Friday, August 1, 2008

Bentsen Birding

By sunrise, I was hiking the road at Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park. It was already horribly humid and getting warmer by the second (the previous day had a heat index of 109). I immediately went to the Photo Blind were a singing CLAY-COLORED ROBIN (life bird # 614) put on a brief show. A short time later, my first GROOVE-BILLED ANI (life bird #615) showed up. I believe I heard the Yellow-green Vireo, but it was easily 200 feet or more off the trail. There was no way of seeing it. The Harris’ Hawk that was perched in the tree was well worth it, but the lighting just sucked for photography. The tram that runs the park brought me back to the center. I was concerned that I had somehow managed to miss Altamira Oriole. They breed there. I was planning on getting some more water and heading back out to look for it. I had not even stepped off the tram when I saw one tugging on vegetation trying to gather nest material. ALTAMIRA ORIOLE (life bird #616).

Estero Llano Grande State Park was next on my list. I simply wanted to see the Sulpher-bellied Flycatcher (I had already seen one in Arizona years ago). After all the traffic issues it took to get there, I was politely told I came to the wrong park. I doubled back to Quinta Mazatlan where I found the bird easily, after being shown where the nest was. (That place, by the way, is great. It’s an old 1930’s adobe style home that had great habitat that is said to be super birding spot in the winter. It is now a part of the World Birding Center. They were getting ready for a wedding when I was there. It is that kind of a place.)

I shot over to Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge and walked a bit. Not much. Again, really damned hot. I was hoping to do the wildlife drive, but they were closing the gates early that day. The ponds on the property were very low. I also managed a quick photo of the water tower outside the refuge.

Dinner was at BJ’s Brewhouse. It is, I believe, a regional chain. All in all, I was impressed. The Jeremiah Red was the best of the four samples (the others being the Piranha Pale Ale, Brewhouse Blonde, and PM Porter). I never I thought I would say something like this, but the spinach artichoke pizza was very, very good!

Earlier in the day, Keith helped me with a post-dinner battle plan. While I was allowed to walk the roads of Bentsen after dark, I really did not feel up to it. He suggested simply driving the road immediately outside the park (the one that veers left after the parking lot as you approach the main gate). I did just that. It took me a few passes, but I saw that red eyeshine and ultimately had a wonderful look at a PARAQUE (life bird # 617) (puh-RAW-key) sitting on the road. I also saw my first wild tarantula.

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