Monday, January 04, 2010

Santa Ana NWR

As the cold wind pushed around our non-weather proofed front door and into the room, we decided that birding on the coast would be unproductive, most likely, so we headed inland to Santa Ana NWR, on the Rio Grande. The sun came out for a bit, then ducked back under the clouds, so we wore our warm clothes all day to stay comfortable. It was worth the effort, though, since saw 52 species, including 8 more lifer birds! The tram tour took us down to the Rio Grande, which doesn't look very "grande" to me. Apparently there is a dam upstream that retains much of the water, and even more is siphoned off through canals for the needs of farmers and communities in the area, on both sides of the river. T-Mobile is keeping track of our travels, since I got two text messages warning me that I was in an International calling area with higher fees for texts and phone calls. The Santa Ana lakes attract a good variety of ducks and other water birds. We saw a Least Grebe and thought it was a Loon's chick at first, it's so small. Dick was pleased to find Moorhens, one of his favorites, while ducks such as Blue Winged Teal, Green Winged Teal, Gadwalls, Shovelers, Ruddy Ducks and the Black Bellied Whistling Ducks joined Coots and Pie Billed Grebes. American Pelicans napped on a log, and at least 14 Roseate Spoonbills searched the mud for tasty morsels.
What are those white birds with black wings? I asked one experienced looking birder on the trail. Ah, Avocets with winter plummage - their necks are grey, they are standing in water so you don't see their long legs, and their long bills are tucked under their wings for a snooze. No wonder I didn't recognize them!
Egrets were out in force,and we saw Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, one Cattle Egret and a Tricolored Heron. My favorite and a lifer was the elusive American Bittern. The Ringed Kingfisher finally made an appearance although it was too far away for a photo. A pair of White Tailed Kites waltzed above us, while a Loggerhead Shrike made his rounds of the reeds at lakeside. A large Caracara hardly bothered to look down on its way elsewhere.
We met only three other birders this afternoon to appreciate all these wonderful birds. The South Texas Bird Alert this week is for a Tiger Throated Heron, found in Benson, Tx, and belonging in Central America some place. Apparently it eats rats! Benson is only another 30 minutes from here. If you leave now, you can see it today... I passed this time. My back is starting to hurt from standing up so long, despite our Yoga stretches this morning.
The trails through the native vegetation yielded a Long Billed Thrasher, a lifer, and a surprise bird that we think was a Common Pauraque, startled into the air as several people passed close by. This is another South Texas speciality resident year round in this area. In the same area we found a black and white woodpecker, with a black cap, which we determined to be a female Ladderback Woodpecker. The familiar Northern Cardinal was one of the few birds willing to sit still, in the open, and pose for a photo!
Added to the Life List today: Least Grebe, Long Billed Thrasher, Ladderback Woodpecker, Black Crested Titmouse, Common Pauraque, American Bittern, Long Billed Dowitcher, Ringed Kingfisher
Previous Lifers: Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Couch's Kingbird, Groove Billed Ani, Great Kiskadee, White Tailed Kite, Plain Chachalaca, White Tipped Dove, Buff Bellied Hummingbird, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks Green Jay

1 comment:

Richard said...

If your lifer list gets much longer you are going to have to use a wheelbarrow to carry it.

Great pictures.