Monday, 21 March 2016

Santa Ana NWR and Estero Llano Grande State Park

On our final day of our vacation from our vacation, we went birding at two of the 'World Birding Centers' in the RGV, Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge and Estero Llano Grande State Park.

When we arrived at Santa Ana, we asked the person at the visitor's centre what birds people had been spotting. He said there hadn't been much in the last week. This was disappointing. On previous visits we haven't seen much either.

The visitor's center is very nice. It has a big gift shop and bookstore with lots of birding books. In an aquarium were a couple of Black Spotted Newts, an endangered species in the state of Texas.
Outside at the feeding station was a golden fronted woodpecker.
A chachalaca flew in to see what was left after the red wing blackbirds had gorged themselves.
We heard, then saw a Couch's (or tropical) kingbird.
The sabal palm is a very distinctive palm found almost exclusively in the Rio Grande Valley. There aren't many stands of these palms left.
We also spotted a Harris hawk and crested caracara in flight.

That was pretty much it for Santa Ana. Most of the waterways were dried up. If we were to come here again, it would be earlier in our time in the RGV while there is still water.

We then headed off to our favourite Texas State park, Estero Llano Grande on the townline between Weslaco and Mercedes. There is always lots to seen in the lake in front of the viewing deck where a spotting scope is always set up.

Quite a few Northern Shovelers were swimming around and resting.
We saw a solitary sandpiper for the first time this trip. It is distinguished by the white eye ring and spotty feathers.
Its tail does more of a fluttering motion rather than the bobbing tail of the spotted sandpiper.
There were also a couple of white-faced ibis.
As on our previous visit, we spotted a couple of cinnamon teal. It was hard to get a good shot because most of the time they were feeding and didn't often have their heads above the water.
Lot of swallows were flying around. We think they're northern rough-winged swallows.
I spotted this killdeer on a submerged trunk. I had trouble focusing on the bird rather than the trunk.
There were several of these trees in bloom. I have since learned that they are the blooms of the Texas olive (cordia boissieri).
It was a beautiful sunny day. Lots of turtles were sunning themselves on various logs.
The water wasn't very deep. These white faced ibis' legs aren't very long.
Back at the feeding station we spotted this black-chinned hummingbird at the feeder. It was difficult to get a shot without blurry wings. The definitive feature was its bright purple throat. That may be a life-bird for me. Again, I'll need to check my lists that I have filed back home.
Other species spotted but not pictured were coots, green-wing teal, long-billed dowitchers, a tricolour heron, blue-wing teal, a Wilson's snipe, black neck stilts, and a brown-headed cowbird.

Back into the car we piled and made our way back to the island by way of a barbecue place. Back at the condo, noisy neighbours upstairs have moved in for Holy Week - this lead up to Good Friday and Easter. It is Spring Break for Mexico. Generally, however, things have greatly died down on the island as most college kids have gone back to school.

This Thursday our birding group plans to go to Harlingen to a park known for its excellent birding.

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