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2011-07-30

South Africa (ZA)   Two and a half days in Texas - Part 2  -  Categories: USA  -  @ 04:39:08 pm

Bear Creek, Paul Rushing Park, Katy Prairie, Warren Ranch Lake, Kleb Woods and W G Jones State Forest - Houston, Texas - 03 July 2011

Glen had prior committments and was unable to guide me today. However, he had arranged that Greg Page also a very knowledgable local birder guide me for the last day and this worked out really well. Greg was great company, had a good ear for calls and had stakeouts for some of my target birds. Images by Mike Pope


Again a pre-sunrise pickup as we headed to our first stop pretty close to the hotel called Bear Creek (no bears in this park though?). Driving to the parking area, we briefly saw a Possum - we turned round to photograph it and it had disappeared. As we we were back into forest, I had to use flash. First bird up was an Acadian Flycatcher carrying food - so it had young nearby

Acadian Flycatcher

Another Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren

Followed by an elusive White-eyed Vireo

White-eyed Vireo

and then the male Summer Tanager, which really stood out in the green foliage

Summer Tanager

We managed to entice a calling Barred Owl to show itself, but before I could get my camera up it was mobbed by American Crows and retreated. I was more fortunate with a first year Cooper's Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

An Orb Spiders web backlit by the morning sun and the front side showing it preparing it's breakfast

Orb Spider

Orb Spider

On the way into the trail, there was a park sign warning visitors of the snakes in this park, particulary the venomous Cottonmouth. So not easy to do canopy birding whilst watching where you put your feet. Fortunately, I spotted this non-venomous Broad-banded Water Snake before it saw me

Broad-banded Water Snake

By now the light had improved and we checked some of the more open parks - finding Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

A calling Pine Warbler took some time to locate high in one of the tall pines

Pine Warbler

A few more Summer Tanagers - a male in transition and a female

Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager

Brown-headed Cowbird

Brown-headed Cowbird

and a bird we had looked for earlier - Great Crested Flycatcher

Great Crested Flycatcher

back at the car before leaving, we had a juvenile Tufted Titmouse wrestling with a rather large grasshopper

Tufted Titmouse

We headed to Paul Rushing Park - an open area with walkways and large ponds where a Black-necked Stilt was feeding in the shallows

Black-necked Stilt

We noted two Semipalmated Sandpipers on the banks of the pond - early autumn arrivals

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Paul Rushing Park is the location for Cave Swallow which nest underneath the raised walkways. This species is very similar to the Cliff Swallow seen on Friday

Cave Swallow

Cave Swallow

An Eastern Meadowlark trying to seek shelter from the heat of the sun which also had us wilting a little

Eastern Meadowlark

In amongst the lilies, we picked out a diminutive Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

I had been a bit crisped by the sun when we departed for Greg's stake out at Herbert Road, Katy Prairie. Even in less than ideal light conditions, the male Painted Bunting certainly does it's name justice

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

Driving out of Katy Prarie we had a Red-tailed Hawk fly by - not the White-tailed we were looking for. For the White-tailed we needed to have been in this area much earlier in the morning - always a toss up of where to go first

Red-tailed Hawk

Next stop was Warren Ranch Viewing Platform that overlooked a large pan where a scope was required. No new birds here, but we did find a Killdeer nesting almost in the middle of the parking area

Killdeer

As time was passing, we grabbed a McDonalds and headed Kleb Woods - the only site close to Houston where Roadrunner had been recorded. Unfortunately for us we had no luck (wrong time of day and year), so we drove to our final site - W G Jones State Forest. This is THE site for endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker, the only north american woodpecker that excavates it's cavity in living Pine Trees

W G Jones

Walking slowly though the open forest, we located Brown-headed Nuthatch

Brown-headed Nuthatch

Brown-headed Nuthatch

We heard Pileated Woodpecker and then saw a pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers

Red-headed Woodpecker

followed by a tatty looking Indigo Bunting. In breeding plumage, the male is a spectacular bird

Indigo Bunting

Although it was feeding young a week ago, we did not find the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker which is at the southern limit of its range at WG Jones. Time was up and Greg dropped me off at the airport, where I had to freshen up and change in the mens washroom before checking in. I had a great 2.5 days birding with Glen and Greg, saw most of the prime birding sites and with a 110 birds I was pretty pleased given that I had missed migration and breeding season. As always, there are birds missed and the iconic Roadrunner will be high on my list when I next visit Texas.

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

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