Monday, January 20, 2020

Texas: Estero Llano Grande & Resaca de la Palma

    I planned most of the places we visited in a combination of ways. I explored eBird hotspots on their map, scoured the recent sightings and frequencies of certain species and prioritized places based on proximity as I quickly learned everything in Texas is at the very least, 40 minutes away. I also learned of the World Birding Centers, with multiple locations in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) and made those target locations as they clearly prioritized birds.
     On this day, we visited Resaca de la Palma and Estero Llano Grande, both World Birding Centers. I also had us visit Olivera park as I did a google search: "Parrots + Brownsville" and this place was supposedly it. In a visit at noon, we quickly learned there is a sweet spot of timing to visit at dusk and scrapped that plan for another day. Instead of parrots we won with a panderia and got a bag of pastries for $1.75.

At Resaca de La Palma, the feeders and behind the visitors center were the highlights.
Black-crested titmouse, being some of the smaller feeder birds visit quick, steal a morsel and run... well, fly. Most other feeder birds are at least twice their size.
Behind the center a small group of wild turkeys grazed, but were not near the feeders.

White-tipped doves (lifer), are reminiscent of mourning doves, but heftier and lacking some of the dark markings that MODO's have.
Still very cute, and also very flighty.

A chance to enjoy some nice views of the golden-fronted woodpecker. It's like a red-bellied woodpecker but full of gold.

Also, life bird,
We saw these birds throughout the RGV area. This one is a male, as noted by the red on their crown, females lack the red.

While we ate our cheese sandwiches for lunch, we were treated to Altimara orioles among others.

I love orioles for their bright colors, but this one really knocks the Baltimore Orioles we get in NY out of the park.

Altimara orioles do enjoy fruits and are drawn in by the ever present oranges at the feed stations, but they also seem to enjoy some seeds too.
And this seed craving time, a green jay is in the way.

Not as big as the green jays, they can take on one bird.

But, while feeding it checked over its shoulder quite often as the red-winged blackbirds would gather and displace a single bird.

We also learned the male orioles are not the only flashy ones...

The females, more of a yellow, are just as beautiful and deserve just as much credit to their beauty as the males!

What a treat to see this gal!

Resembling a mockingbird with a flamingo-curved bill, this is a Curve-billed Thrasher!
(ahem, lifebird)

Related to mockers and other thrashers, this species is a year-round denizen of the South Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, into Mexico.

Another Orange-crowned Warbler...

Thinking we could walk the 3-mile loop around the park, we realized it was warm and that would take a lot of time.
So we hopped on the tram that comes around every 2 hours, and glad we did, because we got to see THIS!

The Greater Roadrunner!

Related to the cuckoos, it stands tall and it runs!
This one happened to be running on the road, really living up to its name and meeting expectations.

I was very happy to see this bird, it was a lot bigger than I expected! Even at a distance, this bird was pretty tall. Not as tall as they make it to be in Looney Tunes (nor does that cartoon bird really look much like an actual roadrunner), but medium-large chicken size for sure, it seemed.
Estero Llano Grade might have been one of my favorite places that we visited...
My first walk out to the balcony, overlooking one of the ponds, I immediately spotted a Wilson's Snipe.
By time we left, there were at least 5 snipe, probing the mud together.

I also snapped a cruddy pic of one of my favorite hawks, Harris' Hawk.
I used to work with these birds in my first job out of college. They hunt in groups and are all around awesome.

A verdin, a bird very specific to the Southwestern US.

Some of the trails have a network of boardwalks through them. On stepping out onto the boardwalk, a Virginia rail, mere feet away just did its thing, undisturbed, feeding and weaving in and out of the reeds.

Tim spotted this female vermillion flycatcher over the first pond.

She is pretty flashy herself!

Another pond, full of waterfowl also had a sizeable number of least sandpipers.

Thankfully, these are one of the few peeps I can ID with decent certainty!
For some of my tougher ID's I downloaded the Merlin pack for the Texas region and found it to be immensely helpful for anything I was unsure of, especially if I grabbed a picture. Their photo ID is pretty good.

Northern pintails ended up being a very plentiful duck in our travels.
This one has evidence of its dabbling on its bill.

The cutest of the grebes and smaller than the pied-billed's we are used to, the Least Grebe. 

A cinnamon teal feeds while a blue-winged teal dips under the surface and goes butt-up.

Least grebes are the smallest of our grebes and only viewed in Texas. Otherwise you need to visit Mexico, Central America or the Caribbean to see these birds outside the mainland US.

Also. That serious side eye.

This bird has it perfected.

Love love love me a ginger bird and male cinnamon teals are good ones.

The trees on one pond were a favorite roost for a number of yellow-crowned night herons.

This is a white-eyed vireo. I promise, it had white eyes.

We were able to locate one (large) American Alligator on Alligator Pond.

This pied-billed grebe seemed to eye it and take note of its presence.

Thankfully the gator at the time had no interest.

A nice side-by side of the pied-billed (left) to the least grebe (right).
So much more small!

An anhinga flew in after it had finished drying its wings on the other side of the pond. It made some rude noises, similar to the belching sound of a cormorant.

Speaking of cormorants, this one on the right caught my eye, something seemed different. It's a juvenile Neotropic Cormorant. That thin line of white under its chin is a good indicator of such in juvenile birds.

Before leaving and circling back to the Virginia rail, I saw a second had joined it. And they both went on feeding and probing he mud.
Other notable birds here were Bewick's Wren,  various waders and waterfowl, Northern Harrier, and Red-shouldered Hawk.

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