My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Wild Bird Wednesday: Birds of South Llano River State Park

I spent a lot of time at the blinds at South Llano State Park.  It attracts both seed eaters and birds that want a drink or a bath.  Here are a few of my favorite birds.

Black-throated sparrow

Bathing Nashville warbler

Bathing spotted towee

Chipping sparrow

Female summer tanager

Field sparrow looking yellow in the morning light

Male painted bunting - never saw the two tone green female

Lark sparrows were everywhere

Chats were migrating through 

Bell's vireos sang incessantly 

Caught this summer tanager in his bath

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Campout at South Llano River State Park

South Llano River State Park is one of my favorite places to camp,  paddle, hike and birdwatch.  A group of friends to share all these activities with makes it all the more fun.

I'll paddle on Sunday, so watch for a blog about that in the future. But I've been birdwatching hard, at the four blinds, around the campground and on the trails. Wildflowers are in bloom and butterflies abound.  Birds are gobbling up caterpillars and bugs and coming to bath in the waterfalls.  Everything is greening up, even the pokey pecan trees.

Friday,  I logged over nine miles on my stepmeter, about seven of that from actual hiking, with frequent stops to admire the wildflowers, listen and look for birds, chase down chats, and to sneak up on butterflies. I also stopped at two blinds. The day before, I got to see the black-capped vireo without my camera. Saturday, Linda and I were the only ones who didn't paddle - I don't want to have to do any heavy steering and there are a few patches of whitewater to navigate - so we went birding all morning. She first took me to the blind where she had photographed the Hutton's vireo but I haven't gotten to see it.  We spent several hours walking the trails and enjoying the indigo buntings, six vermillion flycatchers, some in pairs, three swamp sparrows, a pretty rare sparrow here, and a black-tailed gnatcatcher.  We finally got to Agarita Blind to look for the black-capped vireo and  found people in the path watching for him. We stayed with them for a while and learned it's song, then started to walk to the blind.  Linda went back to pick up her camera and I watched a little bird fly into an oak just outside the blind area.  He landed on a bare limb and I quickly got my binoculars on him. He was a black-capped vireo singing. But he flew before I could get my camera on him and then flew further away, still calling, as Linda got back to me. We watched for him until we got too hot and hungry but plan to go back again this (Saturday) afternoon.

Oh yes, when I first saw the black-capped vireo, I was in the company of Greg Miller, the poor birder in the book, the Big Year. He was a guest speaker and tour guide at  Wings over the Hills, a birding festival happening this weekend in Fredericksburg, Texas. He came with a tour from the festival about 5 minutes after I saw the vireo. He's a super, laid-back, friendly and helpful person.

Evenings are devoted to group suppers within our cooking group with neighboring camping friends stopping by. Saturday night is a full group meal. Four of us are supplying pulled pork.  I'm the official cook and it is cooking in a crock pot. After I get this blog ready to post - I have to go to the Junction Library to get wi-fi - I'll go back and remove it from all the grease, then shred it and put in back in the pot with Pat's homemade BBQ sauce.  Should be delicious.

We usually come here the first week in May and the most abundant and in-your-face bird is the Bell's vireo which nests here. They are already here, singing incessantly.

The Bell's vireo who owns my camping site. I think the wing thing is part of his display. 

My friend, Pat and I went on a short hike yesterday before I did several more hours of hiking/birding and he went mountain biking. 
One of at least fifty summer tanagers - they are almost always within sight or hearing

Early morning view up the South Llano River

A black-crested titmouse is using up all the bathwater, according to the screaming pine siskin.

This area has lots of mesquite trees and they are blooming - great for bugs and the birds that eat them

A white-crowned sparrow - one of only a few still here

One of the sulphur butterflies on the abundant verbena

A bathing painted bunting looks more like a submarine

I found only this one group of these beautiful flowers - the cloudy day was perfect to
photograph white 

Another weedy flower I love

Linda watching for the return of the black-capped vireo by the Agrita Blind
Axis deer, imported from India, have escaped and live in the park

There are only a few chipping sparrows left
Lark sparrows are very common here 

Great crested flycatcher

Black-tailed gnatcatcher 

Just another bather - this a Nashville Warbler

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Bountiful Birds in Port Aransas

I'm still on my birding trip across several ecosystems in Texas.  Monday I recuperated from the King Ranch tour and got a meal cooked and frozen so I can just reheat it this weekend to serve to my cooking group.

But the birds in Port Aransas were calling to me.  Port Aransas is on Mustang Island, a barrier island and the first land some birds see after they leave south or central America. ACape May warbler has been at the Leonabell Turnbull Birding Center for a few days and it is always good for passerines in migration, as well as ducks and waders.  I left Winnie's house an hour before sunrise  Tuesday morning and headed there first. I saw lots of quick-moving little birds, including several Tennessee warblers, a common yellowthroat, a blackburnian warbler and a Baltimore oriole, none of which would sit still long enough for me to get a good picture of them. But several other birds did pose.

Swainson's Thrush, I think

A tricolored heron hunted next to the boardwalk

And on the way in, I found my first of season Wilson's phalaropes and was surprised to see a crested caracara eating what looked like a laughing gull.

Crested caracara with breakfast
I moved on to Paradise Pond, a tiny little bird oasis in back of a pretty good Mexican Restaurant.  It had almost no birds but did have a male cerulean warbler, a life bird for me.  I watched as the cerulean, a painted bunting, and a gray catbird all arrived at almost the same time but in slightly different places in front of me. Only the catbird sat still long enough for a portrait.  I also saw a northern parula there.  A green heron posed closed to us, too.

Green Heron

Then I spent a few hours at Charlie's Pasture, a great place for shorebirds, waders, ducks, and raptors. I saw so many birds of so many species, I completely lost my ability to ID them and had to relearn them.  I was happy to see lark sparrows and enjoyed the antics of two red and two white morphs of reddish egrets. Phalaropes were spinning everywhere and a few females were getting into their party dresses. (The males sit on the eggs and raise the kids while the females go find another boyfriend so they are the beautiful sex.) And I saw a few of my favorite birds, avocets, in full breeding plumage.

I think this barnswallow is carrying mud to build a nest

A pelican flew right at me 

This bug was too photogenic to pass up

Wilson's phalarope and reddish egret

A female Wilson's phalarope with her entourage 

I'm so pretty, oh so pretty!

Semipalmated plover

Least sandpiper
Feeding avocet in breeding plumage

White-phase reddish egret on a bad hair day with roseate spoonbills

Horned Lark

Reddish egret doing its crazy chase and mantling

Stilt Sandpiper

Indigo Bunting

I birded until noon, then came back and deleted most of my pictures and helped my host, Wayne, (very little)  put my new racks on my car so I could borrow back my little whitewater kayak that I use every time I get to paddle on  South Llano River.  The rest of the evening, I edited pictures, wrote this blog, and shopped for vegetables for stir fry and cut them up so they will be ready to dump in the pot Wednesday night when I'll be camping with friends at South Llano State Park for a long weekend.  I also put the dry rub on the pork roast that will turn into pulled pork.

We'll be paddling, birding, biking, hiking and just hanging out. I'm hoping for a golden-cheeked warbler as well as lots of photogenic birds since there are four bird blinds there, as well as lots of birdy territory. The time I was birding was mostly sunny, but five minutes after I started home, I was in a rain shower. Now we have heavy clouds and wandering showers again.

Car ready to haul my kayak
Tuesday night I finished food preparations and now have the most delicious hands since the pork roast rub is under my fingernails - love that smoked paprika smell.

Wednesday, I'll head out early to save campsites close together for the early arrivals at South Llano State Park and will be birding if the weather allows. We still having some rain, although it's happening less often and with less total rainfall. And I'm looking forward to hammock time.

I've linked to Wild Bird Wednesday