Texas has been good to me so far, despite the internationally-recognized March Doldrums being in effect (I have not chased a single rarity and seen only a handful of spring migrants), entirely too much wind, and long work days that sap all my blog-creating juices. So to keep the cobwebs off BB&B, I offer you a Texas post.
Basically, I'm working a lot, but have time to explore new places, return to spots I haven't birded in years, and point my lens at a lot of things that have not seen my lens before. I have also discovered that although almost all food is cheaper here than in California, whisky is more expensive.
This Common Pauraque at Estero Llano Grande State Park has probably seen more photographers than any other bird, which should not come as a surprise. What a goatsucker! The patterns! The subtlety! I'm pretty sure I first saw pictures of it several years ago. It sits in the same spot every day, just a few feet off a well-used trail. It doesn't give a fuck. Everyone knows about this bird...so by all means marvel at its greatness, but whenever you see a good picture of a pauraque, don't give the photographer any credit whatsoever for finding it, stalking it, etc., because it's probably this bird.
This pauraque isn't quite as popular as popular as the bird(s) at Estero Llano Grande, but I'll take it. Photographed at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.
Just down the trail from the pauraque at Estero Llano Grande, I finally met my Nemesis Bird. In case you didn't know, I have horrible luck with owls...until last week my heard-only list for owls was at 4 species (U.S.), which isn't really acceptable when you have no choice but to go around informing people that you are the #7 birder in the nation. Eastern Screech-Owl was not only something I've never been able to see, it's also something I'm 99.9% sure I saw in Wisconsin once but refused to count due to the pathetic quality of the observation. Finally, I can rest easy...until I realize what the next Nemesis is.
From what I gather, Eastern Screech-Owls are fairly common in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and are not particularly difficult to see. This bird also lives on a trail...I wonder how many unwitting birders walk by without noticing.
Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks abound here. They fly over my apartment every night and every morning on their way to and from feeding sites. By day, these are easy to find in large numbers...go to any disgusting body of water and you will see them. You show me a repulsive body of water and I will show you Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks. I've yet to see any Fulvous Whistling-Ducks down here, and I yearn for them...we haven't crossed paths in about 18 years or so. Photographed next to some gross ditch in Harlingen.
The mighty bellow of a Black-bellied Whistling-Duck sounds like an amplified version of a squeaky dog toy. Dixieland Park, Harlingen.
Though they are striking birds, their feet really set them apart from everything else. They are huge, muscular, and undeniably pink. It's not unusual to see them perched on powerlines early in the morning. Photographed over some terrible ditch in Harlingen.
Altamira Oriole, like most of its cousins, is a crippler. Like the species above, this is what draws birders to this strange and otherwise obscure corner of the country. They're not hard to find here in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, especially if there are feeders out. Photographed at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.
Altamira Oriole is really burly. Though they are colored like many other orioles, they are built like they are on a strict diet of Icterid Growth Hormone. They have huge feet and a bill that's almost more like a grosbeak than an oriole.
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. It's nice to be around so many different wading birds again! I must crush them. Estero Llano Grande State Park.