Our week long tour of Hill Country and south Texas ended on a high note with good looks at White-collared Seedeater, several male Blue Grosbeaks on territory, a male Cinnamon Teal, and a great look at a male Black-tailed Gnatcatcher.

Here is a pic of the Black-tailed Gnatcatcher. Not a a great shot, but this is a hard species to photograph in south Texas!

The only low point in the trip was arriving at the entrance road to 75 acre pond in Choke Canyon State Park. There was a barrier being put up by two female park rangers. I asked if we could get to the pond (where a Northern Jacana had been for several months) and was told abruptly NO. I asked where we could park to walk down the road and they said we couldn't even walk on the road! When I told them we had driven a long way just to look for the Jacana they said go look elsewhere in the park. The reason for the closure was the parking lot was flooded! The two staff members left a sour taste in our mouths about the state parks. All too often these government staff completely forget that they are supposed to be public servants!

On our final morning we drove back to San Antonio from Three Rivers. It is only about an hour and a half drive but we had fun counting Scissor-tailed Flycatchers. The tally was a remarkable 111 for the drive. At this time of year it is not unusual to see hundreds on a daily basis. Nonetheless one never tires of this gorgeous bird.

Also seen were a male Blue Grosbeak, 16 Crested Caracaras, and incredibly an Audubon's Oriole! We turned around and got better views of a pair of orioles including one gathering nest material. Here is an image of one bird which was perching atop a mesquite at the side of the road.

We ended the trip with an excellent total of 265 species - a reflection of the incredible spring birding in Hill Country and South Texas in April!



Today was a day for cleaning up the gaps in the list for the lower valley. We had seen both Hook-billed Kite and Clay-colored Robin at Santa Ana a few days before, but also wanted better views. Luckily at Anzalduas we managed to get not only better views of the kite, but also added at least 120 Mississippi Kites, and a male Painted Bunting watched in the scope as it bathed in a puddle in the road. At the North American butterfly park we added White-tailed Kite for our third kite species of the day and finally got much better looks at Clay-colored Robin. This one surprised me by singing well into the morning (at least until 10:30 am). If it hadnt been singing it would have been next to impossible to see. This is typical of the breeding season when these birds become much more secretive and sneaky.

In the heat of the day, we took a break and then in the late afternoon headed to the area around Salineno and Chapeno. There were at least three Red-billed Pigeons perched up for scope views on the island at Salineno. On the back road out of town I was truly surprised to come across at least four SCALED QUAIL including this singing male in a small mesquite. This species has been really tough in recent years, so this was a nice bit of luck to wrap up the day!


Laguna Atascosa is a large National Wildlife Refuge almost due east of Harlingen in south Texas. It is a good area to get nice pics of several of the common resident specialties such as Green Jay. While we were there at least three attended the feeders and were pretty unconcerned with our presence. They really are a gorgeous bird.

After almost two weeks in south Texas I had not seen ONE Roadrunner! On King Ranch we had heard one vocalize several times, but usually you bump into several in your travels. That was remedied today when we tallied no fewer than 5 Roadrunners in just over two hours. This one was feeding right in the open beside the road and really put on a nice show.

This refuge is one of the few places in the US with a population of Ocelots. There are several "slow for ocelots" signs along the 15 mile driving loop, which provide a real tease of the potential. We didn't see one of this gorgeous cats this time but we did get a great look at a Bobcat. He walked along the road in front of the car for several hundred yards allowing me to get a couple od distant snaps. The shot is heavily cropped but its still the only bobcat shot I have!!


On April 14th I joined the day tour of King Ranch led by researcher Tom Lanschied (sorry if I spelled your name wrong Tom). Tom was a fantastic guide, with a great sense of humour, and he really produced the birds. He also provided some great stories of the rich social history of this fascinating place.

Our four main targets here were Northern Beardless Tyrannulet (which was nabbed right away when we first exited the vehicles), Audubon's Oriole (again a pair picked up quickly only an hour into the tour - an often difficult species), Tropical Parula (it took us until early afternoon to get good views but it was worth the wait) and finally THE bird that everyone wants here - the FERRUGINOUS PYGMY OWL. We tried several sites for this bird before one responded. We walked in on it and got superb scope views for about five minutes before it moved away.

The day on the ranch is really a worthwhile experience. Tom provided a rich commentary on the remarkable history of the area. This beautiful King Ranch quarter horse was one of several we came across on the day.

Its great to have access to these habitats and the birding is really quality. Both the guides I have had here have been top notch and the full day trip is good value due to the high quality of the experience and the birds. A visit to King Ranch is highly recommended!


The central coast of Texas is full of great migrant traps. Blucher Park is an easily accessible one right in the center of Corpus Christi. Unfortunately this means it also home to some seedy characters and lots of homeless folks, but the birding is still great. I would recommend you don't visit this park late in the evening on your own and if birding there probably best to hang out with other birders (there are usually a bunch there).

I spent a few hours there earlier this week and there were lots of 'southern' songbirds. This male Summer Tanager was one of several present.

Blucher is a great place for ground dwelling warblers including tough ones like waterthrushes. We had great views of Louisiana Waterthrush and at least TEN Worm-eating Warblers including several point blank lengthy studies.

Other flashier warblers including this male Hooded. We had about a dozen of these plus a comparable number of Kentucky Warblers. This bird is always a stunner no matter how common.


Hill country is such an amazing place in April, so I couldn't help putting a few more pics on the blog before heading south to the valley. The first is of a very co-operative female Golden-cheeked Warbler. This one has a mouthful of crane fly... there was a big hatch during our visit. Golden-cheek is an endemic breeder to the state of Texas and a really beautiful bird.

The bat cave at Concan really is something special. I always tell birders they have to go there and they frequently are hesitant. However I have never had anyone visit this spectacle who didn't go away wowed by the experience.

This area is really a meeting ground for species from east west north and south. For many species it is the '...est' limit of their range. For example for Barred Owl it is the southwest limit of their range. They are quite common in the larger wooded riparian areas of the hills. This one responded well to an imitation of its call.

I really MUST get myself a Texas flower book. This year provided incredible opportunities for wildflower photography. I wish I knew how to properly capture this spectacle. I took a lot of shots with the new macro lens that Kathi got me for my birthday last year. This was one of the ones I liked the best. My apologies for not knowing the species!



This has been a wet winter in Hill Country in Texas and the result is an incredible show of spring wildflowers. In the eleven years I have enjoyed spring here, this is by far the best wildflower show. There are carpets of flowers filling entire fields in many locations and the roadsides are a flurry of colour almost everywhere. It is a real spectacle.


Kathi and I had a great evening at the bat cave at Concan a few nights ago. The weather was perfect and the bats emerged early enough to catch lots of bat raptor interactions. We watched as Red-tailed Hawks, Swainson's Hawks, a single Cooper's Hawk and a single Merlin all made successful attempts to capture Mexican Free-tailed Bats emerging from the cave. I managed to capture two images which really give a feel for this dynamic interaction.

In this first image you can see the moment of impact when the red-tailed goes talons out to grab the bat.

This is my favourite image as it really captures the raptor, the fleeing bats nearby and the single bat that has been snagged!