Friday, February 01, 2008

Texas Trip Part V - 01/27/08 Birding in the North

Having figured out the best way to go to Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, we went there on Sunday morning. All the literature I've read and all the advice I received from those who have been there were unanimous in saying that this place is a must-see for birding. The fact that it is close enough to the city of San Benito (where we intend to attend services at Calvary Chapel) made it all the more necessary to find out what the refuge had to offer.

As we neared Laguna Atascosa, there were Harris' Hawks perched on almost every other electric pole. We got our 25th bird. We scoured the fields, tree tops and electric poles hoping for the rare Aplomado Falcon, but we dipped on that.

The ubiquitous feeders next to the Nature Center were populated by the usual Cardinals and Green Jays with a sprinkling of Long-billed Thrashers. The strange leucistic Cardinal (a bird with an almost all-white plumage - as opposed to the normal bright red) mingled among its more colorful co-species.

We proceeded to the Lakeside Drive where a Roadrunner was offering some goodies to the object of its affection. Living up to its cartoon counterparts, a Coyote strolled by. Too bad the two didn't actually meet. It would be nice to see how that would go in real life.

Other than these two creatures Lakeside had nothing much to offer. May I mention here that the skies had once more become overcast and a little cold wind had started to pick up.

It was time for church. The congregation at Borderland Calvary Chapel were very friendly and the service typical of all Calvary Chapels. The service ended at 12 noon. Our search for a place to eat brought us to Luby's in Harlingen. Luby's is actually a cafeteria style restaurant where you "point" to the food you want. It was a bit pricey for a cafeteria and the food wasn't that good. But what caught our attention was the predominantly white clientele. So much unlike the buffet restaurants we've been to where patrons were mostly Hispanics. Needless to say we got our share of curious glances as being the only Orientals around.

Lunch over, we headed back to Laguna Atascosa, once again seeing several Harris' Hawks along the way. This time we took the 15-mile Bayside Drive which would put us near the shore of the Laguna Madre - the body of water that separates mainland Texas from the South Padre Island.

Here we saw what I thought was an interesting scene. An Osprey was enjoying it's freshly caught meal. Nearby was a Ring-billed Gull trying to steal the Osprey's lunch. Add to this two Ruddy Turnstones darting in and out between the two much bigger birds, picking up tiny morsels dropped by the Osprey. The story ended with the gull finally making a quick jab at the fish and got away with it. At least the Osprey had already eaten much of the fish. So all's well that ends well.

Surveying the seashore, I picked up two lifers in succession: an American Golden Plover and a White Ibis. A white-phased Reddish Egret was doing it's quaint fishing techniques on the shallow waters.

On the road back we got lifer #28 - an Eastern Meadowlark. Quick looks at a White-tailed Hawk and Northern Bobwhites brought our total to 30 for the entire trip.

The skies continued to darken and the freezing wind prompted us to call it a day and head back to the hotel.

No comments: