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Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Last Round-up - of Texas Birding sites

Snowy Egret
All good trips must come to an end eventually, and my week long birding trip must
too. This final day I toured two World Birding Centers, starting with Estero Llano Grande State Park. I've had wonderful visits to the park in the past so was eager to bird there again. The park's walkway is cobbled and lined with trees and flowering shrubs the butterflies and birds love.

An Olive Sparrow on the cobblestones

Being the laziest birder on earth, I sometimes enjoy the birding center; sitting on the patio, watching the parade of waterfowl and wading birds on the marsh.

 The patio overlooking the marsh

Today there was a volunteer with a spotting scope. He invited me to see a Wilson's Snipe (first snipe-of-the-year for me). I asked if I could take a digiscope of the bird (that is, an iPhone video shot through the eye piece of the spotting scope). The video is horrible, but at least its short.

The friendly volunteer clued me in there was an Eastern Screech Owl to be found out on the trail, and possibly a Parauque so that temptation set me off on the trails. Stupidly I'd totally forgotten the concepts of 'sunscreen' and 'hat'. DUH! Oh well, I hiked, looking for interesting birds and good photo opts. There are several ponds, one with a massive flock of Lesser Sandpipers.

Tiny scattering of the b'jillion Least Sandpipers by the boardwalk
close-up of yellow legged, Least Sandpiper
rainbow-headed Blue-winged Teal drakes & hen, plus yet-another-coot (foreground)
I got in a good hour's hiking which is rather energetic for me, but it was worth getting my bare noggin' beaten on by the strong Texas sunlight. Saw my first and only American Alligator for this trip and it was a "BIG UN" maybe 12 to 15 feet long.

Sunning Gaitor along 'Alligator Alley' at Estero Llano
I spent a good 10 or 15 minutes with other birders staring at under tree leaf litter, but none of us could spot a Parauque. The volunteer later told me that means the cryptically plumaged birds were likely becoming secretive as they began their nesting season. I was able to spot the twee little Eastern Screech Owl sitting at its doorway, in its tiny doorstep, high up on a post.

Awaiting Squirrel Nutkin no doubt...
After viewing the little owl, and the large gator, I sat on a wooden bench for a spell. I noticed I had company in the trees on the opposite shore.
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
I counted about 25 Yellow-crowned Night Herons which sat amid tree branches. There were some juvenile Night Herons that wore much more drab pajamas than their elders.

snoozing Night Heron youngster
On my return to the Visitor Center I spent time at the Butterfly Garden chasing butterflies that were too fast for me to get any photos from. Then there were thrashers, Chachalacas and hummingbirds to admire at the bird feeder area behind the Visitor Center.

I then headed off to another World Birding Heritage site, in McAllen, called Quinta Mazatlan, which is as much fun to pronounce, as well as visit (HEEN-tah MOT-zat-lon). 

Had my eyes open to spot a Parauque in the shrubbery on the way in, but no dice today, but I did find some interesting statuary.
Javelina sow with metallic piglets
 I don't recall the statuary from my last visit to the grounds, but maybe I was totally distracted then by the birds and such. The statues were everywhere, and represented all the wildlife you could have found roaming the grounds ages ago - Insects (Leaf-cutter Ants) and reptiles (Indigo Snake), various birds, and a full sized and antlered White-tailed buck. Shown below are the Plain Chachalaca,  Collared Peccaries (Javalina),  and a Horned Lizard.
Plain Chachalacas and chicks
Texas Horned Lizzy
The grounds used to be a magnificent home, but now the grounds, which includes a pool, is a Visitor Center. I hit the center - to use the restroom facilities and inside the building I espied a young Hispanic bride, bedecked in lovely clothing for a photo shoot. I suspect weddings and QuinceaƱera celebrations bring in a pretty penny's worth of income for the grounds and facilities.

Gateway entrance to Quinta's inner sanctum
 beautifully cobbled pool & garden
 Took quite a long walk around the grounds. It was getting on towards evening and stubborn me, I decided to take one more crack at finding and photographing McAllen's Red-crowned Parrots. So... once more I drove off towards Dallas Street where the birds occur - no parrots - then I drove and parked at a local church where I read the parrots can be seen - again, no dice. However I was granted a booby prize by the gods of birding - 2 or 3 acre empty lot, on which marched busily, at least 25 Long-billed Curlews.

We get Long-billed Curlews on open farm lots and at wildlife refuges in my area at home, but a in a suburban lot? Not so much... lots of children were on their way home from school, and they walked with their backpacks, just feet from the foraging birds. The kids didn't look up or seem to notice the birds.  Hope I never get blasee about such long legged far-from-the-sea birds.

I imagine there are wiggly and yet yummy things down in the grass
Winner of the 'stare back at 'cha' competition
Enough whinging about the kids for no good reason - I mean, they didn't notice the birds but that doesn't mean they don't occasionally enjoy them as much as I do. Tomorrow I fly back to California myself, a birdie sort of migration, don't you think?

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