Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Two Life Birds!

This maybe should be broken into two or three postings, but I think I'll just dump some of today's pictures and comment on them a little.

We left Alamo at 7:30 this morning, meeting Steve and Sue at Bensten State Park south of Mission at about 8:00. Every good blog posting needs a narrative theme to drive it. Today it was weather. It was cold as we left, windy and 42F. It had rained during the night which was also to affect us later as the day went on.

We have never had much luck birding at Bentsen. It was devastated by floods in 2008 which really hammered the environment. You CAN see birds, but it tends to be the usual group of suspects feeding at a series of artificial feeding stations.

The group of folks above were a guided group of relatively casual birders. The couple on the left were from St.Paul, Minnesota. Shorts at 45F? He said if he was only spending one week in the Rio Grande Valley he would be damned if he was going to spend it wearing long pants. Personally, I had four layers on top and long underwear under my heavy long pants. And I was only relatively comfortable.

Orange-crowned Warbler. Ubiquitous and non-descript, but this is a nice photo of it.

Kiskadee. Another common bird, but certainly not nondescript. I like this photo because he is flaring his top crest reacting to another Kiskadee.

After a hike around the paved Bensten roads, we rode together in the Ridgeline to the Mission Nature Park. Sue was fixated - almost obsessed about adding some birds to her annual list. Near the parking lot we found a Cactus Wren, a wren which is much larger than other wrens.

Windy. ;-)

After introducing ourselves to the wren we said goodbye, climbed up the slope and started walking the top of the levee, hoping for a glimpse of Hooked-billed Kites, which are specialized raptors which feed on the tree snails in the trees along the levee. The gray Texas clay is amazingly sticky and tenacious.With every step our shoes gained weight - walk a few strides, try to kick and scrape the clay off, a few more strides, scrape again. Fatiguing.

Really tough walking and no Kites. But suddenly up ahead, movement in the edge of the grass. I saw the bird through the binocs, quickly dropped them for the camera and fired off a few shots. The Pipets are grassland birds, sparrowish in size and markings, but not closely related to them. It was far away and the photographs are lousy and out of focus, but I am tickled.  A Sprague's Pipet sighting was a life first for me.

Unfortunately Sue didn't get the Pipet, but she did get a Roadrunner for her annual list. We cleaned our shoes and headed for Anzalduas County Park where we saw an Osprey, Bluebirds, Vermilion Flycatchers, and a few other small birds.

By then we were draggin' ass a little, but before a late lunch at the Ranch House Burgers, we had one more stop at another location, to hopefully get some long range looks at a Burrowing Owl. We eventually spotted the bird, staying back on the road trying to disturb the bird as little as possible, only getting out of our vehicle to get some steadier camera shots, so these shots were really long range. I'm quite happy with mine, done with my relatively short lens.

It was my second life bird of the day.

Hope your day was good too, - Gunnar


George A said...

Yep, I also had a good day: we had a snow flake or two and that shut down schools and various work places. Plus the ice rink was mostly empty later in the afternoon when I had my ice dance lesson. I need to dig out the boat house. It's getting time to head down to FLA for my mid-winter regatta.

Gunnar Berg said...

Excellent. Enjoy the ice

Redwing said...

Congratulations on the Life Birds - very good birds, if I do say so myself. And real nice photo of the owl. It's been years since Carolee and I have seen Sprague's Pipits while in the valley.

Steve Norris said...

Well Paul, you can't get 'em if you ain't there! Boots are finally cleaned enough to wear - time for more rain.

Mimbres Man said...

Very nice! I grew up with roadrunners (our state bird), but it is still exciting to see one. Kind of makes your day!