Friday, January 20, 2012

Day 2: Estero Llano, Sabal Palm

Estero Llano Grande State Park Headquarters

 The next day it was overcast, drizzly and windy, so I wasn't sure how good the birding would be. The combination must have been enough to keep the Rose-throated Becard I was searching for at Estero Llano Grande State Park deep in the thick, tropical forest. However, the birding was great. There were quite a few raptors around, including a Cooper's Hawk that showed up at a feeding station. The hawk stalked a Chachalaca by jumping on the ground and walking through tall grass that surrounded the feeders. I caught some of it on video. You can hear the Chachalaca in the background.

I think it eventually caught the Chachalaca because shortly after the Cooper's disappeared in the grass, I heard a loud shriek.

Later in the day I found a Nothern Harrier who had just come across what looked like a dead American Coot. I don't think it caught and killed the coot, but probably was being opportunistic. It loyally guarded its meal the whole time I watched.

Northern Harrier claiming an American Coot for lunch.
 I spent most of the morning walking around the Tropical Zone. Altamira Orioles, Green Jay, a variety of hummingbirds and several common species made appearances along the way. But the prize find for me was my 400th lifer - a Black-throated Gray Warbler! I spotted a female at the top of an Oak Tree, but unfortunately it didn't stick around for pictures. Guess I'll have to find a more cooperative one, probably in West Texas.

I intently looked for the Rose-throated Becard, but it didn't show, so I decided to head to the Sabal Palm Sanctuary in Brownsville where a Dusky-capped Flycatcher had been reported in the morning. I'd never been to the sanctuary, so when I saw what looked like the border wall and a border patrol agent parked on the road leading to the sanctuary, I wondered if I'd end up in Mexico if I kept driving. When I called the sanctuary, they reassured me the sanctuary was just down the road, so I kept driving.

Male Anna's Hummingbird
Sure enough I made it to the sanctuary and started my search. The wind picked up significantly and the bird wasn't calling. I spent about 2 hours looking and decided to take a consolation prize, a male Anna's Hummingbird that had been wintering at the sanctuary. This was a good year bird for me, considering I didn't find one for my list last year.
 I tried one last time for the flycatcher, but didn't find him. It was getting dark, so I decided to call it quits since I had a 4-hour drive ahead of me back to San Antonio.

Even though I didn't find all the rarities I set out for, the two-day trip to the valley was a great success. I met my goal with plenty of time to spare. Perhaps I'll pad my list even more when I head to Salineno next week for the Brown Jay!

And now for a few more photos of my trip....

Green Jays

Plain Chachalaca

Long-billed Thrasher

Cooper's Hawk

Green Jay


  1. Amazing photos. I'm adding this place to my list of birding spots I would like to visit.

    Are you going to attend the Whooping Crane Festival? I've never been and wonder if it is worth the trip.

    Glad to find your blog. I follow other birding blogs as well. Seems like a nice group of folks. I'll add you to my blog roll.

  2. Thanks for the compliments and for adding me to your blog roll. I don't have any plans to go the festival, but it looks like it could be fun. Have you seen the cranes before?

    One of things I'd like to do is the boat tour on the Wharf Cat for the Whooping Cranes. They have one at the festival, but it looks like it's all filled for the event. However, the Wharf Cat offers tours every Monday and Tuesday while the cranes are there:

    Inerestingly, there's been a family of Whoopers that have been wintering at Granger Lake, which is east of Georgetown, TX. It's about an hour closer than Aransas NWR and that might be where I go to see the cranes this year.

  3. Thanks for the info. I've never seen the cranes before. I might have to check out the group at Granger Lake.