Friday, June 22, 2012

Valley Trip: Day 3

.Saturday morning we headed out to visit Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, a site that had impressed us on two visits some years earlier and that we were hoping would produce such birds as Harris's Hawks, Green Jays and Greater Roadrunners. 

On the way, we stopped at the bridge in Rio Hondo to look for Green Kingfishers. Once again we didn't see any! I hoped this wasn't a bad omen for the day.

Arriving at the refuge, I felt reassured when we almost immediately saw two Harris's Hawks perched by the roadside.

We then parked near the visitor center and sat down for a while at the feeding and watering station there. It was extremely busy with numerous Green Jays, Bronzed Cowbirds and Great-tailed Grackles.

A tree near the visitor center had an Altamira Oriole nest and I got a brief glimpse of an Oriole at the top of another tree.

We explored some of the many pathways and came across a good selection of other birds - Long-billed and Curve-billed Thrashers, Buff-bellied Hummingbirds, Plain Chachalacas and Common Ground Doves.

We saw and/or heard several Golden-fronted Woodpeckers.

A Ladder-backed Woodpecker was a nice change.

Black-tailed Jackrabbits shared the paths with us.

Next we spent a pleasant time in the photo blind. One of the first visitors there was another Jackrabbit. It must have been extremely thirsty because it stayed and drank for over five minutes.

We had good views of birds here, too - including Black-crested Titmice, Common Ground Doves, and a Long-billed Thrasher.

After a quick snack in the parking area, we drove the 15-mile bayside loop, grateful for the strong breeze that was blowing in from the water.

Most of the drive wasn't very productive, as we saw only a few birds and all at some distance: Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Reddish Egrets, Crested Caracara, Laughing Gulls, Osprey, and Black and Turkey Vultures. Then we came across another of our target birds when two Greater Roadrunners crossed the road in front of us. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to get photos of these birds, or of a javelina (collared peccary) that also crossed the road.

Back at the visitor center the feeding station was even busier than earlier. A couple of Brown-headed Cowbirds and Red-winged Blackbirds had joined the many Bronzed Cowbirds.

Plain Chachalacas came to share in the food and water.

An Altamira Oriole flew in to drink from the hummingbird feeder.  

eanwhile Green Jays, Bronzed Cowbirds and Great-tailed Grackles bathed and then preened.

White-tipped Doves were around, too.

Even a Mexican Ground Squirrel also came to visit.

We decided that four hours of birding was enough for the day and so started on the drive back to Harlingen. As we were leaving the refuge we passed several Eastern Meadowlarks and then twice had to stop to check out small birds by the roadside: Lark Sparrows, a species we hadn't seen since moving to Texas from California.

So Laguna Atascosa had turned up trumps again by providing us with a half-day of great wildlife watching.    

We were going to drive back to Houston the following day but we agreed that I would first make an early morning trip to Estero Llano State Park in Weslaco. This is a site that we had never visited and where I thought I might see Groove-billed Anis and perhaps my first Wood Storks of the year.

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