Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Birding Texas: Estero Llano Grande State Park

During my time in Texas, I spent most of one day birding at Estero Llano Grande State Park.  For many birders that visit the valley, this is the highlight of the trip.  Almost all of the specialties are possible as well as many species of waterbirds due to the extensive lake/marsh habitat.  My favorite area of the park is the tropical zone which is a heavily wooded in most areas and usually holds a few uncommon birds.  The visitor center (which you have to pay at) is also a nice spot to scan one of the marshes that is usually very good.

Clay-colored Thrush
The tropical zone is an interesting area with a few houses mixed throughout the forest but the habitat is still great and attracts many species.  There is a feeding station which attracts most of the common birds in the area and a water drip that usually has a Clay-colored Thrush or Olive Sparrow both of which do not commonly come out into the open.

I cropped this a bit closer than the original so the Common Pauraque
wouldn't be too difficult to find. 
Green Jay-one of the common birds that visit the feeding station in the
tropical zone.
 The marshes teem with waterfowl of many species including the extremely cute, Least Grebe.  It is also one of the more reliable spots to find Fulvous Whistling-Duck during the winter.  Of course, as with most lakes in the area there are always a good number of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks.  Both Green and Ringed Kingfishers hunt the marshes and canals; during my visit I watched as a Ringed Kingfisher tried to eat a turtle.  I eventually left the kingfisher when it seemed like he would never be successful in downing the turtle.  Kingbirds usually hunt over the marshes as well with Tropical being the expected species in the late fall/winter.

2 Green-winged Teal and a Fulvous Whistling-Duck

Pretty much, it is a great place to bird, with something new around every corner.

-Eric


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