Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge

One of my fellow birder whom I had met during birding walks over the spring had been mentioning about "Hagerman Wildlife Refuge". I had read that this beautiful place is wonderful for the wintering fowls and other shore birds. Since this place was about 70miles from my home I was a little hesitant to drive alone all the way to this place for birding. But it was always there in my "To Visit" checklist along with "John Bunker Sands Wetlans Center".

Last week I read a report in Audobon forum that the shore birds might show up at Hagerman this week and since I have seen very few shore birds in US till now, I decided to checkout the refuge. It did turn out to be great time to see the migrating shore birds. The birds were in huge numbers and most of them were lifers.

I headed to the refuge at 5:15AM without much expectation. I thought it would be good to see few shore birds but did not expect anything much. Wanted to checkout the place first before the water fowl start coming here for winter. I plan to visit this place more during the winter season to look for waterfowl. Reached the Visitor center at around 6:40AM. It was still dark when I reached the place and I saw there were no cars in the parking lot. Then I thought of heading directly towards the "Haller's Haven trail" instead of waiting in the parking lot. There are lot of sign boards on the way. One could easily drive around here without getting lost :-) My mobile GPS was bad and these sign boards helped me to find my way. I reached the parking lot of the trail without much difficulty. When I reached the place I could see there were 3 cars in the lot already. They were getting ready to head out towards the "Dead Woman's Pond"

On Friday I had ready a report of the bird walk that was done on 13'th October and they had reported sighting of all the 7 woodpeckers from there. I did see couple of people who had come just to see these woodpeckers. I started the trail and first saw the "Picnic Pond". There was not much happening at this pond and probably being so early in the morning did not help. Then decided to head towards the "Dead Woman's Pond". I saw few people were waiting for the sunlight to come out. I could hear some woodpecker sounds and they were far from lens reach. But I was able to see the "Red Headed Woodpecker" cleanly. There were couple of them when I saw and they were fighting with couple of "Northern Flickers". Since there was not much light I decided to go along the trails for sometime. On the way I could see couple of Lincoln sparrows near the pond's edge making lot of noise. And once the wooded area started I saw few "Downy woodpeckers", "Yellow-bellied Sapsucker", "Tufted Titmouse", "Cardinals" and "Carolina Chickadee's". I walked the trail for about 30min and decided to head back towards the "Dead Woman's Pond". Near the pond I saw one juvenile "Red Headed woodpecker". Along with that I saw "Carolina Wren", "Nashville Warbler", "Ruby Crowned Kinglet" and "Lincoln Sparrow". It was interesting to see the warbler and Kinglet. I'm not sure of the migration patterns but I thought the warblers would be heading out towards south by now. And Kinglets seem to be returning now for the winter.

Brown Thrasher

Lincoln Sparrow

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Northern Flicker

Orange Crowned Warbler

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Carolina Wren
Near the pond I could still see the commotion with the woodpeckers and the flickers. There were at least 4 "Northern Flickers" that I could see and couple of adult "Red Headed Woodpeckers". There were few killdeers on the pond shore along with few Least Sandpipers. The other interesting birds That I saw near the pond were "Dickcissel" and"House Wren". I did see few Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons near the pond and heard the Great Egrets call for the first time here.

Savannah Sparrow


House Wren
It was almost 9:30 when I decided to check the other trails on the refuge. On my drive back I saw few "Yellow Rumped Warblers" and near the small bridge I could "Greater Yellow legs" along with "Killdeers" and "Sandpipers".

And in the open fields near the Oil pads I saw my first Shrike species in US. It was a "Loggerhead Shrike". I also a "Eastern Meadow Lark" in the open fields. I kept seeing these "Meadow Larks" through out the day. I thought only 1 type of Meadow Lark is seen here in Dallas but later read the bird guide and notice that both kind of Meadow Larks can be seen here. Probably I missed a "Western Meadow Lark" assuming it to be a "Eastern Meadow Lark". Next time I need to pay more attention to each bird I see when I'm on the field.

Yellow-reumped Warbler

Eastern Meadowlark

Loggerhead Shrike

In the oil pads I could see lot of "Greater Yellow legs", "Least Sandpipers" and "Dowitchers". But among them some other birds were seen. In one of the places I could see a "Dunlin". There was a lone "Dunlin" feeding among a group of Least Sandpipers. I also saw a lone "Wilson's Snipe" feeding along with Dowitchers and Yellow legs. I also saw a lone Lesser Yellowleg near these Avocets. I also saw a "Wilson's Phalarope" in one of the ponds.

Least Sandpipers


Pied-billed Grebe

Lesser Yellowlegs

Wilson's Phalarope
While I was watching these shorebirds I saw a group of Ibis flew by. And one of the Ibis landed among the shorebirds. It was my first sighting of an Ibis in the wild in US. While I was trying to take a photo of this Ibis a Northern Marsh Harrier appeared and seemed scare away the birds. There was a frenzy on each oil pad when this Harrier tried to scan them for a meal. I did scoop down couple of times to catch a prey but it failed both times. This was the first time I got to see a Harrier so closely even if it was just in the flight.

Near one of the Oil Pads I saw a group of "American Avocets" feeding in the waters. I had seen Avocets in breeding plumage earlier in White Rock Lake. But seeing them now in white plumage was good. Avocets were seen at multiple ponds. .

Wilson's Snipe

Eastern Meadowlark

White-faced Ibis

Black Vulture

American Avocet

Greater Yellowlegs

American White Pelican

Forster's Terns

Red Winged Blackbird

Greater Yellowlegs

Long billed Dowitcher
Couple of people mentioned the sighting of a Bald Eagle just the day before but on this day there were no signs of this big eagle which is on my Checklist before I head back to India. Another bird that I would like to see is the Road Runner which is sighted often here in Hagerman Refuge. I hope to see one during my next few travels to this refuge.

I saw few other ducks on the lake and Pintails and a Redhead were first timers for me. I also saw a long Horned Grebe. There were few Shovelers along with Mallards. And just before I returned I scanned the lake to find a group of Forster's terns.



Horned Grebe
It was a great birding trip. And many thanks to the Audobon Dallas forum for helping me with the ID's of the birds.

ebird : http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S25473456

  1. Canada Goose  
  2. Mallard  
  3. Blue-winged Teal  
  4. Northern Shoveler 
  5. Northern Pintail  
  6. Redhead  
  7. Pied-billed Grebe  
  8. Horned Grebe  
  9. Double-crested Cormorant  
  10. American White Pelican  
  11. Great Blue Heron  
  12. Great Egret  
  13. Snowy Egret  
  14. White-faced Ibis  
  15. Black Vulture  
  16. Northern Harrier  
  17. American Coot  
  18. American Avocet  
  19. Killdeer  
  20. Greater Yellowlegs  
  21. Lesser Yellowlegs  
  22. Dunlin  
  23. Least Sandpiper  
  24. Long-billed Dowitcher  
  25. Wilson's Snipe  
  26. Wilson's Phalarope  
  27. Forster's Tern  
  28. Mourning Dove  
  29. Red-headed Woodpecker  
  30. Red-bellied Woodpecker  
  31. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  
  32. Downy Woodpecker  
  33. Northern Flicker  
  34. American Kestrel  
  35. Eastern Phoebe  
  36. Loggerhead Shrike  
  37. Blue Jay  
  38. American Crow  
  39. Barn Swallow  
  40. Carolina Chickadee  
  41. Tufted Titmouse  
  42. House Wren  
  43. Carolina Wren
  44. Ruby-crowned Kinglet  
  45. Eastern Bluebird  
  46. Brown Thrasher  
  47. Northern Mockingbird  
  48. European Starling  
  49. Nashville Warbler  
  50. Savannah Sparrow  
  51. Lincoln's Sparrow  
  52. Dickcissel  
  53. Red-winged Blackbird  
  54. Eastern Meadowlark