Category Archives: TX10

Texas February 2010

Texas 2010: Logistics and Lists

Flights were on American (several airlines were all at the same rate, picked based on time and connecting city) and we had no real issues. Car rental was through Hertz. Mazda 3, which was much less comfortable than the 6 I had last year. We’re pretty sure we got screwed a bit on the cost there and have no interest in dealing with Hertz again any time son. Hotels and food are all mentioned in the daily reports.

I brought my own GPS. It worked fine for the most part, but had occasional issues with new construction and road names. The construction wasn’t a problem as it was obvious where to go but the names did cause some problems. We had to refer to the paper directions for several places as I couldn’t find them in the attraction list and the route number in the address wasn’t accepted (for some reason it wanted the local name).

Here’s everything seen on our trip:

Birds (156)

Gadwall
At most places with water
American Wigeon
various watery spots
Mallard
A few in the Riverwalk in San Antonio and a couple in Rockport
Mottled Duck
2-4 each at Santa Ana, Llano Grande, and South Padre
Blue-winged Teal
Couple each at various water spots
Cinnamon Teal
Four from the deck at Llano Grande
Northern Shoveler
Big numbers at Llano Grande and Laguna Atascosa
Northern Pintail
Huge numbers at Laguna Atascosa and Goose Island
Green-winged Teal
Couple at Llano Grande and Choke Canyon
Redhead
Many in the bay at South Padre and Laguna Atascosa
Ring-necked Duck
1 at Santa Ana, handful at Llano Grande
Lesser Scaup
2 at Llano Grande
Bufflehead
Few each at Aransas, Goose Island, and Choke Canyon
Common Goldeneye
Couple while driving over the causeway between Rockport and Aransas
Red-breasted Merganser
Few at most coastal stops
Ruddy Duck
15 at Llano Grande
Plain Chachalaca
Flocks of 5-10 at most valley sites (Santa Ana to Laguna Atascosa)
Common Loon
5 at Goose Island
Least Grebe
Few at Santa Ana and Llano Grande, single at Laguna Atascosa
Pied-billed Grebe
At sites all over from Zacata Creek to Goose Island
Eared Grebe
Few way out at Goose Island
American White Pelican
Few at Falcon and Zapata, about 100 at Llano Grande, couple elsewhere
Brown Pelican
All over the coast
Neotropic Cormorant
Few from Zacate Creek to South Padre
Double-crested Cormorant
from Laguna Atascosa to Goose Island (probably lots should have been cormorant sp)
Anhinga
4 at Llano Grande, 2 at Frontera
Great Blue Heron
Everywhere
Great Egret
Everywhere
Snowy Egret
Everywhere
Little Blue Heron
1-3 at Llano Grande, South Padre, and Laguna Atascosa
Tricolored Heron
Singles at Llano Grande and South Padre, 6 at Aransas
Reddish Egret
1 at South Padre, 2 at Aransas
Cattle Egret
3 at Zacate Creek
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Single at Llano Grande (the bird walk also had a Green Heron that I missed)
White Ibis
few from South Padre to Aransas
White-faced Ibis
Single at Zacate Creek
Roseate Spoonbill
Singles at Llano Grande and South Padre, about 10 at Aransas on the boardwalk by the tower
Black Vulture
Everywhere
Turkey Vulture
Everywhere
Osprey
Few near Falcon, along coast, and at Choke Canyon
White-tailed Kite
Pair at Llano Grande
Northern Harrier
Singles at Falcon, South Padre, and Laguna Atascosa
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Singles at Zacate Creek and Bentsen
Cooper’s Hawk
Singles at Santa Ana, Quinta Mazatlan, and Llano Grande
Harris’s Hawk
Single at Falcon and Santa Ana
Red-shouldered Hawk
Small numbers from Frio County to Llano Grande
White-tailed Hawk
several along the roads in Cameron County and up to Aransas (one perched in front of the cranes)
Red-tailed Hawk
Numerous along the highways (likely some other hawks mixed in but it was hard to stop)
Crested Caracara
Numerous, especially near Zapata and along the coast
American Kestrel
Abundant along the highways (I could have used a hand clicker to keep track of numbers)
Peregrine Falcon
One over the parking lot at the Best Western in Weslaco
Aplomado Falcon
A distant bird in flight at Laguna Atascosa must have been one of these
Sora
One at Llano Grande
Common Moorhen
Few each at Santa Ana, Llano Grande, South Padre, and Laguna Atascosa
American Coot
Everywhere there was water
Sandhill Crane
2 along the road west of Rockport somewhere
Whooping Crane
2 were visible from the tower at Aransas
Black-bellied Plover
Single at South Padre
Killdeer
few all over
Mountain Plover
At least 50 in the field at the intersection of 57 and 140 in Frio County
Black-necked Stilt
6 at Llano Grande
American Avocet
4 at Llano Grande, 1 over the road between Rockport and Beeville
Northern Jacana
the long-staying bird at Choke Canyon was easy to see at the shore of 75-Acre Lake
Spotted Sandpiper
1-2 at many spots
Greater Yellowlegs
Few each at Zacate Creek, South Padre, and Laguna Atascosa
Willet
4 at South Padre, 30+ at Laguna Atascosa, 4 at Goose Island, all presumably Western
Long-billed Curlew
2 at South Padre, 5+ at Laguna Atascosa
Marbled Godwit
Single at South Padre, handful at Laguna Atascosa
Ruddy Turnstone
1 at Laguna Atascosa, few at Goose Island
Dunlin
10+ at Laguna Atascosa
Long-billed Dowitcher
40+ at Llano Grande, single dowitcher at South Padre
Laughing Gull
Numerous along the coast
Ring-billed Gull
Few at Goose Island
Herring Gull
Handful
Gull-billed Tern
About 10 at Laguna Atascosa
Caspian Tern
4 at South Padre, singles at Laguna Atascosa and Rockport (several tern sp along the coast as well)
Royal Tern
Few at South Padre at least
Black Skimmer
About 50 at South Padre, 3 at Goose Island
Rock Pigeon
Various in cities
Eurasian Collared-Dove
5 at the Best Western in Weslaco, 2 near the Big Oak at Goose Island, 2 in Lamar
White-winged Dove
2-20 at various spots
Mourning Dove
Plenty
Inca Dove
from Salineno to Frontera, most numerous at Frontera
Common Ground-Dove
Salineno, Bentsen, and Llano Grande
White-tipped Dove
Couple at most valley sites and Laguna Atascosa
Greater Roadrunner
5 at Laguna Atascosa
Common Pauraque
2 staked out at Llano Grande
Buff-bellied Hummingbird
2-3 each at Llano Grande, Valley Nature Center, and Frontera
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Singles at Llano Grande and Frontera
Ringed Kingfisher
2 over Zacate Creek, 1 over Military Highway in Mission
Belted Kingfisher
1 on the highway near Falcon, 1 at Aransas, 1 in Rockport
Green Kingfisher
Singles at Santa Ana and Frontera
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Everywhere
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Few from Falcon to Quinta Mazatlan including 8 at Bentsen
Eastern Phoebe
at most sites
Great Kiskadee
Numerous from Zacate Creek to Frontera
Tropical Kingbird
3 (presumed) at Llano Grande
Couch’s Kingbird
Single at South Padre, 4 along the road in at Laguna Atascosa
Rose-throated Becard
The young male coming to the peanut butter feeder at the gatehouse at Bentsen was easy to see as the park opened
Loggerhead Shrike
Single at Falcon, few near Laguna Atascosa, 1 at Goose Island
White-eyed Vireo
Single at Falcon, 3 heard at Laguna Atascosa
Blue-headed Vireo
Single at Bentsen
Blue Jay
3 in San Antonio
Green Jay
Most valley sites, up to Choke Canyon
Chihuahuan Raven
handful along the highway near Zapata
Tree Swallow
Few at Santa Ana
Cave Swallow
Single at Santa Ana
Black-crested Titmouse
At most places in the valley
Verdin
2 at Falcon
Carolina Wren
One in San Antonio and Santa Ana
Bewick’s Wren
One at Salineno
House Wren
Single at Bentsen
Marsh Wren
Couple calling at South Padre
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
All over the valley
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
At most sites in the valley
Northern Wheatear
Wintering bird was easy to see in Beeville
Clay-colored Thrush
Single at the gatehouse at Bentsen
American Robin
San Antonio and Zacate Creek
Northern Mockingbird
All over but especially abundant at Falcon and Laguna Atascosa
Long-billed Thrasher
At most valley sites, good numbers at Laguna Atascosa
Curve-billed Thrasher
2 at Quinta Mazatlan, single at Laguna Atascosa
European Starling
few
American Pipit
Few along the roads, single at Llano Grande, and a handful at Choke Canyon
Sprague’s Pipit
Single at Laguna Atascosa near Pelican Lake
Cedar Waxwing
Few in San Antonio, single at Quinta Mazatlan, about 20 at Llano Grande
Orange-crowned Warbler
Everywhere
Tropical Parula
Both staked out birds (Quinta Mazatlan and Frontera) were seen
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Everywhere, all appeared to be Myrtle
Black-and-white Warbler
Single at Valley Nature Center
Ovenbird
Single at Frontera
Common Yellowthroat
At most wet spots
Olive Sparrow
From Salineno to Laguna Atascosa
Cassin’s Sparrow
One at the start of the nature trail at Falcon
Chipping Sparrow
Couple in San Antonio and Aransas
Savannah Sparrow
Handful at Llano Grande, Laguna Atascosa, and the wheatear site
Grasshopper Sparrow
One at Llano Grande, 2 (1 incredibly cooperative) at Laguna Atascosa
Lincoln’s Sparrow
Falcon, Bentsen, and Llano Grande
Swamp Sparrow
Single at Aransas
White-crowned Sparrow
1 at Falcon
Crimson-collared Grosbeak
The Quinta Mazatlan bird was fairly easy to see once we got to the right spot
Northern Cardinal
All over
Pyrrhuloxia
Couple at Zacate Creek, 10+ at Falcon
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
One at Bentsen
Indigo Bunting
Few at Bentsen
Red-winged Blackbird
All over
Eastern Meadowlark
Many singing at Laguna Atascosa
Western Meadowlark
Presuming most of the meadowlarks from San Antonio to Zapata and in Beeville were Western (several heard)
Brewer’s Blackbird
Sarita rest stop and elsewhere along 77
Great-tailed Grackle
Everywhere
Bronzed Cowbird
4+ at the Best Western in Weslaco
Brown-headed Cowbird
Few at Falcon and Sarita
Hooded Oriole
3 at Salineno and 1 likely at Falcon
Altamira Oriole
Falcon, Salineno, and Bentsen
Audubon’s Oriole
1 at Salineno
American Goldfinch
2 at Zacate Creek, 5 at Frontera
House Sparrow
Many

The cool and cloudy weather wasn’t very good for bugs, which were in low numbers after cold weather before we arrived.

Butterflies (6+)

Funeral Duskywing
Presumably the duskywing at Falcon.
Tropical Checkered-Skipper
Several at Valley Nature Center
Skipper sp
Falcon, still working on it
Little Yellow
Falcon
Reakirt’s Blue
Falcon
Fritillary sp
Presumably Variegated but very poorly seen at Falcon
American Snout
1 at Santa Ana
Mestra
1 at Santa Ana

Odes (3)

Familiar Bluet
1 female at Falcon was presumably Familiar
Common Green Darner
Several at Santa Ana
Red Saddlebags
Several at Santa Ana

TX 2010: Day 7

February 13

Today was a travel day as we headed back to San Antonio. Of course, with 2 very good birds on the way, it was also a good birding day.

We left Rockport and started towards Beeville. On the way, we found a couple Sandhill Cranes in a field and had an Avocet and other stuff fly over.

Reaching Beeville, we worked our way to the outskirts where a Northern Wheatear spent the winter at a farm. The farm was easy to find (a bit closer to the road than the directions implied). Getting out of the car, we were almost immediately joined by a Canadian couple. Seconds later, the wheatear popped up and gave us pretty good views (which was doubly nice as other people reported having long waits and only distant views).

Wheatear

Wheatear

Wheatear

After stocking up on peanut brittle for gifts, we headed on to the next stop, Choke Canyon State Park. Not surprisingly, the other people were heading that way too and we arrived at the same time. Checking in, we got directions to the pond hosting the Jacana and headed that way. Almost immediately, we located the bird walking out in the open along the edge of the lake.

Jacana

We spent close to an hour watching it walk and fly along the edge of the pond, getting great views.

Jacana

Jacana

We drove around the park a bit and eventually stopped at one of the picnic areas for lunch. This was near the fishing area and we enjoyed a flock of Snowy Egrets waiting for leftovers.

From here, we headed back to San Antonio, arriving at Jack’s midafternoon. We went out to Red Lobster for dinner (again with a wait from rodeo crowds). It was fairly good (especially considering we already had excellent seafood the last few nights). We then packed and got ready for our early flight.

The return trip was easy with flights right on time (not having to get off the plane in Chicago was very nice) and we were home by midafternoon with Harry waiting.

TX 2010: Day 6

February 12

Today started with a trip to Aransas NWR. On the way, I noticed that the gas tank was a bit low (presumably from all the idling in traffic yesterday) but figured we were still fine. The road to Aransas is pretty long and there’s absolutely nothing on the way, but we got there quickly.

Entering the refuge, there were a lot of vultures on the side of the road (photo by my mother).

Vultures

After checking in, we headed straight for the tower. I missed the entrance and ended up walking out the boardwalk first. It was rather cold, but I quickly got a distant view of 2 Whooping Cranes, so mission accomplished. We continued to the end of the boardwalk, where a large number of herons and spoonbills were foraging.

Finding the correct spot to climb, we headed up. Surprisingly, the wind was almost better at the top and I was able to vaguely digiscope the cranes. In addition, there was a White-tailed Hawk way out, and on the new overlook that had yet to pass inspection, a Turkey Vulture.

whoop

Vulture

Back at the car, we thought about the auto loop, but given the conditions and the fact that the car was very close to running out of gas, we decided to just head out and go elsewhere. That proved to be a smart decision as the gas light came on just before we got to a station.

After filling up, we drove to a few of the spots on the birding trail loop without finding much. We then hit the grocery store and bought some roast beef for lunch, which we ended up eating back at the hotel. After eating, we headed back out and drove along the coast a bit before working our way to Goose Island State Park.

At Goose Island, we drove around a bit before stopping on the beach, where there were many skimmers and Laughing Gulls, along with a few turnstones. We watched those for a little while before driving around the rest of the park (and deciding that the trails were too wet to walk). We returned to the beach, where we found a few loons on the water (and I found a couple Eared Grebes way, way out). The gulls took a big interest in us when I attempted to peel an orange outside the car, to the point that I decided not to bother.

Laugher

Skimmer

After Goose Island, we headed back to the hotel. For dinner, we went to Captain Benny’s. It was very good, although a bit of a dive. Benny looked shockingly like a certain Massachusetts birder, although he sure didn’t run the restaurant with the same precision.

Tomorrow (which will not take another month and a half to publish): Beeville and Choke Canyon

TX 2010: Day 5

Feb 11

Today, we headed to Laguna Atascosa. It was drizzly to rainy when we arrived and the staff were almost surprised that anyone showed up. Luckily it stopped enough to walk the trails near the visitor’s center for a few minutes. We didn’t see too much (unfortunately the Blue Bunting didn’t show up until a day or two later).

Starting around the auto loop, we had many thrashers and a few ducks. Unfortunately the fog rolled in, so viewing the water was not easy, especially along the bay. We were able to pick out a few of the sandpipers and egrets but most were getting lost. One good bird on the way was a Grasshopper Sparrow that was sitting in the road. I was able to roll the car right up to it and snap a few shots:

Grasshopper

Continuing around, we were passed by a couple cars and seeing more of the same. Eventually I saw something small pop up off the road. I pulled over and surprisingly was able to find it in the vegetation. It looked pipitish, so I pulled out the scope. It flew again but I again managed to refind it and confirm the blank face of a Sprague’s Pipit. This was one bird that I was hoping for but not anticipating finding. The area also had a few Gull-billed Terns flying around, of which I managed a couple marginal (for a marginal definition of marginal) photos.

Gull-billed

Completing the loop, we drove to the observation platform and trail. It started raining a bit, but we walked down the trail to the pond. The water there was almost over the platform and the only bird on the water was a Least Grebe. Getting back turned out to be a muddy mess.

From here, we began the long drive to Rockport. Before really getting going, we did get a fairly decent look at a perched White-tailed Hawk. The drive was fairly quiet (and rainy off and on). A stop at the Sarita rest stop had more than a couple Brewer’s Blackbirds, another overdue lifer. Instead of taking the camera, I decided to drive up to the flock and get some pictures on the way out. Of course, the birds took off in by the time we did so.

Other than a big traffic jam near Corpus Christi (which was stop and go for probably 40 minutes, note this for later), we didn’t have any major issues and reached Rockport (or Fulton), where we got a room at the Best Western for the next two nights. Dinner was at Charlotte Plummer’s (which took a bit of work to find with the road being dug up). The food was excellent, especially the shrimp gumbo (thanks for the recommendation Paul).

Tomorrow: Aransas NWR and vicninity

TX 2010: Day 4

Feb 10

We started today at Estero Llano Grande. There’s a Wednesday bird walk and we arrived just in time to join. It was rather cold and windy, which presumably kept crowds down. In fact, there were only 2 others on the walk and five park staff/volunteers.

Lots of good stuff from the deck included all 3 teal, some Mottled Ducks, and many Black-necked Stilts. We started down the trails and spent some time waiting for some scaup to stop sleeping (which they did, proving to be Lesser).

The cold got to me (and my father) and we ended up running back to the car for jackets. Passing the feeding station, I found a Ruby-throated Hummingbird and then a big flock of Cedar Waxwings dropped in. The host was quite excited when I mentioned them once I rejoined the group, apparently they’re not very regular down in the valley.

We rejoined the group at the Pauraque stakeout, with one very obvious bird. At Alligator Lake we had a variety of herons including Black-crowned Night-, Little Blue, and Tricolored. There were a few Anhinga around and a single Nutria.

Obligatory Pauraque

Little Blue

We moved on to the uphill portion of the park. After being warned that the wind would be bad, it turned out to be no worse. The White-tailed Kites sitting nearby and the huge flock of pelicans coming in helped. As did the stilts and avocets and huge number of shovelers.

Standby

Flyby

Kite

Once back downhill, the other people had to leave, which left us with a personal tour. We continued around the pond, finding a (presumed) Tropical Kingbird among other things.

Tropical

I spotted a whitish bird coming over the wooded area and after getting bins on it, the crazy bill revealed it to be a Roseate Spoonbill. Not quite the view I hoped for, but (pending a couple others) this was #500! Finally.

We worked our way back to the visitor’s center and then decided to head out after spending a few minutes at the feeders. The next stop was Frontera Audubon, which was only a few minutes away.

After checking in, we headed down the trail and found the feeding area. Settling in, we enjoyed the large number of Inca Doves and an Ovenbird. Eventually, a large group came in and we got ready to move on. Luckily, right before we did the Tropical Parula put in a very quick appearance.

Cousin Pinhead

Ovenbird

We walked the rest of the trails, getting lost a couple times. It was fairly quiet, with the main highlights being a large number of perched Turkey Vultures and a Green Kingfisher. We ran into the large group again, who were as lost as we were but eventually we made our way back out.

Green Kingfisher

Next stop was the Wendy’s up the street for lunch and then we began the ride to the coast and South Padre Island. On the way, we got minimal views of White-tailed Hawk but not a whole lot else.

At South Padre, we went straight to the boardwalk. I probably should have dragged the scope but there was enough close stuff to not care too much. Highlights included an active Reddish Egret, a couple Long-billed Curlews, a nice close Spoonbill, many Black Skimmers, and several Caspian Terns (a very overdue lifer). A presumed Couch’s Kingbird was nice as well.

Reddish

Caspian

Willet

Curlew

On our way out, we asked the person behind the desk and the cashier about places nearby for food. They gave us several recommendations but when we said we were from Massachusetts, the cashier started telling us how much she loved our new senator. The other staffer tried to get her to move on but she didn’t take the hint. I have no idea why anyone dealing with tourists would think politics was a reasonable subject for conversation.

We ended up staying down the street at a Days Inn, which was perfectly acceptable (other than the supermarket donuts for breakfast). We walked to Blackbeards’ for dinner (apparently named after multiple people), which was quite good.

Tomorrow: Laguna Atascosa

TX 2010: Day 3

Feb 9

Today got off to an earlier start as we wanted to be at Bentsen for the 8AM feeding as the Rose-throated Becard was most regular at that time. We arrived a few minutes before 8 to find the visitor center closed. We went to the self-pay station and were walking in when the volunteer at the gatehouse started yelling at us to go back. Apparently the self-pay and the new wristband regulations haven’t quite synched up but eventually we got things straightened out.

We sat down outside the gatehouse and were told that the becard would likely be in as soon as the food was brought out. I looked up and it was sitting there waiting. Unfortunately it was too dark (and windy) for photos and the ones that I took were blurred to the point of showing two birds.

We continued to watch the show and soon had a Clay-colored Thrush pop in.

Texas Trio

Eventually the light improved somewhat and I got some passable shots of the becard:

Becard

There was also a Fox Squirrel. I had only seen one up in the trees last year and didn’t realize how colorful they are

Fox Squirrel

By now a crowd was assembling and the bird walk was due to arrive at any moment, so we headed into the park. At the next set of feeders, a single javelina was feeding. We spent a few minutes watching as it was one of the things my father most wanted to see.

Moving on, we got to the boat ramp and found the wind to be way too much to be anywhere in the open. We quickly went to the blind. There were plenty of birds coming in to the water here including several orioles, White-tipped Dove, a Golden-fronted Woodpecker, and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Golden-front

There was also a female cardinal that had a couple loose feathers, showing the pink base to them.

Cardinal

We then walked out to the hawk tower (stopping at the Forbes’ Silk Moth sign). It was too windy to stay at the tower, so we started to walk back. After a bathroom stop, we checked the Acacia Trail feeders and watched a Blue-headed Vireo, an Olive Sparrow, and several buntings.

Bunting

We worked our way out (stopping to check the feeders and not finding anything different) and headed off to our next stop.

It was only about 20 minutes to Quinta Mazatlan, home of the Crimson-collared Grosbeak. After mistaking the bathroom for the office, we got vague directions to the bird and headed to the amphitheater. The first person there said they hadn’t seen that but there might be a Ladder-backed Woodpecker around. I took that as a sign that we may need more directions and went to pay the admission and find out exactly where the bird was.

The person at the desk told us that it has been hanging out by the pond. We headed over and sat down (after realizing the water feature the size of a birdbath was actually the pond). An Orange-crowned Warbler came in to the oranges but there wasn’t much else around (an Accipiter passing through didn’t help).

Orange-crowned

I eventually started wandering around a bit and found a Curve-billed Thrasher. When I went back, I found someone telling my parents that they have no idea why the desk keeps sending people here and that the bird is towards the other end of the estate. We started to head over (I made a stop for a thrasher photo first).

Curve-billed

And a Chachalaca crossing the path:

Road crossing

We reached the spot and found out that the bird had just disappeared. After giving it a few minutes, we started to wander the area a bit figuring that it was looping around. No luck with that, but my mother found the Tropical Parula while off by herself.

I eventually started to loop around again and was halfway through when my phone buzzed with a missed call. I figured the bird must be there and started to pick up the pace. My phone buzzed again and I got there in time to see the bird as it buried itself deep in a bush.

Fortunately, a few seconds later it popped up and sat in the open briefly. Absolutely stunning, an incredible shade of red. The bird dropped back into the bushes and disappeared.

Crimson-collared

Crimson-collared

Crimson diving

With the bird gone, we turned to the oranges that the parula had been frequenting, which were all of 30 feet away. We sat down and before long had been joined by about ten people. Ten minutes after arriving the bird dropped in for a brief visit.

Tropical

With both targets recorded, we headed off for lunch after a quick stop for the Curve-billed Thrashers. I forget exactly what we did for lunch, but McDonald’s sounds right. After lunch, we tried a couple spots on the birding trail list, neither of which was worthwhile. Eventually we ended up at the Valley Nature Center.

At the center, we wandered around a bit before sitting at the feeding station, which had several Buff-bellied Hummingbirds around, some of which actually posed.

Buff-belly

We walked all of the trails, which were fairly quiet (Black-and-white Warbler, several Tropical Checkered-Skippers) but it was relaxing. Eventually we headed out to find a hotel. The GPS said there was a Best Western right up the road, so we headed there. I sat in the car while my parents got a room and ended up finding a Peregrine, several Eurasian Collared-Doves, and a bunch of Bronzed Cowbirds.

What?

I also attemped to record some of the Great-tailed Grackle flock although I haven’t checked the quality of the recording yet.

Dinner was at Chili’s, which was surprisingly good.

Tomorrow: Estero Llano Grande, Frontera, and South Padre Island.

TX 2010: Day 2

Feb 8

Today we started by driving around Zapata a bit but never quite found the seedeater spot (and I didn’t really care so didn’t look too hard). Eventually, we headed off to Falcon State Park and arrived at about 9:30.

After checking in and finding out the staff didn’t know much about the Roadside Hawk, we began to walk the nature trail. Before entering the trail, we had many Pyrrhuloxia and a bit of a surprise: a Cassin’s Sparrow which was a life bird for me.

Pyrr

We wandered the trail for close to a couple hours, finding good birds including Verdin, Great Kiskadee, Green Jay, an Altamira Oriole, and many, many Northern Mockingbirds (I think every tree had 5). We also had our only White-crowned Sparrow of the trip and the only White-eyed Vireo that wasn’t heard only. Eventually we returned to the car, where the Cassin’s Sparrow popped up and almost posed for a few seconds:

Cassin's

We then drove to the picnic area and walked over to the boat ramp. There were two Blue-winged Teal in with the coots but not much else. On the way back, I paused a bit for butterflies and found this duskywing among others:

Duskywing

We then drove around a bit finding a Harris’s Hawk and not much else, so we headed for Salineno. There were actually people around this time and the bird show was a bit better. We sat for an hour and had all the expected birds including 3 species of oriole (Altamira, Audubon’s, and 3 different Hooded), 4 doves (White-tipped, White-winged, Inca, and Common Ground-), Ladder-backed and Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, Olive Sparrow, Long-billed Thrasher, and Black-crested Titmouse. I also enjoyed a Bewick’s Wren.

Hooded

Long-billed

Bewick's

Unfortunately this year, Red-winged Blackbirds were coming in in huge numbers and eating everything in sight. The volunteers would chase them off occasionally but they would be back quickly. Still quite a sight even if they were annoying:

Blackbirds

Once we had our fill, we went and scanned the river for a couple minutes and then headed towards Mission. Lunch was at a Whataburger, which was a decent fast food burger but nothing extra. After eating, we realized we still had a lot of daylight left, so I decided to head to Santa Ana. The GPS refused to pick up the road names we had, so it took a bit of effort to get there, but we arrived seconds before the visitor center closed.

We walked some of the shorter trails (I’m actually not sure which one, I got a bit lost). Besides the scenery, we enjoyed several Chachalacas, more Olive Sparrows and Black-crested Titmice and perched Red-shouldered and Harris’s Hawks. On the water were many coots and moorhens, along with several Least Grebes and many ducks including a couple Mottled. Way out, we found a Green Kingfisher.

Green

Walking back, I got distracted by a butterfly which I eventually figured out was a Common Mestra:

Mestra

From here, we went looking for a hotel (another Ringed Kingfisher flew across the road in front of us) and ended up at another Holiday Inn. Better than the one the night before at least. The person at the desk recommended a Mexican restaurant that we were able to walk to. It was called Antojito’s and was slightly above fast food but very good. I don’t think any of us actually know what we had to eat but it was all tasty so we didn’t care.

Tomorrow: Bentsen, Quinta Mazatlan, and Valley Nature Center.

TX 2010: Days 0 and 1

Feb 6

Today was mostly a travel day. We left for the airport a little before 6. Other than the taxi driver being too busy talking to actually get on the pike, no issues getting to the airport and then getting through security. Both my mother and I got patted down and I had my boots taken for extra scanning (they were back by the time I got my wallet and watch and stuff back together so it wasn’t even a slight inconvenience).

The flight to Dallas was right on time (after some initial delays while they fixed the coffee machine). We had just enough time to grab food before the brief flight to San Antonio. Our bags were off the baggage claim quickly and it didn’t take too long for the rental car (though upcoming logistics post). First birds were Great-tailed Grackles waiting for the shuttle.

Like last time, I got a bit lost leaving and ended up circling around a little bit before I found the right highway. Ten minutes later, we pulled up to our friend Jack’s house.

After a few minutes to relax, we headed out to get a tour of San Antonio. After a bit of driving around, we went to walk around the riverwalk and some nearby areas. We parked on a fairly empty street, put a bit of time on the meter, and started off when a truck with some sort of tourist board logo stopped. A woman hopped out and told us that there were lots of break-ins to cars in the area. We immediately got back in and moved to a parking lot.

The riverwalk and surrounding area was fun, it reminded me a lot of the Faneuil Hall area but with a southwestern feel. We stopped outside the Alamo for pictures and then ended up walking through. It was small but more interesting than we expected.

After checking out a nearby indoor market, we decided to head to the Outback near Jack’s house for dinner. We ended up getting completely lost on the way back to the highway and I had to pull the gps out to get us back. Once at the restaurant, we were told the wait was about an hour (it was rodeo week). I think it was closer to 40 minutes. The food was decent as expected. There was a big grackle roost right outside the restaurant and the noise was quite entertaining. A short ride back and we were ready for bed.

Feb 7

Today started with a leisurely start. After breakfast, we went to the grocery store (an HEB) for snacks and other supplies. Jack then took us on a walk around his neighborhood. There were quite a few birds around including a presumed Golden-fronted Woodpecker and my first Texas Blue Jays, American Robin, and Cedar Waxwings.

A little before noon, we loaded up the car and headed south. I had originally planned to head for Aransas first and then work our way south but with the Amazon Kingfisher report, I decided that we were better off heading for Laredo and looping around that way.

Our first stop, however, was off the highway in Frio County. Mountain Plovers had been reported on TEXBIRDS and they appeared to be not too far off the route. Just when I thought we had managed to miss the turn, we found highway 57. The first field was a few miles down but the birds were supposed to be distant and we didn’t see the exact spot, so we continued to the second listed field figuring we could backtrack if needed.

There was no need. As soon as we pulled up to the second field at the intersection of 57 and 140 (field was on 57, west of 140), we could see many plovers. Jumping out, I set up the scope and we had excellent looks at several birds. I snapped a few mediocre photos and we continued (it was starting to drizzle a bit).

Mountain Plovers

We continued on towards Laredo, making a quick stop to eat some of the food we had bought earlier. We reached Zacate Creek a little after 3PM. After moving to the closer parking lot, we began to explore a bit. Unfortunately, the Amazon Kingfisher had moved on (or somewhere else) but we did have a few good birds including feeding Osprey and Neotropic Cormorant, Great Kiskadees, and our only White-faced Ibis of the trip.

Osprey w/Fish

Neo

We spent a few minutes talking to some of the other birders (one born in Waltham(!)) and got some good information on some of the birds down in the valley. We also learned that the Roadside Hawk was no more but that a new one had been seen in Falcon State Park. Two Ringed Kingfishers flew overhead. They didn’t land but we still had good views.

After an hour or so, we headed out to Zapata. We reached the Holiday Inn Express just about in time for kickoff (it was the Super Bowl) but had to run out to get subs for dinner. We saw some of the first half and the entire second half. The hotel seemed to have gone downhill from last year, with screaming kids audible for most of the night and just a general off feel.

Tomorrow: Falcon, Salineno, Santa Ana.