I could hear the melodic song of a Blue Grosbeak as I sat on the edge of my car changing from my sandals to my shoes. It was good to be out after a month’s hiatus caring for my dying dog and recuperating from a broken toe.
“I think we are a week too early for migration,” trip leader Rebecca told us as we assembled. “We’ll see what we can see here – and then, for those who are interested, we can head over to the Tramway Wetlands where shorebirds are migrating through.”
Most of us walked along the drain, while a few trekked across the levee to be on eye-level with the foliage. A pair of Western Tanagers flew out of the tops of one of the trees. A few Barn Swallows dipped low as they zoomed over the drain and a Western Kingbird caught an insect and then left.
“I see a Yellow Warbler,” someone on the levee signaled. “It was at 3:00, but has moved to the inside of the tallest tree.”
We began to see movement in the tree. The bird that popped into view was a Wilson’s Warbler. Perhaps both had been there. Several others flitted around in trees further along the drain. A Lesser Goldfinch and a Bewick’s Wren called from the same area.
Black-chinned Hummingbirds busily foraged in the trees along the drain – and later in the bosque.
Our walk through the bosque was fairly quiet, only a few Spotted Towhees calling. We startled a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk who darted out of its cottonwood perch. Across the river, two Yellow-breasted Chats called to each other.
We decided it was time to head to the wetlands.
Most of us parked on Edith and walked across the edge of the flood control channel and over the RailRunner tracks to avoid the construction trucks still working on the overpass along north 4th Street.
Just past the railroad tracks, the silt has built up and only a trickle of water gets through when there is no storm water washing down. Willows have grown up across the channel, which seem to provide shelter and shade for some of the species that permanently or seasonally call the settling basin home.
A shopping cart was lodged in the channel after having been swept downstream. It may have been deposited in an arroyo by a lazy shopper, or it might have contained the belongings of one of the homeless persons that often sleep under bridges that cross the arroyos.
Spotted Sandpipers that arrived in early May and nested here had lost their spots and bounced along the edges of the channel in several locations. Year-round Killdeer made their territorial presence known.“Look, a White-faced Ibis is flying in,” someone called. “It’s an immature.”
After it landed, its plumage almost blended in with the moss and mud.
Another surprise was a couple of Wilson’s Snipes, originally spotted by Pauline. They were among the species that popped in and out of the willows.
A yellow-colored warbler also flitted around in the willows, but I was never able to get a long enough fix on it to make an ID.There were several Solitary Sandpipers, easily identified with their large eye-ring, giving them a wide-eyed look.
There were two sandpipers foraging together. After scrutinizing them closely through a scope, we were able to determine that one was a Least and the other a Western. A couple of folks also spotted a Baird’s Sandpiper.
A variety of swallows swooped back and forth in the area on either side of the bridge. While Cliff Swallows that had been in residence all summer were still feeding their last brood, many of the others were migrating through – Violet-Green, Northern Rough-winged, Bank and Barn. One person spotted a Tree Swallow.
Resident Mallards, now in their eclipse plumage hovered together on the far side of the channel with a few Canada Geese. At least two Blue-winged Teal joined them briefly before they headed off.
Both Say’s and Black Phoebes found plenty of insects to keep them happy.A Lesser Yellowlegs strutted along the edge of the water, and further along, we spotted a Great Blue Heron standing in wait for a meal – perhaps one of the large catfish I had seen surface on another visit.
It was now late morning and the Village Pizza was calling to our hungry stomachs, so we headed back – pleased with the diversity of shorebirds we had spotted.