bearriver Blog: Pelican path or Kingbird highway?

Pelican path or Kingbird highway?

Friday, May 4, 2012

While birding the Refuge Auto Loop the other night, I noticed how pockets of certain species in certain habitats made it feel almost like certain portions of the road were designated for a few certain of these species… and it got me thinking.  If we didn’t call it the Refuge Auto Loop (which I’m not suggesting we change) what would we call it?  I definitely know what I’d call portions of it:

Kingbird Highway.  The first 3-4 miles down the road from the Wildlife Education Center…through some of the residential/agricultural areas rife with barbed-wired fence lines and telephone wires is full of Western kingbirds…and soon to be Eastern kingbirds as well.  In just one week their numbers have tripled or more and it is almost impossible NOT to see one of these yellow-bellied flycatchers doing just that…fly catching.

Whimbrel Way:  OK.  This one is probably a long shot… as Whimbrels are a rarity on the refuge, only moving through during migration and usually quickly at that. But – this season has already provided several sightings of one here and there, in the playa wetland and grassland areas along the county road also referred to as Curlew flats –due to all the nesting Long-billed curlews. 

Pelican Path:  This one would be very fitting for the southernmost part of the tour loop, as almost everytime I’ve driven it this spring there are large fleets of pelican group-fishing and foraging along the canals and waterways before they head back to a local island to nest.

Black-crowned Bypass:  We have a rather good year for Black-crowned night herons. And combined with snowy egrets and great blue herons, there is a rookery of nests started just off the Auto Loop in a closed area of the Refuge to the east of the route.  But – this large nesting colony means a lot more views of these “squownky” birds when they are out hunting – usually best found after 4pm.

Tern & Teal Trail:   Last and certainly not least, a section should be dedicated to two of the Refuge’s specialties…Cinnamon teal and Forster’s terns.  Both these beautiful birds are now massing in numbers…the teal starting to nest along shorelines and canal edges while the terns are gracefully winging and plunge-diving above and into canals for fish.

I’m sure there are many more ideas of species and areas of the loop to highlight.  If you have any, feel free to share them with me at, and Happy Birding!


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