Sunday, July 27, 2014

Texas Days 5/6/7: Laguna, Aransas, Rockport

Day 5

We decided to try Laguna A again as it wasn’t too far off our route up to Rockport. It wasn’t as special as on Tuesday, but we got great views of the Yellow-Billed Cuckoo’s Yellow Bill and or Nighthawks. And I caught up with Leo’s Bobwhite sighting.

We were excited to hear that the girl at the desk, who has been living here since May, saw her first Ocelot by the side of the road just the previous evening.

So after a couple of hours we hit the long straight road and kept going till we reached Corpus Christi and the Texas State Aquarium, which sits in the shadow of the USS Lexington – a huge Aircraft Carrier museum. It was a real culture shock to spend $40 on a pretty average aquarium, in amongst crowds and have a dreadful snack bar lunch, after getting used to paying $3 to have a whole nature reserve to ourselves.

We made good our escape and headed on to Rockport, a delightful community right on the sea with a nice shabby hippy feel to the old town as well as some stunning homes. The beach here is apparently Texas’ only official clean beach, so we cooled off there – watching Pelicans, Least Terns and – exciting – Skimmers overhead.

Harris Hawk
Crested Caracara
Yellow Billed Cuckoo
Brown Crested Flycatcher
Olive Sparrow
Turkey Vulture
Northern Bobwhite
Black Vulture
GT Grackle
LB Thrasher

B Cowbird
Common Nighthawk


Black Skimmer l t
Red Tailed Hawk
Laughing Gull
Least Tern

Day 6

The big expedition to Aransas.

As we approached the reserve we saw a family of Wild Turkeys and, though it was hard to appreciate against the light, a Painted Bunting. We got a bit mossy-bitten there but that was just a taste of what was to come. On the next 2 short walks we were bitten to death by mossys. Hardcore nature this – sweating away in 100+. surrounded by mossys, chiggers climbing the long grasses and poison ivy to avoid too (with us not sure what chiggers or posion ivy actually look like!).

There weren’t actually many birds around, though we did get a much better view of a Painted Bunting.

The greatest excitement was of a reptilian nature. We were walking long a path and saw a gator floating in a pond by the path. We stopped to photograph and after about a minute Leo spotted that its mate – 7 feet long – had emerged from the undergrowth in front of us. It lay down in the path and looked at us. Leo was confident that lactic acid build-up would prevent it charging us, but it was tense nonetheless. After a period, it stood up and walked muscularly into the pond.
Leo spotted something 

American Alligator

Painted Bunting

Red Tailed Hawk

Wild Turkey


American Alligator
White Tailed Deer

Wild Turkey l t
Painted Bunting l t
Red Tailed Hawk t
Black Skimmer
Scissor Tailed Flycatcher
Caspian Tern
Lesser Yellowlegs
Great Tailed Grackle
Northern Cardinal
Laughing Gulls
Great Blue Heron
Tricoloured Heron
Great White Egret

Day 7

The lady in the local bird –friend shop had given us a map showing local birding sights so we decided to try a few of them before heading off to the airport.

Cape Velero was rewarding – good views of a Swainson’s Hawk and a forensic identification of a Semi-Palmated Sandpiper. 

SemiPalmated Sandpiper

Texas Day 4: Resaca de la Palma; Sabal Palm Sanctuary

We had arranged by email to meet Sherry Wilson, volunteer at Resaca de la Palma, at 8am and she very kindly took us out and about for 4 hours and taught us a lot about all aspects of wildlife on the reserve.

An early excitement was the electric vehicle screeching to a halt because a Texas Coral Snake was slithering across the road. Top venomous snake – excellent.

Further on we spotted a small grey bird with an orange/red bill, which we decided must be a flea-market escapee as we know of no such naturally occurring bird. Just as we were discussing this, Leo spotted a White Tailed Kite (formerly Black Shouldered) and White Tailed Hawk having a ‘domestic’. This encounter enabled us to realize that the bird at Santa Ana had in fact been a Swainson’s Hawk.

In sweltering conditions we managed a fleeting glimpse of a Yellowthroat (song reminiscent of our whitethroat?) and of a young White-Eyed Vireo (after a lot of looking at musical bushes).

The female Blue Grosbeak is not very colourful, but nice to see anyhow.

Back near the visitor centre, Sherry was trying to show us a Common Paraque, but grass clipping had disturbed it from its usual hiding place. However, looking round here enabled us to spot 3 Black and White Warblers, our second First-of-Season sightings of them!

Interesting learning
-        Mockingbirds mimic the sounds of other birds (so are a clue as to what else lives in the area) as well as other sounds. But they only mimic each sound 4 times, which enables one to distinguish from the original bird

Sherry also gave us some good advice about other places to visit.

Firstly, we looked into Texas University for a reported Black Phoebe on the bridge. No sign unfortunately, though we picked up double crested  (thanks Sherry!) Neotropic Cormorant.

Thence on to Sabal Palm Sanctuary, a delightful place which is technically in Mexico as it is through a gap in the giant border fence which runs along the levee here. The visitor centre is in a wonderful old plantation home, and the very helpful guy there told us about how they regularly hear gunshots from the Mexican direction.  The Sanctuary had some nice birds, and at one turning on the path we were lucky enough to encounter a Texan Tortoise! Only the third one I have seen in the wild – a Greek Island and Sardinia being the other places.

After a long day, we decided to ‘shoot down the highway like a rocket to the ocean’. The Boca Chica highway to be precise, famous for having raptors on its poles. Sure enough there were raptors. My confidence was ebbing as we had no idea how long we had to go along this featurless road through scrub, when suddenly the road ran out and we arrived straight onto the sand of Boca Chica beach – miles in both directions with a few cars parked at intervals along the sand.  So we had another relaxing dip.

Black & White Warbler

Neotropic Cormorant

Mourning Dove

Northern Waterthrush

Texan Tortoise

Texas Coral Snake

Giant Swallowtail
Orange Sulphur
Cloudless Sulphur
Boisduval’s Yellow
Mimosa Yellow
Band-celled Sister
Tawny Emperor
Brown Longtail
Sickle Winged Skipper
Julia’s Skipper

Texas Coral Snake
Texan Tortoise



Black Crested Titmouse
Green Jay
Great Tailed Grackle
White Winged Dove
White Tipped Dove
Buff Bellied Hummingbird
Northern Mockingbird
Great Kiskadee
Tropical Kingbird t
Couch's Kingbird

Groove Billed Ani
Olive Sparrow
Turkey Vulture
White Tailed Kite t
White Tailed Hawk l t
Common Yellowthroat l t
Lark Sparrow l t
Brown Crested Flycatcher
Blue Grosbeak l t
Carolina Wren

Yellow Billed Cuckoo
Northern Cardinal
Long billed thrasher
Plain Chacalaca
Ladder backed woodpecker
Golden fronted woodpecker
Inca Dove
Common Ground Dove
White Eyed Vireo l t
Black and White Warbler

White Ibis
Great White Egret
Roseate Spoonbill

Double Crested Cormorant t

Lesser Goldfinch
BB Hummingbird
Northern Waterthrush l t
Pied Billed Grebe