by Henry Detwiler
Barry & Margie Hawthorne, Ron Nelson, and I enjoyed two weeks
and 2600 miles of birding in the great state of Texas.
species -- complete list at end of page 1
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.
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!).
|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
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
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
Brown Jays (immature & adult)
El Rio RV Park
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
At the Santa Margarita Ranch we did more battle with mosquitoes and
at Salineno (11)
we saw our first Audubon's Oriole. Falcon Dam
(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.
San Ygnacio Seedeater Sanctuary
SATURDAY, 17 Apr
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.
SUNDAY, 18 Apr
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.
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
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
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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