Black-throated Sparrow

Plain and simple, does it get any prettier than a nice adult Black-throated Sparrow?  I first saw this species in Big Bend National Park back in August 1989 and I was instantly drawn to its bold plumage.  Nothing like seeing this bird perched on blooming ocotillo singing its heart out.  This adult was photographed at the windmill blind on Transition Ranch near Uvalde, Texas.

Black-throated Sparrow Adult

Breeding Bird Surveys – Culberson County, TX

This past weekend my wife and I conducted a couple of Breeding Bird Surveys for the USGS in Culberson County, Texas.  We were privileged to have one route run right alongside Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  While running the route and surveying for birds, I tried out the iPhone 5 panoramic camera for a few shots and overall was pretty pleased with the quality of panoramic shots it produced.  Here are a couple and one is a complete 180º degree view.  The large mountain peak at the front is called El Capitan and is visible from many miles away.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Guadalupe Mountains National Park 180º View

When running the route, you don’t have time to photograph birds but on the first day we traveled from home to the Rattlesnake Springs Picnic Area which is a part of Carlsbad Caverns National Park.  A very rare Streak-backed Oriole had been seen for quite some time at the location and although we spent about four hours birding and photographing here, we were unable to locate the Oriole.  If you are traveling through the area, it is a very relaxing place to spend some time whether you are a birder or not.  The area is very dry but one small spot on the west side of the springs attracted a few nice birds such as Northern Waterthrush, Yellow-rumped Warblers (Audubon), Painted Bunting, Black-headed Grosbeak and Wilson’s Warblers.

Northern Waterthrush

Northern Waterthrush Rattlesnake Springs Picnic Area

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler Rattlesnake Springs Picnic Area

Knowing we had an early morning start for the Delaware Creek route (starting point was 17 miles west of Orla, TX – yea, you will have to google that!), we headed to Carlsbad for the night.  We stayed at the Motel 6 and while I usually am just fine staying at a Motel 6, this one was way overpriced due to oil worker demand for rooms.  Having stayed in Carlsbad several times, I knew we needed to eat at a local restaurant called Danny’s Place.  I got the Flip which is a flour tortilla grilled with hamburger patties, green chilis, cheese, spice salsa and grilled onions.  The BBQ is also good.

While running the Delaware Creek route, we had a few surprises such as a female Yellow-headed Blackbird, Yellow Warbler, Olive-sided Flycatcher, and a flock of Northern Shoveler’s and Blue-winged Teal in flight.  After finishing the route, we headed to Frijole Ranch (Click the name to go to Ebird website for Frijole Ranch) at Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  The spring has created an oasis in this park and birdwatchers are never disappointed and there are picnic tables for those just wishing to enjoy the peace and solitude.  We ended up visiting with travelers as much as birding but did manage a few nice shots while sitting at the picnic tables.

Ash-throated Flycatcher Frijole Ranch

Ash-throated Flycatcher
Frijole Ranch

Townsend's Solitaire Frijole Ranch

Townsend’s Solitaire
Frijole Ranch

We ran down to park headquarters and Mel checked out the displays since she had never been to the park.  When then ran down US 180/SH 54 to check out the starting point for the next day’s route, Salt Flat.  When we got to the spot, a nice Swainson’s Hawk fly directly overhead allowing a few shots.

Swainson's Hawk Salt Flat on US 180

Swainson’s Hawk
Salt Flat on US 180

Our lodging for the night would be Motel 6 in Van Horn and I will post tomorrow about your time in Van Horn.

10 Day South Texas Trip – Adventure Caravans RV Birding Reunion

During the last ten (10) days, I was busy co-leading a birding tour of the Lower Rio Grande Valley with a total of 58 participants!!  The tour was an Adventure Caravan Birding Tour and they were having a reunion of folks who had gone on previous tours such as Central America, Newfoundland, and Alaska to name a few.  The Tour Masters are Bert and Sharon Frenz and I can tell you participants certainly get their money’s worth as this was one of the most organized tours I have ever seen.  We were able to visit a plethora of amazing birding/butterfly locations and despite strong southeast winds that allowed migrants to fly right past, we still managed to find some outstanding birds and wildlife.  Each day found us traveling to a different destination and included sites such as Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, National Butterfly Center, Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Falcon State Park, Edinburg Scenic Wetlands & World Birding Center, Estero Llano Grande State Park, Boat Tour on Rio Grande River, Anzalduous County Park, Old Hildago Pumphouse, Frontera Audubon Center, Quinta Mazatlan, and the Valley Nature Center.

Grey Hawk Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park

Grey Hawk
Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park

Highlights of the trip including roosting Red-billed Pigeons on the Salineno Dump Road, Tropical Kingbird at Anzalduas County Park, Elf Owl near Bentsen, Common Paraque with chicks at Estero Llano Grande State Park, Grey Hawk at Bentsen, twelve (12) Greater Roadrunners at Falcon State Park, Ringed and Green Kingfishers along Rio Grande River, and Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet at several locations.  Butterfly numbers were starting to pick up at the National Butterfly Center as well and a few of us got the treat of watching a Gulf Coast Ribbon Snake swallow a Bullfrog tadpole.

Gulf Coast Ribbon Snake Eating Bullfrog Tadpole Edinburgh World Birding Center

Gulf Coast Ribbon Snake Eating Bullfrog Tadpole
Edinburgh World Birding Center

If you are interested in seeing some of these birds or visiting these locations, please contact me to join one of my workshops or to schedule a personal guide experience.  I can guide your birding or photography trip experience.