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Rockport Area, Texas

Part 1:  McAllen to Port Lavaca

Got out of the apartment around 7:00 AM, adding a few Valley specialties while packing the car!  Headed up US 281 to Falfurrias, where I took "Hawk Alley" across to Rivera and US 77.  I had a great selection of raptors along this whole route, picking up several Caracaras and a single White-tailed Hawk, plus the Ferruginous Hawk that always seems to be along SR 285!  A Merlin zipped down into the grass along the side of the freeway, which was a very nice addition!

Made it to Port Lavaca in good time, so after lunch I decided to check out the Port Lavaca Bird Sanctuary (CTC 030).  I had visited this wonderful boardwalk on a trip to Florida while I was still living in San Diego, and I remember it being bitterly cold but with Clapper Rails at my feet!  Neither was the case today, as the temperatures were very pleasant, but the wind kept most stuff down, and was unable to kick up any rails at all.  Both flavors of pelicans were on a spit in the distance, however, and it was fun to have both kinds of "marsh wrens" calling!  A female Long-billed Curlew downed a crab, but she was the most interesting avian there; on the bike path going back to the car scared up an Eastern Phoebe, and my only ode was an unidentified saddlebags.  Took a swing around the rest of the park (which I also don't remember from last time--lots of campers) and picked up a single Sanderling along with several Ruddy Turnstones in with the Laughing Gulls.

The boardwalk at the Port Lavaca Bird Sanctuary

   

The only birds braving the wind was a Long-billed Curlew (left) and an Eastern Phoebe (right)

The Great Texas Wildlife Trail map suggested crossing the Lavaca Bay causeway and birding the old causeway, which I did; I thought I had a couple of 2nd-year Herring Gulls, but scrutinizing the pictures I'm now leaning towards 1st-year Ring-billed, although they looked awfully big (although sometimes size is hard to tell).  Also had a cooperative Double-crested Cormorant, while a Caspian Tern and a Spotted Sandpiper along the rocks were the only ones for the day.

The marsh north of the Lavaca Bay causeway

Birds along the old causeway...

   

1st-year Ring-billed Gull

       

In flight

   

Double-crested Cormorant

The plan was to bird Magic Ridge and Magnolia Beach tomorrow, but decided to check it out anyway; the habitat driving in to Magnolia Beach looked promising, but there weren't many places to pull off.  I did manage to find a shoulder where a mob of blackbirds was hanging out; most of them were Brown-headed Cowbirds with a lesser number of Red-winged Blackbirds, plus a single Bronzed Cowbird!  At the end of the road there were a few Royal Terns roosting and the only Neotropic Cormorant of the day.  Headed on to Magic Ridge and Zimmerman Road, and that was fabulous:  had a handful of shorebirds in the marshes including dowitchers, Dunlin, a single Greater Yellowlegs, and a few Least Sandpipers, but the real show was a little further down where the marsh was stuffed with egrets, spoonbills, and ibis!  An American Pipit called overhead while I was enjoying the show, and a Belted Kingfisher rattled past.  Because of my bum foot I didn't dare make the loop around the cemetery as the butterfly book suggested, but I did scare up several Dainty Sulphurs that promptly tried to hide from the wind!  The best lep was a glimpse of a White-tipped Black Moth that was whirring about in the wind!  Savannah Sparrows liked the brushpiles and fencelines, and several shrikes were around as well.  On the way out added a Pied-billed Grebe, but wasn't fast enough with the camera to catch the Osprey with his fish!

The marsh at Magic Ridge

Mob of waders takes off!

Snowy Egrets and Roseate Spoonbills

White Ibis and token Roseate Spoonbill

Young Roseate Spoonbills have feathered heads

   

A lady Belted Kingfisher rows past

   

A Forster's Tern (left) sails past while a Savannah Sparrow (right) pops up in response to pishing

   

Diminutive Dainty Sulphurs hide from the wind

I followed the route suggested in the butterfly-finding guide and actually found more birds than butterflies (not surprisingly):  along South Ocean Drive was a cooperative Ruddy Turnstone and Willet, and at the end of the road a Ring-billed Gull was hanging with the Laughers and Brown Pelicans.  Finally found Powderhorn Drive which also looked promising, but there wasn't much there at that time except for Collared Doves.  Went down to the cemetery where a young Harrier was cruising; he scared up a small flock of snipe while he was at it!

   

Ruddy Turnstone along the rocks at Indianola Beach

   

In flight

Willet

Ring-billed (left) and Laughing Gulls (right)

Brown Pelican making like a pillow

   

Eurasian Collared Dove

Called it a day after that and headed in to the hotel with 66 species for the day.

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