Thursday, March 19, 2015

Rio Grande Valley: 2

After having a great visit to Quinta Mazatlan on Tuesday morning, we spent the overcast, damp afternoon at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately, most of the trails were too muddy for the shoes we were wearing and so we were restricted to birding the Chachalaca Loop.

The trees along the trail held a nice selection of common species: Black-crested Titmice, Orange-crowned Warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Great Kiskadees etc. Two Common Pauraques were hunkered down among the leaves by the path.

The most productive area, though, was the pond in front of the central observation deck and this is where we spent most of our time.

Duck numbers were surprisingly low but we saw a few Gadwall, Northern Shovelers and American Coots as well as a Ruddy Duck, a Pied-billed Grebe and a Common Gallinule.

Wading birds were almost totally absent except for a Green Heron fishing among the reeds.

I was too slow to get photos of 3-4 Common Yellowthroats that kept working through the reeds near the deck.

One bird that I was hoping for at Santa Ana was Green Kingfisher and so we were delighted when a female landed on a branch far out over the water.

She soon disappeared but was immediately replaced on the branch by her mate.

By the time we left Santa Ana, we had also seen a few more interesting birds, including a Sora and a Least Grebe.

Wednesday was supposed to bring the highlight of our trip, the weekly birdwalk at Estero Llano State Park, but it didn't work out that way. We arrived at the site on a gray, drizzly morning to find that the trails were very muddy indeed. The pond in front of the Visitor Center was too deep to attract waders but it did have a few Killdeer, a Wilson's Snipe and a Spotted Sandpiper. It also had a good number of ducks. Blue-winged Teal and Green-winged Teal (below) were the most numerous.

Much more exciting was the presence of half-a-dozen Cinnamon Teal, one of my favorite ducks.

We spent quite a lot of time watching Plain Chachalacas, Red-winged Blackbirds, Black-crested Titmice, Orange-crowned Warblers, Green Jays (below) and a Buff-bellied Hummingbird working the feeders near the Visitor Center.

After this we walked up to the main feeding station in the tropical area of the park, where we saw many of the same birds that we had just been watching. We had some new species as well, though. Inca and White-tipped Doves were busy on the ground while other birds included a Lincoln's Sparrow and a couple of Golden-fronted Woodpeckers. It was here that we saw our first Long-billed Thrasher of the trip. 

We had seen two Curve-billed Thrashers the previous day at Quinta Mazatlan  but I hadn't managed to get a reasonable photo of either of them. So I was pleased when another one strolled into the open here.

After several hours at Estero Llano we headed back to the motel. I then drove over to Bentsen-Rio in hopes of seeing some more local specialty birds. My visit started well when I was treated to a display of hovering and fishing by a Ringed Kingfisher. However, the rest of my visit produced very few birds indeed, except for the usual Chachalacas, Great Kiskadees, Green Jays and White-tipped Doves (below) at feeders.

A feeder in front of the Visitor Center had my first Ruby-throated Hummingbird of the trip and of the year.

I was feeling very disappointed as I got back into the car in the parking lot. Then I noticed an odd-looking Northern Cardinal a few yards away. Of course, it wasn't a Cardinal but rather a Pyrrhuloxia, one of my target birds for the trip.

Getting to watch a Pyrrhuloxia and a Ringed Kingfisher made my visit to Bentsen-Rio worthwhile. However, I had much higher hopes for the sites we planned to visit on Thursday: Salineno and Falcon State Park. All being well, the former would produce some good looks at Orioles and the latter some at birds that prefer a more arid landscape than the other sites we were visiting.


Frank said...

Hi Jeff. Very much enjoying your excursion to the Rio Grand Valley and its varied species. Definitely wetting my appetite for a return visit to Texas sometime.

Jeff said...

The weather certainly didn't cooperate this time, Frank, but there are always plenty of interesting birds around.

swopticsphoto said...

Thanks for the great blog. I'm travelling out Texas in early May so will check out some of your places listed.