Last Time to Bird at Port Aransas, Texas

This should be my last post from my trip to Texas last May/June.  It’s taken awhile to get caught up on my blog.

Birding in Port Aransas this last time was bitter sweet in many ways.  First off I knew it was most likely the last time I would be visiting there.  I lived in Corpus Christi from 1982 to 1994.  With my parents living in San Antonio, it was an easy drive for us to go to the beach whenever I visited them.  The last time I posted about birding in Port Aransas, my dad was still alive and me and my parents had taken a 5-day trip to the beach.  It was in May during spring migration.  I had plenty of time there to explore all the bird sanctuaries.  All the wonderful boardwalks into the marshes and estuaries were so much fun to explore.

Since that last visit, I had forgotten that Hurricane Harvey had come through and dealt a lot of damage to the coastal towns of Padre Island.  So while I was excited to visit the beach, I was sad to know my dad wouldn’t be there to join us and that all the bird sanctuaries had been destroyed.

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Demolition and construction was still ongoing while I visited.  This restaurant still hadn’t been addressed. 

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Going to cost a pretty penny to get this boat fixed.

Birding this year was tough.  I believe a lot of the birds did not linger during the spring migration because the usual areas they visited were completely destroyed.  Also, I think a lot of the local birds had left and not returned.  Needless to say, it took a lot of driving around to find any birds.  But I did manage to find a few good spots.

The first evening we were there I drove to the ferry and the walkway along the intra-coastal channel.  The damage from the hurricane was very evident here.  Huge pieces of concrete were lifted like they weighed very little.

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Destruction from Hurricane Harvey

While here I enjoyed the antics of several dolphin getting dinner.  It was interesting to watch them herd fish toward the wall so they could catch them.  I spotted a mother and her calf working the wall.

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Mother dolphin with calf looking at me

The sunset was gorgeous!

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Beautiful!

The next morning was when I realized all the local birding hot spots were destroyed.  Thankfully I saw signs saying they already had funding in place to repair all the boardwalks.  It looked like their plans were even going to improve what was originally there.  Someday if I make it back there I will have to see what they did.

I headed to the beach and jetty where I knew terns had gathered in the past.  Thankfully, this spot was still favored by the terns.  The surf was rough and the birds were gathered in big numbers fishing.

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Terns and gulls fishing the rough surf at the jetty

I found an area where the birds were resting and grooming after tackling the rough waters.  I was able to get several good pics of the terns resting.

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Black Tern Juvenile

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Black Tern

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Forster’s Tern

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Royal Tern

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Sandwich Tern

From there I headed down the road toward the big bridge going to Corpus Christi.  There is a marina there.  I’ve seen birds hanging out there in the past so had high hopes I would see some that morning.

Along the highway I saw a hawk looking for breakfast in the coastal grasslands.  I had to take a second look as I realized it was a new bird for me!  A White-Tailed Hawk.  Gorgeous!!!

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White-Tailed Hawk

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White-Tailed Hawk

I saw a Roseate Spoonbill fishing the shallows not far from the marina.  I pulled into a construction area to get closer for pics.  I managed a few photos before I was run off by the foreman.  🙂

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Roseate Spoonbill

As I was driving into the marina I spotted a beautiful Osprey hanging out on the electric wire.  He let me take a few pics before flying off.

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Osprey

The marina was not a disappointment.  There were several birds hanging out hoping for a free meal.

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Black-Crowned Night Heron

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Great Blue Heron

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Great Blue Heron

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Black-Crowned Night Heron

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Brown Pelicans

Near the marina is an area that shorebirds have liked in the past.  I drove over there to see if I could find anything.  I was thrilled to see a pair of Willets with two young babies.  I’d never seen Willet babies before.  Adorable! I sat for some time just watching this little family.  You can’t help but smile and enjoy new life.

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Willet juvenile

Soon though the parents grew nervous and started telling me to move along.

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Willet telling me to move along

There were also some Black-Necked Stilts and a Reddish Egret enjoying the shallows.

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Black-Necked Stilt

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Black-Necked Stilt

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Reddish Egret

The next morning I decided to go the Horace Caldwell Fishing Pier.  Not sure if I would see anything here, but it was fun to go there at sunrise.

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Horace Caldwell Pier

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Beach at Port Aransas, Texas

I came across these two children fast asleep on the pier.  Their parent must have gotten them up really early to fish.  🙂

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Too early of a morning for these kids

The only birds I saw were White-Winged Doves and Pigeons.  What I found curious though, was a cross between these two species.  Interesting bird.

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The Rock Pigeons at the pier had very dark plumage.  Doesn’t make sense at a hot beach!

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Rock Pigeon and White-Winged Dove Cross Breed

After the pier I drove to the lone surviving boardwalk that overlooked a salt flat.  Most of the birds were too far away for photos.  I managed to see one bird closer to me.  And to my surprise it was a lifer!  A Black-Bellied Plover Juvenile.  Too bad it wasn’t an adult.  They are beautiful birds.   Even better, this is a rare sighting for the area!   I wouldn’t have believed I identified this bird correctly if it hadn’t been sighted by other birders on eBird.

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Black-Bellied Plover – juvenile

I spotted a few birds flying over and managed to snap a couple of photos on the fly.  🙂

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Black Skimmer

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White Ibis

During this trip I decided to take a ride on the Red Dragon.

While waiting to start the boat ride, I saw the local offshore fishing tour boats had come in as well.  They were hanging up the catch of the day.  Lovely Red Snappers with a few other interesting fish mixed in.

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Nice haul for the day

It’s was fun sailing with the pirates!

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Kelly sailing on the Red Dragon

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Arrrrrr…there be Pirates!

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Beautiful boat ride

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The Captain at his helm

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I took the sunset tour.  We boated along the intra-coastal and made it to the lighthouse.  We got there just as the sun was setting.  So lovely!

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Sunset over the lighthouse

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Gorgeous sunset!

One day at the ferry I spotted a juvenile Laughing Gull trying to swallow a whole fish.  He tried and tried to gulp that fish down.

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Laughing Gull juvenile

I love people watching.  I think most people do.  While there I captured a few fun moments of people watching.

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Skateboarding buddies

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The waiting line for the ferry was so long and slow, this girl had time to get into the back of the car and get cold drinks for everyone.  It was fun to watch her walk along with the car while digging in the cooler.

I saw lots of turtles about while birding.  I had never really seen turtles there before so it was fun to see several on this trip.

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Turtle moving along

I had a great time at the beach birding and spending time with my mother.  We enjoyed sitting on the beach, enjoying the warm summer days.  And we had fun shopping and eating delicious fish and shrimp dinners.  I’m so glad we took the time off to relax after all the stresses.

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San Antonio Summer Birding

At the end of May I drove my mom back to San Antonio so we could get her house cleaned up to sell.  I stayed for about 2 weeks.  Summertime in Texas is HOT and HUMID. Ugh! Because of this, there weren’t very many birds about during the dog days of summer.  All of the migrants were gone leaving only the local birds.

In order not to die while birding, I got up at 6 am every morning to head out before it got to 100 degrees.  Yikes!  I drove to several locations during my stay.  I found the best opportunities for birds was if I visited the small lakes all around San Antonio.

On of my favorite birding spots I discovered was Live Oak Lake in Live Oak, Texas.  It was only about 7 miles from mom’s house.  It had a nice path all the way around the lake.  Believe me, you don’t want to wander off path into the grasses there.  That lake was loaded with snakes!

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They even had signs saying so!

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I thought it was a joke until I saw this!

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Needless to say, I tread carefully wherever I went.  Yikes!

The resident Northern Mockingbird greeted me when I pulled into the parking lot.  I have never found a shy Mockingbird.

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Northern Mockingbird

Live Oak Lake is home to lots of herons and egrets. They are used to people walking around the lake, so they just seemed to ignore me and go about their business…as evidenced by this Yellow-Crowned Night Heron.  He caught a monster crawdad!

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Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

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While I was photographing him, he quickly lunged and came up with the huge crawdad!

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It’s like the size of a lobster!

There was a juvenile looking on with envy…

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Juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

There lots of Green Herons about.  In Albuquerque I’m lucky to come across one here and there.  But at this lake, there were so many they constantly chased each other trying to keep a preferred fishing spot to themselves.

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Checking me out 🙂

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Needed a better look LOL!

The resident Great Egret was fishing along the edge of the lake.  I saw him intent on something in front of him.

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Great Egret

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Great Egret

Then all of a sudden he lunged!  Fortunately I managed to get a great pic of him diving for his prey.  Sadly, he missed on that attempt and decided to move to a different part of the lake for better luck fishing.

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Great Egret fishing

There was a pair of Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks watching all the goings on around the lake.  I think they are beautiful waterfowl.

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Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks

The Muscovy Ducks had some babies while I was gone for several weeks.  I saw this one mother with a huge brood!

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Muscovy Ducks

All the while I’m photographing birds, Scarlett was kicked back relaxing and watching all the people and birds.

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Miss Scarlett

And Squirrels!!!  She was on high alert when she spotted the squirrels!

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Scarlett keeping a sharp eye on the squirrel nearby.

The squirrels kept on eye on her as well.

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Staring contest between the squirrel and Scarlett

There were some other small birds about.  But overall it was pretty quiet for them.  So I ventured over to Converse Lake.  It’s a more wild lake.  You pretty much can only walk along one edge of the lake.  The rest of it is overgrown.  Because of this, the smaller birds tend to hang out here more.  I got 2 lifers at this lake!!!  A Rusty Blackbird and a Couch’s Kingbird.

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Rusty Blackbird

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Couch’s Kingbird

The Mute Swan I saw last time I visited was joined by his lady and their two new babies.  Adorable!  I’d never seen baby swans before.

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Mute Swan male

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Mute Swan female and babies

Here are some of the other small birds I saw around this lake.

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Kildeer

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Scissortail Flycatcher

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Black-Crested Titmouse enjoying a bird drip fountain

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Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

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House Sparrow

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Brown-Headed Cowbird female and male

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Painted Bunting

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Eastern Phoebe

While photographing the little birds, I heard a commotion behind me.  I looked across the open field and saw a Red-Tailed Hawk had caught a White-Winged Dove.  Surprisingly a Northern Mockingbird harassed the hawk until it took its breakfast elsewhere.

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Red-Tailed Hawk being attacked by a Northern Mockingbird

One delight while visiting Converse Lake was that the water lilies were in full bloom.  Just beautiful!

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One of my favorite photos of the visit

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One thing I noticed about San Antonio is that there is a huge population of Black Vultures.  These birds are huge and were everywhere I went in great numbers.

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Ewwwww……

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Black Vulture

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mmmmmm…armadillo

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Must be tasty as a squabble broke out over it

There are always lots of White-Tailed Deer around the San Antonio parks.   I really liked this photo I took of a doe enjoying the wildflower field.

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White-Tailed Deer

There were a few other blooming flowers about, but not many as San Antonio was experiencing a drought.

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Honey bee enjoying the clover blooms

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This squirrel appreciated the water put out for the birds.

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ahhhhhh…..

While driving around,  I came across this sign.  I had to turn around to take a picture.  Don’t you wonder how this creek was named???

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Really?????

One morning I arrived well before sunrise.  I came across this Little Blue Heron fishing.  I loved the colors and lighting of this photo.

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Little Blue Heron

It was nice getting out early every morning and seeing some fun bird sightings.  I actually got a 3rd lifer, but sadly my photo is just too poor to post.  I saw a Brown Boobie.  I never dreamed I would see this bird in San Antonio.  It was a rare sighting indeed.  Sadly, it was on the far side of a lake with no way to get closer.  My lens just couldn’t get a clear pic, though the markings are clear enough to identify it for me.  Someday I might see one to get a better photo!  🙂

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This doe found a nice place to sit out the day’s heat

Last Birding Trip of 2017

During the last week of December, I was able to take a trip to Bosque del Apache. I try to visit there every December as that’s when the winter bird count is pretty high.

I left well before sunrise. As I was driving down, I started getting into thicker and thicker fog. At one point I had to slow down to 40 mph on a 75 mph interstate.

It was difficult to bird first thing due to the thick fog, so I took a few scenic shots.

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Boardwalk through the marsh

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A lone American Coot walking through the marsh area

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Quiet solitude

I was pleased to see a beautiful coyote in his handsome winter coat.

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Beautiful coyote among the hoarfrost

Fortunately, the fog cleared up once the sun rose and I was able to start hunting for birds.

I first noticed a Great Blue Heron grooming.

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Great Blue Heron

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Great Blue Heron

There were lots of raptors about. Most of them seemed reluctant to move from their morning perch.

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Northern Harrier

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Cooper’s Hawk

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American Kestral

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Northern Harrier

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American Bald Eagles

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Red-Tailed Hawk

I started driving around the ponds to see what waterfowl was about. I happened to notice two Northern Harriers squabbling. They were quite a ways away but I managed to capture a pic.

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Northern Harriers fighting

I was surprised to find that there really wasn’t very many waterfowl about. I had to really search the ponds to find any. Not sure where they were all hiding.

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Bufflehead – male

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Northern Pintail

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Bufflehead – female

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Pied-Billed Grebe

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Ring-Necked Duck

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Northern Shoveler

Of course there were lots of Snow Geese about. But every time I made it around the circle to see them, they were flying.

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Snow Geese

I always hear there are wading birds that winter at the refuge, but I rarely see them. But on this day I saw three Lesser Yellowlegs feeding in the shallows of a pond.

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Lesser Yellowlegs

I saw a few songbirds about that day. There were a couple of rare sightings for the area, but I never saw them. Drat!

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Song Sparrow

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Gambel’s Quail

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Marsh Wren

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White-Winged Dove

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House Finch

One of my favorite sightings of the day was a Crissal Thrasher singing his little heart out atop a bush. Surprisingly he let me get pretty close singing the whole time.

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Crissal Thrasher

I sat and watched a roadrunner look for lunch. They are always entertaining. He hunted for awhile before he noticed me watching. I took this pic the moment he realized he wasn’t alone. 🙂

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Greater Roadrunner

My last sighting of the day was a grebe off in the distance. When I zoomed in and took a pic, I was delighted to see it was a Clark’s Grebe. These are considered a rare sighting for the area, so that was a real treat.

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Clark’s Grebe

I left around noon and decided to drive a different route home. I took the Quebradas Scenic Route home. I had heard a lot about this road. But to be honest I couldn’t really see why it was considered so beautiful. But there was one place on the road I found very picturesque, so I got out a took a pic.

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Quebradas Scenic Route

Just before leaving that highway, I came across some deer feeding in the fields.

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Mule Deer

I still had some light left in the day, so I stopped in at the Bernardo Refuge. The Sandhill Cranes seem to prefer this area over Bosque del Apache.

I got there near sunset, and all the cranes were coming in to the pond to drink. It was a beautiful sight seeing and hearing the cranes flying overhead in the soft light of sunset.

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Sandhill Cranes

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Sandhill Cranes

While photographing the cranes, I happened to notice the Super Moon had risen. It was big and blue!

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Super Moon

I had a wonderful day birding. It had been quite some time since I had been able to take a whole day to bird.

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Just beautiful…

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While hiking the trails, a train came through. 🙂

Egrets, Herons and other Waterfowl in Port Aransas, Texas

I saw lots and lots of egrets and herons on this trip.  Evidently southern Texas was experiencing a drought while I was there.  Due to the drought, the shallow salt water and fresh water ponds were small and sparse.  This was very hard on the birds, but made for great birding.  Every time I visited a pond, I would see lots of birds feeding there.  I hope they get rain soon because at the rate the fish were being eaten in the ponds, I can’t see how that resource can last much longer.

One of my favorite places to visit for the larger bird sightings was Charlie’s Pasture.  It’s a 5-mile or so trail that winds its way through the salt water flats.  Here’s a pic of one of the areas that should have had water but was dry.

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Miss Scarlett enjoying the boardwalk

When I did come upon a pool, this is what I would find.  Birds everywhere.  Needless to say, lots of squabbles broke out among the groups.

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I got to finally see a Reddish Egret.  Lifer!  Such a beautiful bird.  I especially love the long feathers on their neck that look like red hair.

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Reddish Egret

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I love the long feathers on their neck

Here are some other photos of egrets and herons I got on my trip.

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Great Blue Heron.  I loved the little red flowers he was standing in.

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Cattle Egret

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Snowy Egret

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Great Egret

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Green Heron

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Black-Crowned Night Heron

I saw my friendly Tri-Colored Heron at the Leonabelle Refuge.  He was quite the ham when I visited there last October.  He was even more so this trip.  I couldn’t resist photographing him as he just seemed to really enjoy the attention.  Plus he looked especially handsome in his breeding plumage.

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Tri-Colored Heron

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Tri-Colored Heron

One bird on my list to see was the Roseate Spoonbill.  I feared I wouldn’t see any as the days ticked by.  But the day before I left I got to see several.  They are beautiful birds!

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Roseate Spoonbill

I saw my first Mottled Ducks on this trip.  Lifer!  Several had babies.  So adorable.

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Mottled Duck

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Mottled duck babies

Speaking of babies, I saw my first American Coot baby.  They start out with white on them and eventually turn black.

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American Coot juvenile

And the most adorable (though not very cute) babies I saw were the Common Gallinule.  I was told they were only a few days old when I first saw them.  They were a treat to watch.  Their wings didn’t have feathers but instead had what looked like hands.  They would hold them up and wave them to beg for food.  It was hysterical!

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Common Gallinule babies

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Common Gallinule baby begging for food

Another favorite of the trip was watching the Least Bittern.  I saw a pair of them several times.  They were working on building a nest, but their location just couldn’t be photographed as it was too deep in the reeds.

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Least Bittern

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Least Bittern

While visiting the Aransas Wildlife Refuge, I spotted another lifer for the trip.  A Least Grebe.  It was very small and dark so was hard to spot.  But once I zoomed in with my camera, I was struck by the beauty of its eye.

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Least Grebe

Here are some other birds that fit this post’s category.  Everywhere I looked on this trip, were birds, birds and more birds!  Paradise!

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Ruddy Duck

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Double-Crested Cormorant juvenile

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Pied-Billed Grebe

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Black-Bellied Whistling Duck

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White Ibis

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Blue-Winged Teal

 

This was a big category (including 3 lifers!).  I hope you enjoyed the photos.  I had a fabulous time taking them!  🙂

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