Sunday morning I arrived at Estero Llano State Park in Weslaco at 7:45. As the park opened only six years ago and I had never visited it before, I was excited to see what it had to offer.
I walked down to the visitor center and was amazed to see hundreds of wading birds on the shallow lake next to the observation deck.
Great and Snowy Egrets, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbills and Black-necked Stilts were all feeding in the morning sunlight.
There were other birds, too. A juvenile Yellow-crowned Heron was perched near a Great Egret.
The dark plumage of a Tricolored Heron stood out among the white of the egrets.
Laughing Gulls and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks wheeled overhead.
I scanned the water for other birds and found my first Wood Stork of the year next to a Roseate Spoonbill.
Buff-bellied Hummingbirds were busy among the Turk's Cap behind the center while Plain Chachalacas strolled across the building's roof.
There was a bird walk scheduled for 8:30. Since I was early for it, I decided to walk over to the Rio Grande to look for Green Kingfishers. On the way I passed several Great Kiskadees, including a pair with a juvenile.
I scanned the river banks but once more failed to find a Kingfisher.
So I headed back to the visitor center, passing a Purple Martin house that Martins were sharing with House Sparrows.
I was the only person who turned up for the bird walk and so I had the two guides to myself. As we started the walk, we passed Black-crested Titmice, Curve-billed Thrashers, and both Golden-fronted and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers. We saw several Clay-colored Thrushes, including this juvenile.
The guides showed me a Groove-billed Ani sitting on a nest but I wasn't able to get any photos.
Then the guides showed me the nest that was being constructed by a Rose-throated Becard, and extremely rare bird in the USA and a lifer for me. When the guides ended the walk, I stayed behind to watch the nest. After 15 minutes I was rewarded with good looks of the female bird as she fussed around her nest. My photos weren't so good!
I walked back to the parking lot to find an Altamira Oriole sitting on the car's wing mirror. The bird immediately flew up into a nearby tree, where I managed to grab a couple of photos.
Then it was time to head for the motel to pick up Dee before starting the long drive back to Houston. Our trip had gone all too quickly and had involved a lot of driving, but it had certainly been worthwhile. Perhaps we'll do another trip to the Valley in the fall, when it won't be as hot and when we might be able to stay longer. And perhaps next time I'll finally get to see a Green Kingfisher.