Brooklyn Bird Club
Long Pond Greenbelt
|Date: April 8-13, 2011
Location: South Texas
Reported By: Joe Giunta
Our group consisted of Joe, Margaret, Mike, Gina, Kathy, Sandy, Barbara, Joya, Monica, and Trish. It was the second straight year that Happy Warblers had run a birding trip to South Texas. Except for Joe it was the first time that the members of the group had been birding in Texas. Our group would see 141 species of birds and visit some of the best birding locations in the United States.
April 8: Our group met at Laguardia Airport NYC and boarded the 10:30 am flight to Houston Texas. In Houston we changed planes and took the 3:20 pm to Harlingen, Texas. We would spend the next 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 local restaurants.
April 9: 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. It took us about 20 minutes to reach this destination but as soon as we got there the birding began. The first bird seen was a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Three of them were on the fence next to the parking lot. Next we walked into the observation deck where we spent over one hour just looking at the great variety of ducks and shorebirds. We all saw very well Black-bellied Whistling ducks, Least Grebe, Sora, Great Kiskadee, White-faced Ibis and Black-necked Stilts. The list from the viewing platforms goes on and on. We walked around the trail passing Grebe Pond and then came upon the spot where last year we had a Pauraque. The bird was again in the same spot this year with two nestlings next to her. It was very exciting for our group. After about four hours of birding this venue we took a lunch break and then headed towards Frontera Audubon, our afternoon venue. This location consists of Texas scrub land. Here we saw Brown-crested Flycatcher and Long-billed Thrasher. We left this venue at about 4 pm, headed back to our hotel and took a break. Dinner was at a local restaurant and we prepared for our next day of birding.
April 10: Again we had breakfast at 7:00 am and by 7:45 we were on the van heading out to do birding. This would be our routine for every day. Today we headed towards Santa Ana NWR. In past years we had great birds at this location but this year south Texas experienced a flood and this park was only partially open. Even though we were somewhat restricted we did manage to see some great birds. First was Clay-colored Robin. This bird was a ‘lifer’ for some in our group. Next was the Green Jay. This bird is a south Texas specialty. Next was an Olive Sparrow, again a ‘lifer’ for most of our group. We walked through the Chachalaca trail which was completely open. Here we would see Black-necked Stilts, Gull-billed Tern and many Long-billed Dowitchers. After about three hours at this venue we headed towards Bentsen State Park. We had lunch at their ‘cafeteria’, not the best, and then took their tram ride to different parts of the park. At lunch we would see one of the target birds of the trip, a male Hooded Oriole. We had a stop at Kingfisher Overlook and birded the area for ½ hour. Here we would find and see very well a Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet. We then took the tram to the hawk watch tower where we would stay over about one hour. Here we would see a Swainson’s Hawk. We went back on the tram, then back to our van and then to the hotel. Dinner was at a local restaurant and then we would prepare for the next day.
April 11: The routine was the same, breakfast at 7 and then in the van by 7:45. Today we headed east towards Laguna Atascosa and then South Padre Island. It would be our longest and probably our best day. Before we arrived at Laguna Atascosa NWR we would bird some of the fields leading towards the reserve. We would see White-tailed Kite, Eastern Meadowlark and Whimbrel in the fields. When we arrived at the headquarters building we quickly saw many Green Jays and then another target bird, the Altamira Oriole. We took the van and rode the 10 mile auto loop. Along the way we would see White-tailed Hawk and Northern Harrier. We made a few stops, getting out of the van and seeing many shorebirds including Stilt Sandpiper, American Avocet, Reddish Egret and Wilson’s Plover. A special treat was to see at least six Greater Roadrunners. Some of them were very cooperative and came within a few feet of the van. We had brought lunch with us and ate at the headquarters building using their facilities for a bathroom break. After about four hours at this venue we boarded the van and headed towards South Padre Island. At this venue we would bird the Convention Center grounds and the boardwalk of the World Birding Center. Many new species were seen including: Pectoral Sandpiper, Lesser Nighthawk, Eurasian Collared Dove, Common Moorhen, Marbled Godwit and a key target bird, the Franklin’s Gull. It was an excellent birding experience comparing the Franklin’s Gull to the numerous Laughing Gulls that were also present. The last bird seen on South Padre Island was an adult male Yellow-headed Blackbird. The bird was a ‘lifer’ for many in our group. We had dinner at a local restaurant on South Padre Island and then headed back to our hotel.
April 12: It was our last complete day of birding and today we were headed west towards Falcon Dam and the desert type scrub in that area. It was almost 100 miles and would take us about two hours to get there but I think that everyone would agree that the trip was worth the effort. Many new birds were seen. The highlights were the variety of sparrows that we would see. Our group had excellent views of Lark Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow and everybody’s favorite the Black-throated Sparrow. Northern Bobwhite, Crested Caracara and Harris’s Hawk were all easily seen. The special bird at this venue was the Pyrrhuloxia. We saw many of them as the bird is a common breeder at this location. Curve-billed Thrasher, a bird that so far had eluded us, was easily seen. We also had excellent practice in distinguishing doves. We saw Mourning Dove, Inca Dove, Common Ground-Dove, White-tipped Dove and White-winged Dove. As we were leaving the park we also saw a Green Jay. The Green Jay, a very beautiful bird, had become common for us as we had seen it at four different venues during our trip. We headed back to our hotel, had dinner at a local restaurant and prepared for our last day.
April 13: It was our last day. We checked out of our hotel and made a stop at a nearby Starbucks. We did the same thing last year and just like last year, from the parking lot of Starbucks, we spied a Red-crowned Parrot. It was the last bird that we would see. We took the 10am flight back to Houston and then to New York arriving about ½ hour late.
American White Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Species seen - 141