Brooklyn Bird Club
Long Pond Greenbelt
|Date: April 10-15, 2014
Location: South Texas
A very birdie trip to see resident birds of South Texas and to hopefully capture North American migrants as they cross the Gulf of Mexico and land in the U.S. Our group consisted of eight birders: Joe, Diane, Gerry, Eleanor, Terry, Neil, Chris and Bebe. It was the fifth 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 144 species of birds and visit some of the best birding locations in the United States.
Gerry has provided us with a link to his photos of the Texas trip :
April 10: 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 11: 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. Some of the first birds we saw were Couch’s Kingbird, Golden-fronted Woodpecker and White-winged Dove. 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 and quickly saw, in breeding plumage, American Avocet and Black-necked Stilt. From the deck we also saw two Texas specialties: Black-bellied Whistling Duck and Fulvous Whistling-Duck. We left the observation deck and walked the trail towards Grebe Marsh and Alligator Pond. Before we got there we took a slight detour and walked 100 feet on the boardwalk seeing both Sora and Virginia Rail. At Alligator Pond we were looking for a very special bird, the Pauraque. We had found this bird in previous years but it is always a challenge as the bird looks like a collection of leaves just lying on the ground. We were lucky as the bird was spotted only about eight feet from the trail. With the adult Pauraque were two youngsters and they moved around a bit making finding them easier. We made our way to the canal part of the park where we saw many American Avocets, some Blue-winged Teal and a few species of Egrets and Herons. We stayed at Estero Llano Grande about four hours.
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. We saw: Green Jay (our first of many), White-tipped Dove, Clay-colored Robin and Black-crested Titmouse. We had some more time so I decided to take another look at Estero Llano Grande, but first a slight detour. Taking advantage of some info we passed by a turf farm seeing some “grasspipers”, that is shorebirds not found on the shore but in grassland areas. We recorded a good number of Upland Sandpipers. Back to 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. Again we saw 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. The oriole was carrying nesting material and starting to build a hanging nest on a telephone wire. We headed back to the hotel and dinner.
April 12: 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 west towards Falcon Lake State Park. Falcon Lake State Park was about 100 miles away, our longest trip by far. This park had a desert like habitat and birds unlike any of the other places we were to visit. Arriving at the park the first bird seen was a very cooperative Roadrunner, carrying a lizard in its bill. Next we went right after the key bird, Pyrrhuloxia. We had good looks. During our stay at the park we saw some Northern Cardinals to compare against. Other birds that we saw were: Lark Sparrows, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Northern Bobwhite, Bewick’s Wren (excellent view) and Eurasian Collared-Dove. Overhead were Crested Caracara and Swainson’s Hawks. Another very beautiful bird that was seen along the road was the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. It seemed like every mile or two we would see more scissor-tails. We had lunch at a picnic area that overlooked the lake .We dipped on the Verdin and Vermillion Flycatcher. Leaving this park we drove through the Falcon County Park seeing more Lark Sparrows. On the way back we also stopped at the Roma Bluffs overlook getting great views of the Rio Grande and seeing many swallows. We had dinner at a local restaurant and prepared for our next day.
April 13: The routine was the same, breakfast at 7 and then in the van by 7:45. Today we were headed towards Santa Ana NWR, but first some info told us that there were many “grasspipers” at sod farms south of Harlingen. Within about 10 minutes we were looking at a very nice collection of birds. We saw many Upland Sandpipers, Buff-breasted Sandpipers and some Horned Larks. Driving another mile or two we picked up more Upland Sandpipers and some American Golden Plovers. This experience was a definite highlight of the trip. We finally got to Santa Ana. First we checked in at the visitor’s center and then walked the Chachalaca trail. Here we easily saw Olive Sparrows, Great Kiskadee, Hooded Oriole, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, more Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Couch’s 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 Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Blue-winged Teal and an assortment of “peeps”. After a lunch in the town of Alamo 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 we saw a Great Horned Owl. At the feeder station we saw more Green Jays, Hooded Orioles and Orchard Orioles. After two hours we headed back to our hotel and dinner.
April 14: Today would be our last full day of birding. We were headed 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 and a few Loggerhead Shrikes. About three Whimbrels were seen feeding along the road. They were distant scope views but because of their unique bill shape they were easy to ID. Arriving at the visitor’s center we birded the grounds seeing Long-billed Thrasher. The auto loop was closed and will apparently remain closed during the Ocelot breeding season. Instead we went to the Lakeside Drive overlook where there was hardly a bird. We left this park and headed towards South Padre Island.
South Padre Island is an awesome birding venue. It is among the first spots where trans-Gulf migrants land to refuel on their journey north. Our first stop was at Sheepshead Ave, a very small but highly concentrated birding location on South Padre Island. We saw: Painted Bunting (male), Lesser Nighthawks, Dickcissel , grosbeaks, orioles, warblers (Yellow, Parula, Nashville) and Wood Pewee. Next was the World Birding Center. 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, Roseate Spoonbill, Little Blue Heron, Tri-colored Heron. Another part of the park has mud flats where we saw: Willet, Gull-billed Tern, Caspian Tern, Royal Tern and my personal favorite, 300 Franklin’s Gulls. 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 Black-throated Green, Tennessee, and Townsend’s Warblers. Around 4pm the weather changed, it became very windy with some rain. I changed our timing and went to dinner. After dinner it was still windy so we went back to Sheepshead for another chance to see birds. We picked up Blue Grosbeak. We drove back to our hotel and prepared for our next day.
April 15: Still the pattern of 7am breakfast and in the van at about 7:45. Since United Airlines changed the time of our return flight we had a few hours in the morning to do some birding. Our group went to Hugh Ramsey Nature Park, located in Harlingen. It was very beautiful place and we did have excellent views of Yellow-crowned Night Heron and Solitary Sandpiper. We did pick up our last bird of the trip as a Curve-billed Thrasher was seen singing from the very top of a nearby tree. We packed our luggage, checked out and made for the airport. We took the 1 pm flight to Houston and then to New York arriving two hours late.
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Great Horned Owl
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Black-throated Green Warbler
Species seen - 144