Saturday, February 07, 2009

More birds and now to bed

A nice scene in south Texas.
Golden-fronted woodpecker.
Forster's tern.
The boat trip to Aransas N.W.R.
A red-tailed hawk at Aransas.
A whooping crane.
Another crane.
Some ancient live oak tree. Like 1000 years or so.

This is some intense birdwatching!  We get up before the crack of dawn, get moving with a quick motel breakfast and start scanning the roadsides for birds as the sun is rising in the east. Yesterday we started out at a place called Goose Island State Park near Rockport, Texas, where we saw little blue heron, ruddy turnstone, american pipit, clay-colored sparrow, black vultures, hermit thrush and many more.  My personal favorite from this location was the inca dove, a small, chunky dove with a long tail and a beautifully textured scaly pattern of plumage.  Next up was the big event for the day, a boat trip out to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to the world's entire wild population of the whooping crane, one of our most endangered birds in North America.  There are something like 250 individuals wintering at Aransas.  We saw about 18 or so walking around and feeding relentlessly through the grass and dry patches of ex-ponds.  They are our tallest bird and are quite striking.  There were also many other birds to see, of course, including a bazillion great blue herons, tons of the wonderful forster's terns, a crested caracara (a kind of freakish, giant falcon) cruising over the scrub, oystercatchers, skimmers, curlews, etc.

Then we took off to the south and did a brief stop at a private residence to see hummingbirds visit a bunch of feeders, and had pretty good looks at Allen's, Broad-Tailed and Buff-bellied Hummingbirds.  From there we went to a pleasant state park that seems to be popular with families for a stroll along the water and got several more nice birds such as the golden-fronted woodpecker, pyrhulloxia, wilson's snipe, lesser scaup and lark sparrow.  Finally, just around the corner from our motel we checked out a tiny little patch of water, a little secluded eden really except for the fact that it was part of some kind of sewage treatment facility, and got a brief but stirring view of the green kingfisher, a tiny kingfisher as kingfishers go with a giant bill.  

I'd love to say more but we're up and at them.  I just wanted to give you all a quick idea of what I'm doing and what a day of birding on a trip like is is all about.  Today we head further south and should get into even more southern and Texas specialties like the green jay, harris's hawk and many more.  I'll keep you posted as I can.

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