Although the Quintana sanctuary is small, it has gained a reputation as a bird magnet during both spring and fall migration. When we arrived, we soon realized that it is a magnet for mosquitoes, too. We've seen a lot of mosquitoes since we came to Texas but I don't think we've ever met any as aggressive and persistent as the ones at Quintana. Even the fact that we had doused ourselves liberally with "off" didn't deter them.
We sat down near one of the water features to have our lunch and over the next 30 minutes we saw a succession of good birds: several Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, a female Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Buntings and a Common Yellowthroat.
Unfortunately, most of the birds were not into posing for photos. Even more unfortunately, something had gone wrong with the focusing mechanism of my camera and I couldn't get sharp images of the birds that did come out into the open.
After our picnic, I walked the sanctuary's trails and saw more Indigo Buntings, together with some Brown-headed Cowbirds, a couple of Boat-tailed Grackles and an Eastern Wood-pewee (below).
A large black bird appeared too briefly for me to make an ID but I suspected it was a Groove-billed Ani, a bird that I'd never yet managed to see in almost 8 years in Texas.
A few minutes later I was walking past the observation tower when two ladies on the tower shouted down, "Hey, do you want to see an Ani?" I climbed the steps, passing the husband of one of the ladies on my way. Sure enough, there in a treetop was a Groove-billed Ani.
Thanks to my malfunctioning camera, the only photo I got was very blurry.
After chatting for a minute with the other birders - who it turned out knew me from some of my Internet and blog bird postings - I headed back down to the ground. No sooner had I reached the path than I heard another shout from above me: "Hey, Jeff, do you want to see two Anis?" I raced back up the steps and we all spent the next couple of minutes watching a pair of Anis moving around among the leaves.
If you're reading this, ladies, many thanks for providing me with a life bird and one of the highlights of my birding year!
With directions given by our fellow birders, Dee and I headed up the road to the Xeriscape Park. This was very quiet indeed but the visit was certainly worthwhile because it turned up one of my favorite birds: Vermilion Flycatcher.
We returned to Quintana the following morning.
The sanctuary was quieter this time - except for mosquitoes - and all we saw was a Brown Thrasher.
Xeriscape Park was busier. A pair of male Vermilion Flycatchers was zooming around, spectacularly red in the morning light. A flock of Monk Parakeets passed noisily overhead, while off in the distance a Magnificent Frigatebird circled high in the sky. A couple of Laughing Gulls and several Brown Pelicans flew over, too.
We sat down by a water feature and were rewarded with quick views of a Clay-colored Sparrow and a Pine Warbler.
As we wanted to get back to Cypress by about noon and I wanted to have a quick look at Quintana Beach, we left the park, passing a dozen or more Scissor-tailed Flycatchers on our way.