We started out Thursday at Frontera Audubon Center, which is a small location but which has a nice variety of habitat and lots of birds. In less than an hour and a half, I logged 24 species and two life birds to start off the day.
The trails were tight in places but there were feeder locations in random spots and ponds to view out over.
It was a nice morning, with some sun, which had turned out to be very rare on our trip.
I kept taking photos of the flora also, because it felt to me very exotic and unlike any place I had been to.
We saw a couple Black-throated Green Warblers, and seven Orange-crowned Warblers. Orange-crowned Warblers were one of the most common birds we saw in Texas; they seemed to be at every location after a while.
Estero Llano Grande State Park is a very well-known World Birding Center site, and we spent almost four hours there next, with an hour break to get some lunch at an excellent local eatery called Nana’s Taqueria. It was crowded there but well worth stopping in. Estero Llano itself was a fantastic spot and I saw five new species there. Right at the entrance, there is a pond that had lots of waterfowl, including Cinnamon Teal which I had missed at a location on my drive to Texas.
All the waterfowl gave us great looks, and we stayed for a while, not realizing how good the rest of the park would be.
Before we had gone far, our leader spotted one of the highlights of the whole trip – a Bobcat!
I wish he had turned his face towards us, but it was quite a thrill for me to see one of these in the wild.
This juvenile bird gave us some ID trouble while we were there. There were birds flying everywhere and my small camera screen was not up to the task of showing the field marks to our expert leader. I saved the photo and managed to get the experts to identify this once I got home.
I usually don’t even bother trying to take photos of swallows – they are too fast and small to get anything useful. However, a Cave Swallow was a lifer so I made an extra effort. We soon approached an area with a large pond where many Yellow-crowned Night Herons were roosting, along with several other waders.
I really like that Tricolored Heron photo, it is one of my favorites. This area was loaded with good photos, and although I missed an Eastern Screech-Owl that sometimes nests nearby, we were able to spot a Common Pauraque that usually just sits on the ground sleeping during the day.
Ron knew it was there and told the group that it was in a roughly six-foot wide area along the trail. Even with that guidance, it took the rest of us some time to spot it due to its excellent camouflage.
The Common Ground-Dove is similar in size to an Inca Dove, and has visible rusty red under its wings when it flies. You can find them rarely in the Southeast but this was a life bird for me.
What a morning! We had a good lunch and chatted about what we saw, and I continued listing from the window. We stopped back over at Estero Llano for another hour and I was able to photograph a Clay-colored Thrush.
Next up was Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. My most vivid memory of Santa Ana was an American Kestrel that stayed near us for some time as we walked through a field. I got many good photos of him and it was hard to choose which one to show.
Also, we saw a rat.
I do actually get as excited to see any mammal in the wild as I do to see a bird. I have no idea how to identify species of rat though.
We saw a lot of Harris’s Hawk on this trip. They are a beautiful raptor that I can’t resist photographing. We saw many other birds at Santa Ana, but were definitely growing weary towards the end. After a couple of hours, we headed out towards another surprise Ron had in store for us.
Hundreds of Green Parakeets have established a wild population in South Texas, and we got to watch them from across the street as they flew in and spent some time on electric wires before retiring to the trees underneath for the night. It was a spectacular show as they would settle in and periodically all rise up and shift over for some reason. Another great day in Texas came to a close.