Brooklyn Bird Club
Long Pond Greenbelt
|Date: April 14-19, 2010
Location: South Texas
Reported by: Joe Giunta
Our group consisted of Joe, Debbie, Jennifer, Mike, Janet, Sid, Elyse, Susan and Lynne. Joe, our leader, had been birding
in Texas many times but for everyone else it was their first birding trip to the Lone Star State. The trip was highly
successful with a total of 146 species of birds being seen by most members of the group. Everyone picked up numerous life
birds and even Joe picked up one lifer. At the end of the trip we all realized that we had a great time, made new friends and
saw many new species of birds.
April 14: We met at LaGuardia airport NYC and boarded the Continental Airways 10:30 am flight to Houston, Texas. In
Houston we changed planes and boarded the 3:20 pm flight to Harlingen, Texas. We would spend six days in this area
staying each night at the Harlingen Country Inns and Suites. Dinner the first night and all the other nights would be at
April 15: We had breakfast at 7:00 am and by 7:45 we were on the van heading towards our first birding venue, Estero Llano
Grande. We arrived there in about 20 minutes and the birding began. It took us well over a half hour to get from the
parking lot to the visitorís center because there were too many birds. On the wires were many Scissor-tailed Flycatchers,
White-winged Doves, Couchís Kingbirds, White-tipped Doves and the list goes on. We finally entered the visitorís center
which had a lovely deck that overlooked a marsh/pool area. Putting the scope up we saw in one view Roseate Spoonbills,
Black-necked Stilts, American Avocets, Long-billed Dowitchers and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks. They were all in the
same scope view at the same time. Moving the scope just a little we saw Fulvous Whistling Ducks. The views were so
powerful I donít think that any of us will ever forget. There were many trails some of which were boardwalk trails. As we
walked around we saw many other species such as Sora, Common Moorhen, Least Grebes and numerous Blue-winged Teal.
Overhead about 200 White Pelicans flew by. We left the marsh area and did some land birding seeing Texas specialties such
as Great Kiskadee, Curve-billed Thrasher and Plain Chachalaca. In all we spent about five hours at this venue. Our group
took a lunch break and headed for venue number two which was Frontera Audubon. We arrived at about 3pm and birded
inside the gate until 4pm, their closing time and then birded outside the gate until 5pm. This area was woodland/scrub and
we picked up birds like Hooded Warbler. We left this area, went back to the hotel and then out for dinner. We had to get
ready for our next day of birding.
April 16: We again had breakfast at 7:00 am and were on the van at 7:45. We were heading towards Laguna Atascosa NWR.
We drove through some muddy Texas roads seeing a couple of Harrisís Hawks and about 10 Whimbrel. At the visitorís
center we heard and then had excellent views of three other Texas specialties, the Olive Sparrow, Altamira Oriole and the
Green Jay. We would hear and see more Olive Sparrows and Green Jays at other locations during our trip. As a matter of
fact they would almost become common. This refuge has a fifteen mile auto loop providing a ride through different habitats.
Our group took this loop and we saw such birds as Indigo Bunting, Blue Grosbeak and many shorebirds. At one point we
stopped, exited the van and scoped two Reddish Egrets, one of which was a white morph. Also at this spot we picked up
another lifer for most people, the Wilsonís Plover. Just at the end of the loop we saw a Roadrunner cross our path. Next
thing you know we saw another Roadrunner and then two more. The Roadrunner is a bird that you donít find but a bird that
finds you. It was a great birding moment.
Our group had packed a lunch/snack and so we didnít make a stop but continued on to South Padre Island and more birding.
At this venue a brand new visitorís center had been constructed with boardwalks extending into a marshy area. But before
we explored this marsh we made a stop at the Convention Center. This is a spot where transgulf migrants are known to stop
before moving on. Here we saw a few warbler species like Parula, Tennessee Warbler, Hooded Warbler and two oriole
species, the Baltimore Oriole and the Orchard Oriole. We went back to the marsh and had excellent views of a Least
Bittern and a good look at an American Bittern. Also at this spot were Sora and Clapper Rail. Before we left South Padre
Island we made one stop at Sheepshead Ave. Here we saw two male Painted Buntings. We were out a long time this day but I
think that everyone would agree that it was well worth it. We drove back to the hotel and had dinner at a local restaurant.
April 17: The routine was the same, breakfast at 7am and in the van by 7:45. Today we were going to one of the premier
birding locations in South Texas, Santa Ana NWR. It took us about 30 minutes to get to this park. Immediately we saw
Green Jays and Olive Sparrows, and we also saw a Clay-colored Robin. The Robin breeds there and this might be the only
spot in the United States where it does breed. We walked through one trail filled with Spanish Moss. The trail was
beautiful but the birding was a little light. We went on the recently built skywalk and had a view of the tree canopy. Not
many birds there either. Then we went to the Pintail Lake trail and the birding was great. We saw three kingfisher species
Ė Belted, Green and Ringed Ė within 20 minutes. We had looks at White-faced Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, and Least Bittern.
Overhead we saw a kettle of Mississippi Kites and then a kettle of Swallow-tailed Kites. In total time we were at this
location over four hours. Our group made a lunch stop and then proceeded to the Harlingen thicket. This is the location of a
future world birding site, but for today the birding was light with Indigo Buntings and Lesser Goldfinch being seen.
Overhead a Swainsonís Hawk flew above us. We went back to the hotel and had dinner at a local restaurant.
April 18: This was our last day of birding and we changed the routine somewhat. Breakfast was at 7:00, we boarded the van
at 7:45 but this time we made a coffee stop at Starbucks. Great stop as we saw a flock of Red-crowned Parrots in the lot next
to Starbucks. This bird was a lifer for everyone including me. We left the coffee shop and headed towards Bentsen State
Park. It took us about one hour to reach this location. At the visitorís center we saw both Altamira Oriole and Hooded
Oriole. This park is different from the others as we park the van in the lot and then board a tram to take us to different
locations in the park. We made two stops, one at kingfisher overlook and the other at the hawk migrating platform. At
kingfisher overlook we saw more Green Jays and a Ladder-backed Woodpecker. At the hawk platform we saw a few
migrating Swainsonís Hawks and a kettle of migrating Broad-winged Hawks. After a few hours we left this place and went
to the Valley Nature Centre in Weslaco, Texas. The birding was very slow and our time was shrinking so we decided to
return to our first venue, Estero Llano Grande. We were to see many of the same species that we saw the first day but we did
add a few more. We picked up Common Ground Dove and two migrants, the Rose-breasted Grosbeak and the Scarlet
Tanager. Then came one of the highlights of the trip. A ranger told us that a Pauraque had been seen near a bench at
Alligator Pond. We went there and searched for about 15 minutes without success. Then, one of the leaves blinked. It was
the Pauraque hiding in plain sight no more than 10 feet in front of us. This bird looks just like a bunch of leaves. It was a
great find and we were all satisfied that we ended the birding on such a high note. We went back to the hotel and had dinner
at a local restaurant.
April 19: After breakfast we left our hotel and arrived at the airport about one hour early. Our Continental flight to
Houston was right on time. We made our connecting flight with ease and flew back to LaGuadia NYC getting in about 20
minutes early. It was a great trip and we are already looking forward to do it again next year.
American White Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Great Crested Flycatcher
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Species seen - 146