Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hill Country Trip

What a trip! Great weather, easy driving and lots of good birds. We even ate well, too. Who can ask for more?

The birding started when we arrived at Cook's Slough late Saturday morning. It was much quieter than on our previous visits and we didn't see a single Vermilion Flycatcher this time. In fact, the only flycatcher we saw was an Eastern Phoebe.

The ponds had only a few Northern Shovelers, American Coots and Gadwall. The boardwalk had Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Verdin and several Lincoln's Sparrows.

The Heron Flyway was busier, with White-eyed Vireo, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Northern Parula and lots of Yellow-rumped Warblers. with one of the latter showing clearly how the species got its name.

Our walk was interrupted by a dozen Wild Turkeys that ran frantically across the path ahead of us.

Green Jays were easy to hear but difficult to see and photograph.

The best sighting of all was in the parking lot, where we got to watch a pair of Bewick's Wrens carrying nest material to a cavity behind the site's dedication plaque.


On our way to the motel, we stopped off for a few minutes at the Uvalde Fish Hatchery, hoping for lots of shorebirds. As it turned out, there were very few: only Killdeer, a Long-billed Dowitcher and several Least Sandpipers.


However, the visit was worthwhile because we saw our first Black Phoebe and Cinnamon Teal of the year.

Before dinner I drove over to Fort Inge.

The ruins weren't much to see but there were good stands of prickly pear and some beautiful mountain laurel.


I scrambled to the top of the volcanic hill that overlooks the fort, passing blooming yucas on the way. 

There were good views from the top of the hill.


However, the only bird I saw was a Turkey Vulture that floated down to check me out. They may be ugly birds but, boy, can they fly!

Back in the parking lot I noticed a small bird hopping along the fort wall. It took a while before it let me catch up and see it was a Rock Wren.


So our trip had started fairly well with some good birds and 12 additions to my year list.

We were planning to visit Neal's Lodges in Concan the following day and hoping that this would produce an even better selection of birds. As you'll see later, we certainly weren't disappointed.

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