Brooklyn Bird Club
Long Pond Greenbelt
|Date: April 11-16, 2013
Location: South Texas
Our group consisted of eight birders. It was the fourth 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 South Texas. Our group would see 153 species of birds, a record, and visit some of the best birding locations in the United States.
April 11: Our group met at LaGuardia Airport and boarded the 11 am plane to Houston and then switched to the smaller flight to Harlingen, Texas. We would stay at the Harlingen Country Inns and Suites for the next five nights. Our location in Harlingen would put us close to all the birding venues of South Texas and the Rio Grande valley. Dinner the first night and all the other nights would be at local restaurants.
April 12: 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 to their parking lot the birding began. I would say the first birds seen were a pair of Harris Hawks. Easy view as they perched on a nearby tree. This was quickly followed by a Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Plain Chachalaca, and Couchís Kingbird. We were still in the parking lot. All of these birds would become very common for us as we would see them over and over. Next we walked over to the observation deck where we spent over one hour just going over the great variety of ducks and shorebirds. We all saw very well: Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Least Grebe, and Black-necked Stilt. All these birds were Texas specialties and set the tone for the entire trip. We left the observation deck and walked the trail towards Grebe Marsh and Alligator Pond, where we saw more birds including: Tri-colored Heron, Green Kingfisher, Inca Dove, White-tipped Dove and many Yellow-crowned Night Herons. We looked for a reported Pauraque. We had found this bird in two of the last three years. We were lucky as the bird was spotted only about five feet from the trail. The water levels in all the ponds we were to visit in this park and other parks were low due to the continuing drought. We made our way to the canal part of the park where we saw many American Avocets, in breeding plumage. Overhead was a White-tailed Kite.Many members of our birding group would say that this park was the best of our entire trip.
Our day was not finished. We took a lunch break and then headed to Frontera Audubon. Because the habitat was different we would see different birds. Best bird we saw was an Olive-sided Flycatcher. We also saw White-eyed Vireo and Brown-crested Flycatcher. We had some more time so I decided to take another look at Estero Llano Grande this time visiting a different part of the park known as the tropical zone. Estero llano Grande is so big a birder could spend two days there and still not see the entire park. We saw our first Green Jay. It is a very beautiful bird and a somewhat common resident in South Texas. Best bird we found in the tropical zone was an Altamira Oriole. Two of them were carrying nesting material and starting to build a hanging nest on a telephone wire. We headed back to the hotel and dinner.
April 13: Again we had breakfast at 7:00 am and by 7:45 we were on the van out to do some birding. Today we headed east towards Laguna Atascosa NWR and then South Padre Island. We drove through some farm fields on our way to Laguna Atascosa. We did pick up many Eastern Meadowlarks, many Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, a few Loggerhead Shrikes and a close flyby of a Crested Caracara. About five Whimbrels were seen feeding along the road. Arriving at the visitorís center we birded the grounds and saw very well an Olive Sparrow, Altamira Oriole and Painted Bunting (male). We went back in the van and drove the 15 mile auto loop. We did pick up: White-tailed Hawk, Reddish Egret, Northern Harrier and Osprey. A Roadrunner crossed our trail twice. One highlight was a scope view of two Aplomado Falcons. They breed on a manmade platform at some distance from the road. We left this park and headed towards South Padre Island.
Texas State Parks has established about 10 of these centers which they refer to as World Birding Centers and South Padre Island is one them. Here we walked the boardwalk trail into the marsh. We saw many birds like: Clapper Rail, Sora, about 30 Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and 10 Western Kingbirds. Another part of the park has mud flats where we saw: Marbled Godwit, Wilsonís Plover, Gull-billed Tern, Caspian Tern, and Sandwich Tern. Our group left the boardwalk and headed towards the Convention Center. There was a fallout of trans-Gulf migrants around the shrubs located near the Center. We picked up Prothonotary, Black-throated Green, Tennessee, Nashville and Black-and-white Warblers. We had dinner on South Padre Island and drove back to our hotel and prepared for our next day.
April 14: The routine was the same, breakfast at 7 and then in the van by 7:45. Today we were headed towards Santa Ana NWR. First we checked in at the visitorís center and then walked the Chachalaca trail. Here we easily saw the Cinnamon Teal, many Olive Sparrows, Great Kiskadee, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, more Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Couchís Kingbird. At the third lookout spot we heard and then saw the Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet. This may be the only area in the United States where this species breeds. After this trail we walked the Pintail Lakes trail loop. Again we could see the drought conditions of Texas as the ponds were very low and some of them were actually dried up. We did see many Fulvous Whistling Ducks, Blue-winged Teal and many White-faced Ibis. After a break we headed towards our afternoon venue, Sabal Palms.
Sabal Palms is located in Brownsville and is considered the southernmost spot in all of Texas. In one tree near the entrance and feeder station we saw four species of orioles. Baltimore, Orchard, Hooded and Altamira were all present. Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Green Jay and Summer Tanager added much color to the area. After about two hours we headed back to our hotel and dinner.
April 15: Today would be our last full day of birding. We were headed to Falcon Lake State Recreation Area. This park was about 100 miles away, our longest trip by far. But this park had a desert like habitat and birds unlike any of the other places we were to visit. Before we got to the park we saw a Chihuahuan Raven on the road. Arriving at the park we went right after the key bird, Pyrrhuloxia. We had excellent looks. During our stay at the park we would see many of them and also see some Northern Cardinals to compare against. Other birds that we saw were: Common Ground Dove, Lark Sparrows, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Northern Bobwhite and Eurasian Collared-Dove. Overhead were White Pelicans and Swainsonís Hawks. We had lunch at a picnic area that overlooked the lake. On the shoreline were about 20 American Avocets in breeding plumage. We left the park and headed towards the Roma Bluffs, an easy stop on the return trip. No interesting birds were found there but we did have excellent views of the Rio Grande River and Mexico.
April 16: We broke the pattern of 7am breakfast and had breakfast at about 8. We packed our luggage, checked out and made a stop at a nearby Starbucks, for coffee and hopefully Red-crowned Parrots. We had seen the parrots in two of the last three years. We got the coffee but missed on the parrots. We will try for the parrots again next year. We took the 11am flight to Houston and then to New York arriving three hours late.
American White Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Black-throated Green Warbler
Species seen - 153