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Texas Hill Country & Storm-Chasing

Part 11:  Lake Arrowhead SP & LBJ National Grasslands

I was also debating the wisest course of action: Jip’s starter (or whatever) was acting up again (last time this happened it was the coolant sensor), so I was trying to decide whether to go straight to Oklahoma City and have them work on it (and leave it there if need be), or just pray he makes it home (as the trouble was only first thing in the morning). The fact that OK City didn’t even have a Subaru place (the closest one was in Norman) prompted me to go ahead and finish up the birding despite the weather. But there was a break in the rain the next morning so I decided to go ahead and take a look at Lake Arrowhead, and it was really quite birdy starting out: Eastern Bluebirds were at the entrance station, and driving north four hours sure made a difference in the bird list: Common Grackles were all over, a Dickcissel sang from the top of a tree, and an oriole chattered that, according to the map, is most likely Baltimore around here.  It did start to spit again (pretty hard at times), so I didn't get to hike, but I poked around as many roads as I could.  At the lake there was some nice marshland habitat where I added Forster's Tern to the trip list, and a cooperative Yellow-headed Blackbird fed in the grass!  I was surprised that I hadn't had Great Egret for the trip yet (there were plenty of them), but also had a Little Blue Heron sail by, which I knew was new!  A family of Canada Geese was real cute with their goslings, and a daddy grackle had a nose full of grass while he gave his rusty gate call!

     

The marsh at Lake Arrowhead State Park

                             

Canada Goose family and Yellow-headed Blackbirds

Headed over to LBJ National Grasslands after that, and it actually cleared up quite nicely!  Found the headquarters building near Decatur where I bought a map, and that was indispensable; even with the map I got turned around back there!  But for a "grassland" it was really quite forested and beautiful:  had a lot of old friends such as Painted and Indigo Buntings, Summer Tanagers, Carolina Chickadees, and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, but Tufted Titmice replaced the Black-crested (although I guess they also get up this far north)!  I also heard a towhee singing a perfect Drink-your-TEEE! song, but apparently only the Spotted occurs here.

   

Scenes along the road in LBJ National Grassland

      

  I basically road-birded the actual NG tracts (there was a lot of leased land back there), and where there was actual grassland had Grasshopper, Field, and Lark Sparrows, and Eastern Meadowlarks singing.  I stopped at a couple of the lakes, and had a woodpecker bonanza at Black Creek Lake with Red-bellied, Downy, and Hairy, all new for the trip!  Also picked up Eastern Kingbird for the trip there, but Scissortails were all over.  They also had a Chimney Swift roost site, which was very interesting (and speaking of which, I got to see a pair in display flight, which was really neat)!

   

Black Creek Lake

             

Field Sparrow and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

The other lake I was able to get to was Clear Lake, but it was rather quiet; a handful of people were fishing there, but still picked up Great Blue Heron for the day.  Pulling out, I spotted a fabulous, pearly Mississippi Kite perched on a dead branch!

   

Clear Lake, and not-so-clear inlet

        

Hidden pond along the road.  For a "grassland", it was actually quite wooded!

         

With "Jip", and a small part of the flower show...

The butterfly show was incredible: they were all over the roads!  Most of them were Buckeyes, American Ladies, Variegated Frits, and Question Marks, but also had several Hackberry Emperors, and a crescent I thought was a Pearl at first, but now I'm not sure what it was (and unfortunately I wasn't able to get a good shot of the underwings).  I also saw (but was unable to photograph) what may have been a Zebulon Skipper, as it had a big yellow patch underneath.  The usual sulphurs were bouncing around, and of the big guys, had great looks at Pipevine and Black Swallowtail, and found what I thought at first was a dead Pipevine (the ants were starting on it), but when I went to turn it over, it jerked its wings!  I did manage to flip it and his legs were still barely moving, but he was definitely on his way out.  I walked away feeling sorry for it, but what I didn't realize until I looked at the photos later was that it was the coveted Red-spotted Purple!

                   

L-R:  Variegated Fritillaries, American Lady, and Common Buckeye

        

Hackberry Emperors

       

Question Marks

                               

Mystery crescent that had even the Bug Club guys stumped, and Fiery Skipper

The big guys...

                            

Black Swallowtail (left) and worn Pipevine Swallowtails

    

Red-spotted Purple literally on its last legs; this is one of many "Pipevine Mimics" that fool predators into thinking they’re the distasteful Pipevine Swallowtail!

I wanted to head to Gainesville around three, so when the beeper went off I turned around, but just happened to look up, and there high in the sky was a "tornado" of White Pelicans!  What a show!

   

White Pelican tornado...

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