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Texas Birding Trip Journal

Texas Birding Trip Journal

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Published by Herb Myers
This is a journal of a birding trip to Texas from March 16 - 24. Enjoy.
This is a journal of a birding trip to Texas from March 16 - 24. Enjoy.

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Published by: Herb Myers on Mar 30, 2013
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03/30/2013

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Texas Birding TripMarch 16
 –
24, 2013ParticipantsSally and Doug Ruby, leadersPaul BrubakerHarry KingRebecca NoltMerle LandesCarol BroderickPaul and Cele ZerhusenMike Walsh and Chris DominickHerb MyersFriday, March 15, 2013I left snowy West Virginia for Baltimore this afternoon. On the way I picked up some West Virginia yearbirds including Gadwall, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck and Red-headed Woodpecker. I arrived safely atthe Marriot where I hoped
to get a good night’s sleep.
 Saturday, March 16, 2013
I had a good breakfast at the hotel to start the trip. I was glad I didn’t try to drive the 4.5 hours to theairport this morning even though our Southwest Airlines flight didn’t leave until 11:30 a.m. I don’t like to
start a trip tired. Everyone arrived safely and on time at the airport. This year there are threeMennonites. Maybe we can eventually outnumber the Brethren.Our flight to San Antonio went well. We got our three rental vehicles which included Chevrolet, Ford andJeep SUVs. They served us well during our eight days in south Texas. The first bird to greet us was theGreat-tailed Grackle at the car rental place. While driving I picked up my first life bird a CrestedCaracara. We saw a lot of these during the trip. They are related to the falcons but act like aggressivevultures often feeding on carrion.We started birding immediately. We went to the Crown Ridge Canyon Natural Area and FriedrichWilderness Park in San Antonio. We hiked through the park. We heard one of our target birds, theGolden-
cheeked Warbler but couldn’t see it. It was nice to see western birds again like the Ladder
-backed Woodpecker, Western Scrub-
Jay, and Bewick’s Wren.
The latter has a beautiful song.Unfortunately we took the long way back to our cars which tired some people out before we got startedinto our eight days in Texas. They seemed to recover quickly.We had supper at Freddys. I was proud that I could control myself and not have any ice cream. Then weheaded to the
America’
s Best Value Inn. Thus began a week of motel breakfasts that gave a choice of Frosted Flakes or Fruit Loops and an orange juice that we suspected was Tang. BUT they did have wafflemakers. The waffles came out in the shape of Texas. I wonder how a West Virginia waffle would comeout. Probably the panhandles would break off. I roomed with Harry King who is a friend from childhoodand was a college roommate.Sunday, March 17, 2013After breakfast we went to Mitchell Lake Audubon Center in San Antonio. Here we picked up some morewestern species including Cinnamon Teal, White-winged Dove, Inca Dove, Black-chinned Hummingbird,
 
Bell’s Vireo
and Pyrrhuloxia. We also saw many birds that we see in the east. I will include a full list atthe end of this journal.We headed southeast from there toward Rockport to make our 1:00 appointment for a boat trip to theAransas National Wildlife Refuge to see the Whooping Cranes. That was a neat trip on the Skimmerthough the ride out to the refuge was choppy and windy. A few lost their hats.It seemed like a real privilege to see a bird that was once almost extinct. The bird nests in the WoodBuffalo National Park in northern Alberta, Canada and winters here in Texas. We saw a few families thathad not headed north yet. They are very territorial as a family. What majestic birds and to think that itwas my 500
th
North American life bird! As a contrast, on the refuge I also added the tiny SeasideSparrow to my life list.
Our captain Tommy Moore wrote a children’s book about the Whooping Crane
called
The Lobstick Prince.
I had to get an autographed copy.We were on the boat for 3.5 hours as we went from place to place off the coast viewing the birds. I sawmany of the same birds that we see in Florida including the Roseate Spoonbill. Other unique birdsincluded the Neotropic Cormorant and American White Pelican.On our way to
America’s Best Value Inn, we had supper at a Subway.
Monday, March 18, 2013This morning our trip to the San Miguelito Ranch to see the Ferruginous Pygmy Owl was cancelled. Theyhave not shown up possibly due to the drought in South Texas. Instead we went to the Rio Hondo
Cemetery. It was productive as I added the Great Kiskadee and Couch’s Kingbird to my life list. We got tosee the kiskadee’s bulky nest. They can be noisy birds repeating their name.
Next we headed south to the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. There the life birds really beganfalling out of the sky. I added Plain Chachalaca (another noisy bird), Green Jay (colorful bird), Long-billedThrasher, Atamira Oriole (stunning), White-tailed Hawk and Aplomado Falcon. It was very dry so thebirds seemed to want to be near water as did the alligator. We hiked a short way on the Kiskadee Trail.Many of the wetland lakes were dried up as we drove through the refuge
. We didn’t see any ocelots but
found a dead rattlesnake on the road. We saw a coyote which we saw a number of times on the trip. Ona fence along the road we spotted a Sage Thrasher, another lifer.
For two nights we stayed in an America’s Best Value Inn in San Benito.
It was nice not to have to unpackand repack for once. On the way to the motel, we got a bit lost but it turned out for the good. We founda large flock of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks with a few Fulvous Whistling-Ducks mixed in. The latterwas a life bird but I felt like the former one was as well since I had only seen them once before in the
Phoenix Zoo. The zookeeper said they were wild but they sure seemed tame as they ate out of people’s
hands. It was neat to see these long legged ducks in the wild, hear their whistling cries and see theirpatterned wings as they flew. (On returning home I discovered that I have also seen the Black-belliedWhistling-Ducks in Florida) While watching them, two parakeets flew over which were probably GreenParakeets but it was getting too dark to see them well. Doug identified them by their pointed wings.They are as big as parrots.Tuesday, March 19, 2013This morning we left early to see some parrots. We walked through a residential area and saw Red-crowned Parrots. The people must be used to birders because they were friendly and tried to give us
 
pointers. We felt bad getting the neighborhood dogs barking but no one seemed to mind except us. Wevisited Resaca de la Palma State Park after seeing the parrots. There we got to see the Green Parakeetsin good light.We went south of Brownsville to the Sabal Palm Audubon Center. This place is cradled in a bend of theRio Grande. We had to drive through the border fence to get into it. We sat at the feeders there for overthree hours waiting for the Crimson-collared Grosbeak to show up but it never did. However we got tosee Clay-colored Thrush (formerly robin), Buff-bellied Hummingbird, White-tipped Dove and OliveSparrow. All of them were life birds. A Texas Indigo Snake crawled through the feeding area creatingsome excitement. We watched Green Anoles display and change colors. While at the center many of the
cell phones wouldn’t work thinking we were in Mexico even though technically we were still in the U.S.
 After giving up waiting for the grosbeak, we headed to South Padre Island. We walked though a coastalwetland and got close to a lot of birds including the secretive Virginia Rail. Believe it or not we had apicnic ham dinner made by Sally on the grounds of the Port Isabella lighthouse. It was delicious.Wednesday, March 20, 2013
On our way to our first stop we passed a car dealer named Boggus Ford. It didn’t seem
like an idealname to sell cars. We headed to the Estero Llano Grande State Park. I picked up a Least Grebe for my lifelist. They are cute. We were fortunate to have someone tell us where we could see a CommonPauraque. We would never have seen it as it was so well camouflaged. At night they are found by seeingtheir red eye with a light. We were not to use flash to avoid scari
ng the bird. However, Chris’ flash went
off by mistake. The red eye is amazing in the picture. It was getting so hot I finally broke down andtreated myself to some ice cream.Our next stop was the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge on the Mexican border. We enjoyed watching
the Swainson’s Hawks migrating
north over the river from their winter in South America. We wanted to
see the Green or Ringed Kingfishers but couldn’t find them.
We did see a Diamondback Water Snake.We saw a Green Kingfisher (lifer) later in the day when we stopped in Hidalgo at the Pumphouse. In thattown we also saw Monk Parakeets and their communal nest. Before leaving Santa Ana, we had a picnic
at their visitor’s center.
While waiting to leave, my hat went missing. Can you believe one of my ownparty members took it? Merle is claiming to be a hero for saving it but I have my doubts.We tried to get close to the river to see some birds but were warned that it may be dangerous by theBorder Patrol. We wondered who was the most dangerous
 –
Mexicans or the Border Patrol. We becamecynical over the border fence as it seemed very patchy and localized. I suspect someone is making a lot
of money installing it. It sure didn’t make us feel safer. Under a bridge from the U.S. to Mexico, therewere a lot of Cave and Cliff Swallows nesting. They didn’t appear to have anyone checking their
credential as they freely flew back and forth across the Rio Grande.Tonight we changed to a Travelodge in Pharr for resting up. Before retiring we had a good Italian dinner
at Johnny Carino’s. After dinner I sat with Darrel and Leona Diener at our motel. They live in McAllen,
Texas. It was good to catch up with them. I practiced with Darrel for two years in Puerto Rico.Thursday, March 21, 2013After a breakfast of more Frosted Flakes, we headed to Bensten-Rio Grande Valley State Park. We
waited for the Elf Owl to show itself but it didn’t. It was a nice park to hike in. We had a picnic in Mission
after our park morning.

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