Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Central Texas Southward

Copper Breaks State Park was our first stop in Texas on Oct. 9th - a desert oasis where we found our first Ladder-backed and Golden-fronted Woodpeckers.

A number of large Desert Blonde Tarantulas were crossing the roads early in the morning as we drove south.

We headed to Abilene State Park, another wooded area with more new birds including our first Black-throated Sparrows.

We stopped at a wayside where we found our first Canyon Towhee.

The next two nights we spent at South Llano River state park.  This park had four bird feeding stations with water features and viewing blinds.  This Western Scrub Jay came to drink and bathe in the fountain.

This Vermilion Flycatcher was one of the many new birds we found including Verdin, Lesser Goldfinch, Spotted Towhee, Black-crested Titmouse, Bewick's Wren, and Lark Sparrow.

This park has one of the largest Rio Grande Turkey roosts in Texas with over 800 turkeys coming for the winter.  This roost area is closed each afternoon at 3 pm until 10 the next morning.

This Spiny Lizard was one of our best finds at the Kerr Management Area - managed for the endangered Black-capped Vireo which nests early and migrates south in August.

We stayed at the Guadalupe River RV Park through the torrential rains and flooding that hit both east and southwest of us.

We drove southeast through hugh oil fields to the coast.  We spent four days at Goose Island State Park.  This White-tailed Deer buck was near our campsite being bothered by as many mosquitos as we were.  We switched sites to the gulf coast after one night to the breeze that blew away the bugs.

This American Oystercatcher was one of many birds in this restored wetland.  We found Whooping Cranes while scoping across the bay to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

At Goose Island there were also Clapper Rails, Long-billed Curlews, Marbled Godwits, Roseate Spoonbills and Reddish Egrets plus the usual water birds.

A strong north wind brought in many migrating passerines.  It also blew around leaves and seeds such as these caught in the web of this Golden Orb Weaver.

We visited the "Big Tree" a champion Virginia Live Oak and in the area were hundreds of beautiful migrating Scissor-tailed Flycatchers.

We know these birds have been in the blog before but they are so irresistible to photograph.

The ferry took us to Mustang Island at Port Aransas and we checked out the beach at the state park.  Here we found this unusual gull,  park naturalists and a local bird expert went to check it out.  Other than bright orange bill and legs it has the characteristics of the Laughing Gull.  We found out that it is a "Mutant" and a one in a million find.

Also on the beach, hidden in the sand dunes were Snowy Plovers.  There were also Piping and Black-bellied Plovers, Ruddy Turnstones, and Sanderlings.   Many Sandwich, Royal and Forester's Terns fed in the rolling waves.

Early next morning a Lesser Nighthawk swooped into the campground and landed on the picnic table right across from our site.  He closed his eyes and went to sleep, ignoring the camera and photographer getting closer and closer.

We took Hwy. 77 south for 80 miles along the huge 825,000 acre King Ranch.  We found our first Green Jay at a beautiful wayside.  Along the route we saw White-tailed and Harris Hawks and Crested Caracaras (Photos in future blogs hopefully) plus many more Scissor-tailed Flycatchers.

For the next four days we were at South Padre Island at Isla Blanca County Park at the southern end of the island.  Things were really hopping here along with these Black-tailed Jackrabbits which were the main wildlife.

Our first Couch's Kingbirds were here with a good number of Tanagers, Orioles, Warblers, Buntings and Sparrows that came in with the cold front and northerly winds.  A cold front here means 80's instead of mid 90's.

To our friends up north with frost and snow flakes we send you warm greetings.

Ty & Ida Baumann

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sweeping through the Plains

Nearing the end of September, we drove into North Dakota along the prairie pot holes where we encountered many waterfowl species and shorebirds.  We then settled into Graham's Island State Park.  A walk around the grounds produced good looks at Harris's Sparrows like this male to the right.

Our next stop was the vast wetlands at Sand Lake National Wildlife Area.  Here we witnessed the staging area filling with thousands of ducks and Franklin's Gulls.  Dozens of Western Grebes (to left), Cattle, Snowy and Great Egrets, we also had out first Snow Geese signaling the winter season is coming.  New birds added were Swainson's and Ferruginous Hawks.

We continued south into South Dakota as news of a cold front was heading our way.  We saw our fist Prairie Dogs.  We stopped at Lake Louise where we added the Spotted Towhee then at Big Bend Army Corps Campground for a night on the Missouri River.

Next morning we flushed ten Prairie Chickens as we headed into Nebraska.  This one posed on the barbed-wire fence for several photos.  Now Ring-necked Pheasants were showing up in good numbers.

This White-lined Sphinx Moth was seen actively feeding on nectar at the Calamus State Park.  We then followed the Platte River that was overflowing its banks from the Colorado floods upstream.  We visited with the staff at the Sandhill Crane Audubon Nature Center near Kearney.

After several WLA stops in Nebraska we continued into Kansas.  Our first Prairie Falcon was seen harassing 3 Mourning Doves and a flock of Killdeer.

We were most impressed with the Cheyenne Bottoms State WLA where we spent 2 days traversing the 10 miles of auto tour.  We found concentrations of hundreds of Yellow-headed Blackbirds, this group was perched on the water impoundment pump along with our first Great-tailed Grackles.

Hundreds of White-faced Ibis filled the skies and settled into the marshes,  they were accompanied by thousands of Franklin's Gulls, Blue-winged Teal, American Coot and Barn Swallows.  We had good numbers of Am. Avocets, Long-billed Dowitchers, and 8 White-fronted Geese.  We established a good repoire with the naturalists at the visitor's center and enjoyed their exhibits.

Being keenly aware of the huge snow storm in South Dakota and the tornados in Nebraska and the cold front heading our way, we journeyed southward faster than we had planned.  We camped at the Great Salt Plains State Park on the west fork of the Arkansas River in Oklahoma.  We battened down the hatches as torrential rains and 60 mph winds caught up with us.  No worse  for the ware, we felt God's protection.

With the ensuing calm, this flock of Am. White Pelicans resumed feeding in the shallows below the spillway behind our campsite.  Also in the group were Cattle, Snowy and Great Egrets, and Double-crested Cormorants.

We were surprised to see so many beautiful Scissor-tailed Flycatchers (Oklahoma's State Bird) still this far north.  Their tenacity at chasing any bird that interloped into their feeding area including hawks, kingfishers, blackbirds and each other.

With the National Wildlife Refuges being closed and large signs strictly forbidding roadway stopping we drove through the Wichita Mountains NWR.  This large free roaming Bison bull made us violate the dictates of the Federal Government by encouraging us to stop and take a quick picture.

Now it's onto Texas for the next 7 weeks.

God Bless "you all".    Ty & Ida Baumann