Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Rio Grande Valley, Birding Day 1, Report 2

After our brief but productive time in the windstorm of South Padre, our guide Tim recommended that we head inland for warmer temps and lower wind speeds. He said his favorite place was one I hadn't noticed in my pre-trip research, Estero Llano Grande State Park. He gave us directions and we were off.

First, however, let me show you some of the delicacies on display at the place we breakfasted, Ted's Restaurant, a quality joint for a solid meal at a great price:

I stuck with the more traditional eggs over-medium, homefries, and wheat toast. We passed the famous water tower of San Benito:Wow.

Estero Llano apparently means something like prairie (llano) with water from a spring (estero), though my parents argued back and forth about the precise meanings (dictionaries were also pulled out) for several minutes until I finally told them I really didn't care what it meant, other than BIRDS! (There was some definite "hmph"-ing heard at that point.)

A photo tour, including the many lifers I saw:
Isn't this prairie-like place beautiful? It made me a little sad to think of how the Valley must've looked before all the roads, farm fields, and development took over. It's wonderful to know a place like this still exists; it felt like we were in another country, Africa or someplace, standing on the veldt, watching for colorful birds like this one:a Vermilion Flycatcher, still working on that ridiculously vibrant red breeding plumage. What a beautiful bird! I've wanted to see one of these guys ever since I became a birder up in PA, and it's so wonderful to have finally seen one!

Fulvous Whistling Duck, anyone? I heard no whistling, but everyone in the park was buzzing about this rare visitor. What a find!

Most of the time, however, the ducks pretty much all looked like this, and my pictures were of butts and blurs. You'll see what I mean as I continue with the tour.

a Buff-bellied Hummingbird gets the best of me, shutter-speed wise. That sucker was fast, and I KNOW I heard him giggling at my frustration.

Long-time readers of the bloggy might recall that I once named the Cinnamon Teal one of the top ten birds I'd most like to see:OMG it's a Cinnamon Teal! Let me get a picture! D'oh! He went under!
SHEESH! He WAS a Cinnamon Teal, really! I confirmed it with that Northern Shoveler on the left! I took TEN PICTURES of that darned teal, and all of them were of his butt. I began to take his obvious snubbing of me personally around shot #8. But there was no mistaking that cinnamon-colored plumage; I think Mary actually got some video which I'll be posting at some point. Meanwhile...

Really, Mr. Dove? You think I came here to see your tocks? Seriously? Come on! Help me out here!
Okay--blurry but better than your butt. Now, listen here, Mr. Common Ground Dove; I'm adding you to my lifelist and there's nothing you can do about it! How I've longed to see that pinkish-red at the base of your tiny bill, the reddish wings, the scalloping on your breast! Be still, my birdy heart, for there were many more lifers to be had that day.

a Common Pauraque, looking cute as a button asleep (?) in the leaf litter. I wanted to scoop him up and take him home! Thank you to the unnamed birder who directed me precisely to the exact tree where our little Pauraque could be found!

a little darter action for you, as an Anhinga shows off the white wing streaks that made the ID easier for me, as if that crazy neck and head weren't enough

a terrible picture, but through my binocs I could see the distinct white tail and the kite-head on this White-tailed Kite (the park ranger's ID also helped me not call it a White-tailed Hawk)

I also got close-up views (like from four feet away) of this darling little Least Grebe, whom I definitely wanted to put in my pocket and take home:When I saw one of these in Austin at Hornsby Bend, I knew it was a Least because he was swimming next to a comparatively larger Pied-billed. Now I got to see that these little cuties are the size of baby ducklings! WANT ONE!

the Great Kiskadees were all over the place

here's another photo of our overly ambitious Great Egret, who caught himself a trophy perch but couldn't swallow him. I guess every fisherman's gotta have a "the one that got away" story to tell the kids.

I even got to see one of Niblet's southern cousins. Howdy!

It's past midnight now, and there's still more from Estero Llano--but it'll have to wait until tomorrow. Hasta luego from the butts of all the ducks in the Rio Grande Valley!

Coming up tomorrow: a sparrow quiz!


Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Duck butts! That cracks me up this morning.

Felicia said...

Wow, I wish I could have seen all those birds! I've never seen a Least Grebe, he/she really does look like a cuddly little powder puff. Great that you had such a birdy day out!

John said...

Wow, great birds!

Elizabeth said...

Ooh, you must be having so much fun! We have a ton of California quails in Utah and I always have the urge to try and scoop some up to take home. I think the cockatiels would like the company, but my boyfriend has not been persuaded.

Beth said...

Duck butts are adorable!

Carol said...

A nice series of pictures. Looks like you had a good time. I love the Vermillion Flycatcher....and even the butts.

dguzman said...

Lynne, duck butts are the best!

Feliecia--it is crazy how many birds there are down there. It was like one of my dreams where I walk around and it's like I'm in an aviary. Only it was real!

John--you've got to come down here!

Elizabeth--Oh man, I love those! Like Elvis with a big spit-curl.

Beth--hee hee!

Carol--thanks for stopping by! There's plenty more birds from Day 1, and even more from Day 2!

dAwN said...

I am looking at all these Texas post and taking notes..will be there mid march and cant wait to see some of these birds!

John said...

Dawn – That sounds like a great time to be there.