An increasingly wintry feel to the birding today, if not the weather, with a huge arrival of ducks at this site since my last visit just 8 days ago. The north-western arm of Mitchell Lake was the place to be, with a female Cinnamon Teal the best offering. This bird flew in and landed fairly close to where I was standing, allowing the ID features to be seen well: large, all-dark bill, warm brown plumage tones, and a plain face with a distinct pale eye ring. It didn’t stay long before departing again, perhaps spooked by intermittent gunshots from the far side of the lake.
Ducks took almost all the headlines today, with three smart Hooded Mergansers – two males and a female – feeding and diving very actively in the same area. On the main lake, two female Red-breasted Mergansers showed close inshore, and a group of newly arrived Bufflehead – including at least two adult drakes – was a fine sight. Also of note here, a Long-billed Dowitcher, a Greater Yellowlegs, and the two Roseate Spoonbills continuing from last week.
Overhead, impressive numbers of Cave Swallows lingered, with a handful of Barn Swallows among their number. Bushes and tracks along the margins of the lakes held some interesting birds, including at least six Vesper Sparrows, hot on the heels of my first-ever sighting of this species last week in Austin. There were also a few warblers around, in contrast to last week: four Orange-crowned Warblers, two Myrtle Warblers, and a Common Yellowthroat, while Verdin and Ladder-backed Woodpecker showed well near the visitor center.
Lifer: Cinnamon Teal (total 2,031).
2015 Year Ticks: Hooded Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Bufflehead, Long-billed Dowitcher (total 1,051).