Well, we’ve been here a couple of weeks, but the weather wasn’t very condusive to photography for the 1st one. Cloudy, rainy, foggy (though some very warm temps – along with cold!). Nonetheless, we spent a few days setting ourselves up with everything we needed and re-orienting ourselves to the area.
Been out for a few walks in Bentsen State Park (right beside us), but it isn’t quite as active as it will likely get a little later on. Nonetheless, we’ve seen a few nice things, but not not many photographs.
Dec 8 – Frannie’s BD! Went to Estero Llano Grande State Park, just 45 min. east of here. It is a drizzly, cloudy, windy day with temps staying at about 16C. Not the most pleasant, but at least we can view the pond from a covered porch and walk among the trees for cover. Found our Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, which are very beautiful, but no camera today (don’t worry – we’ll get ’em!).
The hilite of the day was a YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER!!! This is a LIFER for both of us. We missed it last time we were here, although it was seen by many. I had just gotten out my phone w/ Sibley’s app for birds and looked at the picture of it as a reminder. 30 seconds later, there it was in a oak tree, gleaning insects from palm fronds which had fallen from above – it normally loves palm trees for this reason! Without a camera, I have to put a “cheat” in here just to show how beautiful it is:
This was stolen from Wikipedia. We also added a few more species, but hope to come back another day when the weather is nicer to take some photos. It’s no fun trying to protect your valuable camera from the rain, as well as dealing with rain spots on the lens!
Dec. 9: Walked Bentsen this morning. We paired up with John (the hawk guy who takes people on birding walks). We found the 3rd kingfisher we were looking for: our own, Belted! So we have a hat-trick of kingfishers w/ Ringed and Green. It was far, far away, but eagle-eyed John spied it. We found out from his wife, who volunteers at the visitor center, that when he had his cataracts removed awhile ago, they did lasek surgery as well. Apparently he can see wonderfully now!
All the rain has encouraged rings of mushrooms to pop up here and there. I’ve never seen any of those large, lace-topped ones before (about 2″ dia.) – nor these small, crowded ones (like little brown nipples!).
At the Green Jay blind, there was lots of activity. Here’s a single Plain Chachalaca – big as a chicken! Usually run in large groups.
Of course, squirrels often share bird feed, but here was another little visitor – cottontail rabbit!
The usual colorful, noisy Great Kiskadees show up everywhere. We hear them and see them in every park we visit, including our own RV park.
Sometimes we see flocks flying overhead. We saw 8 Snow Geese fly over the other day (out of camera range), but captured these American White Pelicans.
It is difficult to capture the Black-crested Titmouse. Here is one, ready to take off. They flit about in the dense bush, making it very difficult to photograph. Hopefully we’ll get a better one later, but I love the look of surprise on its face with its huge, black eye.
A Grey Hawk was perched amongst the trees, hoping for some good updrafts. Not so easy to fly when it’s calm.
Dec. 10: Walked Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. Lots of good birds today to add to the list (which, by the way, stands at 139).
We crossed over the canal bordering the military road used by the Border Patrol (which we see everywhere, no matter where we go along the Rio Grande River). These yellow daisies are like the border patrol, blooming everywhere.
We even found a clump of wild bougainvillia – or perhaps they are just escapees? This fuscia color was Deen’s favourite – I think of her when I see it.
We climbed the hawk tower here and stayed for quite awhile. There was a family of Harris’ Hawks hunting fairly far away – but they are one of the prettiest hawks we have with dark brown feathers and russett shoulder patches. Maybe we’ll be lucky enough to find one a bit closer for a photo.
We had a lovely view of a Couch’s Kingbird, almost from above, while atop the tower. No other significant hawks – just huge numbers of Turkey Vultures over Mexico.
The large pintail lakes were destroyed when it flooded a few years ago, but they are working to get the damage to pumps and systems repaired. We saw a number of Eastern Phoebes active in the area.
When we walked along the trail bording a still-existing pond, we found a Green Kingfisher in one of the side-channels. A much closer shot that at Falcon Dam. You may be able to spot the bit of russett on his breast, just a few feathers visible.
As we exited the forest we found a lovely butterfly on some purple flowers. The butterflies are continuing their migration and increasing in numbers.
A mile down the road in a different direction is the Butterfly Garden. It also promotes bird feeding, but grows plants especially designed for butterflies. With the large migration going on, numbers are increasing.
Having been unlucky searching for the Eastern Screech Owl at Bensen, we were hoping to find one here, since we did last time. Apparently there are 2, but 1 is less shy than the other. Obviously the term “wise old owl” applies, since he could obviously read that this box was meant for him!
The Golden-fronted Woodpecker is like the Great Kiskadee, everywhere, loud and noisy. But they certainly are pretty and added color to the oranges at the feeding station.
This Clay-colored Thrush is the national bird of Costa Rica. We’ve recently heard from Ron and Joe that Alfredo Scott (our birding guide from many years ago) is having his 50th birthday in February. We’re sending him a card (via Ron) to add to the celebration!