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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Estero Grande State Park

Yes, I know, I'm taking forever to post my TX trip. Well suck it up, I'm almost caught up now. Really. So! Sunday, the last day of the Rio Grande Birding Festival was a bit of a chase, with several different vans headed out to find vagrant birds that got their feathered rears lost in south Texas during the festival. There was a Black-vented Oriole to be found in Bentsen Rio State Park, and a Tropical Parula (a tiny warbler) flitting about the Laguna Altacosa Refuge, but I was off in a van headed after a Rose-throated Becard. This one was a female, and they are sort of brownish with adorable little beanie cap'd noggins.

I'll shorten this story by say, many of the people who joined the hunt saw the female Rose-throated Becard, but I wasn't one of them. $#*%, of the birdie variety happens, even if there are no windshields or freshy washed cars involved. Still, I had a fun time exploring Estero Grande State Park in Weslaco (WES-la-co), TX, where roamed the girlie Becard, unseen by me.

First thing I noted was that as many birds there were at the Center, there were just as many butterflies. Now, normally I don't mess much with butterflies unless there aren't any birds around to gawk at. But honestly, could you ignore a butterfly that looked like this?


Can't believe I saw a Mexican Bluewing!

Is that a pretty insect or what? Ugh! Even the word insect is repugnant to me, but when it comes with gift wrapping for wings, you have to admire it, even if it has 2 more legs than necessary for any normal creature of nature.


Hanging Butterfly Feeder Branch

There are lots of tropical butterflies in south Texas, and at Estero, they not only have bird feeders, but butterfly feeders. The feeders are stocked with a secret formula of fermented bananas and- get this - Guiness Stout. Butterflies can't get by on looks alone you know! Here are more of the little beauties I was lucky enough to see, and photograph at Estero Grande.


Zilpa Longwing


Question Mark Butterfly


Tawny Emperors


Not a butterfly, but still rather striking: a Carmine Skimmer

The most amazing butterfly was buzz-bombing around so fast, I didn't even notice it until someone pointed it out to me. It was a Clearwing Hummingbird moth! They so resemble hummingbirds in their behavior, I was told some people think they have an incredibly tiny hummingbird in their yard, unknown to science. Imagine the rush they feel before they find out their cryptozoology discovery is a glorified bug! For you butterfly scientists out there, I know this is actually a 'lep', and that bugs are 'hemips'. See? I almost even speak your jargon.


Almost too fast for me to photograph:
a Clearwing Hummingbird Moth

Really, what I ought to have done was shoot video of that fast moving moth, but I didn't. So, in a semi-apology below is a post I got off YouTube that demonstrates how bird-like, strangely beautiful and yet creepy, these moths are.

Kinda beautiful. Kind of Creepy.

Back to birds! There were what I now think of as 'the usual line-up' in south Texas. Several Altimira Orioles were about, and there was an Oriole nest hanging off a telephone line. The guide told us he had watched the Oriole that started the nest, weaving grass strands into a sort of triangle shape over the telephone line. The birds are master weavers as you can see. This nest below was used to raise a family of orioles.

Altimira Oriole Nest

This Oriole eyed us, eying its nest. Probably
though we'd want to lay our eggs in it

I spent a while watching an area set up for birds, and enjoyed watching this Black-throated Gray Warbler take his morning bath.

Black-throated Gray Warbler, prior to his bath

Nearby dozens of bird feeders kept Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, Inca and White-tipped Doves and quite a few other birdie species occupied.

Box o' Birds

Of course there are those birds who know they are too good for handouts. Ok, maybe it's just because they don't eat seed, prefering to catch insects - butterflies included - for their meals.

Too proud for handouts? A Couch's Kingbird


Black-crested Titmouse looking like it belongs
in the North Pole with all the other elves


A couple of days earlier at another Nature Center I saw a Parauque. Well, Estero Grande had two good spots where Parauques could be spotted - if you had a clue where to look. I was so happy to see them! They were one of the birds I most looked forward to seeing and photographing in Texas.

This Parauque gave looks as good as it got

zzzzzz....

Last but not least, 2nd favorite bird at Estero wasn't exactly out there in the open. This little Eastern Screech Owl, which wasn't found by me, was hidden in the branches of a large tree. The gray blotch with white spots under the green leaves (dead center of photo) is the side of the owl. Eastern Screech Owls are only about 6 inches long. Yes, you can't see much of this bird, but wow! What an awesome little mite that owl is! Its seated facing left, only it's side and fuzzy talons visible - sort of.

Hidden away, Eastern Screech Owl

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