Thursday, December 05, 2013

Valley Trip 1: Estero Llano

Before last week, our most recent trip to the Rio Grande Valley was in June 2012. On that trip I discovered what has come to be my favorite Valley birding site: Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco.

When I visited in 2012, I was amazed by the number of wading birds that could be seen from the observation deck outside the Visitor Center. There were probably 200-300 birds in view.

When Dee and I visited the park last Friday morning, there wasn't a wading bird in sight. However, as it was winter, the pond was busy with ducks and other waterbirds. We spent an hour walking around and watching the activity on the water. 

American Coots were well represented and there were also a few Common Gallinules.

At first the only Grebes we could see were Pied-billed but it wasn't long before we were lucky enough to spot a Least Grebe (below).

Green-winged and Blue-winged Teal were present. In the photo below a Green-winged is hunkered down near an American Coot.

A solitary Lesser Scaup was pottering around among a dozen or so Ring-necked Ducks (below).

Northern Shovelers are big, brightly colored ducks. It is always fun to watch them as they reach down to feed on underwater vegetation or stand up to preen.

While a few Ruddy Ducks kept too far away for me to get photos, Northern Pintails were more cooperative. What beautiful birds they are!

This American Wigeon appeared to be the sole representative of its species on the pond.

A single Black-bellied Whistling Duck kept watch over the water.

Just as we were leaving the pond, two Turkey Vultures circled far overhead. I checked both of them out with binoculars in case one was really a Zone-tailed Hawk, a species I saw for the first time earlier this year near Junction. Sure enough, one of these two Vultures turned out to be a Zone-tailed Hawk. 

After our hour around the pond, we decided to check out the feeders behind the Visitor Center and then to walk up to see which birds were hanging out in the Tropical Area. 

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