More bad weather – then good!

We’re not too enchanted with the cool, rainy, cloudy weather this year.  Shut in with Bill working while I clean/do laundry/cook for a few days, then…it finally turns nice!

Jan. 15:  Shut in all day at 8C with rain and clouds – then a few breaks start to develop in the clouds.  Even a glint of sun, so we take off about 3:30 to Bentsen to take a walk (what a relief).  Much to our complete delight we finally saw a Bobcat!

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We had just started down the road after the main feeding station, past the maintenance yard – THERE IT WAS!  Very exciting, since none of the staff we’d spoken with had seen one this year yet (mind you we hadn’t asked all the trolley drivers who make the trip through the park every day).  We were so happy we’d gotten out for a walk!  Actually the sun really wasn’t seen again, but we didn’t care.  It was 13C with a strong breeze.

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First bird we saw after we checked in at the visitor centre (which we saw the other day from the car) was a Cattle Egret.  This time much closer than before.  So nice to get out – we were going a bit stir-crazy.

Jan. 16:  This trip to Weslaco, we stopped at the other 2 parks before Estero Llano Grande.  First was the Nature Centre – a small city park with many bird feeding stations, water features and a mile of pathways.  Not very lucrative on the pathways, but as we entered, we saw Green Parakeets flying overhead – one of our target birds – yay!  Too fast for a photo.

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We didn’t see anything else new, but found out the turtles we are seeing (which I thought were snapping turtles) are called red-eared skippers.  You can see why.

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They have planted a large variety of flora throughout the park, including cacti.  I love this little prickly pear with fuzzy yellow nubs.  It’s not really very prickly.

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As usual, the squirrels have become expert at getting into feeders which were meant to thwart them.  Fat little buggers!

Next we stopped at the Audubon Center where Townsend’s Warbler, and Winter Wren were reported.  Sure enough, we found the Townsend’s right away – with the help of another couple.

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We know him from BC birding trips – he nests on the west coast, all the way to Alaska, but migrates to Mexico and across the southern states.

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He was foraging with a couple of buddies, including this Nashville Warbler – a rather pretty fellow himself.

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I can’t resist this little cutie either – Black-crested Titmouse.

Interestingly, as we were heading back to the truck, we saw something moving in the undergrowth – a Common Pauraque!  This one wasn’t marked with sticks beside the trail, since it was sort of “fleeing” from us.  It flew a few feet, just off the ground, then flew again until we couldn’t see it.

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The last pond we passed before the Visitor’s Center yielded a Great Egret glowing in the sun.  If you look carefully, you can see the long plumes down his back.

When we got to ELG, some birders were observing something – which was ANOTHER Common Pauraque, sitting in a clearing off the path (about 20′ away).  When we spoke to one of the birding guides, he said there are about 40 pairs in the park – we had no idea!

We didn’t manage to see the female Painted Bunting which had been seen yesterday here.  But with such a gorgeous day, we can’t complain about anything!

Jan. 17:  A clear blue sky!  Despite walking ALL DAY yesterday (and boy were we tired) we just had to get out again today.  Not such a big trip – just to Edinburg. It was already 12C when we set out.  By the time we got there, we could wear our t-shirts!

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The first bird we saw was this N. Cardinal glowing in the sun, singing to a female nearby!

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Also the cutie-patootie Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher.  Some of my favourites are the “action” shots.  Such an interesting position – love those white outer tailfeathers.

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Here’s another neat one (but Bill doesn’t really like it) – Orange-crowned Warbler taking off.  Cool!

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A new bird for our list was this juvenile male Indigo Bunting – barely enough to identify him – but he will be a beautiful dark blue when he matures.  Right now he is brown with blue dots!

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As usual around the pond, these cormorants were roosting in the highest tree.

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Along the edge near us was a Snowy Egret with those yellow clown feet!  He is actually very pretty with his white plumes on front and head, with a few wisps blowing up near his tail.

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Along one of the canals a Bewick’s Wren was singing.  He finally came in for a close-up.

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The usual 2 types of vireos were also foraging among the trees along the pond and the canals – Blue-headed and White-eyed.  Here’s the latter singing a beautiful song!  Can really see his white eye with yellow band across the face.

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The last bird of the day: Tri-colored Heron.  All-in-all a lovely day to be out, even if just for the morning!

Feb. 19th:  Boca Chica Hwy.  Up at 5 AM, away by 6.  A 2 hour drive to get out to the ocean through Brownsville.  The weather was supposed to be cloudy all day, but we saw the sun break through a few times.  Our luck began with a bang – a pair of Swallow-tailed Kites flew over!  This is before we even had the camera in the front seat (a mostly driving day).  They are a bit like White-tailed Kites, but with a long split tail (about 4″ longer) – spectacular!

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Our next bird is a LIFER for NA – White-tailed Hawk.  He sat with his back to us (preventing us from seeing his beautiful white front!) – but you can see how short his tail is with much longer wings.  Reddish on the shoulders on a gray body.

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The beautiful Harris’s Hawks were hunting in a family group.  Here is a lovely front view.

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We thought it a rather pleasant day, weatherwise, with temps around 20C – but apparently this Loggerhead Shrike thought otherwise!

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We have had several sightings of Crested Caracara, but finally close enough for a photo.  Here’s a triptych of one preening!

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This Wildlife Preserve is located just south of dockland near Port Isabel and San Padre Island, on the Atlantic coastline.

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But there are also some lovely wildflowers (Could not find our what kind they are.)

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There are lots of salt flats, excellent for wading birds.  This group of Reddish Egrets (with many white morphs among them) were scattered across a large area, including a few Roseate Spoonbills.

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We found those spoonbills courting in a closer spot later.  They raise their head into the air and open and close their bills.

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Our first terns included mostly Caspian – but a few Royals as well.  I think these are all Caspian – very big!

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Here is a Long-billed Curlew – some long bill eh?  We see them in the spring on the prairies.  We hoped for more shorebirds, but once we got out to the ocean, there were too many people (not like 4 years ago).  Camping, fishing, running and driving vehicles along the shore.  We got out of there fast.

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Stopped at Resaca de la Palma – just to case the place.  Visitor Center closed, but we took a short walk.  We were here on one of the Harlingen birding trips we did a few years ago.  The first birds we saw were Lark Sparrows which usually feed on the ground, but this one was in a tree!  Bill then had a 2 1/2 hour conference call, which he did out near the truck, walking the whole time.  We were tired puppies when we got home!

Jan. 20th:  Katherine’s 24th birthday!  I was so happy to receive a note from her yesterday that my BD card had arrived yesterday!  As she said, “impeccable timing”!

This will be the hottest day we’ve had in a long time with a completely clear, blue sky!  High 29C!  We only felt like tackling a walk in the morning at Santa Ana.  Last time we were here, it was so muddy, we walked with huge clogs of mud on our boots and went for 5 hours!  We won’t do that again!

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The woodlands around ponds have a wide variety of flora  Spanish moss grows here – but nowhere else we’ve found.  Shades of Louisiana!

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There are lots of places for birds to hide.

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But we managed to capture a Black-headed Grosbeak especially for Don!

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A beautiful Couch’s Kingbird perched near it’s mate, though we couldn’t get them both together.  (Why is it always “we” when only Bill takes photos????)

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We saw some interesting warblers, but couldn’t get a clear enough view to identify them.  Bill has some photos, but even when we look, it’s hard to figure it out.  Oh well – a butterfly instead.  Now home to air conditioning!

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