Home Patch: El Franco Lee Park catching up and some new birds

It was a very interesting morning at the park with an odd mix of new birds, few migrants, and raptors. Things looked promising when a male Sharp-shinned Hawk perched near the gazebo amidst angry Blue Jays. The throngs of Yellow Warblers were gone and I didn’t see much within the first ten minutes. I heard a single Common Yelowthroat in the weeds across the ditch and wandered over. Two Indigo Buntings were the only migrants in the Alligator Bend and I decided to check the woods towards the northwest corner. Crossing the open mowed area I heard a very quiet dry chip from the overgrown gravel mound, walking towards it a single Spizella sparrow flushed and flew off immediately. I re-found it and after careful study of the bird foraging on the ground along the weed, it looked like an adult Clay-colored Sparrow with an obvious median crown stripe, pink bill, strong face pattern, weak wingbars. I lost track of it before I could photograph it. This was a bird I had hoped to find today and of course this is a new addition to the growing park list. Back in the woods I found a single Black-and-white Warbler, plus Great-crested Flycatcher and a Blue Grosbeak.

On the way to the wetlands I had a Least Flycatcher and several Wilson’s Warblers. The wetlands look better every day with water being pumped the large wading birds are returning, including Roseate Spoonbills and many herons. One of the best birds of the day was an American Avocet among the Black-necked Stilts. Other shorebirds still present included Least Sandpipers, Stilt Sandpipers, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs. A Merlin shot across and two kestrels were hawking dragonflies that swirled by the thousand above the marsh. A small shorebird flock that I glimpsed briefly as it flew out of the wetland had the suspiciously compact shape of Buff-breasted Sandpipers, alas these got away.

I walked around the entire wetland, hoping for more surprises. A single Yellow-bellied Flycatcher rounded out the migrants. Then a species that would have been another addition to my park list at least, two Inca Doves flew over, but the view was too brief and I couldn’t find them again. The first Savanna Sparrow of the year made an appearance and a Marsh Wren was present. The marsh is still full of Soras with birds calling constantly. The final new bird of the day came in the form of a Boat-tailed Grackle no doubt a species I had overlooked so far, poor record photos below, input welcome. The resident Red-shouldered Hawks were causing havoc among the few shorebirds, the Crested Caracara put in a few appearances and a Red-tailed Hawk soared past. Almost five new species on my park list, but just three for the day.

American Avocet El Franco Lee Park, Texas Photo Stephan Lorenz

Boat-tailed Grackle El Franco Lee Park, Photo Stephan Lorenz

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