Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

   
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Texas Adventure
10-24 Apr 2004
Narrated by Henry Detwiler

Barry & Margie Hawthorne, Ron Nelson, and I enjoyed two weeks and 2600 miles of birding in the great state of Texas. 
276
species -- complete list at end of page 1
Click on thumbnail pictures for full-sized shots. Numbers refer to locations on the Texas Map on Page 1.

  
WEDNESDAY, 14 Apr 04 

This verdant tropical paradise held many other surprises, including Least Grebe, Green Kingfisher, Kiskadee Flycatcher, and both Broad-winged and Short-tailed Hawks.  As we walked the trails, multitudes of Plain Chachalacas serenaded us from the treetops. Later these same birds were feasting on grapefruit at the feeding station.


Plain Chachalaca


Immature Broad-winged Hawk

That afternoon saw us at the 2nd famous refuge of the area--Santa Ana (9). Here we heard what were most assuredly Tropical Parulas, saw a beautiful White-tailed Kite, and found a singing Clay-colored Robin (and observed the nest the next day!).
  

Clay-colored Robin

Green Parakeets

 

South of Harlingen we visited a trailer court in search of parakeets.  We drove up to a small grove of palms and were blown away by a family of Yellow-headed Parrots.  It was almost an hour later before the Green Parakeets showed up, but our patience paid off.  Then we hurried to a neighborhood in northern Harlingen and located Red-crowned Parrots.

  

THURSDAY, 15 Apr 04

We took a nice long hike at Santa Ana NWR, but no Hook-billed Kites.  And the only views we got of parulas were the "Northern" type.  At Frontera Audubon House in Weslaco we had more luck, getting endless looks at Black- bellied Whistling Ducks and an immature Yellow-crowned Night Heron.  Margie also spotted our first Painted Bunting, and after persistent searching, we all saw this Groove-billed Ani. 


Black-bellied Whisting Duck & Yellow-crowned Night Heron


Groove-billed Ani

After dinner we braved the mosquito-infested Bentsen-Rio State Park (10) to see Common Pauraque and hear Elf Owls and Eastern Screech-Owls.  We had a bit of levity when I spotted a lump on the road ahead of us.  What was it?  A bird?  A rock?  Margie declared it another Pauraque--she could see the feather pattern on the back--and then it hopped away.

     

FRIDAY, 16 Apr 04

  

Brown Jays (immature & adult)
El Rio RV Park
  

Our continuing adventure in the Lower Rio Grande Valley took us to El Rio RV Park (11).  We missed the first "feeding", but after a short hike and watching the Ringed Kingfishers, we were happy to see our prize: both young (with yellow bill & eye-ring) and adult Brown Jays.
  

At the Santa Margarita Ranch we did more battle with mosquitoes and at Salineno (11) we saw our first Audubon's Oriole.  Falcon Dam State Park (12) yielded Black-throated Sparrow and some fine desert scenery.  And to round out the day we traveled north to the historic town of San Ygnacio (13), where we watched several White-collared Seedeaters singing.


White-collared Seedeater
San Ygnacio Seedeater Sanctuary

   
 SATURDAY, 17 Apr 04

We greeted the dawn at Salineno, on a Rio Grande River watch for several species.  A pair of Audubon's Orioles were a nice treat, and then one of our targets, a pair of  Red-billed Pigeons, flew up river.  A short while later we had an even better look, as they flew back past us.

Driving north through Laredo, we got our best views yet of Cave Swallows under I-35.  Our next stop was the "Hill Country" of Texas, beautiful rolling hills officially known as the Edwards Plateau.  The  birdlife here was varied and plentiful, a mixture of eastern & western species.  At Neal's Lodge (14), we added Carolina Chickadee, Western Bluebird,  Black-chinned Hummingbird, and a singing Bell's Vireo to our growing trip list.


Carolina Chickadee


Bell's Vireo

  
SUNDAY, 18 Apr 04

More cold, cloudy, drizzly weather greeted us this morning.  An hour of windy roads took us to Lost Maples State Natural Area (15), where we had a singing Golden-cheeked Warbler right outside the headquarters office.  This warbler is found nowhere else in the U.S.; it lives solely in the oak and juniper woods of the Hill Country.  A nice walk upstream turned up a couple more of them, one of which was collecting nesting material--thin strips of cedar bark.  
  


Black Vulture  

We continued on to Kerr Wildlife Management Area (16), searching for the second regional specialty, the Black-capped Vireo.  Up in the scrublands we located several pairs as we took an unscheduled tour of the mountain top.  There was also a Spotted Towhee and an accommodating Black Vulture.

    
 
  
 MONDAY, 19 Apr 04
Today we headed east towards the Piney Woods of Texas.  Stopping in the Katy Prairie (17), just west of Houston, we located several Upland Sandpipers and a flock of  Buff-breasted Sandpipers.  And while driving the berms between fields for a better look, we stumbled upon a handsome Grasshopper Sparrow.
Upland Sandpiper at Katy Prairie


Pileated Woodpecker
W.G. Jones State Forest

North of Houston we stalled in "parking lot" traffic along the interstate.  Fortunately, we had relatively few miles to go before we exited and entered W.G. Jones State Forest (18).  We roamed the needle-carpeted trails, taking in such fine birds as Red-bellied and Red-headed Woodpecker, Pine Warbler, Carolina Wren, and our only Brown-headed Nuthatches for the trip.  And finally, as the day was drawing to a close, the slurred "Peek" of the Red-cockaded Woodpecker led us to our primary target for the day.

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Photos Henry D. Detwiler