Texas Birds Part Two

If you missed my first post on my trip to photograph Texas birds, click here to get caught up. Click on the images below to view larger, although these are not images I’m particularly proud of. But they help to tell the story of my trip.

After a pair of smooth flights on Southwest, I arrived in Harlingen in time for a bite of lunch. I really enjoyed flying mid-week as the plane and airports were much less crowded. I guess I’ve gotten used to the hustle and bustle of flying on Monday mornings and Friday afternoons, so this was a nice treat.

Anyway, my first stop after lunch was Estero Llano Grande state park. I had read that this was a hot spot for birds, so I thought it would be a great way to kill an afternoon before I met Ruth and Jeff for dinner. There were lots of birds to see, but I wasn’t prepared for getting any great images. First off, I thought the park closed at 5:00. After arriving at 2:00pm (in the heat of the day), I learned that only the visitor center closes at 5:00. The park is open until sundown. Oops. Second, thinking that I would be doing a lot of walking (which I did), I left the tripod and 500mm lens at the hotel as I didn’t want to haul all that weight around the park or leave it in the car. That was good and bad. It was good in that had I taken the heavy gear into the park, I surely would have died from heat stroke and dehydration. But little did I know that there was a beautiful pavilion overlooking a pond with all kinds of shorebirds, wading birds and ducks that would have made a perfect shooting platform in the shade. I could have spent most of the afternoon in the comfortable shade shooting with the big lens and then ventured out with the smaller lens when it got cooler. Live and learn.

Texas Birds - Wilson's Phalarope
Texas Birds – Wilson’s Phalarope

From the pavilion I was able to get a few shots for ID purposes. The mating phalaropes were a nice find as was my first stilt sandpiper. The phalaropes would have look a whole lot better with another 300mm … and better light.

Texas Birds - Stilt Sandpiper
Texas Birds – Stilt Sandpiper

The great-tailed grackles were everywhere. Just like the grackles here in Florida, you can’t turn around without seeing one.

Texas Birds - Great-tailed Grackle
Texas Birds – Great-tailed Grackle

I’m pretty sure this is a Couch’s kingbird. Well, let’s say I’m very confident it is a kingbird and fairly confident it is a Couch’s. Opinions welcome! Of course he couldn’t pose on a nice looking perch. No, he had to be on top of a martin house while hawking insects.

Texas Birds - Couch's Kingbird
Texas Birds – Couch’s Kingbird

This little flycatcher was hiding in the “tropical zone” of the park. I have no idea which flycatcher this might be. My guess is an Acadian flycatcher. I’d love to get a definite ID if anyone can help.

Unknown Flycatcher (Acadian?)
Unknown Flycatcher (Acadian?)

This flycatcher was a bit easier to identify. I’ve chased a vagrant ash-throated flycatcher at Viera for a few years with no success. I can mark that one off my list now.

Texas Birds - Ash-throated Flycatcher
Texas Birds – Ash-throated Flycatcher

There were reports of an Altamira oriole pair in the park. I never found them, but I did find their nest. I staked it out for a while, but never did see them come or go from it. Yet another reason to have to return at some point.

Altamira Oriole Nest
Altamira Oriole Nest

I made a return trip the next afternoon with Ruth and Jeff to look for the common pauraque with chicks and the kite nest, but we dipped on both.

Next time I’ll plan on getting to the park in the morning for the best light and then maybe return in the late afternoon. Shooting from the pavilion early and late is probably the way to go. Hiking in the middle of the day in May is not the way to go. But this is definitely a place to visit in the Rio Grande Valley.

More to come…


  • Meg Puente

    May 18, 2016 at 11:20 am Reply

    These are lovely, Michael. Always good to get a ‘Lifer’ and a ‘Mystery’ bird, too. We were in Costa Rica recently whenI saw what I thought was a beautiful, exotic bird and took a ton of images of it… only to find out later that it was really a male great kiskadee… a Texas bird! However, it is something we don’t see here in Florida, so I was happy to get it.

    • Michael

      May 19, 2016 at 10:25 pm Reply

      Thanks, Meg! Always good to get a new bird no matter where you are!

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