Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Adventures of a German Writer - Part 1


            Early this month we once again hosted a visiting journalist from Germany, courtesy of South Texas Nature!  Christopher Schmidt was an avid birder in addition to being a writer, artist, and teacher, and it was a delight to take him around and show him our special birds!  My “shift” included Estero Llano Grande State Park the afternoon of the 6th, and a morning of local birding on the 8th.

            The temperatures were surprisingly mild by the time Christopher arrived from South Padre Island, so we had a pleasant afternoon temperature-wise.  The afternoon lighting off the deck at Estero was perfect, and we had great comparative looks at Stilt Sandpipers next to Long-billed Dowitchers, and Blue-winged and Cinnamon Teals together.  I spotted a female Wilson’s Phalarope across the way which got Christopher excited, but before I could get my scope on it Ranger John showed up, and once we started talking Pauraques the phalarope was forgotten in favor of looking for a somewhat reliable bird near the park host camp (I was concerned about the Alligator Lake bird because she had moved her babies back into the central part of her patch and was harder to find)!  Unfortunately John’s bird proved elusive, so we wandered back into the Tropical Zone where we ran into Huck, who knew exactly where the “TZ Pauraque” was located!  He/she was hiding as well, but on the way Huck spotted a Clay-colored Thrush high in the trees, and the Red-crowned Parrot sitting in her nest hole was a great consolation prize!
Gulf Fritillary in the parking lot

Best guess is a Laredo Spotted Whiptail

Lesser Yellowlegs 

Long-billed Dowitchers

Stilt Sandpiper with a goodie... 

Blue-winged (left) and Cinnamon Teals 

Red-crowned Parrot in her nest hole

            Even though he hadn’t been able to spot it that morning, Huck offered to take us back to the Alligator Lake bird in hopes of maybe spotting her, so we traipsed around Ibis Pond and made a quick stop at Curlew Pond for the resident Least Grebe, after which Huck spotted one remaining Fulvous Whistling Duck on Dowitcher Pond for Christopher!  Heading back towards Alligator Lake the guys were scouring Grebe Marsh for a Green Kingfisher when a Bobcat started sauntering down the trail ahead of us!  Christopher had been hoping for an Ocelot sometime during his trip, but this was definitely the next best thing! 
An inquisitive Bobcat keeps an eye on us as we approach Alligator Lake!


            On to the patch, and as Huck and Christopher scoured the ground litter, I went around to the “traditional” spot just in case the bird had decided to move back, but before long I heard “spotted it” and hustled back around to find that Christopher had actually found her!  He was able to get his scope on her and her two fuzzy babies! J  While he went running (literally) back to the car to get his digiscoping camera, Mr. Bobcat moseyed by us again even closer, and both Huck and I were worried he might try to go after Mrs. Pauraque!  She indeed went instantly from a snoozing pose to a “high alert” pose, head up and eyes wide open!  Apparently the bobcat was more interested in the two cottontails that were a little further down the trail and she went back to snoozing…
Christopher zeroes in on the Pauraque while Huck peer over his shoulder
Meanwhile, the Bobcat strolls by again!

            That was Christopher’s #1 prize, so with that we headed back to the Inn and dinner with Keith!  Since it had been an extremely long day already for him with a fabulous boat trip out in the bay with Scarlet Colley, they chose to forego the night walk at Bentsen, so I proposed taking him in an hour before dawn on Friday, and he was thrilled with the prospect!
Bird List:
  Black-bellied Whistling-Duck         
  Fulvous Whistling-Duck               
  Mottled Duck                         
  Blue-winged Teal                     
  Cinnamon Teal                         
  Northern Shoveler                    
  Least Grebe                          
  Great Blue Heron                     
  Tricolored Heron                     
  Yellow-crowned Night-Heron           
  White-faced Ibis                     
  American Coot                        
  Black-necked Stilt                   
  American Avocet                       
  Lesser Yellowlegs                    
  Stilt Sandpiper                      
  Least Sandpiper                      
  Long-billed Dowitcher                
  Wilson's Phalarope                   
  Rock Pigeon                          
  White-winged Dove                    
  Mourning Dove                        
  White-tipped Dove                    
  Common Pauraque                      
  Buff-bellied Hummingbird             
  Green Kingfisher                     
  Golden-fronted Woodpecker            
  Ladder-backed Woodpecker             
  Red-crowned Parrot                   
  Great Kiskadee                       
  Couch's Kingbird                     
  White-eyed Vireo                     
  Purple Martin                        
  Black-crested Titmouse               
  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher                
  Clay-colored Thrush                  
  Long-billed Thrasher                 
  Northern Mockingbird                 
  European Starling                    
  Common Yellowthroat                  
  Lincoln's Sparrow                    
  Northern Cardinal                    
  Red-winged Blackbird                 
  Great-tailed Grackle                 

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