Normally when I take a trip, I post in chronological order my days and sightings. But on this trip I was there for a week and I saw so many different kinds of unique and beautiful birds – many of them lifers!
So I thought I would change things up and post all of my wonderful sightings by category rather than when I saw them.
And of course I just had to write about my favorite type of bird first – warblers! When I first arrived at Port Aransas, my first stop was at the Leonabelle Wildlife Refuge. There is a short path along grass and bushes before it opens up into the boardwalks through the marshlands. On my first visit there at dawn, I stopped to peer into the bushes along this path. There wasn’t any birdsong, but upon closer inspection, I noticed a flurry of activity among the bushes. When I looked closer, I realized it was warblers – lots of them! I could hardly contain my excitement. But then I could hardly contain my dread…. will my new camera be up to the challenge of shooting gorgeous warblers deep in the shadows at dawn?????
Happily, with a few rough starts, I started getting some decent photos. I got a few pics of warblers I’ve seen before.
I was especially pleased with this Yellow Warbler photo!
But then I started noticing new warblers – lifers! I was grinning from ear to ear! The most common warbler while birding in Port Aransas was the Magnolia Warbler. This bird is a lifer and I was happy to capture so many photos of this stunning bird.
Magnolia Warbler – My favorite pic of this guy 🙂
I kept seeing another warbler flash past me. After several attempts, I finally managed to get a couple decent photos. Another lifer!
Black-Throated Green Warbler
Then to my surprise, a warbler I have looked for many times, a Black and White Warbler. Lifer!
Black and White Warbler
For me the prize of the morning was seeing the stunning Blackburnian Warbler – another lifer! I took about 100 photos of this fast-moving bird among the foliage before I got a decent pic.
I then headed over to Paradise Pond Park – a small birding spot just a few blocks over. It has several boardwalks that you can view birds among the bushes and grasses. When I visited there last fall, part of the boardwalks were over water. But this visit found the water area just mud. But the birds were loving it. There were lots of bugs on this mud and the songbirds were greedily snappy them up.
Gray-Cheeked Thrush – lifer!
American Redstart – lifer!
Also at Paradise Pond Park were a couple of vireos – both of which were lifers for me!
There were lots of songbirds around during my visit.
Northern Cardinal – female
Northern Cardinal – male
Painted Bunting – female
But the highlight of the songbirds was seeing a very cooperative and totally gorgeous Painted Bunting!
Painted Bunting – glorious!!!
On one of my dawn patrols, I saw a pair of Eastern Kingbirds – lifer!!! There was very little light as the sun really hadn’t fully risen yet. But I got a good enough photo to identify the bird!
I saw all these warblers and songbirds over a two-day period. A total of 9 lifers! Then POOF!!! they were gone. It seemed they all got the memo and migrated north at the same time. I’m so glad I didn’t miss them!!!
Stay tuned for another category of bird sightings in Port Aransas, Texas!
I recently took a trip to the Gulf Coast town of Port Aransas, Texas, to spend a week at the beach with my folks. I drove a route that would take me past one of the best birding spots in New Mexico for sheltering spring and fall migrants. This place is called Melrose Trap near Fort Sumner, New Mexico. The reason it’s so good is because it’s one of the few places in that vast flat area that has a large patch of trees that has been left wild for many many years and there’s not much human presence for miles. The undergrowth is so thick, it’s difficult to navigate your way around this small forest. But because of this, the migratory birds absolutely love it. It is well known for harboring rare sightings during migration due to storms that can send a bird off its normal migration course.
I had noticed on eBird that recently two rare sighting warblers were seen at Melrose Trap: Swainson’s Warbler and Worm-Eating Warbler. The Swainson’s normal territory is in the coastal states from Texas to Florida. The Worm-Eating Warbler has a larger territory but most usually seen from Texas east.
Before getting to Melrose Trap, I stopped in at Fort Sumner and visited Bosque Redondo Park. It has a little stream-fed pond and is usually a good birding spot. It was a nice stop for Scarlett and I to stretch our legs after a couple hours of driving. During this visit, I saw the usual Red-Winged Blackbird showing off their striking plumage.
I saw quite few birds, but nothing was being very cooperative for photos until I spotted a Gray Catbird. I had only seen this bird once before briefly while visiting my friend Kelly in Atlanta. So it was wonderful to not only see this bird more closely though briefly, but hear his unusual song.
While driving back to the highway, I saw this cute foal with it’s mother, who had the most glossy coat I think I’ve ever seen on a horse. Adorable!
Upon arriving at Melrose Trap, I noticed a couple of fellow birders there from Albuquerque. We quickly joined forces to hunt for these warblers. While looking for these birds in the thick vegetation, I enjoyed photographing a few of the more regular sightings for the area.
One of the highlights of the day was seeing a pair of American Kestrals nesting in the area. I happened to catch one of the birds holding breakfast for their babies.
Soon I heard someone call “Wormer!” I quickly headed in that direction hoping to see that warbler. But I missed it. In the process I gave myself a 6-inch gash along the back of my thigh trying to navigate quickly through the thick mess of broken limbs and undergrowth that litter the floor of this grove. Ouch!!! Note to self: wear long pants next time!
While I was trying not to scream or dance around like an idiot due to the sharp pain of my new wound, I looked down and saw the Swainson’s Warbler foraging on the ground. As I was taking a photo, I alerted the others of my sighting. It stayed deep in the shadow but fortunately moved slowly enough that we all got a nice look at the bird. Lifer!!
Soon after that I saw a blackbird in bush in the distance. As I took a picture I saw it’s red eye gleam in the rare shaft of sunlight coming through the thick canopy. Another lifer for me! A Bronzed Cowbird. I was lucky enough to get one crappy photo before he disappeared never to be seen again.
I needed to hit the road as I still had hours of driving ahead of the me to get to San Angelo. Just as I was about to leave, another sighting of the Worm-Eating Warbler was called out. This time I managed to get over to the area without further injuring myself (whew!) and managed to get a couple photos of this bird way up high in the canopy. As is usual with warblers, this guy was moving fast! So even though my photos weren’t very good, I was still thrilled to capture an image of this lifer bird.
I hated to leave this great birding spot, but knew I must. As I was getting into my car, I noticed a thrush foraging on the ground not too far away. When I zoomed in with my camera, I saw it was a Swainson’s Thrush. Lifer!!! I wasn’t expecting to see this bird, so it was a nice surprise. Four lifers in 30 minutes!!! 🙂
Upon reviewing my photos when I got in my car, I noticed I was still having issues trying to get a good focus with my new camera. I was struggling with focusing on a fast-moving bird among leaves, limbs and grasses. I needed to get this camera figured out!
My next stop was outside Clovis, New Mexico, at a large, beautiful park called Ned Houk Memorial Park. It has 3 ponds and lots of trees with manicured lawns. Scarlett enjoyed running and stretching her legs. We were practically the only ones there that morning.
We were greeted by a Western Meadowlark hopping across the parking lot. I always have a hard time getting them to show me their beautiful bright yellow breast feathers. As usual, this bird only showed me his plain back.
I noticed a large number of Barn Swallows nesting in the area around the shelters over picnic tables. I managed to get a photo of one with a mouthful of mud for its nest. 🙂
There was one nest that was just low enough that I could hold my phone over my head to get a photo of the inside of the nest. They had lined their nest with some soft, white duck feathers. 🙂
Barn Swallow eggs
I knew from a previous visit that Great Horned Owls nested in a large cottonwood in this park. I figured I was too late to see any babies, but thought I would check the location just in case. I was rewarded with seeing an adult snoozing in the tree. He kept a sharp eye on Scarlett.
Great Horned Owl
My next stop was at Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge. I had never stopped in here before so I thought I would take the quick detour to see what it was like. It has several lakes (more like ponds…), but seemed like one lake in particular was popular on eBird. I saw lots of prairie dogs and one burrowing owl way off in the distance.
Baby prairie dog – so cute!
Among the short grasses and flowers, I spotted a large flock of Lark Buntings. I never can seem to get a good photo of these birds. This is the best I got on this day.
Lark Bunting male
Lark Bunting female
When I got to the lake, I noticed a busload of kids had just unloaded. With all their noise, I figured any birds in the area had moved on. The only bird I spotted was this Lark Sparrow.
I didn’t stay long and headed back to the highway. Just as I was about to turn onto the highway, I saw several variety of sparrows in the area. I was thrilled to get this good photo of a Grasshopper Sparrow. I had seen this bird once before, and the distance was too great for a decent pic.
My next stop was at Big Spring. I’ve never stopped here before, so decided to walk around the lake so Scarlett could do her business and stretch her legs. I’m so glad I stopped in. It was a beautiful afternoon and the birds were active. I got a mockingbird holding a worm to take back to the nest.
Here are a couple other birds I saw there.
As I was heading back to the car, I noticed some birds I thought at first were Barn Swallows but they sounded different. Upon closer inspection, I realized they were Purple Martin babies. Lifer!!! I looked for a parent bird, but none showed up while I waited. But the babies were adorable waiting for their dinner to arrive.
Purple Martin juvenile
It was dark by the time I made it to San Angelo. I woke up early to spend some time birding there before I had to hit the road again. I visited beautiful Spring Creek Park. It was a lovely morning and birds were EVERYWHERE!!!
My first sighting was of two young Great Horned Owls. They will soon be in the more adult plumage.
Great Horned Owl juvenile
I heard a flycatcher nearby. It looked like an Ash-Throated Flycather, but sounded nothing like one. After searching my bird app, I realized it was a lifer for me – a Great Crested Flycather.
A starling was busy feeding its greedy baby.
Across the lake I noticed a huge rookery. It had all kinds of egrets noisily nesting. I enjoyed sitting for awhile watching all the activity.
Rookery with a posturing Great Egret
A spotted a pair of Golden-Fronted Woodpeckers bringing in breakfast for their young.
Before leaving, my last sighting was of this Great Blue Heron catching a nice breakfast.
Great Blue Heron
I was happy to note that I was doing much better with the focus of my new camera. I figured by the end of 10 straight days of birding, I would be an expert! LOL!
Next post: Port Aransas, Texas. So many lifers!!!! Stay tuned!
First off, let me just say, I LOVE my new camera! I’m definitely still in the learning phase, but it’s performance is superior to my old setup. It’s a joy to use, and I’m very happy with my images.
Not too long ago, we had a spring storm blow through and it dumped 12 inches of snow at my house. The birds were not very happy about this event, and neither were my plants.
A Cooper’s Hawk was hanging out at my bird feeder hoping for a meal.
The hummingbirds were happy I had feeders out for them.
I think the only one happy with the snow was Scarlett 🙂
My sweet Miss Scarlett
Thankfully the snow melted the very next day, and the temperatures returned to the mid to high 70s right away. I got to go out hiking several times this week. I visited Tingley Beach a couple days after the spring storm. The Rio Grande was raging and flooded most of the bosque trails. But it was worth trudging through it to see some new spring birds.
I have lived in the Albuquerque area for over 20 years. And during that time, I have never visited Sandia Lakes or Shady Lakes (they are next door to each other). So one day I decided to check out the lakes.
Sandia Lakes was very nice. Beautiful lawns and cottonwood trees and three separate lakes.
Sandia Lakes with the Sandia Mountains in the background
The first bird I saw was a Lark Sparrow (first one I’ve seen this year). He was singing way up high in a tree. Then I saw several Canada Geese with their babies.
While watching the geese, I saw something that looked different. I quickly realized it was a Western Grebe. We don’t see them often in our area, so it was a real treat.
I saw a pair of Say’s Phoebes busily hunting for bugs. I soon saw why they were so frantic to find bugs. They had three babies squeezed into a tiny nest.
I saw lots of Black Phoebes as well. They are such beautiful birds
While walking around the lake, an Osprey flew overhead. I thought to myself that he might be part of a nesting pair. This was confirmed recently by my friend Joe. I’m definitely going to have to check out their nesting progress.
I came across a pair of Black-Capped Chickadees that were acting very agitated. I never did figure out what they were so upset about.
As I was walking through the grass between lakes, I saw a Killdeer doing its “I’m injured, follow me” routine. So I knew there must be a baby nearby. It was acting pretty desperate, so I thought it must be very close.
Killdeer trying to lure me away from its baby
When I looked down, I realized it was only a foot away. I almost stepped on it! Yikes! It never did move. I took a quick pic and then quickly moved away. Soon I heard the baby calling for its parents. It was nice to see them all reunite and be assured all was fine.
I then headed over to Shady Lakes. What a beautiful place! It has several ponds all covered in beautiful lily pads and lined with irises. The ponds are stocked with different varieties of fish. But I was there for the birds.
As soon as I stepped out of the car, I saw a Black-Crowned Night Heron sitting beautifully on an old log. I then realized there were several of them gathered there. Fabulous! They are used to people so they let me get pretty close.
Black-Crowned Night Heron
I walked around the ponds and admired all the beautiful blooming lilies and irises.
I noticed a moth feeding among the irises. These moths often get called hummingbirds by people when they don’t look too closely.
White-Lined Sphinx Moth
The turtles were enjoying those big lily pads!
My last hike was up to the Cienega picnic area. The forest service blocks the road for cars until mid-May. So you have to hike along the road to get to the upper picnic area. My goal was to try and find the Northern Pygmy Owl that has been seen nesting there. Now I have made this hike several times both last spring and this spring with no luck seeing that owl. Well, this time I was successful! This is a lifer bird for me!
He was calling repeatedly on a lower branch in the aspen tree where he’s been seen nesting. All the songbirds in the area were very agitated and were trying to scare him away. It was a wonderful sighting!
For those of you not familiar with this owl. He’s very small, only 6 inches from its head to the end of its tail. So you can see why he’s so difficult to find.
Northern Pygmy Owl
I decided to hike over to Bill Spring since I was in the area. A Hermit Thrush was enjoying a bath. And a baby was in a tree nearby.
A Western Tanager (my first of the year), briefly showed himself deep in the trees near the spring.
I hadn’t been at the spring long when a Cooper’s Hawk flew in chasing a chickadee. After that, the birds were scarce. So I started hiking back to my car. I saw lots of Black-Headed Grosbeak singing and squabbling in the trees. I’m guessing they were vying for the attention of the females.
I’m thrilled spring is here. I’m looking forward to getting out again and seeing what other beautiful spring birds have arrived. 🙂