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Lower Panhandle

Part 7:  South Llano River SP

Woke up around 5:30, so that got me out of there in plenty of time to get to the park by sunrise!  Wrens were the order of the pre-dawn, with both Bewick’s and House scolding (the latter were burbling as well) and Carolinas singing and calling in the distance.  A Great Blue Heron squawked, and what I presume was the same individual was standing guard at the river when I went by!  The Lesser Goldfinches that chattered and wheed at one stop turned out to be new for the trip, and it’s always a treat to see the Blackbuck in the game preserve next door, only this time they were right next to the fence (but still too dingy to take pictures)!  The office was open by the time I crawled up there, and the Turkeys were in the field across the street, just like last time!  Only I wish I had been on the ball and gotten a movie of this:  a big ol’ stag was making quick headway right into the midst of the flock, which sent them scrambling!  After he broke up the party he hit the brakes and kind of threw his head back a little and looked right at me as if to say, “So whaddaya think of that?!” J

Since the day use area was closed until ten, I finished up the road birding and headed to the Juniper Blind, where I remembered too late that you really need to bring the stool, as there’s no seat by the “photographer’s window” (the rest of the glass was still fogged over)!  So I sat on the very edge of the bench and tried as best I could to shoot the titmice, Cardinals, and whatever else came in.  A guy with his little girl came in shortly, so after five minutes I let them have the place (I overheard the ranger telling someone on the phone that they were booked that night, and I believe it:  South Llano was a popular place today!) then headed back to the Fawn Trail to take my exercise walk. 

   

Black-crested Titmice at the Juniper Blind

That was a great walk, too:  right at the parking lot a Cactus Wren was sitting on the wire along with some House Finches, and lots of White-winged Doves were hanging around.  Another trip bird, a Carolina Chickadee, came in for a look, and had a three-sparrow bush with Field, Chipping, and Black-throated all represented (although I didn’t see the latter—he was just singing his little tinkly song).  Later I realized that I hadn’t seen any Whitecrowns, as they usually inundate the place!  But towards the end of the trail I was thrilled to hear a target bird I missed here last spring: the Western Scrub Jay! J  (A Common Raven honked in the distance for good measure…)  On the way back a Hermit Thrush did his funny little wheezy call, and this time I dragged the stool with me for a session at the Aquirre (sp?) Blind, and that place was hopping:  I spent a full 15 minutes there!  The star of the show here was a Nashville Warbler that came in for a bath, and a Field Sparrow came in a couple of times, but it was mostly titmice (out the yin yang), chickadees, and Cardinals.  A young couple came in shortly after I did, and I encouraged them to look over my shoulder (the windows here were still fogged up as well), but they ended up going to the “windows” on the outside.  After my session was up we traded places and I headed back to the parking lot where a group of kids were getting ready to go on a hike (they all had the same shirt on, so they must have been part of a group).

   

White-winged Doves near the start of the Fawn Trail

The intersection with the WMA road makes a good turnaround point!

Scene going back

   

Back at the blind, a ragamuffin Nashville Warbler takes a dip!

          

A little later he returns for a dip in the upper pool!  (Note the wagging tail second shot from the left...)

   

An Orange-crowned Warbler also comes in for a bath!

   

Field Sparrows

Even a deer crashes the joint!

I really needed to think about starting back, but decided to spend at least five minutes at the blind at the old barn, but nothing much came in there except titmice (of course).  A big flock of siskins flew over while I was walking to the blind, and I was planning on stopping at the river for five in hopes of specialty kingfishers, but a family was already there, so that was my “sign” to head home!

Trail to the "Barn Blind"

Windshield shot of the main road heading out

Flew down the freeway to Kerrville (and an 80 mph speed limit—holy smokes!) and didn’t get turned around at Bandera like I did last time! J  That drive is indeed gorgeous, and a nice alternative to battling San Antonio traffic (besides, I figured they were still working on the road and didn't wanna sit in traffic for a hour like I did on the way out)!  While there were relatively few butters on this trip, they made up for it along 281:  I musta killed a gazillion Snouts around Alice, then closer to Falfurrias they were replaced by Queens!  Made it home fine, with a grand total of 118 species for the trip!

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