Texas December 24-30, 2015

I flew down to Texas on December 24th expecting the airports to be much deader than they were. But I arrived in Corpus Christi to sunshine and 88 degree weather  for the first time in my life.

The purpose of this trip was t enjoy the fantastic birding in first the Lower Rio Grande Valley for 4 days and then up to Corpus Christi and Aransas for two days.

I had to drive the 165 miles from Corpus Christi to Hidalgo where I would be headquartered for my stay in the LRGV. One of the birds I was really hoping to see was the Harris’s Hawk, a beautiful dark brown and rust colored bird with long yellow legs.

Harris's HawkHarris’s HawkHarris's Hawk-4Harris’s HawkHarris's Hawk-3Harris’s Hawk

After driving for about 100 miles I saw several large raptors sitting on fence posts along the side of the highway. Although I had never seen a Harris’s Hawk, I immediately knew that was what I was looking at as they are a rather social bird that often hunts in pairs of small groups. I immediately pulled over and took these pictures even though the sun was almost completely set by this time. My second life bird of the trip (the Great-tailed Grackle being the first).

Day One: Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Rio Bentsen State Park, Estero Llano Grande State Park

Christmas day began early with me departing for the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge by 5:30 a.m. to be sure I was in place by sunrise for a very special rarity that was visiting from Mexic0 and causing quite a stir…a first-year Northern Jacana. I rearranged my well planned out itinerary because this bird was still being reported on eBird when I arrived in Texas which made an attempt on it a must. When i was walking up the trail to the overlook where it had been reported, I saw a startling flash of yellow which I instinctively knew was the Jacana. Sure enough it was once I could glass it! The lighting was terrible and it was very foggy so the images are less then stellar but I was very pleased with this as a U.S. bird.

Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-4
Juvenile Northern Jacana

 

Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-7
Juvenile Northern Jacana

I was also able to get another nice life bird at Santa Ana, the Least Grebe.

Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-5
Least Grebe

Next stop was Rio Bentsen State Park which ended up providing me with some great birds.

Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-11Great-tailed Grackle Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-9

Great-tailed Grackle

Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-10  Great-tailed Grackle

Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-25
Plain Chachalaca
Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-13
Plain Chachalaca

Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-27

Plain Chachalaca

Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-17
Clay-colored Thrush
Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-14
A marauding Sharp-shinned Hawk

Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-16

The stunning Altamira Oriole

Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-51
Altamira Oriole
Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-18
Great Kiskadee

Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-35

Great Kiskadee

Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-38
Green Jay
Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-19
Green Jay
Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-44
Green Jays
Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-41
Green Jay
Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-45
A very shy Lincoln Sparrow

Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-22Inca Dove

Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-26Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-42
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-32
Harris’s Hawk
Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-31
Harris’s Hawk
Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-36
Vermillion Flycatcher
Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-66
Vermillion Flycatcher
Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-37
White-tipped Dove

 

Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-46
Juvenile Gray Hawk
Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-53
Juvenile Gray Hawk
Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-50
Adult Gray Hawk (seen from an observation tower at great distance)
Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-57
White-eyed Vireo
Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-58
White-eyed Vireo
Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-62
White-faced Ibis
Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-69
White-faced Ibis
Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-68
Cinnamon Teal
Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-63
Cinnamon Teal
Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-65
Loggerhead Shrike
Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-73
American Coot (look at those alien feet!)
Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-74
A very large Rio Grande Prickly Pear
Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-76
Texas Rose-bellied Lizard
Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-77
White Peacock
Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-48
Empress Leilia
Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-47
Yes it is a cactus in a tree!
Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-71
Queen
Rio Bentson & Estero Llano-56
A Long-tailed Skipper

 

Day Two: Salieneno, Falcon State Park, Anzalduas Park

The day began with a 79 mile drive north along the Rio Grande River to the Salieneno boat landing on the Rio Grande. I arrived about 30 minutes before sunrise so I could just take in the South Texas sunrise along the Rio Grande. Ir was simply stunning to be able to bear silent witness to the day break with the night sounds giving way to those of the day. Great Horned Owls hooted in several places, many Coyotes howled all around me and a Common Pauraque landed within  feet of me and began its sharp, buzzy whistle before taking off again. It was strange sating on the river bank looking less than 100 feet away into Mexico. Thankfully this place was one of the few that had no police or border patrol presence to disrupt the natural beauty of this place.

Salieneno, Falcon Dam-2Salieneno, Falcon Dam

Other than arriving early to enjoy the beauty of a Rio Grande sunrise, the best chance at seeing the uncommon Audubon’s Oriole is at dawn. I was not disappointed. It took a while to search them out but I was able to get on a group of them. My problem was that I forgot to increase my shutter speed as it became more light out and  most of my pictures were blurry.

Salieneno, Falcon Dam-7
Audubon’s Oriole
Salieneno, Falcon Dam-8
Audubon’s Oriole
Salieneno, Falcon Dam-4
Audubon’s Oriole

Another bird I was able to get at Salieneno was the elusive Olive Sparrow. Thankfully, I had a couple that were more curious about  me than afraid and gave me some good looks. By this time I had realized I had a slow shutter speed and corrected it.

Salieneno, Falcon Dam-12
Olive Sparrow
Salieneno, Falcon Dam-13
Olive Sparrow
Salieneno, Falcon Dam-11
Olive Sparrow

Without a doubt, the bird I most wanted to see was the Crested Caracara, a member of the falcon family that shares many traits and habits of vultures. This is a bird that captured my interest as a young child. I missed them in Florida in September but not in Texas! I saw around 30 of them during y trip and I was thrilled each time.  My first great looks came as I approached Falcon State Park (how perfectly named!).

Salieneno, Falcon Dam-15
Crested Caracara
Salieneno, Falcon Dam-19
Crested Caracara
Salieneno, Falcon Dam-35
Crested Caracara
Salieneno, Falcon Dam-23
Hovering Say’s Phoebe
Salieneno, Falcon Dam-24
Hovering Say’s Phoebe
Salieneno, Falcon Dam-22
Hovering Say’s Phoebe
Salieneno, Falcon Dam-27
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Salieneno, Falcon Dam-28
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Salieneno, Falcon Dam-41
Vermillion Flycatcher
Salieneno, Falcon Dam-32
Vermillion Flycatcher
Salieneno, Falcon Dam-33
Vermillion Flycatcher
Salieneno, Falcon Dam-30
Vermillion Flycatcher
Salieneno, Falcon Dam-36
Great Blue Heron looking for a better vantage point.
Salieneno, Falcon Dam-40
The photographically elusive (for me) Eastern Meadowlark
Salieneno, Falcon Dam-51
White-winged Dove
Salieneno, Falcon Dam-45
Pickerel Frog
Salieneno, Falcon Dam-44
Pickerel Frog
Salieneno, Falcon Dam-52
Skipper Species
Salieneno, Falcon Dam-53
Skipper Species
Salieneno, Falcon Dam-14
Sulphur Species
Salieneno, Falcon Dam-47
Looking north into Mexico at Anzalduas Park…the only place this can be done in the United States.
Salieneno, Falcon Dam-46
Looking north into Mexico
Salieneno, Falcon Dam-43
This weird police presence was everywhere in the Lower Rio grande valley. Made for a surreal experience.
Salieneno, Falcon Dam-50
The Anzalduas International Bridge. The cars that are lined up from the foreground to the faded distance are coming from Mexico to the United States.

Day Three: Sabal Palm, South Padre Island, Laguna 

Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-4
Green Jay
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-3
Green Jay
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-7
White-tailed Hawk; picture taken in 45 mph wind!
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-9
Laughing Gull
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-10
American Alligator
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-13
American Alligator
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-15
Mottled Duck
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-12
Mottled Duck
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-14
American Coot
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-16
Great Egret
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-17
Great Blue Heron
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-59
Great Blue Heron
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-32
Red Ducks
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-36
Red Duck
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-18
Red Duck
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-34
American Wigeon
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-22
American Wigeon
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-23
Red-breasted Merganser
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-31
Brown Pelicans
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-30
Brown Pelican
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-27
Brown Pelican

Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-26

Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-40
Brown Pelican
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-43
Brown Pelican
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-38
Neotropic Cormorant
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-37
Neotropic Cormorant
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-44
Tri-colored Heron
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-51
Black-necked Stilt
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-52
Black-necked Stilt
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-50
Black-necked Stilt
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-48
Black-necked Stilt
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-56
Snowy Egret
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-53
Snowy Egret
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-55
Blue-winged Teal
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-54
Blue-winged Teal
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-58
Common Gallinule
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-60
The Reddish Egret-my absolute favorite member of ardeidae family.
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-61
Great-tailed Grackle
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-64
Red-winged Blackbirds in December!
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-73
Couch’s Kingbird
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-66
Juvenile White Ibis
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-72
White-tailed Kite
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-75
Crested Caracara
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-63
Turtle Species
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre
Harvester Ants
Sabal palm, Laguna Atascosa,South Padre-29
Windsurfer on South Padre Island with a Brown Pelican flying by

Day Four: Choke Canyon, Lion’s/Shelley Park, Corpus Christi

Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-47
Crested Caracara

Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-48

Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-5
Crested Caracara
Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-4
Crested Caracara
Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-7
Black Vulture
Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-8
American White Pelican
Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-32
Yellow-rumped Warbler AKA “butter-butt”
Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-44
Butter-butt
Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-11
Black-crested Titmouse
Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-10
Black-crested Titmouse
Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-16
Pine Warbler
Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-12
Pine Warbler
Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-14
Pine Warbler
Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-19
Field Sparrow
Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-21
Northern Mockingbird
Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-23
Northern Mockingbird guarding my car
Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-26
Bewick’s Wren
Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-40
Carolina Wren
Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-36
Carolina Wren
Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-28
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-30
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-54
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-50
Green Kingfisher

Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-52

Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-51
Green Kingfisher
Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-57
Eastern Phoebe
Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-61
Willet
Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-64
Willet
Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-63
Great Blue Heron
Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-56
Turtle Species
Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-58
Turtle Species
Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley
White-tailed Deer
Choke Canyon, Lion's-Shelley-6
White-tailed Deer

Day Five: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge has always been the refuge I most wanted to see because it is a primary wintering ground for the critically endangered Whooping Crane which is North Americas tallest bird. The “Whoopers” that winter here are primarily from Alberta in Canada and are all wild born. Out of the 13 different Whooping Cranes I have seen  in Wisconsin, only one-a colt born in the spring of 2015-had no tags on it. I saw 36 Whooping Cranes at Aransas and none of them had an y tags. All were completely wild. I have seen 49 Whooping cranes now. To put in perspective just how endangered this majestic bird is, that is just over 8% of the estimated total world population.

The best way to view Whooping Cranes on the Texas coast is by boat so I joined a charter to get out to the barrier islands where they winter along with many other bird species. I was able to get some great looks at many species I saw nowhere else such as the American Oystercatcher, Long-billed Curlew, and Royal Tern.

Aransas-44

Aransas 

Aransas-14
Whooping Crane
Aransas-42
Whooping Crane
Aransas-41
Whooping Crane
Aransas-43
Whooping Crane
Aransas-9
Whooping Crane family
Aransas-15
Whooping Crane pair
Aransas-4
Long-billed Curlew
Aransas-6
Long-billed Curlew with Shrimp
Aransas-3
Forster’s Tern (adult non-breeding)
Aransas-8
American Avocet’s
Aransas-28
Osprey with Sea Trout
Aransas-10
Osprey with a Flounder
Aransas-31
Osprey with a Sea Trout
Aransas-12
Willet
Aransas-13
Willet
Aransas-18
Double-crested Cormorants and Neotropic Cormarants. The neotropics are much smaller.
Aransas-27
American Oystercatcher
Aransas-20
Eared Grebe
Aransas-21
American White Pelicans and Brown Pelicans  along with Forster’s Terns, a Willet and a Double-crested Cormorant.
Aransas-23
Laughing Gull
Aransas-36
Brown Pelican getting its breeding plummage
Aransas-24
Brown Pelican
Aransas-26
Royal Tern
Aransas-25
Royal Tern
Aransas-29
Sanderlings in flight.
Aransas-34
Peregrine Falcon
Aransas-40
American kestrel
Aransas-45
Turkey Vulture
Aransas-37
White-tailed Deer
Aransas-39
White-tailed Deer
Aransas-38
White-tailed Deer

Day Six: Lion’s Shelley Park & Rob and Bessie Welder Park

Lion's-Shelley, Corpus Christi_-5
Greater Pewee
Lion's-Shelley, Corpus Christi_-3
Greater Pewee
Lion's-Shelley, Corpus Christi_
Greater Pewee
Lion's-Shelley, Corpus Christi_-6
Orange-crowned Warbler
Lion's-Shelley, Corpus Christi_-9
Black-necked Stilt
Lion's-Shelley, Corpus Christi_-8
B lack-necked Stilt
Lion's-Shelley, Corpus Christi_-7
Black-necked Stilt
Lion's-Shelley, Corpus Christi_-15
Snowy Egret
Lion's-Shelley, Corpus Christi_-10
Snowy Egret
Lion's-Shelley, Corpus Christi_-18
American Avocet
Lion's-Shelley, Corpus Christi_-17
American Avocet
Lion's-Shelley, Corpus Christi_-13
American Avocet
Lion's-Shelley, Corpus Christi_-12
American Avocet
Lion's-Shelley, Corpus Christi_-11
American Avocet
Lion's-Shelley, Corpus Christi_-14
Tri-clored Heron
Lion's-Shelley, Corpus Christi_-20
Willet
Lion's-Shelley, Corpus Christi_-19
Willet
Lion's-Shelley, Corpus Christi_-21
Eared Grebe
Lion's-Shelley, Corpus Christi_-24
Reddish Egret
Lion's-Shelley, Corpus Christi_-23
Reddish Egret

 

4 thoughts on “Texas December 24-30, 2015

  1. Amazing photographs, Jeff. Well done capturing such a wide variety and number. Such a successful trip. Keep up the great work. I am living vicariously through your site. Thank you.

    Like

  2. Hi Jeff…I put some comments on your blog page yesterday but I don’t see them now so I probably pushed the wrong button…a way..just a fabulous collection of beautiful pictures. Your dialogue is good too. What a lot of work..but maybe not for you because you enjoy it so Sent

    So much. Hope all is well at home and work and love to all. Mom

    >

    Like

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