After birding around San Antonio for a couple of days, Mary, the parents, my nieces, and I drove south last Thursday night to visit my brother Ricardo and do some birding in my old college stomping grounds, Kingsville, home to the former Texas A&I University (I come from a family of University of Texas Longhorns, so I won't mention the new name of the school). I hadn't been back to town in about 15 years, and wouldn't you know I forgot to go and check out the college campus? I was just too wrapped up in birds and family, not to mention getting back to San Antonio in plenty of time for my Saturday flight back home.
Still, I got quite a few birds including some more lifers! We birded in Ricardo's neighborhood first, where we saw three Harris' Hawks riding the strong Gulf Coast winds above an empty field as well as this Tropical Kingbird:I got a new book about photographing birds, so I'm trying new things like catching birds in motion instead of just while perching. This photo won't win any contests, but I'm happy with the composition of it all the same.
I don't want to sound snooty, but get a load of Ricardo's neighbor's idea of hardscaping:Yup, those are bowling balls around each and every plant in the yard. Curb Appeal, where are you?
We also caught this beautiful little Gray Hairstreak (thanks, Hap, for the ID) in his backyard:Ricardo's an avid butterfly buff, and he has lots of beautiful butterflies pinned (yeah, kinda cruel but still beautiful--even if I wouldn't do it myself) and displayed around his home.
After a delicious dinner (my brother is THE grill master) and a good night's sleep, reveille sounded at 5:45 and we were off to Kaufer-Hubert Memorial Park on an inlet of Baffin Bay:We searched long and hard for the elusive (to me, anyway) Painting Bunting, but alas the PABU won again. Still, even Ricardo was in on the hunt for a while after seeing photos of the beautiful "Monet Bird." He couldn't believe it was a real native bird in his area. I'd seen an eBird report of PABU sightings as recently as last weekend in this very park, so I figured I'd HAVE to see one, right? Wrong. But like I said, we got some great birds.
Check out this beautiful Curve-billed Thrasher, the first lifer of the day:
I fought off some pretty serious backlighting here.
Early-morning birding = low light conditions!Check out that eerie orange eye!
For an East Coast birder like me, birding in a place like South Texas means that lifers can be found just hanging around on power lines:
An Ash-throated Flycatcher, as opposed to the similar-looking Brown-crested Flycatcher -- the most obvious (to me) difference is the placement and paleness of the yellow wash on the underparts. This guy's yellow was quite pale and covered only his belly, not bright yellow and starting at his breast and extending down.
Texas provides an embarrassment of riches along the coastal waterways. Get a load of this:Bucketfuls of Roseate Spoonbills, Great Egrets, Neotropic Cormorants, and other shore beauties. It was impossible to get very close, hence the super-zoom, but holy moly, the Gulf Coast is amazing. It makes me sick to think about the states east of Texas, those affected by the BP oil spill; it also makes me so thankful that at least Gulf Coast waters remain (as yet) pristine and teeming with birdlife.
Yes, that's (from left to right) two Black-necked Stilts, a Neotropic Cormorant, a Tri-colored Heron (thanks, Hap!), an American White Pelican, and another Neotropic Cormorant, all in the same shot.
Continuing my quest for action shots, here's a Laughing Gull scratching his cheek:
Another far-away shot of Roseate Spoonbills and Snowy Egrets (thanks, Hap--who noted the black beaks that equal Snowy, not Great, Egrets), as well as the elusive Green-Plastic-Chair Bird:Grrrrrr, pollution makes me angry.
Next installment: even more birds, butterflies, and an age-old story about the one that got away.