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Day 4:  Hornsby Bend to Bastrop State Park

Dawn at the entrance to Hornsby Bend

             I thought that Best Western in Austin was the best until I got to the one in Bastrop! J  And they didn’t have a room on the ground floor, shucky darn!  (With an elevator it really doesn’t matter…)  I did need to call for directions, though, because I never spotted it on my way to the state park, and it is tricky to get to!

             But I’m getting ahead of myself:  returned to Hornsby Bend on a sunny, crisp, and thankfully windless morning, where the Lord insisted on checking out at grove in the parking area, and I’m glad I did—besides a cute little “Dixon’s” Titmouse, a Red-breasted Nuthatch came in to investigate!  Otherwise it was the usual Butterbutts, Starlings, and White-winged Doves (minus the chocolate one), plus a calling Bluebird somewhere out there.

    

All titmice in this area are intergrades between Black-crested and Tufted, dubbed "Dixon's Titmouse".  While variable, they usually show a slightly darker crest and a brown forehead (pure birds show white or black foreheads respectively).  And, yes, they usually have tails!

             Decided to stop at all the parking spots, the first one being by some sludge where supposedly the Rusty Blackbird was seen.  Got a pair of pipits instead who called very nicely (and had pink legs I discovered later)!  The ducks on the main drive were in glorious morning light; managed to pick up a female Canvasback this time, but still no Goldeneye that I could see.  A phoebe had replaced the Vermilion Flycatcher, and at the shelter I took the whole Upper Ridge Trail, which was beautiful:  it gave you a great view of the Colorado River (but needed my standard lens to shoot it, which I didn’t have on me), and that’s where all the wigeon and Gadwall were, plus the two herons for the day!  Bad news was that I lost the trail shortly thereafter, but the good news was that you could see the main trail through the trees, so I just headed that way and back.  A White-throated Sparrow pinked loudly, and a Hermit Thrush came in to my bad owl whistle!  Took a bit of the trail from the other trailhead as well, where some chickadees were counter-singing, and where I sacrificed a knockout shot of a gnatcatcher to get it!  They were worth it, though!  Picked up some deer while driving the auto tour “backwards” later, and at one point couldn’t believe my eyes—a butterfly was batting around (in 34-degree temps, at least according to Bippy’s thermometer)!!  I tracked it down and it turned out to be an American Lady—tough bug!

   

American Pipit - most have black legs, some some birds show pinkish legs, as does this individual.  You can hear how they got their name!

Two similar "pochards":  Ring-necked Duck (left) and Lesser Scaup

Ring-necked Duck pair

Ruddy Duck coming into breeding plumage

Green-winged Teal

Eastern Phoebe hanging out where the Vermilion was yesterday

The Shovelers are at it again, only prettier in the sun!

Listen carefully for the soft chup-chups of the males, the quacking of the females, and even a couple of birds taking flight!

Keeping an eye on the photographer...

Females

Males having a scuffle over personal space...

Eared Grebe

Same view from the south side, only on a prettier day!

A Hermit Thrush along the Riverside Trail

   

Carolina Chickadee song and calls

Listen carefully, and you'll hear this Carolina Wren change his song when he hears a rival singing in the distance!

White-throated Sparrow alarm call

A big surprise was this American Lady batting around in 34 degree temps!

White-tailed Deer

   

Killdeer

             Headed out to the Platt Lane trailhead after that, and I didn’t think the first stop along the road would be very productive, but ended up calling up point blank Lincoln’s and White-crowned Sparrows for knockout shots!  A Fuertes’ Hawk soared overhead as well.  The Lord was merciful, and one of the shots I got of the lost Buffbelly was in perfect focus (the autofocus was causing consternation over the course of the day…)  This time a hardy ode was along the trail, which turned out to be a female Variegated Meadowhawk!  Found a loop trail along here as well that wasn’t marked on the map, but it led to “Platt’s Pond”, so I decided to risk it.  Turns out the pond was right there, but down the bank and hidden by trees, so you really couldn’t see anything.  But the star of the show seeed and then proceeded to flit from tree to tree:  a Brown Creeper!  I was very happy to get that guy for the state!  And the trail shortly opened up into an open area of grassland, and then dumped out on the main trail, so there was no worry about getting lost.

Lincoln's Sparrow along Platt Lane

Immature White-crowned Sparrow

   

Adults

   

Song Sparrow

"Fuertes'" Red-tailed Hawk shows a clean white breast.

Buff-bellied Hummingbird - common in the Rio Grande Valley but a vagrant up in these parts!

Brown Creeper

Another hardy bug--this one's a female Variegated Meadowhawk.

             Then it was time to head to Bastrop, and I was very pleasantly surprised to find that, despite the horrific fire they had in 2011, much of the habitat was still intact!  Most of the damage was along the Scenic Drive, and it brought back flashbacks of birding Lost Pine Road (I think that’s the name of it—isn’t that terrible that I can’t remember??  Just looked it up—it’s Pine Creek Road…) after the Cedar Fire!  But it was still very birdy:  Pine Warblers were singing all over, and also picked up Siskin and a flock of Chippies for the trip!  Another Texbirder had reported Hairy and Pileated Woodpeckers, and managed to pick up both (although I only got a fleeting glimpse of the latter).

Scene coming into Buescher State Park

Part of the ten-mile scenic road connecting Bastrop and Buescher State Parks

A horrific wildfire in 2011 destroyed over 90% of Bastrop State Park...

...but the woodpeckers love this stuff!  In between the clicks of Bippy's catalytic converter you'll hear the sharp peek! of a Hairy Woodpecker, and way in the distance a Pileated is calling.

A remnant that was spared...

Pine Warbler

Click here to continue to Bastrop SP revisited; here to return to Elgin

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