrows. A little farther along I noticed a group of about 4 Dickcissels in the shrubbery next to our van. A grassy field, where the previous week I had Upland Sandpipers, again produced the birds, with up to a dozen appearing. However, the sandpipers seemed a bit skittish and when we got out for a look, most of them flew back to the far end of the field. Christine spotted a pair of Common Nighthawks roosting on a metal bar, and a little farther along I paused to show the group their first Crested Caracara of the tour. We stopped at a little bridge over a ditch and scanned through the Cliff Swallows, eventually picking out several Cave Swallows. Next, we turned down Pear Orchard Road where the previous week we had American Golden-Plovers. This was not the case today as a crop dusting plane was buzzing over the fields at about 20 feet elevation. The Gull-billed Terns were still there, however. Once we reached the entrance to Anahuac, we stopped to view a flooded field with good numbers of shorebirds. The lighting made things a bit tricky, but a nice little group of birds were huddled in the corner close to where we stood in reasonable light. There were Semipalmated Sandpipers, as well as up to 8 White-rumped Sandpipers. An adult Stilt Sandpiper, coming into breeding plumage foraged next to a Lesser Yellowlegs, and a few Least Sandpipers scurried about on the mud. Farther out in the deeper water, a Dunlin probed about, as did Black-necked Stilts and a Willet. A single Semipalmated Plover also showed nicely for us. At the Anahuac visitor’s center we found a male Bronzed Cowbird, and a short walk produced a little group of White-crowned Sparrows. Our first Giant Swallowtail, an impressive butterfly, was found in flowers near the visitor’s center as well. Warbling and Red-eyed vireos appeared rather briefly in the trees, and a nice male Orchard Oriole showed well. We had a picnic lunch under a shelter where Cliff Swallows and Barn Swallows were nesting, and then we headed off on a drive around Shoveler

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American Bittern. Anahuac NWR, TX. April 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Pond. Herons and egrets were numerous with Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Tricolored Heron and Little Blue Heron found, as well as many White-faced Ibis, White Ibis and Roseate Spoonbills. An American Bittern was probably our best catch at Anahuac this afternoon, as it sat frozen near the edge of the pond. American Coots, Common Gallinules and lovely Purple Gallinules were seen well, while a Sora was just briefly seen and King Rail heard only. Waterfowl noted included both Fulvous and Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, Blue-winged Teal, Mottled Ducks and a single Northern Shoveler called out by Joan. A Marsh Wren sat atop the reeds long enough for us to get scope views of the

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Neotropic Cormorant. Anahuac NWR, TX. April 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

little skulker, while a female Common Yellowthroat only briefly appeared and left us wanting more. As we drove around the pond, we saw several American Alligators of various sizes, as well as Red-eared Sliders and several unidentified fishes.

The afternoon was getting on so we began the short drive over to High Island and we visited Boy Scout Woods, which was quite active with migrant birds. In the parking lot a Mulberry tree attracted several Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, both Summer and Scarlet tanagers and a group of Cedar Waxwings. As we neared the park’s entrance, we were distracted by a lovely Baltimore Oriole. We watched the drip for quite some time this afternoon, and we were rewarded with sightings of Wood Thrush, many Swainson’s Thrushes and some nice Gray-cheeked Thrushes. Warblers that appeared included Hooded and Tennessee and several American Redstarts. Though there was a lack of warblers, the larger migrants were very numerous, especially Scarlet Tanagers, Summer Tanagers, thrushes, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Gray Catbirds, Baltimore Orioles and Orchard Orioles. A short stroll through the woods produced an Eastern Wood-Pewee, as well as a Northern Waterthrush at another little pond. We heard a Painted Bunting singing away, but it just wouldn’t appear for us,

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Scarlet Tanager. High Island, TX. Chris Charlesworth.

though a few Indigo Buntings did cooperate. I pointed out a female American Redstart flitting about in a bush and Christine pointed out a lovely male foraging on the other side of the same bush. Also spotted by sharp-eyed Christine, was our first Red-tailed Hawk of the tour. On our way back to the van after a very productive session at Boy Scout Woods, an Inca Dove diverted our attention as it displayed from a power line. We had dinner at Tony’s BBQ this evening, which was quite good, and tallied up our bird list which had reached over 90 species for the day.

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Summer Tanager. Texas, April 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Day 4, April 25 – The calm, serene surroundings of Taylors Bayou provided the backdrop for our first birding destination this morning. As we made our way into the bayou I spotted a Fish Crow flapping alongside the van, and thankfully the bird let out its croaky

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Wood Ducks. Taylors Bayou, Winnie, TX. April 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

call, confirming its identity. A pair of Wood Ducks were precariously perched atop a snag next to the bayou, allowing us have a look at them, the male in his spectacular breeding garb. Joan spotted a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron along a ditch as we drove along, and once we stopped the van and got out we found there to be quite a number of the night-herons in some cypress trees nearby. A lovely surprise was finding a group of up to 4 River Otters playing in the waters of the bayou this morning! After a little searching we found a lovely singing male Yellow-throated Warbler here, and we had scope views of a female Prothonotary Warbler. Northern Parulas sang their buzzy songs from the trees around us, but remained hidden.

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Yellow-throated Warbler. Taylors Bayou, Winnie, TX. April 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

We then drove east to Sabine Pass, where we paused to use the facilities before heading off to explore Pilot Station Road and associated wetland habitats. In this area we tallied an impressive list of over 70 species of birds! In the wetlands we had fantastic views of a

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Seaside Sparrow. Sabine Pass, TX. April 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Seaside Sparrow as it sang from sedge grasses just in front of us. Shorebirds were well represented with Dunlin, Least and Semipalmated sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Ruddy Turnstone, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Sanderling, Spotted Sandpiper and Black-bellied Plovers all in the mix. On the beach were assorted gulls and terns includng both Forster’s and Common terns, as well as Royal, Sandwich, Black and the diminutive Least Tern and a single Black Skimmer, picked out by Christine. Clapper Rails were making a great racket all around us, but remained hidden until we came to a nice clearing where one bird came down to the edge of the

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Clapper Rail. Sabine Pass, TX. April 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

water and allowed us fantastic scope views. A Sora also crossed the road, though it wasn’t seen by everyone in the group. Other species that were tallied this morning included a couple of Red-breasted Mergansers, and migrants including Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting and Eastern Kingbirds. A treat for our mammal list today was the sighting of several Bottlenose Dolphins riding the bow of a giant tanker out in the waters of Sabine Pass.

After a delicious lunch at Tammy’s Diner in Sabine Pass we headed for Sea Rim State Park. On the lagoons near the parking area the same male Redhead that was present for my Canadian group the previous week was still there today, along with Blue-winged Teal,

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Wilson’s Plover. Sea Rim State Park, Sabine Pass, TX. April 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Northern Shoveler, Mottled Duck and American Coot. We walked out to the beach and enjoyed a plover bonanza with several Black-bellied Plovers and Semipalmated Plovers, and singles each of Wilson’s, Piping and Snowy plovers. Other shorebirds noted here included Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstones, Willets and Dunlin. Two interesting gulls were sighted, a first year Lesser Black-backed Gull and an adult Franklin’s Gull.

Reluctantly we left the beach and headed for Sabine Woods, where I hoped we would find a rarity that had been present for a few days, a Yellow-green Vireo. The rather elusive vireo, even though it was sighted several times while we were in the park, eluded us. Lots of other goodies were seen here this afternoon, however, including large

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Gray-cheeked Thrush. Sabine Woods, TX. April 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

numbers of the bigger migrants such as Summer and Scarlet tanagers, Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, and thrushes including Veery, Gray-cheeked, Swainson’s and Wood. Only a few warblers were about, including Northern Waterthrush, American Redstarts, Hooded Warbler, and Canada Warbler, though unfortunately the latter species disappeared before anyone in the group could get onto it. Also a highlight in the warbler department this afternoon were two Ovenbirds. A Yellow-billed Cuckoo briefly dashed through the leaves behind the drip, but again eluded us for a better look. Though we couldn’t track down the rare Yellow-green Vireo, there

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Orchard Oriole. Sabine Woods, TX. April 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

were several Red-eyed Vireos lurking about in the canopy, and a few Eastern Wood-Pewees made appearances as well. Our first Brown Thrashers of the tour were tallied in the woods this afternoon as well. The drive back to Winnie, through the extensive oil refineries of Port Arthur, went fairly swiftly and after a little rest we headed out for a tasty dinner at a local Mexican establishment.

Day 5, April 26 – First things first, we stopped and picked up lunch in Winnie this morning, before visiting a flooded field along Hwy 124 south of town. This field produced some fantastic birds including a couple of Hudsonian Godwits and two Buff-breasted Sandpipers. We took a spin down Oilfield Road and enjoyed close up views of Least and Semipalmated sandpipers, Black-necked Stilts, Dunlin, egrets, ibis and a Sora. Once we made it to the Bolivar Peninsula we stopped in at Rollover Pass where we added an

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American Oystercatcher. Bolivar Peninsula, TX. April 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

American Oystercatcher to our trip list, as it strolled right in front of us. Otherwise, we enjoyed nice studies of terns and gulls there. Along Yacht Basin Road we got scope views of a Nelson’s Sparrow out in the marsh, and a Crested Caracara flew past.

After a short pit-stop we checked out Gregory Park in Crystal Beach where we got great views of a Long-billed Curlew probing away into the grass. At Bolivar Flats we scanned the beach where hundreds of shorebirds were feeding, with species such as Dunlin, Sanderling, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Ruddy Turnstone, Willet and Semipalmated Plover the dominant ones. We did add a few new birds here including a non-breeding plumage Red Knot and a couple of Reddish Egrets, with both white and dark morph birds present. In the dunes along the edge of the beach we had nice scope views of a Horned Lark as well, another new species for the bulging

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Long-billed Curlew. Bolivar Peninsula, TX. April 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

trip list. Waterfowl included three birds new for us; Greater and Lesser scaup and the continuing Long-tailed Duck. A Nothern Harrier did its stooping display over a large open field, another first for the tour. A light rain began to fall as we made our way back to the van. We drove back to Gregory Park where had lunch under the sheltered picnic area, though by then the rain had stopped.

The afternoon was spent strolling about the High Island area looking for migrants, and they were plentiful. We had upwards of 17 species of warblers including several new ones; a rather elusive Canada Warbler, a stunning male Blackburnian Warbler, several Yellow Warblers, a male Black-and-white Warbler, a male Blackpoll Warbler spotted by Malcolm, a male Magnolia Warbler and several Black-throated Green Warblers. I had a

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Magnolia Warbler. Chris Charlesworth

male Mourning Warbler, but it disappeared before anyone else could get on it. American Redstarts were common, along with Tennessee Warblers and Common  Yellowthroats. A Yellow-breasted Chat sang periodically. Vireos were well represented with multiples of Yellow-throated, Philadelphia, Warbling, Red-eyed and White-eyed. Painted Buntings were numerous today and we had good views of several males. I spotted a Yellow-billed Cuckoo and we had fantastic and lengthy scope views of the bird. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Baltimore Orioles, Orchard Orioles, Scarlet and Summer tanagers, Gray Catbirds and Eastern Kingbirds were abundant. Eastern Wood-Pewees were quite common and a few thrushes remained including Veery, Gray-cheeked and

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Philadelphia Vireo. Chris Charlesworth.

Swainson’s. It really was quite a bonanza of migrants at Smith Oaks this afternoon. We saw a rather large Yellow-bellied Water Snake beside the path, our first snake for this particular trip. Before we left the High Island area we headed over to Boy Scout Woods to check out a report of a Cape May Warbler in a bottle brush near the entrance. As soon as we arrived somebody called out, ‘here it is’, and they were right. A gorgeous male Cape May Warbler put on a lovely show for us in an attractive bottle brush. Other birds were also flocking to the same tree; Tennessee Warblers, Orchard Orioles, Baltimore Orioles and several Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. On our way back to Winnie, I spotted a Peregrine Falcon on a tall radio tower, our first for the tour. What a day! We tallied up our list at dinner

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Tennessee Warbler. Chris Charlesworth.

and we’d seen close to 130 species of birds. After dark we headed out to Taylors Bayou and managed to hear a pair of Barred Owls, but they wouldn’t show themselves. It was great to take in the sights and sounds of the night, with several species of frogs calling, including a very noisy Bullfrog that John imitated quite well. Fireflies danced through the sky and the stars were stunning.

Day 6, April 27 – Our day began lovely and sunny, though a bit cool, and it remained very nice throughout the entire time we were out. We began along FM 1941 south of Winnie where in the grassy fields we enjoyed watching a group of 20 or so Upland Sandpipers. Also at this grassy field, a flock of upwards of 50 Buff-breasted Sandpipers circled overhead, looking for somewhere to land. This is the largest gathering of this species I have ever encountered. The usual Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Eastern Kingbirds, Dickcissels, and Loggerhead Shrikes were also seen, in addition to a Western Kingbird

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American Golden Plover. Winnie, TX. April 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

which was a new bird for the tour list. A Lincoln’s Sparrow briefly popped into view, but disappeared before the participants could get a good view. Also in the category of leader only was a Merlin that sailed through a flock of assorted swallows, containing our first trip Bank Swallows. We turned down S. Pear Orchard Road, seeing another couple of Western Kingbirds, and happening upon a nice flooded rice field. In the rice field were several American Golden-Plovers, our first for the tour, as well as Black-bellied and Semipalmated plovers, Stilt Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, Willet and our first Solitary Sandpiper of the trip. Joan exclaimed she had seen something resembling a Northern Bobwhite so we backed up the van and were ecstatic when a pair of bobwhites erupted out of the grass and flew a short distance ahead of us. One of the birds, a stunning male, ran back towards the van,

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Least Bittern. Anahuac NWR, TX. April 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

trotting just a few meters from us, right out in the open! If only the camera had been ready.

At Anahuac NWR we headed for Skillern Tract where it didn’t take us too long to find our target species. A Least Bittern was spotted as it lurked in the reeds and we had great views through the scope. A trio of Black-crowned Night-Herons flapped lazily overhead, two new ticks for the trip list. After a short stop at the Anahuac visitors center we drove around Shoveler Pond, this time with two species in our sights; Glossy Ibis and King Rail. We scanned through dozens of White-faced Ibis until eventually we picked out a couple of adult Glossy Ibis. Success! King Rails, however did not want to ‘play ball’ and we only soraheard them calling from the marsh once again. A Sora came out into the open however. Purple Gallinules were numerous and we had some very impressive American Alligators out basking in the sun. From Anahuac we made our way back into our home base of Winnie where we had lunch, and then we re-visited High Island in the afternoon. First thing we did was head on over to the rookery at Smith Oaks where the usual commotion of nesting and rearing young was in full swing for Great and Snowy egrets, Roseate Spoonbills and Neotropic Cormorants. Hungry Alligators waited beneath the rookery, in case an unlucky youngster got shoved out of its nest.Once we’d had our fill of nesting herons, we headed out in

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American Alligator. Texas, April 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

search of passerine migrants. It was very slow for the first half hour or so of our explorations, but it didn’t take too long for the birds to begin to drop in. A smattering of warblers were present this afternoon with Black-and-white, Hooded, Kentucky, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Chestnut-sided, Blackburnian and our first and only Wilson’s Warbler of the tour noted. I heard a locally rare Buff-bellied Hummingbird chipping away in the woods here, but unfortunately it wouldn’t come out to show itself. With the afternoon fading we made our way over the Boy Scout Woods for a look and I chatted with John Coons who told me of a Bay-breasted Warbler in a large oak nearby. Off we trotted, and it didn’t take long for me to spot the lovely male

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Blackburnian Warbler. Chris Charlesworth.

Bay-breasted Warbler foraging in the tree, alongside a beautiful male Magnolia Warbler. We watched a flurry of activity at a little cypress swamp next, where a variety of warblers, tanagers and thrushes came down to the water to drink and bath. Back at Purky’s Pond and the drip we spent the final half hour of the day watching, as mostly Gray Catbirds came and went. All in all it was a good day, and we tallied about 110 species.

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Roseate Spoonbill. High Island, TX. April 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

Day 7, April 28 – Our last full day on the Upper Coast I decided to deviate from the usual schedule of returning to areas we’d already been, and try something new instead. We drove to Silsbee and the lower end of the Big Thicket. I set myself the goal of finding the group four new species, and we did pretty well, finding three out of four. First new addition was one of the more sought-after warbler species on the Upper Coast, a Swainson’s Warbler. The bird sang and called from deep within the thickets alongside

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Prairie Warbler. Big Thicket, TX. April 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Gore Store Road and after a bit of effort most of us had acquired a pretty good view of the little skulker. At a nearby creek crossing we found the second target species, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, flitting in tall trees next to the road. We drove on, searching for short, regenerating pine forests and when I found suitable habitat it didn’t take me long to locate a singing male Prairie Warbler and get us all onto the little beauty. Feeling pretty good about our haul of new birds we began the journey back towards the coast, stopping in at Sabine Pass for lunch at Tammie’s Diner. After lunch we made our way to Sabine Woods. It was a slow day for migrants here, though we did add one more bird, a very obliging Louisiana Waterthrush. Otherwise, we just had the usual common migrant species here such as Orchard Oriole, Summer and Scarlet tanagers, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Hooded Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Eastern Wood-Pewee etc. We returned to Winnie and went out for Mexican food.

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Louisiana Waterthrush. Sabine Woods, TX. April 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Day 8, April 29 – With one last morning to try and add a few species to our trip list, we bid adieu to Aiden and then headed south towards the Bolivar Peninsula. A storm was whipping up and the waves were coming right up over the hwy, and bringing with them a lot of debris. We almost turned around, but decided to brave it and go through, which worked out fine as it was not as bad as it looked. Shortly thereafter I spotted the target

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Stilt Sandpiper. High Island, TX. April 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

bird for this destination, a White-tailed Kite, sailing over a field near the highway. We had a quick look at Rollover Pass, where there was very little due to the high water, and made our way back to High Island. We strolled around Boy Scout Woods, which was decidedly quiet. Only a very few migrants were about; a Northern Waterthrush, a Swainson’s Thrush, Orchard Oriole and some Chimney Swifts. One of the few Red-tailed Hawks of the tour flew over the woods.

Thinking of plan b, Joan suggested we go look for shorebirds so off we headed towards Anahuac. A flooded rice field along the way looked promising so we stopped and low and behold, we added two more birds to the trip list, a fabulous female Wilson’s Phalarope and a Pectoral Sandpiper! At Anahuac, after a quick coffee stop at the headquarters, we saw the usual things, including Least Bittern, White-faced Ibis, Fulvous Whistling-Ducks, Long-billed Dowitcher, amongst others. We heard several King Rails and one of the group got lucky and caught a glimpse of the bird lurking in the reeds. This was our 204th bird species for the trip, which was a very respectable total. We tried for Monk Parakeet on the way back to Houston, without luck. I dropped the tour members off at the airport and local hotel and it was all over. This was another fantastic group, providing excellent company, and easy atmosphere and superb birding skills. Thanks for the good times.

Chris Charlesworth

Upper Texas Coast with Avocet Tours

Day 1, April 15 – Over the course of the day the group of 6 tour participants arrived in Houston, and all we did today as a group was eat pizza for dinner before retiring for the night.

Day 2, April 16 – Our first day of birding took us to the ‘pineywood’ habitat north of Houston. The usual host of urban birds were added to the trip list as we drove north towards Conroe; Great-tailed Grackle, House Sparrow, European Starling, Rock Pigeon, and a couple of commuting Great Blue Herons. As we turned off the freeway and headed for the forest, a pair of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks flew over the van, causing a brief bout of excitement. We began our explorations of W.G. Jones State Forest in the area behind the park administration office, a spot where I have had continued luck with woodpeckers and other pineywoods birds over the past decade. We were not disappointed today and almost as soon as we got out of the van we began adding birds to

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Carolina Wren, Texas. April 2017. Photo: Real Sarrazin.

our list; Carolina Chickadee, Northern Cardinal, Northern Mockingbird, Pine Warbler and Blue Jay. We followed the trails deeper into the forest and added our first woodpecker species of the day, a Red-bellied Woodpecker. Carolina Wrens seemed to be singing from all around us, though they remained hidden in cover. I spotted another group of birders led by a friend of mine John Coons. They had staked out a spot where one of our big target species for the day, the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker, had been seen the day before. It didn’t take too long for us to find one of the tiny, well marked woodpeckers clinging to the side of a Loblolly Pine. We enjoyed scope views of the bird, squinting, and trying unsuccessfully to see the tiny red ear patch that gives this species its name. Of all the times I have seen this species, I’m not sure I have ever spotted the

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Red-cockaded Woodpecker. W.G. Jones State Forest, Texas. April 2017. Photo: Laure  Neish.

well hidden red mark. Thanking John for his help we carried on our way, soon thereafter finding the next of our target species, Brown-headed Nuthatches. A stunning pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers showed nicely as they excavated their nest hole. Chris Siddle was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the pair copulating. A Downy Woodpecker was noted here as well and in the distance a Northern Flicker called, our fifth species of woodpecker for the morning. Other species we encountered along our walk included Tufted Titmouse, nesting Eastern Bluebirds, a lovely White-eyed Vireo and a very obliging Yellow-breasted Chat. We eventually had great views of Carolina Wren and though they remained hidden, we heard one or two House Wrens.

We popped into a local store, used the facilities and picked up lunch before heading back out into the field, exploring the Middle Lakes Trail. Around a little pond at the trail head we had a Great Egret and a nice Little Blue Heron spotted by Marg Watt of Calgary. Chris Siddle spotted Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, a male and female, as they floated from pine to

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Yellow-breasted Chat. W.G. Jones State Forest, TX. April 2017. Photo: Chris Siddle.

pine, one of the most popular birds of the day. Red-eared Sliders, the most common local species of turtle, basked on logs surrounding the pond while a Bullfrog gave its bellowing call ‘jug-o-rum’. Today was a great day for yellow birds, as we had excellent views of both Yellow-throated Vireo and a male Kentucky Warbler along the trail. Our first Ruby-crowned Kinglet was noted as it flitted about frenetically. Great Crested Flycatcher was heard and eventually seen, and careful scanning of the skies produced Turkey and Black vultures and a nice Red-shouldered Hawk. Marg and I had a

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Kentucky Warbler. Jones State Forest, Texas. April 2017. Photo: Real Sarrazin.

nice view of a Painted Lady, the first butterfly species identified on the trip. As we had lunch I happened to look up and spot a pair of Wood Storks heading east high overhead. I also saw a distant Bald Eagle, but nobody else could get onto the bird before it disappeared behind the trees. Mammals noted in the park this morning included just two species of squirrel, Eastern Gray and Eastern Fox squirrels.

Our second destination was Jesse Jones Nature Park which is quite close to Houston’s Intercontinental Airport. Several Ruby-throated Hummingbirds entertained us around the visitor’s center, as well as Northern Cardinals and House Finches at the feeders. We explored the Canoe Trail where I had been alerted to the presence of a Swainson’s Warbler. As we walked the trail the sky opened up and heavy rain began to pour down on us. Luckily there was a rather bran new shelter built beside a little cypress swamp so we took shelter here. A male Prothonotary Warbler showed off very well at the edge of this swamp as we watched in

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Prothonotary Warbler. Jesse Jones Park, Houston, Texas. April 2017. Photo: Real Sarrazin.

the relative comfort of the shelter. Donna Heard spotted our first snake of the tour, a Broad-banded Water Snake, that was sitting motionless in a tree next to the water. Unfortunately we didn’t find the Swainson’s Warbler here today, but we were quite happy to have incredible views of the Prothonotary. As we were contemplating leaving the park, a lightning bolt struck very close to us, followed by an impressive clap of thunder, and this helped us make our decision to head for cover.

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Broad-banded Water Snake. Jesse Jones Nature Park, Houston, TX. April 2017. Photo: Laure  Neish.

To finish off our day of birding we had a look behind our hotel in Humble and added several species to our trip list including Broad-winged Hawks, Northern Rough-winged and Cliff swallows, Indigo Bunting, and a Snowy Egret. Flocks of Cedar Waxwings drifted just above treeline. We had a little siesta before heading out for a nice dinner at Cheddars.

Day 3, April 17 – We left our hotel in Humble shortly after 7 AM and, along with thousands of others, we joined the Monday morning rush through Houston. Our first Red-tailed Hawk of the trip was spotted sitting atop a giant billboard. As we followed I-10 east towards Beaumont we saw our first Laughing Gulls and Chris S. pointed out a

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Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Texas. April 2017. Photo: Real Sarrazin.

Brown Pelican. Once we arrived in the birding mecca of Winnie we stopped and picked up lunch before making our way towards Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). We took a quiet back road (FM 1941) along which we saw quite a few interesting birds including some lovely Scissor-tailed Flycatchers that put on quite a show as they sallied out for bugs along a fence line beside the van. Eastern Meadowlarks, Eastern Kingbirds and Savannah Sparrows were also fairly numerous. We stopped at a little bridge where we saw both Cliff Swallows and Cave Swallows side by side and studied their rather subtle differences, a little bit of a challenge when they are on the wing. Several Upland Sandpipers were a treat to see as they strutted through grassy fields and Marg, lucky devil, spotted a Northern Bobwhite on a fence post, but it had disappeared by the time we backed up the van for a second look. We turned down S. Pear Orchard Road and

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American Golden-Plovers. Texas, April 2017. Photo: Laure Neish.

checked some rice fields, finding a little group of up to 8 American Golden-Plovers, along with Semipalmated Plover, Least Sandpiper, Black-necked Stilt and Killdeer. We had scope views of Gull-billed Terns here and a couple of American Bitterns flew by over the distant horizon.

We finally arrived at the Anahuac NWR and at the entrance found a productive patch of flooded fields. Here we added Stilt Sandpipers, Willet, Whimbrel, Dunlin, Long-billed

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Upland Sandpiper. Winnie, TX. April 2017. Photo: Laure Neish.

Dowitchers, Lesser Yellowlegs and Solitary Sandpiper to the trip list along with Mottled Duck and Blue-winged Teal. Once at the visitor’s center at Anahuac we had a quick pit stop, and some of us spotted American White Pelicans sailing overhead, as well as Swainson’s Hawk. Laure Neish picked out a singing Common Yellowthroat across a little pond. High in the sky a group of a dozen Hudsonian Godwits circled several times, allowing us a much sought-after tick on our lists. We carried on around the Shoveler Loop, which was very productive. Wading birds were numerous; White-faced Ibis, White Ibis, Roseate

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Least Bittern. Anahuac NWR. Texas. April 2017. Photo: Real Sarrazin.

Spoonbills, Tricolored Heron, Little Blue Heron, and various egrets were noted. We met up with BC’s Gary Davidson and a group of Aussies he and Ken Cross were leading. They pointed out to us Purple Gallinules, our first for the tour. Common Gallinules were numerous here, as were American Coots, and both Black-bellied and Fulvous whistling-ducks. We glimpsed a Least Bittern flying down a little channel, and then disappearing into the reeds, leaving us desperately wanting more. Not to worry, as shortly we had about half a dozen of them in the reeds. Marsh Wrens chattered incessantly from the wetland, but remained mostly unseen, unlike a rather showy pair of Orchard Orioles that popped out for us to enjoy.

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Stilt Sandpiper. Texas. April 2017. Photo: Laure Neish.

We stopped to search for King Rail and we were rewarded as one leapt up out of the marsh and flew 10 meters or so in plain view. The bird called repeatedly and eventually I spotted him hiding in the reeds, allowing us to put a scope on him and see bits of pieces of him. Behind us, a Sora called. Alligators were a prominent feature at Anahuac where we saw several of them. We had lunch near the visitor’s center and had a peek inside at the books and things before heading off. I happened to spot a Swallow-tailed Kite sailing up in the sky before we left, and one turned into two and then three and four and five! Those of us who had not seen the Swallow-tailed Kite the previous evening were quite happy to ‘catch up’ on this one.

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Royal Tern. Texas Coast. April 2017. Photo: Laure Neish.

Next, at High Island, we popped into Boy Scout Woods with high hopes. The parking lot was quiet with just a few cars present and there was a distinct lack of birds calling from the woods so my hopes were not too high. We spent about an hour at Boy Scout Woods

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Great Egrets. High Island, Texas. April 2017. Photo: Real Sarrazin.

and left with just one warbler, a single Tennessee Warbler. Never have I seen this location so quiet for migrants. At the drip we did see a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak and some Gray Catbirds, so it was not a complete waste. A very large Texas Rat Snake was laid out beside the trail, our best sighting here this afternoon. Over at Smith Oaks we headed for the heronry and this magnificent spectacle saved the afternoon. We enjoyed watching hundreds of nesting Roseate Spoonbills, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets and Neotropic Cormorants at close range. The sights and sounds were almost overwhelming. Chris S. spotted our first Swamp Rabbit of the tour, and we had a Ribbon Snake along the edge of the path. In addition to the Red-eared Sliders at the edge of the pond we had a giant Texas Softshell Turtle here as well. We headed for Winnie, checked into our hotel, and went out for dinner at Al T’s.

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Roseate Spoonbill. High Island, TX. April 2017. Photo: Laure Neish.

Day 4, April 18 – A steady rain greeted us as we emerged from our hotel in Winnie this morning. We drove to Taylor’s Bayou where we didn’t really see too much this morning, though we did add a couple of nice birds to the trip list; a Yellow-throated Warbler and several Yellow-crowned Night-Herons. After a short pit-stop in Sabine Pass we headed for Pilot Tower Road, a bumpy, heavily potholed road that got us into a nice coastal marsh.

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Seaside Sparrow. Sabine Pass, Texas. April 2017. Photo: Real Sarrazin.

Across the channel we could see Louisiana and an old derelict lighthouse. Upon arrival here the rains ceased and we enjoyed a pleasant morning of birding. Highlights included good views of Seaside Sparrows, one of which sat in a tamarisk next to the road, showing nicely. Several Clapper Rails were seen, including some fluffy black chicks crossing the road. Soras were rather numerous, with at least half a dozen counted. A few migrant type birds skulked in roadside thickets including Indigo Bunting, Palm Warbler and loads of Orchard Orioles. We heard several Sedge Wrens, one of which was singing from about 2 feet away from us, but remained hidden, other than a short flight of about 6 feet from one patch of grass to the next. Also

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Whimbrel. Texas. April 2017. Photo: Real Sarrazin.

in the marsh were Swamp Sparrow and Marsh Wrens. About 40 or so Tree Swallows and a single exhausted Barn Swallow were clustered on telephone wires and on the road itself. Shorebirds included Spotted Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Black-bellied Plover, Willets, Whimbrel, Black-necked Stilt and Lesser Yellowlegs. Out over the open water were Royal, Sandwich, Common and Forster’s terns, Laughing Gulls and a single Herring Gull. We had a few Red-breasted Mergansers this morning, including a pair obligingly sitting in a puddle on the road. A Racoon crossed the road in front of us, our only mammal species for the morning. We returned to Sabine Pass and had a very nice lunch at Tammy’s Diner.

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Sora. Sabine Pass, TX. April 2017. Photo: Laure Neish.

After lunch we visited Sabine Woods, a fairly small patch of coastal oak forest, which provides shelter for birds as they come in tired and hungry from migrating across the gulf. It was awfully quiet upon our arrival, though we did see a Northern Waterthrush at the drip, and Laure Neish spotted a Yellow-billed Cuckoo in the distance. A Veery briefly appeared and Chris S. found a female Summer Tanager. We talked to some local birders

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Orchard Oriole. Texas Coast. April 2017. Photo: Laure Neish.

and they gave us directions on where they had seen one of the Texas Coast’s most sought-after warbler species, a Swainson’s Warbler, earlier that morning. We followed their instructions and searched the area quite extensively with no luck. I found a male Hooded Warbler, our first for the tour, and in the same area Laure N. exclaimed she had found a drab brownish warbler poking about in the leaf litter. Sure enough, this was the Swainson’s Warbler. Tick!

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Palm Warbler. Sabine Pass, TX. April 2017. Photo: Chris Siddle.

Following up on another lead we drove down the road a few miles to a patch of trees and peered into a Mulberry where within a few minutes, a lovely male Blackpoll Warbler appeared. In the roadside vegetation, both Blue Grosbeaks and Indigo Buntings suddenly

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Blackpoll Warbler. Sabine Pass, TX. April 2017. Photo: Laure Neish.

appeared, showing quite well. Our next stop was at Sea Rim State Park. Birding here, despite a short rain shower, was exceptional. In the lagoons near the parking area were

American Avocet, Long-billed Dowitcher, Stilt Sandpiper, Least and Semipalmated sandpipers, Semipalmated and Black-bellied plovers and Lesser Yellowlegs. A male Redhead was a nice catch here. Out on the open beach there were more shorebirds including a gorgeous breeding plumage Red Knot, and Piping Plovers as well. Our first Ruddy Turnstone of the trip appeared and Sanderlings were everywhere, along with Dunlin. Least Terns swooped past, our best look yet at this species.

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Dunlin. Texas Coast, April 2017. Photo: Laure Neish.

To finish off we popped back into Sabine Woods for one last half hour. It was a good thing we did this because the area had become inundated with migrants. Within that short half hour we picked up several warblers; Worm-eating, Black-and-white, Tennessee, Blackburnian, American Redstart and Northern Parula. A push of Summer and brilliant Scarlet tanagers had also arrived along with Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Baltimore Orioles. A Yellow-billed Cuckoo appeared briefly, and a Merlin called. The mini-fallout was a great way to finish off our day of birding. We drove back to Winnie, and went out for another meal at Al T’s.

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Tricolored Heron. Texas Coast. April 2017. Photo: Chris Siddle.

Day 5, April 19 – It was a sunny and bright morning, though somewhat misty over the farm fields, as we made our way south from Winnie towards the Bolivar Peninsula. We got sidetracked at a flooded field at the corner of Hwy 124 and FM 1985 where a great

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Group scanning through shorebirds. Texas. April 2017. Photo: Laure Neish.

assortment of shorebirds had gathered. Lighting this morning was exceptional and we had a fun time picking out the various species. The number one most abundant species was Long-billed Dowitcher, with runners up being Dunlin and Semipalmated Sandpipers. Also mixed in were both Greater and Lesser yellowlegs, Stilt Sandpipers, Willet, Whimbrel, and Black-bellied Plovers. New for the trip list were several White-rumped Sandpipers and a group of about 20 Buff-breasted Sandpipers. Hudsonian Godwits were great to see, about 10 of them, in lovely lighting. Pectoral Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer and Black-necked Stilt also appeared. This was a great start to our morning. We continued on down through High Island to the Bolivar

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Black-bellied Plover. Bolivar Peninsula, Texas. April 2017. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Peninsula, where we picked up a fly-by adult Lesser Black-backed Gull. At Rollover Pass we racked up another impressive list of birds, this time including our first Reddish Egrets of the tour, with both dark and light morph birds seen. Our first Wilson’s Plovers cooperated nicely as they poked around the edge of a puddle. Other shorebirds at Rollover included Ruddy Turnstone, Black-bellied Plover, masses of American Avocets, Sanderlings, Marbled Godwit, and Short-billed Dowitchers. A female Red-breasted Merganser loafed on a distant island. Almost all of the local terns were assembled here with Common, Forster’s, Least, Sandwich, Royal, Caspian and Black in attendance. Not far from Rollover we encountered a pair of Crested Caracaras, and Kathy Ellwood exclaimed, ‘let’s put them in the scope’, so of course, we did.

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Wilson’s Plover. Texas. April 2017. Photo: Real Sarrazin.

We made a pit stop at the Bolivar Supermarket, a store that has almost anything and everything one could want to buy, and then we carried on down to the famous Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary. As we drove down Retillon Road, we saw my friend John Coons, and he motioned to me that there was something interesting off to the side of the road. We stopped, and immediately heard what he and his group was interested in, a calling Black Rail! Nice score. Also here we saw our first Northern Harrier of the tour, a female and a male involved in a diving flight display. Down at the beach we walked a few hundred meters out to where a mass of birds were resting on the sand. There were over a thousand American Avocets here, feeding in unison, in the shallows. Great numbers

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American Avocets. Bolivar Flats, Texas. April 2017. Photo: Real Sarrazin.

of Short-billed Dowitchers, Sanderlings and Dunlin also were here, along with many other shorebirds; Piping Plover, Red Knot, Western Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstones, and more. A group of Laughing Gulls had a single pink-breasted Franklin’s Gull mixed in with them, as well as Ring-billed and Herring gulls. More Reddish Egrets did their drunken sailor dance in the shallows. Laure N. spotted a White-tailed Kite in the distance and we

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Shorebirds at Bolivar Flats, Texas. April 2017. Photo: Real Sarrazin.

had scope views of it, and overhead, a Horned Lark did a brief flight song before disappearing into the sand dunes. Out on the gulf there was a fishing trawler with loads of gulls, pelicans and terns behind it, and I picked out a Magnificent Frigatebird in the mix. A group of Lesser Scaup contained at least one Greater Scaup, and also in the rare waterfowl department, a continuing Long-tailed Duck showed up for us. Just as we were leaving, we found another previously reported rarity, an immature Great Black-backed Gull, on the beach with other gulls. The Great Black-backed, however, towered above the Ring-billed and Herring gulls with which it was sitting.

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Ruddy Turnstone. Bolivar Peninsula, TX. April 2017. Photo Laure Neish.

We made our way back to High Island and had lunch, before heading over to Smith Oaks, where we hoped some passerine migration would be happening. It was a bit slow here, but we found a few goodies, including White-throated Sparrow, Ovenbird, Tennessee Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Hooded Warbler, and an extremely confiding Worm-eating Warbler that we followed as it poked into curled dead leaves where it extracted spiders and other insects. Donna H. pointed out our first Yellow Warbler, a male, foraging in an oak overhead. A Swainson’s Thrush sang several times, and Yellow-billed Cuckoos played hide and seek with us. All in all, it was a pleasant afternoon at High Island. We returned to Winnie, and had dinner at Al T’s. This was the final night the current owners would operating the restaurant, which made

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Lesser Yellowlegs. Texas Coast. April 2017. Photo: Real Sarrazin.

things a bit interesting. Nevertheless, the food was good, and we tallied up our day list, an impressive 125 species!

Day 6, April 20 – It was another lovely and sunny morning as we made our way down towards Anahuac for a second visit. The flooded field from yesterday was almost bone dry, and not many birds remained, other than Willets, Whimbrel, Black-bellied Plover and Killdeer. The usual Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Eastern Meadowlarks and Loggerhead Shrike were ntoed as we drove along FM 1985. We turned down the road towards Skillern Tract and out of the van window I heard Dickcissel, so we stopped and eventually, once the scopes were ‘defrosted’, we had great views of these little sparrow-like birds as they sang from the top of the bushes. Perhaps the highlight of the day for many of us, was the sighting of a Bobcat as it strolled along the road in front of us, pausing a few times to look back and check us out. At Skillern we walked the track

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Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Texas. April 2017. Photo: Real Sarrazin.

down to the a little boardwalk overlooking the marsh. Birding was very pleasant here and we heard our only Virginia Rail of the tour here. Least Bittern was watched through the scope as he foraged in the reeds, and a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird paused for a few moments before disappearing. Our first Least Flycatcher showed for a few moments in a snag at Skillern as well.

We paused at the main entrance to Anahuac to view another nice flooded bit of fields, covered in Long-billed and Short-billed dowitchers, Stilt Sandpipers, Dunlin and others such as White-rumped Sandpiper and our first Wilson’s Phalarope, a female, found by Chris S.

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Group shot at Anahuac, TX. April 2017. Photo: Marg Watt.

We stopped at the visitor’s center to use the facilities and check what had been seen already today. Our sightings were the first ones to grace the sightings board. Real found a little group of White-crowned Sparrows so we followed him down the path to have a look. We did find them, and as an added bonus, we flushed a Barn Owl from the trees here! A drive around Shoveler Pond provided more looks at birds like

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Boat-tailed Grackle. Anahuac NWR, TX. April 2017. Photo: Laure Neish.

Mottled Duck, Purple Gallinule, and quite a few White-faced Ibis. We couldn’t turn any of them into Glossy Ibis, unfortunately.

We then drove to Sabine Pass where we had another lovely lunch at Tammy’s Diner, before heading over to Sabine Woods to see what migrants had dropped in. The birding was slow, with not many individuals present, but what we did see were high quality birds. A few very helpful local birders helped us see several goodies that were hanging about in the woods, first of which was a male Cape May Warbler in a Mulberry. Next up, a stunning male Black-throated Blue Warbler made several appearances right down at eye level. Finally, a rather cooperative Swainson’s

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Summer Tanager. Texas. April 2017. Photo: Real Sarrazin.

Warbler foraged in the underbrush allowing us all to watch this rather elusive species. Other migrants noted here today included Black-and-white Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Great Crested Flycatcher, Orchard Orioles, Veery, and a single Gray-cheeked Thrush. It was an awfully warm and sticky afternoon, so we called it a day and made our way back to Winnie where we had dinner at a local BBQ restaurant.

Day 7, April 21 – Our last morning in Texas began well with our first sighting of a Peregrine Falcon for the tour, an adult sitting atop a power pole along Hwy 124, south of Winnie. Our next stop was at Rollover Pass where we scoured through the flocks of shorebirds, gulls and terns, finding one species new for the trip list, an American Oystercatcher.

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White morph Reddish Egret. Bolivar Peninsula, TX. April 2017. Photo: Laure Neish.

Otherwise all the usual suspects were there, and the lighting was very nice for photography this morning. We had a look along Yacht Basin Road, hoping for Nelson’s Sparrow, which wouldn’t cooperate this morning. We did see a Clapper Rail crossing the road, and a Crested Caracara passed by. An Osprey nibbled on a fish from atop a power pole. Next, we tried N. Tuna Road, again hoping for Nelson’s Sparrow. No luck, though we did see some Seaside Sparrows here, only our second encounter with this species on the tour. At Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary there were less birds present than there had been on our previous visit. Still, the

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Piping Plovers. Bolivar Flats, Texas. April 2017. Photo: Real Sarrazin.

numbers were pretty impressive. Snowy Plover wouldn’t cooperate, though we did see Wilson’s, Semipalmated and Piping plovers. Reddish Egrets danced in the shallows, and a non-breeding plumage Red Knot was nice to see. Lighting was again sensational as shorebird poked about in the puddles, allowing the photographers in the group to click away. Up to 5 Northern Harriers were seen along the access road to the flats, Retillon Road.

We then drove back to Winnie where we had a pit-stop before carrying on towards Houston. Along the drive we saw a few raptors including Red-tailed, Red-shouldered and Broad-winged hawks. We stopped for lunch at Denny’s and then paid a visit to the Sims Bayou Nature Center in S.E. Houston.

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Monk Parakeet with White-winged Doves. Houston, TX. April 2017. Photo: Chris Siddle.

The center was closed but we peeked through the fence, spotting a Monk Parakeet hanging on one of the feeders. This was our final new species of the tour, bringing us up to 203 bird species in 6 days of birding! We made our way to the airport and we said our goodbyes. Thanks everyone for making this an enjoyable and memorable birding trip.

Chris Charlesworth

Okanagan Spring Birding

Apr 7 – An intrepid group of 15 birders met up with myself and Michael Force at the Apple Bowl in Kelowna this morning. Weather was not perfect as we encountered showers and even snow today at high elevations, but that said, we had a great day of birding nonetheless. Before we even left the parking area Gwynneth Wilson pointed out

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Western Screech Owl. Mission Creek, Kelowna, BC. Apr 2017. Photo: Lou Davidson.

an Osprey sailing overhead, a first of the year for many present. Our first official stop was along Mission Creek in Kelowna where it didn’t take us too long to find our target species, a Western Screech-Owl roosting happily in a cedar tree. This was an excellent start to the trip indeed! A pair of Wood Ducks flew overhead which was a little bit of a surprise here.

Our next stop was at Robert Lake where we quickly added a bundle of birds to our trip list with many ducks present; Ruddy Duck, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Canvasback, Redhead, Northern Shoveler,

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Yellow-headed Blackbird. Robert Lk, Kelowna, BC. Apr 7, 2017. Photo: Pam Laing.

Green-winged Teal and several others. Yellow-headed Blackbirds were about in numbers here and somebody pointed out an adult Peregrine Falcon sitting in a snag to the north. Over the lake a Northern Harrier sailed by, and on a fence post on the far side of the lake I put a male Mountain Bluebird in the scope. Fran Pattison pointed out several Killdeer in a grassy field near the lake, our first for the trip while others noted Violet-green and Tree swallows. We were off to a roaring start.

After a coffee stop at Timmy’s in Lake Country we headed up Beaver Lake Road. Near the bottom of the road we encountered a flock of nearly 200 Mountain Bluebirds which was quite a sight to see. These, along with scores of American Robins, were most likely knocked down by the rains. Western Meadowlarks were numerous as we toddled up the road and Monica Nugent pointed out one of the better birds of the morning, a Vesper Sparrow hopping about in the grass. On a distant hillside I spotted a Golden Eagle on a snag so I put the scope on it and everyone enjoyed the rather distant view. In

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Northern Goshawk. Beaver Lake Road, Lake Country, BC. April 2017. Photo: Lou Davidson.

between rain storms we had a little raptor movement with Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Northern Harrier and Sharp-shinned Hawk counted. We entered the forest habitat at about km 6 and the rain began to fall once again, so we had a lunch break and hid out in the vehicles. After lunch the rain stopped and the birding continued with sightings of our first Mountain Chickadee and Red-breasted Nuthatch of the trip. Near the km 11 cattleguard the birding really picked up as we noted a migrant group of American Robins with at least one Varied Thrush embedded within. A Red-naped Sapsucker showed nicely while another called in the distance. A male Hairy Woodpecker

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Hairy Woodpecker. Beaver Lake Rd, Kelowna, BC. April 7, 2017. Photo: Pam Laing.

whacked away on a tree stump at point blank and Monica scored again, this time by spotting an adult Northern Goshawk perched in a fir tree. Down a little side path I tried my best Barred Owl imitation and just as we were about to leave, the bird answered, calling several times. To top it off, two Ruffed Grouse were seen in the area as well. Farther up the road the weather conditions deteriorated and at Beaver Lk Lodge we were involved in a full on snow storm. We didn’t add anything different up there, so we turned around and began our descent. Along the way down, Pam Laing came on the radio and said she had found a Western Bluebird, a first for the day. Our third Ruffed Grouse was also tallied on the descent as well. At dinner we tallied up our list for the day; 61 species.

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Red-naped Sapsucker. Lake Country, BC. Apr 7, 2017. Photo: Mary Jean Payeur.

Apr 8 – This morning as we gathered at the Apple Bowl, all eyes were turned to the skies as we assessed the weather, which was considerably better than the previous day. There was a lot of blue sky as we drove south through Kelowna towards Peachland, where our first stop was Hardy Falls. Before we had left the parking area we saw several good birds including a pair of Say’s Phoebes, Spotted Towhee, and several Cassin’s Finches. As we

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American Dipper. Peachland, BC. Apr 8, 2017. Photo: Pam Laing.

walked up along the creek we watched intently for American Dippers, our target species here. Lou Davidson and Mary-Jean Payeur had been here two days before and said they had no trouble finding dippers, and neither did we. Paul Malkinson spotted the dipper as it foraged, and we all enjoyed lengthy looks. A male Downy Woodpecker showed nicely as he pecked away at the trunk of an alder.

In Summerland we stopped in at Trout Ck Point to look for Long-eared Owls. We didn’t find any owls, but we did see an adult Northern Shrike as a consolation prize. Our next stop was in Penticton along Okanagan Lake where we hoped we could see some gulls. As it was a nice sunny morning there were many people out and about walking on the beach, and alas no gulls. OK, there were three Ring-billed Gulls, but we had hoped for a little more variety. Out on the water we added Common Loon, Horned Grebe, Lesser and Greater scaup, and Common Merganser. Next, we stopped in downtown Penticton where

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Great Horned Owls at nest. Penticton, BC. April 8, 2017. Photo: Pam Laing.

Great Horned Owls are nesting. Two large, fluffy chicks were preening and jostling with each other in the nest while the adult sat nearby with her eyes shut. Once we’d had our fill of owls we carried on south to White Lake Road where our first stop was at Three Gates Farm. Here, we had views of all three species of nuthatches, with the White-breasted Nuthatch being the only one we saw on the tour. It was here, at Three Gates Farm, that we encountered our first of many Sandhill Cranes today, as about 150 sailed over, calling wildly as they drifted north. We stopped next at White Lake where the parade of Sandhill Cranes continued as flocks of hundreds went overhead. After a couple of hours we estimated we had seen about 2000 cranes. Raptors were also moving through at White Lake with Red-tailed, Rough-legged, Sharp-shinned, Cooper’s hawks, Northern Harrier,

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Joyce and Fran watching raptor migrating over. Apr 2017. Photo: Jim Tisdale.

Bald Eagle, American Kestrel and several Golden Eagles were noted. Western Meadowlarks sang from all directions, but perhaps the best sighting of all at this location was a Long-billed Curlew in flight over the lake. Vying for top bird at White Lake, up to three Gray Partridge were found not far west of the observatory. At Park Rill we stopped at the cattleguard and had a few passerines moving through the roadside vegetation with Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-rumped Warbler, a singing Pacific Wren and a calling Fox Sparrow of note.

At Vaseux Lake we visited the cliffs where we heard, but did not see, a Canyon Wren. Another Golden Eagle soared over the top of the cliffs and a ewe Bighorn Sheep was scoped from a distance as she looked down on us. We drove on to Oliver, where we spent

DSCN5108-Say's Phoebe, Hardy Falls, Apr 9, 2017
Say’s Phoebe. Osoyoos, BC. Apr 9, 2017. Photo: Mary Jean Payeur.

the night, and after a delicious dinner at Gecko’s Grill, we headed to Road 22 at dusk. Owls played hard to get tonight, though we did hear a Great Horned Owl hooting. Several Wilson’s Snipe were heard winnowing, and a pack of Coyotes howled away at the moon.

April 9 – Before we left out motel at Tucelnuit Lake we tallied a group of Wood Ducks grazing in the grass. At Road 22 we met up with Al and Paul and explored the fields near the bridge. Monica Nugent spotted a pair of Long-billed Curlews in the fields to the south

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Avocet Tours group birding at Road 22 in Osoyoos, BC. April 9, 2017. Photo: Pam Laing.

of the road. Flocks of Violet-green and Tree swallows had a few Northern Rough-winged Swallows mixed in. Mike Force picked out the buzzy call of a Lincoln’s Sparrow in a weedy patch and the bird was eventually heard by most of us as it burst into song. Two or more Savannah Sparrows appeared at the same time, along with Song and White-crowned sparrows. Along the southeast dyke at Road 22 the good birding continued with sightings of Northern Harriers coursing over a wetland and several Downy Woodpeckers foraged in trees along the dyke. Two Hooded Mergansers were spotted as they drifted down the river, the only seen on the tour. A Marsh Wren sang in the distance from a patch of

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Hooded Mergansers. Rd 22, Osoyoos, BC. April 9, 2017. Photo: Pam Laing.

reeds, though the bird remained unseen. One of the highlights was the appearance of a flock of about 30 American White Pelicans that were flying north up the valley. Before leaving Road 22, on a small pond on the south side of the road, I picked out three Cinnamon Teal, two males and a female.

After a short coffee stop in Osoyoos we climbed up Anarchist Mountain where we stopped in a larch stand along Wagon Wheel Road. We got out of the cars, looked up in the sky, and realized were in the midst of a raptor migration once again. Rough-legged Hawks were everywhere, with 16 estimated in various kettles. Mixed in were Red-tailed Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawk,

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Guides Chris and Mike searching for Williamson’s Sapsuckers on Anarchist Mtn, Osoyoos, BC. April 9, 2017. Photo: Jim Tisdale.

Northern Harrier, Bald Eagle and an immature Golden Eagle. After the raptor-fest was over we turned our attention to Williamson’s Sapsuckers and after a few minutes of looking we had a pair of these rare and beautiful woodpeckers fly in an give us excellent views. A stroll through the larch trees here produced several day birds; Golden-crowned Kinglet, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Mountain Chickadees and a few new birds for the tour as well such as Brown Creeper and Red Crossbill.

Our last stop of the tour was at The Throne, near Road 22. We walked in to an area where Paul and Al had seen a few interesting species the previous afternoon. At the cliffs we flushed a couple of Chukar and had a great view of a Rock Wren, as one more sang from nearby. The Rock Wren poked its head into a little crack and startled a Bushy-tailed Woodrat that hopped out and chased the wren briefly. Canyon Wrens were also singing

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Yellow Bells. Osoyoos, BC. April 9, 2017. Photo: Pam Laing.

and calling, but remained unseen. Mike Force spotted a Peregrine Falcon sitting on a ledge and we enjoyed scope views. Eventually another Peregrine, this one a larger female, arrived and the two called as they sailed by, landing once again. We watched the white flowers of a currant bush for a Calliope Hummingbird and we were rewarded eventually the sighting of a male. There was quite a stunning show of Yellow Bells, with both shades of red and yellow dotting the arid landscape. Two more American White Pelicans drifted north overhead, and the sounds of Sandhill Cranes trickled down from the sky above. We said our goodbyes and parted ways. The grand total of birds for the trip was 106 species, a respectable total. Thanks to all who came along and made for a fun and enjoyable trip with excellent company.

Peregrine Falcon - Haynes Lease Ecological Reserve, Oliver BC - April 2017
Peregrine Falcon, The Throne, Osoyoos, BC. April 2017. Photo: Lou Davidson.

Chris Charlesworth, Avocet Tours

TRIP LIST:

Canada Goose

Cackling Goose

Wood Duck

Mallard

Gadwall

Cinnamon Teal

Green-winged Teal

American Wigeon

Northern Pintail

Northern Shoveler

Canvasback

Redhead

Ring-necked Duck

Greater Scaup

Lesser Scaup

Bufflehead

Common Goldeneye

Barrow’s Goldeneye

Hooded Merganser

Common Merganser

Ruddy Duck

California Quail

Chukar

Gray Partridge

Ruffed Grouse

Common Loon

Pied-billed Grebe

Horned Grebe

American White Pelican

Turkey Vulture

Osprey

Golden Eagle

Bald Eagle

Northern Harrier

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Northern Goshawk

Rough-legged Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

American Kestrel

Merlin

Peregrine Falcon

American Coot

Sandhill Crane

Killdeer

Long-billed Curlew

Wilson’s Snipe

Ring-billed Gull

Rock Pigeon

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Mourning Dove

Great Horned Owl

Barred Owl

Western Screech-Owl

White-throated Swift

Williamson’s Sapsucker

Red-naped Sapsucker

Hairy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Northern Flicker

Pileated Woodpecker

Say’s Phoebe

Northern Shrike

Clark’s Nutcracker

Black-billed Magpie

American Crow

Common Raven

Tree Swallow

Violet-green Swallow

N. Rough-winged Swallow

Black-capped Chickadee

Mountain Chickadee

Red-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Pygmy Nuthatch

Brown Creeper

Canyon Wren

Pacific Wren

Marsh Wren

American Dipper

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Western Bluebird

Mountain Bluebird

Townsend’s Solitaire

American Robin

Varied Thrush

European Starling

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Spotted Towhee

Song Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Lincoln’s Sparrow

Fox Sparrow

Dark-eyed Junco

Western Meadowlark

Red-winged Blackbird

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Brewer’s Blackbird

Cassin’s Finch

House Finch

Red Crossbill

American Goldfinch

Pine Siskin

House Sparrow

MAMMALS:

Columbian Ground Squirrel

Red Squirrel

E. Fox Squirrel

Yellow-bellied Marmot

Coyote

Bighorn Sheep

Deer Mouse

Bushy-tailed Woodrat

Colombia 2017 with Avocet Tours

The Central and West Andes with an extension to the Llanos in the eastern lowlands

-By Avery Bartels (Guide)-

In a country with such a diversity of habitats and landscapes one is spoiled for choices when it comes to prime birding destinations. This itinerary was chosen as it provided fairly comprehensive coverage of the northern part of the West and Central Andes coupled with a lack of any really long travel days, the latter a rare feat on a Colombia trip. While not focusing on building as big a list as possible in the time available, the idea was to have a good chance to see the bulk of specialties occurring in these two mountain ranges. To this end we achieved moderate success recording 21 Colombian endemics, 17 of which were seen by the group, 2 (both Tapaculos of course!) remained as heard only and 2 were recorded only by the guide. A total of 386 species were recorded by the group on the main tour with an additional 118 species recorded on the extension. The final species tally for the entire 17 day trip was 504 species.

Day 1 Medellin to Chestnut-capped Piha Reserve

After a few days of pre-tour birding around Bogota the group all reconvened on the first morning of the tour proper at the Finca Hotel La Ponderosa a few Kms from the Jose Maria Cordova Airport outside Medellin. A couple hours of birding from the well placed patio there provided a nice introduction to the common Andean avifauna with Southern Lapwings, Andean Motmots, Scrub and Black-capped Tanagers on show. Our first endemic, the Red-bellied Grackle made a brief appearance as a group of 3 flew overhead. At mid-morning we boarded our bus with the excellent Leonardo at the wheel and

Collared Inca
Collared Inca. Colombia, 2017. Photo: Rick Whitman.

departed. On the 4.5hr journey north to the Piha Reserve, operated by the Colombian conservation group Proaves, we made a few birding stops picking up a pair of Bar-crested Antshrikes along with some lower elevation humid forest species such as Black-faced Dacnis, Plain-colored Tanager and Black-bellied Wren before arriving at the reserve in time to watch a group of Colombian Chachalacas devouring the bananas at the feeding station. Over the next 2 days we would tally 11 species of hummingbirds at the impressive feeder setup!

Day 2 Chestnut-capped Piha Reserve

Our first full day of birding was spent working our way slowly up the ridge trail, through pristine montane rainforest. The lushness of the forest is a product of the high humidity and during the first few hours of the morning we had to contend with fairly dense fog. Nonetheless, we got off to a nice start with an extremely confiding Chestnut-crowned Gnateater that showed off at less than 2m from us. Normally at lower elevations, a Yellow-throated Toucan was a nice surprise shortly afterwards. On the ridge itself we were

Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager
Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager. Colombia, 2017. Photo: Rick Whitman.

fortunate to run into 4 different Chestnut-capped Pihas! Despite being the Reserves showcase species they can be quite elusive so we counted ourselves fortunate. Though we were disappointed to dip on a couple the reserves other endemics, in particular the Multicolored Tanager, we ran into some other tricky species on our descent back to the lodge including Brown-billed Scythebill, Wing-barred Piprites and Purplish-mantled Tanager. Some after dinner owling down the road failed to produce the hoped for Stygian Owl but we did hear Mottled Owl.

Day 3 Chestnut-capped Piha Reserve

For the duration of the morning we birded the road that carries on north from the lodge. This road passes through several patches of good forest as well as regenerating pasture and a grassy wetland. Shortly after leaving the lodge we got good looks at a pair of endemic Parker’s Antbirds. These were followed by a nice mixed-species flock in which we picked up Fulvous-breasted Flatbill, Silver-throated and Golden Tanagers and as we were departing, a troupe of Red-bellied Grackles. A little ways down the road Jose, the local forest guard, picked out a roosting South American Coati. These mammals are a lot trickier to see in the Andes than in other parts of the tropics. At a small wetland we found an accommodating Wedge-tailed Grass-finch perched atop some shrubbery along with a pair of Bran-colored Flycatchers. As the morning warmed up, activity declined but we still

Green Violetear
Green Violetear. Colombia, 2017. Photo: Rick Whitman.

managed to get good looks at a male White-crowned Manakin, thanks to Jose’s sharp eyes. The morning was capped off with a surprise encounter with a Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner that stayed perched long enough for everyone to get extended scope-views of a normally rather skulky, if not uncommon, species. After lunch we enjoyed the feeders and the grounds at the lodge where Black-winged Saltators and Blue-necked Tanagers made appearances along with a very rare Solitary Eagle that circled a few times over the nearby ridge. A calling White-crowned Tapaculo was tracked down. After dark, most of the group made an unsuccessful attempt at Cinnamon Screech-owl in the forest, while those that preferred to stick to the road were rewarded with a flyover Stygian Owl that Jose was able to call in.

Day 4 Chestnut-capped Piha Reserve to Medellin

This morning we spent birding down the road in the opposite direction to the previous day. The birding was fairly quiet until we reached the first habitations, beyond the reserve boundary. Here we had a very productive hour getting good looks at the near-endemic Sooty-headed Wren and a family group of White-mantled Barbets that put on a show at close quarters. Another group of Red-bellied Grackles were feeding nearby and Jose spotted a female Western Emerald nest-building. After an early lunch at the reserve we made our way back to Medellin. On a tip from Jose we made a stop to look for the very local Tody Motmot. Despite hearing a few individuals we were not able to get views, unfortunately. We did pick up our first Black-crowned Antshrike, Sepia-capped Flycatcher and Crested Oropendolas. Other stops produced the only Citron-throated Toucan of the trip and our first Spectacled Parrotlets.

Day 5 La Romera Reserve and the Cauca Valley to Jardin

After a pleasant night in the south of Medellin we made our way to the nearby La Romera Reserve on the outskirts of the city. The main target at this reserve is the very local Yellow-headed Manakin which, with patience, can usually be found. Sure enough, we eventually all got good looks at one perched unobtrusively in the undergrowth after only part of the group got brief views of one at a fruiting tree. Close encounters with a pair of Emerald Toucanets, Ornate Flycatcher and Russet-crowned and Three-striped Warblers filled in the rest of our time here. Traveling down into the Cauca Valley we had 3 endemics in mind; Greyish Piculet, Apical Flycatcher and Antioquia Wren. Disappointingly we

Andean Cock-of-the-Rock 2
Andean Cock-of-the-rock. Jardin, Colombia. Feb 2017. Photo: Rick Whitman.

dipped on all three despite visiting two sites where all are known to occur. Our consolation came in the form of several new species to the trip including White-fringed Antwren, Panama Flycatcher and Golden-crowned Warbler. After checking in to our hotel on the plaza in Jardin we walked to the edge of town where a track leads down to the creek and perhaps the best Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek anywhere. Pretty soon we were enjoying several incredible males displaying and interacting just metres away from us!

Day 6 Yellow-eared Parrot Reserve, night in Jardin

We had an early departure to make the bumpy hour and a quarter journey up to the Yellow-eared Parrot Reserve in time for the flight of Yellow-eared Parrots leaving their roosts. This species has made a remarkable comeback from the brink of extinction thanks principally to the efforts of Fundacion Proaves. As we were finishing up our field breakfast a trio of the parrots flew over and landed in a tree on the slope opposite where we were able to get good scope views of them followed by close flyby looks as they moved on to their next foraging site. Birding down the road we ran into the typical upper elevation forest birds including Pearled Treerunner, Rufous Spinetail as well as several tanagers such

Clay-colored Thrush
Clay-colored Thrush. Colombia, 2017. Photo: Rick Whitman.

as Lachrimose Mountain-tanager, Blue-and Black and Grass-green Tanagers. After a field lunch we spent some time at a good vantage point where we scoped a distant Chestnut-crested Cotinga, a much sought-after denizen of remote high elevation valleys. Some nests of Mountain Cacique provided further entertainment but with the onset of late afternoon rains we decided to make our way back to Jardin. After a rest we enjoyed a wander around this beautiful town and at dinner at an open-fronted restaurant we were entertained by a parade of men, women and children on horseback, all showing off their trots as they circled the main plaza.

Day 7 Jardin, return through the Cauca Valley to Montezuma Lodge

We started out at 6 to make our way down into the Cauca Valley for breakfast at a restaurant near our first birding stop. The restaurant had put out a few bananas near a small pool and these attracted many Thick-billed Euphonias, Tanagers and our only Clay-colored Thrush of the trip. A second attempt at Antioquia Wren and Apical Flycatcher again left us empty handed, though our only Black-tailed Flycatcher and Slate-headed Tody-flycatcher of the trip were spotted. Moving on we were promptly stopped by road works which provided an impromptu opportunity to call in a pair of responsive Greyish Piculets. Finally getting onto this enigmatic endemic was a welcome salve for our poor luck with the Wren and Flycatcher we had dipped on. After a longer than anticipated journey, in part due to a wrong turn along the way, we arrived at the Montezuma Lodge with time to spend an hour or so enjoying the hummingbird feeders that held an impressive 15 species including Violet-tailed Sylph, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Velvet-purple Coronet and Empress Brilliant.

Day 8 Montezuma Lodge/Tatama National Park

The Choco eco-region is one of the most biodiverse in the world and holds a host of regional endemics, many of which only occur on the west slope of the Western Andes. Our first day here started with drive up to the peak above the lodge where a couple of Colombian endemics can be found. We started off with a singing Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer that gave a few good, though brief views before working our way down through stunted forests until we finally were able to get on a pair of Munchique Wood-wrens. Both of these target birds only occur at the highest part of the road so we were pleased to get onto them and start working our way down through nicer forest. The rest of the day was spent making our way slowly downhill. Though activity was light, considering that this area is often teeming with flocks, we did pick up many of the specialties including two other endemic Tanagers, Gold-ringed and Black-and-gold along with Fulvous-dotted Treerunner, Beautiful Jay, a scoped Pale-eyed Thrush and our first Glistening-green Tanager and Indigo Flowerpiercers. In the late afternoon we drove down to the Rio Claro, not far from the lodge, where we encountered a noisy group of Crested Ant-tanagers and heard a calling Plain-backed Antpitta which ultimately proved elusive.

Day 9 Montezuma Lodge/Tatama National Park

Having done the higher part of the road the day before, we drove only about half way up and spent the morning working down the lower part of the road. With most of the country endemics in the bag from the day before we were targeting a few of the missed Choco

Green-and-Black Fruiteater
Green-and-black Fruiteater. Colombia, Feb 2017. Photo: Rick Whitman.

specialties as well as the prized Multicolored Tanager, which already eluded us once, at the Piha reserve. Having heard so many the day before it was a relief to finally get a prolonged scope view of a Black Solitaire as it sang from a mossy perch. Shortly after that we got fantastic looks at a responsive Cloud-forest Pygmy-owl, one of the hardest of the Choco specialties to actually see! Small flocks held many Tanager species including Flame-faced and Saffron-crowned. A pair of diminutive Bronze-olive Pygmy-tyrants foraged beside the road as did an Ochre-breasted Antpitta, picked out by Michele Vigano, an Italian birder staying at the lodge for 10 days who joined us for the duration of our stay as our “local” guide. Having spotted a few of the widespread Green-and-black Fruiteaters we were delighted to have a male Orange-breasted Fruiteater land in a nearby tree. The morning was capped off with a stop at a known roost site of a Common Potoo! After lunch back at the lodge and some time enjoying the hummingbird feeders we headed back out in the mid-afternoon focusing on

Common Potoo
Common Potoo. Colombia, Feb 2017. Photo: Rick Whitman.

trying to finally lay eyes on a Multicolored Tanager. The distinctive sound of a displaying Club-winged Manakin reached us from a damp ravine below the road and after a bit of coaxing this little gem of a bird came and danced right in front of us, one of the highlights of the trip! A large mixed flock in poor light finally produced a fleeting glimpse of a female Multicolored Tanager for myself but before any of the group got on it it was gone.

Day 10 Montezuma to Manizales

We gave one last go at Multicolored Tanager before we had to head out to our next destination, Manizales. In the few hours we had again birding the lower part of the road above the lodge we picked up Golden-bellied “Choco” Warbler, Olive Finch and Ochre-breasted Tanager and heard the only just described Tatama (aka Alto de Pisones) Tapaculo. Alas, no Multicolored Tanager. As we prepared to depart the lodge a pair of Barred Hawks soared out over the ridge behind us. On our way back down towards the Cacau Valley we made a stop near Apia for Turquoise Dacnis. Staking out a likely looking tree, I did get onto a male briefly, though, like the Multicolored the day before it disappeared before any of the group got on it. Several false alarms with a male Green Honeycreeper ensued but the Dacnis did not reappear. Lunch in the dry Cauca Valley produced a surprise Dwarf Cuckoo as well as good looks at a pair of Vermillion Flycatchers. We encountered an absolutely torrential deluge with very strong winds in between the cities of Pereira and Manizales which forced us to wait at a roadside truck stop as bamboo, tree limbs and whole small trees were blowing down across the road. While still on the road one of these blowdowns struck the back of the bus leaving a sizeable dent!

Day 11 Rio Blanco Reserve, night in Manizales

We had the full day to enjoy this wonderful reserve. After a half hour watching the hummingbird feeders at the lodge, photographing Long-tailed Sylphs, Fawn-breasted Brilliants, Buff-tailed Coronets etc. we moved up the road to visit a succession of three

Chestnut-crowned Antpitta
Chestnut-crowned Antpitta. Rio Blanco Reserve, Colombia. Feb 2017. Photo: Rick Whitman.

Antpitta feeding stations. Here we were immediately greeted by a small group of Golden-plumed Parakeets. The feeding stations themselves provided excellent views of Chestnut-crowned, Bicolored and Brown-banded Antpittas and some of the group spotted a skulky Chestnut-naped Antpitta that remained in the dense vegetation. A couple excellent mixed flocks held Black-billed Mountain-toucan, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher and Metallic-green Tanager amongst a host of others. Skulking in the bamboo were Streak-headed Antbird and a couple Striped Treehunters though they were hard to get good views of. Perhaps the bird of the day was Masked Saltator, of which a pair was spotted, eventually giving good looks for all of this rare and local species. Back at the lodge after

Bicolored Antpitta
Bicolored Antpitta. Colombia 2017. Photo: Rick Whitman.

lunch we waited out the rain that had finally broken over us. The birding was still quite good from the patio and we added Rufous-crowned Tody-flycatcher, Black-eared Hemispingus and Yellow-billed Cacique here. At dusk we waited at a stakeout for Lyre-tailed Nightjars that leave their roost from a cliff at the roadside. Here we saw a couple females before a stunning male flew overhead with it’s incredible tail streaming out behind it.

Day 12 Nevados del Ruiz National Park and Termales del Ruiz Hotel to Otun Quimbaya Sanctuary

This was a cold day dominated by thick fog that made birding difficult for most of the morning. We started off with a few stops in the high mountains near the entrance to Los Navados national Park in an unsuccessful attempt to pick up the endemic Rufous-fronted Parakeet. Frustrated by the lack of visibility we moved up to the park entrance itself where another endemic, the punk-rock hummingbird – Buffy Helmetcrest is regular. We were made to wait before one finally showed itself. In the meantime we saw Stout-billed

Plumbeous Sierra-Finch
Plumbeous Sierra-Finch. Colombia, 2017. Photo: Rick Whitman.

Cinclodes, Plumbeous Sierra-finch and some got on a Tawny Antpitta. Making our way back down to the Termales del Ruiz Hotel we enjoyed an array of stunning hummingbirds at the feeder setup here. Shining Sunbeams and Great Sapphirewings predominated with lesser numbers of Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Golden-breasted Puffleg and a lone Black-thighed Puffleg joining in. Even amongst this impressive list the star was undoubtedly the Rainbow-bearded Thornbill that was so tame it would fly back in forth right in front of our faces, even attempting to land on us! After lunch we made the 3 hour journey to the Otun Quimbaya Sanctuary where we birded the grounds in the final hour of daylight picking up Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, Fawn-breasted Tanager and a calling Tropical Screech-owl.

Day 13 Otun Quimbaya Sanctuary, flight to Bogota. End Main Tour

The final morning of the main tour was spent birding up the fairly level road beyond the accommodations at Otun Quimabaya. We started in the parking lot where a Wedge-billed Hummingbird was visiting the flowers and the first of many Cauca Guans flew into a nearby tree for scope views. This endemic was once thought extinct but there is now a healthy population here though it is the only known site for them. As the morning

Spot-breasted Woodpecker
Spot-breasted Woodpecker. Colombia 2017. Photo: Gisele D’Entremont.

progressed we caught up with a group of Crested Ant-tanagers, which not everyone had seen at Montezuma. Moustached Antpittas proved elusive as always despite hearing a couple near to the road. A covey of Chestnut-wood-quails, one of the tougher endemics to actually see, flew across the road allowing for brief views. Around 9:00 we came across an area of good activity with a pair of Blue-naped Chlorophonias started things off. A fruiting tree held a Crimson-rumped Toucanet briefly and Plumbeous-crowned Tyrannulet and Black-billed Peppershrike foraged with a mixed flock at the roadside. At long last we finally encountered a pair of Multicolored Tanagers that showed themselves a few times over the next 10 minutes, the female even appearing to explore a potential nest site in a clump of moss. We were all extremely pleased to have finally caught up with our nemesis bird, even if it was at the 11th hour! A stunning show of butterflies kept us entertained as the birds quieted down in the late morning. After lunch we started the drive back down to the Pereira airport where we were catching our flight back to Bogota. We made a couple stops along the river here to try to pick up Torrent Duck without success.

Hoatzin
Hoatzin. Colombia, March 2017. Photo: Gisele D’Entremont.

Extension

Day 14 Flight to Yopal, drive to Hato La Aurora

After a 45 minute flight to El Yopal, at the edge of the llanos east of the Andes, we piled into two pickup trucks for the 5.5 hour drive to Hato La Aurora. This huge ranch has been converted to tourism and receives a small but growing number of birding groups. En route we got acquainted with many of the regular large species such as Horned Screamer, Jabiru, Whistling Heron and Scarlet, Buff-necked and Sharp-tailed Ibis. Also seen on our frequent birding stops along the way were Brazilian Teal, Russet-throated (Two-banded) Puffbird

Celebrating a great day of birding (Avery's photo)
Avocet Tours group enjoying birds while sipping a cold beverage on extension. March 2017. Photo: Avery Bartels.

and Oriole Blackbird. Mammalian highlights included prolonged views of a Giant Anteater sucking up ants at the roadside and a Jaguarundi that crossed the road ahead of us. After a late lunch at the Ecohotel Juan Solito (the accommodation at Hato La Aurora) we spent the rest of the afternoon birding along a trail that parallels the river. Here we got our first looks at Pale-headed Jacamar, Rufous-fronted Thornbird, Violaceous Jay and Black-faced Tanager. Beside the hotel there is a lookout over the river where we spotted our first of several Sunbitterns, Gray-cowled Wood-rails and at dusk, Nacunda and Least Nighthawks.

Day 15 Hato La Aurora

While enjoying our excellent breakfast we were fortunate enough to be interrupted by our second Giant Anteater in as many days!  A quick ferry across the river (with a pair of Rusty-backed Spinetails seen, nest building along the shore) and we were off in safari

Giant Anteater
Giant Anteater. Colombia. March 2017. Photo: Gisele D’Entremont.

style in a pickup with benches set up in the back. We slowly bumped our way through scrubby forest and grassland, stopping at lagoons and enjoying our highest diversity of species of the trip (we finished the day with 129 species of birds). Our first stop was for a group of beautiful Chestnut-eared Aracaris inspecting a termite nest. We saw several Burrowing Owls at their burrows over the course of the day and the many lagoons we visited held a multitude of waterbirds including Orinoco Geese, White-faced and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Rufescent Tiger-herons, Cocoi Herons, Pied Lapwing and several Large-billed and a single Yellow billed Terns. Every watering hole also had up to several dozen Capybaras in attendance. A pre-lunch stop had us watching our first Hoatzins of the trip, undoubtedly one of the most awkward and unusual of the world’s avifauna. From a nearby perch an adult Great Black-hawk eyed us. We lunched at the Hato (ranch house) proper where we spent some time enjoying the feeders that were alive with Yellow-rumped Caciques, Carib

Cabybaras
A family of Capybaras on the extension portion of our Colombia tour. March 2017. Photo: Gisele D’Entremont.

Grackles, Saffron Finches and Masked Cardinals. The hummingbird feeders attracted several Bananaquits and the odd Glittering-throated Emerald as well as Red-crowned Woodpecker and a lone Venezuelan Troupial. Behind the Hato we followed a small backwater stream where we found more Hoatzin and an Anhinga. An afternoon drive around the lagoons near the Hato produced a Limpkin and partial views of an Anaconda that reluctantly showed it’s snout and a part of its back after some prodding from our local guide. As dusk set in we watched a spectacular show of Scarlet Ibis, and a few other species, coming in to roost at a pond just in front of the Hato. Least Nighthawks and bats hawked insects and as darkness settled in we departed to make the 1hr drive back to the hotel. Along the way we spotlighted White-tailed Nightjar and Common Pauraque as well as a Crab-eating Fox.

Burrowing Owl 1
Burrowing Owl. Colombia. March 2017. Photo: Gisele D’Entremont.

Day 16 Hato La Aurora

After another sumptuous breakfast we again crossed the river, this time setting off on foot along a trail through forest and scrub that runs along the edge of the river. We had only been on the trail for a few minutes when our local guide, Jovani, halted us and pointed out a Crestless Curassow in a tree ahead of us. Relying on staying still to remained unobserved, it allowed for a fairly prolonged, if partially obscured view before it finally flew down to the ground and disappeared. This is one of the star birds here and we were

Wire-tailed Manakin
Wire-tailed Manakin. Colombia, March 2017. Photo: Gisele D’Entremont.

thrilled to have seen it so close to the lodge! Shortly afterwards we came across an area with good activity where we spotted Spectacled Thrush, a pair of Buff-breasted Wrens and a Scaled Piculet tapping away on some vines. Carrying on a pair of skittish American Pygmy Kingfishers unfortunately flew off before most of the group could get on them. Several Rufous-tailed Jacamars showed off their stunning iridescence and a male Wire-tailed Manakin, vying for the attention of a female was eventually tracked down. In the afternoon we were paddled upstream a ways, spotting another Sunbittern, a Gray-headed Kite and a pair of Red-bellied Macaws. We then took a different trail where we got fantastic looks at 2 male Wire-tailed Manakins as well as our first Black-crested Antshrikes. As we floated back down to the lodge in the late afternoon our 7th Ibis species of the extension flushed off the shore, a Green Ibis. A trio of Lesser Kiskadees were our last new bird of the day.

The Roost
Scarlet Ibis coming to roost. Colombia, March 2017. Photo: Gisele D’Entremont.

Day 17 Hato La Aurora to Yopal, flight to Bogota

Our final morning of the trip saw us spend a couple hours birding the same trail we had started on upon arrival here. We began with 20 minutes overlooking the river where we were shocked to see another Crestless Curassow fly across the river! From the other side of the river we could hear a calling Rosy Thrush-tanager, though we did not encounter any on our side. Moving on we found a gathering of 4 Little Woodpeckers, followed by nice scope views of a Plumbeous Kite. Southern-beardless Tyrannulet and Rufous-and-white Wrens were welcome additions to the trip list but all too soon we had to return to the Ecohotel to retrieve our bags and depart for Yopal. The birds spotted on the drive were much the same as what we had seen on the way in though a stop at a little pond just after leaving the hotel provided us with our first Yellow-chinned Spinetails and not long afterwards we encountered a group of Blue-crowned Parakeets in a tree at the roadside. After a roadside lunch and some ice cream in Paz de Ariporo we continued down the Hwy to the Rio Paoto. Here we stopped, at the driver’s suggestion to do a bit of birding. It proved an inspired

Great Potoo
Great Potoo. Colombia, March 2017. Photo: Gisele D’Entremont.

decision as we found several new birds for the trip, not least of which was a roosting Great Potoo! In the same area we got on Hooded and Burnished Buff Tanagers, Chestnut-vented Conebill and a couple Yellow-breasted Flycatchers. Our final new bird of the trip was Brown-chested Martin, 4 of which were foraging over the river. Arriving at the airport in Yopal with time for a quick meal we were whisked back to Bogota where we said our goodbyes and prepared for the return to Canadian winter.

End Trip

Tales and photographs of the adventures of Avocet Tours