Southern Texas, 5/18-21/15

All photos are Marshall Faintich

Beep! Beep!   Coyotes and Greater Roadrunner (left) at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park

Walt Childs and I had been planning this short trip to the Lower Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas since last January. I had compiled a list of about 35 high priority species that I wanted to see, and Walt had never been to the Lower Rio Grande Valley. We did a lot of planning for potential birding sites, and the local Chamber of Commerce sent me a good map of the birding sites in that part of Texas. A lower priority goal for me was to see at least 28 life birds, as I had 572 before the start of the trip, and wanted to reach the 600 mark. In the following text, I highlighted all the life birds I saw on this trip in bold lettering. We decided that going after the target birds was more important than trying to see as many species as possible, but we kept track of all the avian species we logged on the trip, and ended up with 118. I took almost 4,000 photos on this trip, and have posted about 10 percent of them on this trip report. In order to make the report more readable, I have included a few photos with each trip site, and the rest of the photos can be viewed using links at the end of this report. A complete list of trip birds can be found at the end of the report as well.

We didn't have time to go to all of the potential birding sites. There were two target birds that I wanted to see that were north of the Lower Rio Grande Valley: Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo, so we flew to San Antonio on May 17, and drove to Kerrville that night. We started birding early the next morning at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area where these two species were possible. The map below shows where we birded on the trip. North is to the left so that the map fits better on this web page.

Trip map

Kerr WMA; morning of 5/18/15

The WMA staff suggested that we look for the Golden-cheeked Warbler along Spring Trap about 1/4 mile before the main entrance. We started birding there, heard several birds singing, and I thought that I heard a Golden-cheeked Warbler, but all we saw were some Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, a Bewick's Wren, two Lark Sparrows (one of my favorite sparrow species), a Yellow-breasted Chat, a quick look at an almost all-golden oriole that was probably a Bullock's, and a few other common species.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Bewick's Wren

Lark Sparrows

There were a lot more birds to see once we drove onto the main road through the WMA. Some of the bird species were White-winged, Mourning, and Eurasian-collared Doves; Barn Swallow; House Finch; Painted Bunting; and Common Raven. We stopped about a mile down the drive when I heard and saw a couple of Black-capped Vireos, but I wasn't able to get any decent photos of them at that stop. We drove farther down the road, and then turned back. A male Wild Turkey was showing off.

Wild Turkey

We stopped at a small picnic area where the WMA staff had told us was a good place to find Black-capped Vireos. A beautiful Lark Sparrow posed for some close-up photos.

Lark Sparrow

Lark Sparrow

Playing tapes of bird songs wasn't permitted, so I kept telling myself that Black-capped Vireos sounded a bit like White-eyed Vireos that I could easily recognize. I heard that song, trekked through some dense brush, and guess what I found? A White-eyed Vireo! And then I heard a bird song that I didn't recognize, so I followed it to my second life bird of this trip: Rufous-crowned Sparrow.

Rufous-crowned Sparrow

Rufous-crowned Sparrow

And then I saw and heard another Black-capped Vireo. A few times I was less than six feet away from it while it quickly flew from one branch to another in dense foliage. I never had time to get my camera on it and focus, and thought that I might miss getting a photo. But it rested for a brief moment, and I got off a few shots.

Black-capped Vireo

Black-capped Vireo

We saw a few more species on our way back to the main entrance.

Brown-crested Flycatcher

We had lots of places to go in only a few days, but I really wanted to see a Golden-cheeked Warbler. We had read of another park where we might see this species, but it was out of the way. We decided to try the trail at Spring Trap a second time for a quick look. Success! Within 5 minutes of hiking this trail a second time, I heard and then saw my third life bird of this trip.

Golden-cheeked Warbler

Golden-cheeked Warbler

Click here to continue on the trip south to the El Canelo Ranch

Click here to jump to the El Canelo Ranch report
Click here to jump to the Estero Llano Grande State Park report
Click here to jump to the Anzalduas County Park report
Click here to jump to the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park report
Click here to jump to the Santa Ana NWR report
Click here to jump to the Hwy 100 to South Padre Island report
Click here to jump to the South Padre Island report
Click here to jump to the Laguna Atascosa NWR and north to San Antonio report

Click here for additional photos and the complete avian trip list

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