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Quickie West Texas

Day 3 South Llano River State Park

As predicted, got to South Llano River SP well before dawn and was rewarded with a hooting Great Horned Owl and lots of Mockers tuning up and scolding!  By the time I circled the campground it was just getting light enough to see, and added a singing Eastern Phoebe to the trip list there.  Headed to the top of the hill and did the BBS protocol again, this time stopping every .3 mile, and along the first flat area found a feeding flock consisting of a mess of Field Sparrows and a couple of Orange-crowned Warblers!  A Scissor-tailed Flycatcher sang somewhere unseen, and of course the Scrub Jays made themselves known.  A stop next to the exotic game farm was entertaining, as the morning sun was brilliant against the sharply marked Blackbuck, and what was probably some kind of gazelle bounced around as though their legs were made of springs!  In addition to the White-tailed Deer, some kind of exotic spotted deer (Fallow?) was running around loose and crossed the road several times.  While stopped for a listen after the road makes that hard left, I was pleasantly surprised to hear a Ringed Kingfisher rattling from the river!  Picking up the Green would make it a kingfisher sweep for the trip!

   

Male Blackbuck in an exotic game enclosure next to the park.

Stopped at the office to get my permit, and while they told me that the feeders would be stocked sometime that morning, they never did get stocked (at least while I was making the rounds, and I hit them all before 1:00), so that was disappointing.  But stepping out of the office I was greeted with a herd of Turkeys across the road, as if to confirm the ranger’s comment that the Day Use road wouldn’t open till ten in order to let the Turkeys get to their “space”!  I was really happy to hear my beloved Blue Jay calling from the woods across the way, and on the way to the potty a pretty Vermilion Flycatcher preened in a tree next to the building. 

Wild Turkeys hightailing it across the entrance to the Day Use Area!

   

The next stop was the Walk-in Camping Trail (where I checked out the quiet blind for five), but the road up to the water tower was hopping with stuff!  Western Bluebirds flew overhead (which are a bit east of their range here, but apparently it's a boon winter for western wanderers), and another flock included Chipping Sparrows, Bewick’s Wrens, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a titmouse, and best of all, a Hutton’s Vireo!  Wasn’t expecting that one, but maybe I should have been, seeing as they’re permanent residents in San Diego, too…  While I was taping the wrens a Hermit Thrush chimed in with his thook!  Down near the bottom a couple of Inca Doves were looking for “Bob Hope”… J

White-tailed Deer and fawn in the parking lot

View of the road to the water tower from the top of the hill

Two Bewick's Wrens scold, with a Hermit Thrush thooking in the background...

Excited Hermit Thrush (you can hear the seeps of Chipping Sparrows in the background...)

Scolding Black-crested Titmouse, with the rapid scold of a Hutton's Vireo coming in near the end.  Also audible is the Hermit Thrush and the high teep of a Northern Cardinal.

Hutton's Vireo scold by itself

Next I went to check out the blind behind the headquarters along the Fawn Trail, and about the only thing braving the area was a Field Sparrow.  As is not uncommon, the most action was close to the trailhead, with more Field Sparrows, Cardinals, and a Verdin for the trip.  A Spotted Towhee called and came racing in, and a Black-throated Sparrow sat up nicely in good light as well, and by this time the butters were on the move, with a Sleepy Orange and a beat-up Gray Hairstreak competing for attention.

Fawn Trail

   

This Field Sparrow had the whole feeder area to himself!

   

What they look like in natural light...

Black-throated Sparrow

Spotted Towhee call note

Sleepy Orange hanging upside-down...

By that time the Day Use Road was open, so I headed in and hiked a nice loop trail that bordered the Llano River for a bit, but no Green Kingfisher. L  Did pick up a Canyon and House Wren and Carolina Chickadee along this trail, which takes you back through gorgeous, tall oak woodland.  A beautiful Black Swallowtail decided to land and sun on the path as well!

South Llano River

Buck Lake Trail

Common Mestra, actually more "common" in the Valley than up here!

Black Swallowtail

After trying out their composting toilet I discovered that had I gone a little further on that last trail, I would have run into the Acorn Blind, so I decided to drive back to the parking area at the campground and cut through that way.  Again, the place was dead, but the Lord compensated with some great butters:  this one bush was just loaded with stuff, including a Variegated Fritillary just begging to have its picture taken, several Elada Checkerspots, and this bizarre Bordered Patch whose band was mostly white!

   

These may be either Phaon or Painted Crescents (didn't get a look at the ventral side), but check out the caterpillar on the left--I didn't even see that until I looked at the pictures!  Anyone know what it is??

   

Odd (leucistic?) Bordered Patch

What they're supposed to look like...

       

Elada Checkerspots

   

Variegated Fritillary

Southern Dogface

The last blind to check was the one by the old buildings (near where I heard the Ringed Kingfisher), and ironically this one was hopping (even without the seed), but mostly with House Sparrows and Cardinals!  A female Lesser Goldfinch decided to come in while I was there.  From there decided to make one last try for the Green Kingfisher, so I stopped in the parking area just before the river crossing and walked the connector trail between that lot and the Day Use lot.  Hit pay dirt here as the tell-tale tic-tic came from my side of the river, and shortly a cute little lady Green Kingfisher shot out and across to the other side, bobbing and raising her tail in time with her tics!  Kingfisher Sweep! J

Was time to head for Kerrville after that, enjoying the drive to Kerr WMA.  Both roads make an eight-mile route (I think that’s what it came out to), but as gorgeous as it was, it was understandably quiet that time of day (the rangers were cooking something in the conference center, and boy, did it smell good!).  I mainly wanted to ensure there were no planned hunts the next day (have been unpleasantly surprised by that kind of thing in the past), and there weren’t.  But managed to pick up a few nice things including Harris’ Hawk and Say’s Phoebe for the day, and Common Ground Dove and Roadrunner for the trip (the latter posed elegantly on a rock and seemed glued there)!

Say's Phoebe

Greater Roadrunner

I was going to time the drive, but realized it was moot because sunrise would be around 7:45 and I’d probably be getting out of here well before seven anyway (and since the place where the free breakfast is doesn’t even open until seven, I planned on picking up a donut at the Stripes…).  Caved and found a chicken joint (Express Chicken—was pretty good, actually) and watched a bit of Animal Planet; wouldn’t be surprised if I put on a couple of pounds this trip… L

Click here to continue to Kerr WMA, here to go back to the Davis Mountains.

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