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Spring Blitz

Part 1:  Garner State Park (4 APR)

Yes, it was a flashback to the Good Ol’ Days of being on the road for months at a time, only this time I made a promise to be back in McAllen by the 1st of May so I could get busy looking for honest wages again!  Everything was packed up the day before, so this morning I was able to take off after the morning routine, and praise God it wasn’t raining!  I think the forecast was for 80 or 90%, so I was thrilled when I walked outside and it was still and warm!  As always, added a handful of birds to the list while packing the car, but I think the only Valley specialty was the Couch’s Kingbird (with Golden-fronted Woodpecker ranging through so much of Texas now, I hesitate to call that a “Valley Specialty” anymore…).

Zipped down to the corner to get another bag of ice, and I could see the black sky north of us!  I think I got the cooler loaded just in time, as the temperature dropped and the wind picked up, and it started dripping and then raining pretty good as we headed north!  The dominant birds along the 281 corridor were Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Caracaras chasing each other (a very cooperative pair of flycatchers showed off at the Alice potty stop), and it was still dripping when I came upon the Falfurrias rest stop, so I forewent looking for the Painted Redstart and headed on up to Pleasanton, almost getting turned around again as I usually do there L, but Google isn’t a very good guide at that point; I fell back on the ancient practice of actually looking at the map, and by following that we made it through the zigzag and were headed for Hondo with no issues.  Somewhere in here a smallish corvid flew over that was probably a Chihuahuan Raven, but I just wasn’t sure.  The flowers were stupendous, and a couple of times I noticed families pulled over to either play in or take photos of the display!


Scissor-tailed Flycatcher at the gas station in Alice

By the time we reached Sabinal there was actually a sign to Garner State Park, so we took SR 127 up to Concan and briefly relived those two San Diego Audubon trips when passing by Neal’s Lodges!  Headed up to Garner from there, and in addition to the long line being a bad omen, the rangerette told me that they don’t open the gates till eight during peak season!  So much for getting there pre-dawn and looking for night birds! L   But I dutifully scouted the roads, and while I should have known better, I now know from experience that Easter Weekend is not the time to come here!  It was wall-to-wall families there, granted all having a good time, but you really had to watch it as pedestrians and kids on bikes were all over the road!  I did notice a trail to a bird blind, so I made a mental note to check that the next day, then weaved my way past the visitor’s center (where a Lark Sparrow was trying to stay ahead of the crowd, Barn Swallows were swooping around, and a huge Common Raven flew over with food in its beak), over the hill, along the mountainside (lots of people were fixin’ to hike the Old Baldy Trail), along the river (I tried to sneak a picture of the river filled with rafts and other watercraft, but I don’t think it took), then back up over the hill (forget about stopping at the overlook) and then over to the River Crossing Camping Area where I found parking at the Frio Canyon Trailhead (or at least an access to it).  Amazingly, once on the trail, I had the whole place to myself!  It was wonderful just walking through the Ashe Juniper and then out into more open areas along the river!  Birds were pretty quiet, but titmice and Chipping Sparrows were singing, and on the way back picked up another non-Valley bird:  a Carolina Chickadee!  Bewick’s Wrens were also fussing, and once I got back to the car and started crawling out, a Yellow-throated Warbler was singing!  The three little campgrounds to the north were all filled with revelers, of course (I actually envied them a little, as it really did look like fun, to be camping out with your friends and family), but managed to add a calling Summer Tanager to the list while crawling along.

"Dash cam" shot of the mob scene down by the Frio River

...but once on the Frio Trail, it was glorious solitude!

View of the Frio River

On the way out, I parked in the Headquarters lot to take another look at the trail map, and noticed a Nature Trail that was supposed to be right around there somewhere, so since I still had time, I took a look and there it was, off to the side (and you wouldn’t have seen it coming it if you were making a beeline for the entrance kiosk).  So since it was only a half-mile jaunt, I decided to do it, and that was a great trail: nice and smooth and flat!!  This also contained a forest of Ashe Juniper, but not a wheeze to be heard, and I was beginning to wonder if the Goldencheeks and Blackcaps had even arrived yet (as the warblers have been showing up elsewhere)!  But a couple of titmice were counter-singing, and a nice Yellow-throated Warbler added a soprano line to the monotonous titmice!  Also along the trail was a White-eyed Vireo and Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and an Archilochus hummingbird chattered unseen, but around here it could be either.  Back in the parking lot an American Goldfinch potato-chipped.

Scenes along the Nature Trail

Black-crested Titmouse duet

Yellow-throated Warbler

Hit the potty and then headed for Uvalde, raiding the Golden Chick before checking in at the Hampton Inn (and wishing I had stuck with the Cup-o-Noodles L).  I started to park in front but a creepy guy sitting on his tailgate was right in front of me, so I wheeled around back where I happened to pick up a Lesser Goldfinch while unloading the car!  Ate dinner while channel surfing (found some disaster movie where meteors were destroying LA), and hoped I didn’t blow it big time by trying to trim a toenail that had been injured years ago, as it really hurt!  Hope it heals up soon! L

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