Friday, June 14, 2013

Last Day of Texas Birding Trip: Sabal Palms and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuges

The revived image of the underexposed photo of a female Crimson Grosbeak which made a rare appearance in the U.S., Sabal Palms NWR, Brownsville, TX; 4/19/2013.
THE GOOD = 60 bird species and 2 Lifers
THE BAD = a flat tire, and my camera going haywire
THE UGLY = My photos needed a lot of Photoshopping to make them presentable.
The final day of my birding trip started out with bad karma. I woke up with a low tire and had to continually make sure I checked in to gas stations to use their air to keep the tire full. Then when I arrived to Sabal Palms NWR, to try to get a glimpse of the rare sighting of a Crimson Grosbeak, my Canon EOS 7D decided to go haywire and the exposure would automatically underexpose by 6 stops, which was bad timing when the Crimson Grosbeak showed up. I could take pictures with manual focus but all the photos would be underexposed; furthermore, my auto-focus would not work at all. Because of the considerable negative underexposure, the sensor could not detect any images. I would have to go into my menu to correct the exposure. But after a couple of normal pictures, the exposure setting would again automatically lose six stops. This went on all day until my camera quit working altogether. So many of the pics on this post are from underexposed images, that I had to try to bring back to life using Photoshop. The photo (Above) of the rare Crimson Grosbeak was one of the underexposed images (as were all of my Crimson Grosbeak photos), so the strange dark and grainy appearance is the result of what I could get from reviving it up in Photoshop.

Black-crested Titmouse, Sabal Palms NWR, Brownsville, TX; 4/19/2013.
My visit to Sabal Palms was not indicative of my usual visits to places in which I do birding outings. I am a hiker-birder, not a drive-by-birder. When I go somewhere with the sole purpose of looking for birds, I usually make a hike out of it and hope to find the birds during my hike(s). I hardly ever go somewhere, at which I just drive to a location, get out my car, scan the terrain, find birds, take their pictures, hop back in and my car and drive to the next location. But when I heard about the Crimson Gosbeak, which made a rare visit from Mexico to the Sabal Palms NWR, in Brownsville,Texas, and since it was only a 30 minute drive from where I was staying, I decided to try my luck finding it. But because I only had a half of a day to bird, so I could make my 6 hour drive back to Houston, I made the decision to drive out to Sabal Palms, (after filling up my low tire) with the sole purpose of just viewing and photographing the Crimson Grosbeak, then I'd take off to my main location of the day - Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.
When I arrived to Sabal Palms by 7 AM, there were already a couple of photographers sitting on the deck of the Visitors Center with their cameras on tripods aimed out into the feeding station area. I learned from them, that the Crimson Grosbeak had not appeared yet that mourning,  but usually likes to feed on a certain apple that was nailed to a nearby tree. While I was waiting I took pictures of other birds that appeared at the station. Then the Crimson Grosbeak showed up. I take most of my photographs manually as I was that mourning, so I didn't know my camera's exposure setting lost 6 stops. I took at least a dozen photographs of the rare bird, and after it left, I checked my images, and they were all black. I panicked. I thought I didn't capture the Grosbeak at all. I had no idea why my pics were dark, and when I tried to change my shutter speed, to let more light in, my camera would not let me change any settings. It was frozen. Even after shutting off the camera and turning it back on, nothing worked.

Carolina Wren,Sabal Palms NWR, Brownsville, TX; 4/19/2013.
I went to my car, found my Canon EOS 7D guide book to look up what to do. After repeatedly turning on and off the camera, I finally was able to get to the menu to turn on from which I was then able to find the exposure settings and fix it. I breathed a sigh of relief, and then decided that I would go back to the deck and hope the Grosbeak would return. I waited for another 45 minutes with no such luck. Again while I was waiting I was able to get a few more shots of birds visiting the feeding station. My exposure setting went haywire again several more times and I had to reboot several times to get it fixed again. During my hour stay, standing in one place I was able to get 16 different species - list below... 

Total Species: 16
Lifers: 1 (Crimson Grosbeak)
Birds Identified: Black-crested Titmouse, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Carolina Wren, Common Ground Dove, Crimson Grosbeak, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Gray Catbird, Green Jay, Northern Cardinal,  Northern Mockingbird, Olive Sparrow,  White-tipped Dove, White-winged Dove, Wood Thrush, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Yellow-rumped Myrtle Warbler.

Of the pics from Sabal Palms the underexposed pictures revived with Photoshop were of a Crimson Grosbeak, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Gray Catbird, and Green Jay. The Black-crested Titmouse, Carolina Wren, and Olive Sparrow were taken when my exposure was working correctly.
Golden-fronted Woodpecker,Sabal Palms NWR, Brownsville, TX; 4/19/2013.
Gray Catbird, Sabal Palms NWR, Brownsville, TX; 4/19/2013.
Green Jay, Sabal Palms NWR, Brownsville, TX; 4/19/2013.
Olive Sparrow, Sabal Palms NWR, Brownsville, TX; 4/19/2013.
My only other destination for the day was the Santa Ana NWR, which turned out to be an awesome place - one that I would love to return to someday when I could spend the entire day there. But because of time constraints - driving back to Houston; and Camera problems - my camera finally quit working altogether, I left after only after two hours. Santa Ana had great birding habitats - wetlands, woodlands, large ponds, grasslands, and it also ran along the Rio Grande for river birds. All of the pics in this section were from one hike. I choose only to post the images from when my camera's exposure was working. I had hundreds of images that I had to take manually when my camera decided to go haywire again.

Ibis and Egrets sharing a downed tree, Santa Ana NWR, TX; 4/19/2013.
The photo (Above) with the White-faced  and White Ibis, and Snowy Egrets was indicative of the viewing at Santa Ana. I also saw a couple of Havalinas while out on my hike. 
Total Species: 47
Lifers: 1 (Ringed Kingfishers)
Birds Identified: Altamira Oriole, American Coot, Barn Swallows, Belted Kingfisher, Black-crested Titmouse, Black-necked Stilts, Blue-winged Teals, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Brown-headed Cowbird, Cattle Egret, Cinnamon Teal, Common Grackle, Common Yellowthroat, Couch's Kingbird, Double-crested Cormorants, Forster's Terns, Gadwalls, Glossy Ibis, Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, Great Egrets, Great Kiskadee, Greater Yellowlegs, Great-tailed Grackles, Gull-billed Terns, Harris Hawk, Hudsonian Godwit, Indigo Bunting, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Logger-headed Shrike,  Long-billed Dowitchers, Long-billed Thrasher, Mottled Ducks, Mourning Dove, Neotropic Cormorants, Northern Mockingbirds, Northern Rough-winged Swallows, Northern Shovelers,  Ringed Kingfishers (2), Ruddy Ducks, Savannah Sparrow, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Snowy Egrets, Sora Rail (Heard only), Spotted Sandpiper, Tree Swallows, Tropical Kingbird, White-faced Ibis, and White Ibis.
Photos from Santa Ana below...
Entrance Sign, Santa Ana NWR, TX; 4/19/2013.
In fact, if I would have gone here first in my entire trip, I would have seen 9 of my Lifers of my week-long trip in less than two hours.
Couch's Kingbird, Along the Rio Grande, Santa Ana NWR, TX; 4/19/2013.

Gull-billed Tern, Santa Ana NWR, TX; 4/19/2013.

Harris Hawk, Santa Ana NWR, TX; 4/19/2013.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Santa Ana NWR, TX; 4/19/2013.

A pair of Ringed Kingfishers showing off their huge bills, Although the pic is of poor quality (I blame it on the far distance), I included it because it was my last LIFER of my week-long Texas Birding Trip.Santa Ana NWR, TX; 4/19/2013.

A good look at the Savannah Sparrow's yellow lores, Santa Ana NWR, TX; 4/19/2013.

A drab variation of a White-faced Ibis, Santa Ana NWR, TX; 4/19/2013.
Santa Ana NWR was a great stop to finish off my week of birding in Texas. If only my camera didn't wig out, and I didn't have to stop every couple of hours to put air into one of my tires, it would have been an awesome day. Thus ends my blog posts from Texas.

As a side note, I sent my EOS 7D to Canon, who fixed it for a fee of $250 and I was without its services for less than two weeks, and used my backup - Canon Rebel T1i. $250 may seem like a lot, but it sure beats having to buy a new camera. It has been working great ever since.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Day 6: Texas birding Springbreak Trip: Falcon State Park and Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park


Gulf Fritillary, Falcon State Park, TX; 4/18/2013.
4/18/2013: On my last full day of birding (my last day 4/19, I was hoping for at least a 1/2 day before driving back to Houston) during my springbreak trip to Texas, I planned on 3 sites that were a couple of hours drive away from my base town, Los Fresnos: Roma Bluffs, Falcon State Park and Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park.
My first stop was Roma Bluffs, a touted Birding Center along the Rio Grande. After arriving in Roma and driving around for a few minutes, I located the Observation deck overlooking the Rio Grande. The bluffs were as high as the tree tops which would make for getting good views of tree top birds, but I didn't see anything worth mentioning; futhermore, the view of the river was very far below the bluffs, and even with zooming in with my 500mm Sigma lens, I could not see anything on the river or along the banks. When I reached the Roma Bluffs Visitor Center, a small building just a block and a half away, I inquired about getting down to the river to do some birding along the river's edge. I was told that the trail was closed and inaccessable. I asked where do I go to observe birds, and the nice young lady volunteer said, "Oh, you want to see birds," showing some disappointment that I didn't want to just look at pictures and books that were displayed in the building.
     "Yes, see birds," I reported.
     "Follow me around back," she said hopefully. I was very puzzled.
     "Around back?" I thought. We were in the middle of a town, albeit very small, but didn't seem like this neighborhood had much to offer for serious birding. I was hoping I was wrong with that assessment, and followed her with expectant optimism. Well, she led me behind the building and opened up a solid doubled door gate and said,
     "Sometimes we get birds back here, usually early in the morning." Behind the building were a few feeding stations set up, but the only birds that seemed to be hanging around were House Sparrows, Great-tailed Grackles and Mourning Doves. After a few minutes, a couple of older women were ushered in by the same volunteer. They drove from San Antonio to visit as well. They told me their goal was to locate all the different species of Orioles (Altamira, Baltimore, Bullocks, Orchard, Hooded, and Audubon's) that were present in the area. When asked what particular birds I was looking for, I said,
     "Anything but House Sparrows, Mourning Doves, and Great-tailed Grackles."  And as it turned out, that was all I saw there during the half hour I stayed. The two ladies set up their tripods and cameras, aimed them in no particular direction that I could fathom and they waited patiently. Every time there was a movement in a tree or brush, they got very excited and said, "There is one, there," or "an oriole!" "Which kind?" "I am not sure," and this went on for the next 20 minutes. I decided that was not the place I hoped it would be and made my farewells and said I was going to try my luck at Falcon State Park a few more miles up the highway. I've heard this is also a potentially good place to find White-tailed Kites, that I struck out on a couple of days ago at Resaca De La Palma State Park.

FALCON STATE PARK My luck at Falcon State Park was not much better. When I asked at the registration / fee building about any information that would be helpful to birders, especially Kites. I was given a quite quizzical look by the woman behind the counter,
     "Don't know much about no birds round here."
     "Oh," I managed. Seeing my disappontment, she then added,
     "The hostess who lives in the camper down the road, she likes birds. She has all kinds of feeders set out. I bet she can help you out. I payed my day-use fee, thanked her and took off down the road.  I found the hostess, introduced myself and asked for any kind of advice about what kinds of birds and where the best places to look might be. She was a very frustrated birding woman. She said that there,
      "weren't any good birds left, here no more. They all left. All we have now are those darn blackbirds and sparrows. And damned if I'm going to spend any more money on that expensive birdseed, if only those darn blackbirds are going to eat it all up."
     I thanked her and told her that I would take to the trails and see what I could find. It was a very dusty dry place, but near the Rio Grand, so there was a variety of hbitat that might yield some interesting birds, such as Sage or Curve-billed Thrashers. After meandering about and seeing a few birds, but I did manage to see a few butterflies that I was able to photograph, a Gulf Fritillary (Top of Page), a Soldier Milkweed (Below), and a Pipevine Swallowtail (I think) (Below)
Soldier Milkweed, Falcon State Park, TX; 4/18/2013.

Pipevine Swallowtail, Falcon State Park, TX; 4/18/2013.
But I did manage to get a few photos of birds, before I realized that I wasn't capitalizing on my day very well. I decided to abort my Falcon State Park birding adventure and start my drive back to Los Fresnos. As I made my way back to the parking lot, I saw the same two ladies who I met at Roma Bluffs questioning the hostess of the park, and hearing her say to them,
     "Those damn blackbirds are eating up all my expensive birdseed..."  It was still early afternoon and I decided to stop in Bentsen Rio Grande State Park on the way back.
Total Species: 13
Lifers: 0
Birds Identified: Bullock's Oriole, Couch's Kingbird, Curve-billed Thrasher,  Great-tailed Grackle, House Sparrow, Inca Dove, Mourning Doves, Northern Mockingbirds, Northern Rough-winged Swallows, Savannah Sparrow, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, White-winged Doves.

Some of my few bird photos from Falcon State Park below...
A nice view of the long scissor tails of the Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Falcon State Park, TX; 4/18/2013.

Tropical Kingbird, Falcon State Park, TX; 4/18/2013.

Bullocks Oriole, Falcon State Park, TX; 4/18/2013.
On my way out of Falcon State Park, I saw a flash of orange fly over the road in front of my car. Thinking it was probably another Altamira Oriole, I almost kept driving, but decided to pull over and investigate. After a minute I located it on a power line and zoomed in to discover it was a Bullock's Oriole. So I followed it a bit further and it landed even closer to me in a tree (Above). The only other time I have seen a Bullock's was a over a year ago in Crystal Cove State Park, California. I hoped that the oriole-seeking ladies from Roma Bluffs find this guy on their way out.


A Black-crested Titmouse, my only Lifer of the day, Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park; 4/18/2013.
I reached Bentsen Rio Grande State Park by mid afternoon and was glad I arrived here no later. it was a much more pleasant than my first two stops - good hiking and decent birding. I easily could have spent the day here, and bypassed Roma and Falcon altogether. Plus I got my only lifer of the day - a Black-crested Titmouse (Above). I probably hiked over 8 miles at this park, and eventhough my total species of 36 birds was not great compared to other days, it was much better than my first two outings so it seemed satisfactory to me.

Total Species: 36
Lifers: 1 (Black-crested Titmouse)
Birds Identified: Altamira Oriole, American Coots, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Barn Swallow, Black Vulture, Black-crested Titmouse, Blue-winged Teals, Bronzed Cowbirds,  Brown-crested Flycatcher, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Couch's Kingbird, Eurasian Collared Doves, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Gray Hawk, Great Blue Heron,  Great Egrets, Great Kiskadee, Great-tailed Grackles, Green Jays, Killdeer, Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Long-billed Thrasher,  Mexican Mallard, Mourning Doves, Northern Cardinals, Northern Harrier, Northern Mockingbirds, Northern Shovelers, Plain Chachalacas, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Swainson's Hawk, Tropical Kingbird, Turkey Vultures, White-tipped Doves, White-winged Doves, Yellow-rumped Myrtle Warbler.

Some photos below...

Buff-bellied Hummer, Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park; 4/18/2013.

Green Jay, Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park; 4/18/2013.

Plain Chachalaca, Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park; 4/18/2013.

Tropical Kingbird, Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park; 4/18/2013.

White-tipped Dove, Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park; 4/18/2013.

White-winged Dove, Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park; 4/18/2013.
I had another chance to find a Northern beardless Tyrannulet, but again could not locate it, even after I was able to find the specific location of its nest and heard it calling.
My 42 species and 1 Lifer for the day didn't seem like much compared to yesterday's 100 specie day, for some reason ending the day on a more positive note than the way it started, didn't make the day seem so bad. One more partial day to go before heading back to Houston and the airport.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Day 5 of Texas Birding Trip: South Padre Island, Resaca De La Palma State Park, & Estero Llano Grande NWR

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were common fixtures on the boardwalks at the Birding Center of South Padre Island, TX, 4/17/2013.
The 5th day of my Texas birding trip (April 17, 2013) brought me to three locations all very near my headquarters town of Los Fresnos.  All three locations are considered important birding areas and have been specifically preserved as sanctuaries by the World Birding Center: The Birding Center (South Padre Island), Resaca De Palma State Park (Brownsville), and Estero Llano Grande State Park (Weslaco). This last location was actually an afterthought near the end of the day when I felt I needed to visit one more place.
A Yellow-crowned Heron hunting in the wetlands of the Birding Center of South Padre Island, TX, 4/17/2013. 
Location #1 - South Padre Island
I got up early in hopes to beat traffic to drive to my first destination - The Birding Center on South Padre Island. I heard this was a good place, but I couldn't picture in my mind what it would entail especially on such a commercialized and busy tourist area. I was pleasantly surprised to  find a great habitat that has been preserved on the Gulf side of the island. Also adjacent to the Birding Center was the equally impressive Convention Center. Between the two properties was a very nice extensive boardwalk system that led from the buildings over the wetlands out to the sea.. The only thing that puzzled me was that the boardwalks were not joined, yet at places ran next to each other.  My guess was that because the Birding Center charged a fee to access their boardwalks, and the Convention Center did not, the Birding Center did not want visitors to be able to cross onto their property from the Convention Center, thus losing the fee revenue. Nevertheless, both were worth visiting as between the two areas I identified at least 60 different species in a matter of a couple of hours without a lot of effort.
A Sandwich Tern flew over the parking lot at The Birding Center, South Padre Island, TX; 4/17/2013.
 Walking from my car across the parking lot to the doors of the Birding Center, I saw no less than 17 different species, among them lots of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks (Top of page) which were flying overhead and landing on the property near the building. Most of these 17 were common species such as European Starlings, Mourning Doves and Red-winged Blackbirds, but also included a Clay-colored Sparrow, Gull-billed and Sandwich Terns (Above) and a Bronzed Cowbird.

A Clapper Rail appeared out of the thicket and walked across a sandbar in clear view,  The Birding Center of South Padre Island, TX, 4/17/2013.
Once I paid my fee and accessed the boardwalks behind the building, there was lots to see, including my first two Lifers of the day: A Clapper Rail (Above) and a Least Bittern (no pic). I was leaning on the side of the boardwalk handrail, concentrating on a Clapper Rail clattering in the thicket, and waited patiently hoping I to get a glimpse of it, but as it was noisily clapping away, another one appeared out of the thicket on the other side of the boardwalk and stayed in view for more than a minute, giving me plenty of pictures as it crept across the sand bar to reach another thicket. While I was trailing the Clapper, a Least Bittern suddenly flew out of the brush for a few feet and disappeared faster than I could get a bead on it with my camera.
A Tri-colored Heron, The Birding Center of South Padre Island, TX, 4/17/2013.
After about an hour on the Birding Center's boardwalks, I ventured out to the main road and walked over to the adjacent Convention Center where I spent another hour birding their trees filled with migrants and more boardwalks. The complete list of the 60 birds I found on South Padre Island is below.

South Padre Island Bird Report for 4/17/2013
Total Species: 60
Lifers: 3 (Least Bittern, Clapper Rail, Gull-billed Tern)
FOYs: 10 (including the 3 Lifers)
Birds Identified:  American Coot, Baltimore Oriole, Black Skimmers, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Black-necked Stilts, Blackpoll Warbler, Blue-winged Teals, Bronzed Cowbird, Chipping Sparrow, Clapper Rail,  Clay-colored Sparrow, Common Moorhen, Common Yellowthroat, Double-crested Cormorants, Eurasian Collared Dove, European Starlings, Great Blue Heron, Great Egrets, Greater Yellowlegs, Great-tailed Grackles, Gull-billed Terns, House Finches, Indigo Bunting, Laughing Gulls, Least Bittern, Little Blue Heron, Mourning Dove,  Nashville Warbler, Neotropic Cormorants, Northern Mockingbirds, Northern Shovelers, Orchard Oriole, Osprey, Ovenbird, Pied-billed Grebes, Prothonotary Warbler (Above), Red-breasted Merganser, Reddish Egret, Red-eyed Vireo, Redheads, Red-winged Blackbirds, Ring-billed Gulls, Ring-necked Ducks, Rock Doves, Roseate Spoonbills, Royal Terns,  Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings, Sandwich Terns, Savannah Sparrow, Short-billed Dowitcher, Song Sparrow, Sora Rail (heard), Spotted Sandpiper, Swainson's Thrush, Tree Swallows, Tri-colored Heron, White Ibis,  Willets, Yellow-crowned Night Heron.

More photos of South Padre Island Birds:
Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Convention Center, South Padre Island, TX, 4/17/2013.

Indigo Bunting, Convention Center, South Padre Island, TX, 4/17/2013.

Female Orchard Oriole, Convention Center, South Padre Island, TX, 4/17/2013.

Osprey, Birding Center of South Padre Island, TX, 4/17/2013.

Pied-billed Grebe, Birding Center of South Padre Island, TX, 4/17/2013.
A Reddish Egret, the Convention Center of South Padre Island, TX, 4/17/2013.
Short-billed Dowitcher. The Birding Center of South Padre Island, TX, 4/17/2013.
Prothonotary Warbler in the trees near the Convention Center, South Padre Island, TX, 4/17/2013.
Red-eyed Vireo, Convention Center, South Padre Island, TX, 4/17/2013.
Red-winged Blackbird, Convention Center, South Padre Island, TX, 4/17/2013.
BIF - Tri-colored Heron,  The Birding Center of South Padre Island, TX, 4/17/2013.
Location #2 - Resaca De La Palma State Park
After departing South Padre Island, I drove less than an hour just west of Brownsville, to Resaca De Palma State Park, which is designated as a "World Birding Center" through the cooperation of local Texas and federal land management agencies. This area is known for the presence of the White-tailed Kite and the Hook-billed Kite, both which would have been Lifers for me. I walked nearly every trail of the park but struck out on these Kites. I was told that there were many of them present just a couple of days ago along with hundreds of Mississippi Kites. I did manage to see one lone Mississippi Kite (which was not a Lifer for me). I also struck out on another potential Lifer - the Northern Beardless Tyrannulet was nesting in the area, but I could not find this little critter either. My list for this park is below...

Resaca De La Palma State Park
Total Species: 29
Lifers: 1 (Brown-crested Flycatchers)
First in U.S.: 2 (including Lifer & Couch's Kingbird)
Species Identified: Altamira Oriole, American Coots, Bewick's Wren, Black Vulture, Blue-winged Teals, Bronzed Cowbirds, Brown-crested Flycatchers, Buff-bellied Hummingbirds, Couch's Kingbird, Crested Caracara, Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, Gray Catbird, Great Egrets, Great Kiskadee, Greater Yellowlegs, Great-tailed Grackles, Green Jays, Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Laughing Gulls, Long-billed Thrasher, Mourning Doves, Northern Cardinals, Northern Mockingbirds, Orchard Oriole,  Spotted Sandpiper, Turkey Vulture, White-crowned Sparrow, White-tipped Doves, White-winged Doves.

Photos from Resaca De La Palma SP
A Great Kiskadee, Resaca De La Palma State Park, TX; 4/17/2013.
Long-billed Thrasher, Resaca De La Palma State Park, TX; 4/17/2013.

Mexican Blue-wing butterfly, Resaca De La Palma State Park, TX; 4/17/2013.

Location #3 - Estero Llano Grande State Park
After spending most of the day at Resaca De La Palma, I left disappointed that I didn't even manage 30 different species. It was already past 5:30 PM and I felt I still had some birding left in me for the day. I was very near another World Birding Center Location, Estero llano Grande State Park, only 40 miles away. I decided that I would check it out, even though the managers at Resaca De a Palma told me that the Visitors Center would be closed.

Just two of the many Fulvous Whistling Ducks at Estero Llano Grande SP; 4/17/2013.

When I arrived already nearing 7 PM, I found the Parking area open and the trails accessible. I am glad I decided to come here as it is an awesome place to bird with large ponds, wood and grasslands, and hummingbird feeding stations. As I neared the first pond directly behind the Visitors center, I saw that it was filled with water birds including a large contingent of Fulvous Whistling Ducks (Above), for which I was grateful, since the only other Fulvous Whistlers I have seen were at a great distance with blurry pictures at Anahuac NWR, three days ago. At the hummer feeders, I saw three different hummers making frequent visits: Ruby-throated, Buff-bellied and Rufous. After spending an hour at this park, I identified 45 species and left wishing that I had more time. I wished that I would have reversed my itinerary and came here before Resaca de la Palma.

Estero Llano Grande State Park
Total Species: 45
Lifers: None (I thought I saw a Least Grebe, but it turned out to be an Eared Grebe)
Birds Identified: American Avocets, American Coots, Baird's Sandpipers, Barn Swallows, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks,  Black-chinned Hummingbirds, Black-necked Stilts, Blue-winged Teals,  Buff-bellied Hummingbirds, Cattle Egret, Common Ground Dove, Cinnamon Teal, Common Moorhen, Common Yellowthroat, Eared Grebe, Fulvous Whistling Ducks, Gadwall, Great Egret, Great Kiskadee, Great-tailed Grackles, Green-winged Teals, Killdeer, Laughing Gulls, Least Sandpipers, Long-billed Dowitchers, Mississippi Kite, Mottled Ducks, Mourning Doves, Northern Cardinals, Northern Mockingbirds, Northern Pintails, Northern rough-winged Swallows, Northern Shovelers, Pied-billed Grebe, Red-breasted Merganser,  Red-winged Blackbirds, Roseate Spoonbills, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Ruddy Ducks, Rufous Hummingbird, Solitary Sandpiper, Tree Swallows, White Ibis,  White-winged Doves, Wilson's Phalaropes.

Photos from Estero Llano Grande State Park

An American Avocet gracefully glided by, Estero Llano Grande SP; 4/17/2013.

Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Estero Llano Grande SP; 4/17/2013.
A pair of Cinnamon Teals, Estero Llano Grande SP; 4/17/2013.

Great Kiskadee, Estero Llano Grande SP; 4/17/2013.
Eared Grebe, Estero Llano Grande SP; 4/17/2013.
I thought this a Least Grebe when I photographed it, but the bill seems too thick. The bright yellow eye fooled me, but then I realized it was an Eared Grebe, molting between its non breeding plumage to its breeding plumage, Estero Llano Grande SP; 4/17/2013.

Mottled Ducks, Estero Llano Grande SP; 4/17/2013.
A juvenile White Ibis, Estero Llano Grande SP; 4/17/2013.
A flotilla of Wilson Phalaropes, Estero Llano Grande SP; 4/17/2013.
Estero llano Grande State Park was an awesome place to go birding - large ponds, grassland and woods all served as prime living and visiting habitats for migrants and for residential birds alike. My biggest regret was not getting here earlier in the day. I probably could have spent an entire day here - a highly recommended location for birders.