Last August I drove to San Antonio to visit my parents. Life has been busy and I’m late on posting.
I wasn’t sure how well the birding opportunities would be as it was the middle of August. But I was surprised at how successful I was at seeing a variety of birds…several of which were new birds for me. I realized quickly that it was soooo dry in Texas that if I birded in areas where there was water I was sure to get something.
I decided this trip to break it up into two-day drives coming and going. In the past I would drive the entire 12-13 hours in one day. I’d be exhausted by the time I got to my destination. It was a much better choice to drive half way and rest. Plus it afforded me opportunities to stop and bird and let Scarlett get out and stretch her legs and play in some water.
This was Scarlett’s first road trip and she did great!
On the highway outside of Fort Sumner I happened to see a Swainson’s Hawk perched nicely in a dead tree. I can never resist photographing birds of prey.
I’m so glad I decided to stop and take a few pics. Because in that same tree was a Common Nighthawk! I have seen them in flight many times but never had to opportunity to photograph one. So I was excited to see this one so close. 🙂
On the way to San Antonio I decided to drive to Lubbock, Texas, and stay the night there. I had seen on the internet that there was an arboretum there. Now how many of you think of a nice, lush garden area when you hear the word “arboretum”? Well…the arboretum at Lubbock was a huge disappointment. Maybe at one time it was nice, but not now. The wildflower garden was way out of control but did give me a few butterflies to photograph.
The only highlight of the arboretum besides the butterflies was a family of Mississippi Kites. They were determined to stay in the tops of the trees, but I did manage to catch one decent photo.
The next morning I was determined to find someplace on the way out of town that would be much nicer to bird. I decided to check out Buffalo Springs Lake outside of Lubbock. What a great choice! A beautiful community with lots of water around and full of birds.
The drive from the highway to the lake wound through grasslands and I got a new bird. I’ve heard Northern Bobwhite many times in the past but never got a photo. And for those of you that know me well, I only count birds on my list if I managed to get a photo (even a crappy one! LOL!).
I also got to watch a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher getting breakfast. He was a ways away but I did manage to get a halfway decent shot of him in flight. First time I’ve seen the red patch on their wings. It’s usually hidden when the wings are folded.
There was a nice group of Cassin’s Sparrows but they were very shy. I managed to get one shot before they all dove into the deep grasses.
Scarlett was happy that she got to have a morning splash in the lake before hitting the road for another 6-7 hours. From Buffalo Springs I took a little side road to connect to the main highway instead of backtracking. I’m so glad I did! The drive was wonderful because of the acres and acres of stunning sunflowers!
Giant Sunflowers outside of Lubbock, TX
Facing the early morning sun
While staying in San Antonio I had heard about this place called Warbling Woods. It’s a privately owned residence on several acres. The owners are bird lovers and have created a beautiful bird sanctuary that visitors can come and enjoy. I got to go for a couple of hours one morning. Nothing of note really except for hearing a Dickcissel – a new bird for me. Sadly I didn’t get a photo so he couldn’t get added to my list.
Summer Tanager – Female
Northern Cardinal – Female
I did get one butterfly at the Warbling Woods location.
The weather was in the 100+ degrees and the humidity was extremely high. So it wasn’t the best weather for birding.
On the way home I took a different route. I drove to Roswell, NM. I wanted to check out the Bitter Lake Wildlife Refuge. On the way out of San Antonio I stopped at a little park to let Scarlett run around before hitting the road for several hours. I’m glad I chose that little park because it had a small pond. Since Texas had been extremely dry for several weeks, this little pond was a big draw for birds.
While Scarlett played in the water I was fortunate to get several new birds.
Louisiana Waterthrush – a new bird!
Miss Scarlett relaxing after her swim
Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher – yup! Another new bird!
Just as I was turning to leave I saw something larger fly overhead and land at the far end of the pond. I was so excited to see it was a Little Blue Heron! Another new bird for me!
Little Blue Heron
I would have loved to stay at that pond for several hours but I had to hit the road. It was going to be a long day of driving. Just outside of Fort Stockton I needed to get gas. I couldn’t make it to the town so stopped at a little station in the middle of nowhere about 50 miles from Fort Stockton. It was the middle of the day and 107 degrees! I needed to let Scarlett out to do her business. While she was doing that I noticed quite a lot of birds hanging out around a transformer on a pole. It was the only decent bit of shade! The birds looked just miserable!
Bullock’s Oriole – Female
Back on the road I drove up through Carlsbad, NM. I decided to stop at a little lake called Lake Avalon as ebird was showing several sightings there. It was a very wild lake…more of a reservoir instead of a place for people to come picnic. So the vegetation was thick and the roads around it terrible. But I did manage to find one road navigable by my car and made it to the lake’s edge. It was so hot Scarlett and I were only able to walk around for about 15 minutes before we dove into the car for max A/C!
Scarlett cooling off at Lake Avalon
Western Kingbird hitting a grasshopper on a limb
Bullock’s Oriole – Female
Western Kingbird – panting in the heat!
While sitting in the car getting ready to leave I heard an unusual bird call coming from the only two cottonwood trees in the area. They were a magnet for lots of birds but pretty far away so was difficult to get photos. But I was determined to figure out what was calling in that tree that I didn’t recognize. I finally got a glimpse of it flying from one branch to another. Quickly snapped a photo and zoomed in. And saw it was a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo! A new bird for me!
Yellow-Billed Cuckoo – I believe it’s a juvenile as it’s bill has lots of black
I thought this photo looked like a watercolor painting
The next morning I got up very early (before sunrise!) and drove to Bitter Lake. There wasn’t much water there so not many water birds around. But on ebird there had been sightings of a Snowy Plover and that would be a new bird for me. Needless to say I was excited to see one as soon as I got there. The light was poor and the bird at a distance but I did manage to get a decent enough pic for my book.
The refuge was a peaceful place to walk Scarlett and enjoy the sunrise and cool air.
Scarlett enjoying the walk at Bitter Lake
While walking I saw a pair of raccoons go running past me. Those guys can run! As it was very early sunrise my camera just couldn’t get a sharp pic as they were moving so fast. Briefly one stopped (sort of) so I grabbed a quick pic.
Very fast racoons!
Glad one paused for a quick look back
There were Scaled Quail everywhere and lots of Meadowlarks singing. I can see how this would be a great place to visit for birding at other times of the year. I will have to see if I can visit again in the spring.
We finally made it home but the excitement didn’t stop. I had to drive all the way into town and pic up photos for the State Fair photo contest and get them submitted that day. But it was worth the effort and extra driving time. I won an Honorable Mention ribbon for my Burrowing Owl photo 🙂
I was surprised at how good the birding was for me for a late hot summer trip!