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Day 2:  Granger Lake to Elgin

So instead of starting around the San Gabriel area the next morning, I went straight back to Sore Finger in hopes of catching the Whooping Cranes take off for their feeding grounds, or maybe a Short-eared Owl hunting the grasslands. Got a Harrier instead, and gave the Whoopers until eight to show up (which they didn't), so decided to explore CR 352 to the north, where Sam said they had them after they had flown. Sure enough, I first heard, then saw the family of three drifting down to the west way out there, and then they were gone from sight! Had I arrived just a few minutes later I would have missed them completely!

Wanting to see if I could get over that direction, I continued on 352 and turned left on CR 351, which zigged and zagged all over the place. I hit the jackpot at one little creek crossing, however, and had sparrows galore: mostly Whitecrowns, but also several Harris', which I was thrilled to see! A single Field Sparrow also popped up. I found CR 350 and took that south, and that turned into 353 at a ranch; after curving around the cows I couldn't believe my eyes—there was the Whooper family, almost right next to the road! The youngster was even close enough to make out the markings on his leg bands!  (I was busy that night trying to file a report for the Whooper Watch…)

       

Sparrows on a dreary morning along one of the County Roads north of Granger Lake (L-R:  Harris', Field, and White-crowned)

The prize was this entrepreneurial Whooping Crane family who decided to stick around Granger Lake for the winter instead of joining the rest of the Whoopers at Aransas!

   

The youngster is banded, with the numbers clearly being seen.

The family.

Everything was gravy after that; I did go down CR 357 to try and find Sam's Burrowing Owl, but no luck. Next stop was Friendship Park where I failed to kick up a LeConte's Sparrow (habitat looked great, though), but was able to pick up a drumming/laughing Downy Woodpecker for the trip and a singing Eastern Bluebird on the way out! I wanted to check out that grassland behind the dam as well, but just managed to find Savannah Sparrows (and the wind was still howling as well, so all my birding was done from the car, thank you very much...).

 

Granger Lake from Friendship Park

       

Savannah Sparrow in the grassland behind Granger Dam

Said grassland...

Back up on the dam I dipped on the reported Bald Eagle, so decided to head straight to Willis Creek Park, where the Snipes had been the day before. The only one I saw this day was one a worker happened to flush, but lots of Killdeer were about, and turning the corner to the day use area was another Sparrow Bonanza: in addition to the Whiteys was able to add Lincoln's, Song, and a brilliant White-throated Sparrow! Down at the shelter the wind had died down considerably (or else it was just literally sheltered in there), so I strolled around the woodland edges and had more goodies, including the first Orange-crowned Warbler of the trip, and was surprised to find what looked like a Tufted Titmouse! So I assumed they both occurred there, but Eric Carpenter wrote me back and explained that they’re all Dixon’s here, so that certainly explained the “slaty-crested” titmouse at Lake Travis!  Sparrows were everywhere, and I was particularly looking for Sam's Fox Sparrow; in the cacophony of Whitecrowns was a song I admit stumped me—thankfully I got a decent recording which I posted below, so I was hoping someone would give me feedback!  They did:  Darrell Vollert wrote me back and said it sounded like a Fox Sparrow, and I was honestly wondering if that’s what it could have been, seeing as Fox Sparrow songs can be notoriously variable (and it doesn’t help when the different races have different songs, either…)  On the way out the Lord encouraged me to check that sparrow flock at the start of the Day Use road again, and bingo! Up popped the Fox Sparrow! Lovely bird!

Views from the dam overlook

Along the entrance road at Willis Creek Park

Killdeer

Song Sparrow

   

"Myrtle" Warbler

Orange-crowned Warbler

The White-crowned Sparrow Symphony at the sheltered picnic area

Subsong of a Fox Sparrow, with the chortle of a Harris' Sparrow in the middle (thanks, Darrell, for solving the mystery!)

Granger Lake from the boat ramp

Sam mentioned a Macedonia Cemetery, but the only cemetery I saw up along CR 348 had every name but that, it seemed, so I crawled through looking for a Red-headed Woodpecker, but nada (he wrote me later and informed me it was three miles west of Granger, so you definitely had to know about that one). Headed straight to the back roads of Elgin after that just to scout the roads and figure out a route; never saw nary a suspicious longspur flock, but did have a couple of pale Redtails (one was probably a Krider's as the tail was very whitish with a salmon wash to the tip).  My only concern was that there’s hardly any place to pull over (except for peoples’ driveways), and the locals don’t dilly-dally on these back roads, either; you’d better be really pulled over! On the way back to Taylor I passed a blackbird flock in the woods, so I swung around to check it out, and it turned out to be mostly Common Grackles, their glossy blue heads contrasting nicely with their bronzy bodies!

 

Where CO 348 crosses Willis Creek

   

Two pale Red-tailed Hawks along the back roads of Elgin (adult left, immature right)

Click here to continue to Elgin revisited; here to go back to Lake Travis

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