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Spring Blitz

Part 2:  Chalk Bluff Park  (5 APR - Easter Sunday)

God is so gracious:  my toe feels fine today! J  Had a wonderful breakfast (was a good girl and stayed away from the waffles, but not the bacon J), then headed out to Chalk Bluff (somewhere along the line I had made the decision to forget about a return trip to Garner and to try someplace new…).  On the way there I decided to stop along the road for a couple of minutes, seeing it was just starting to get light; no night birds, but among the dawn chorus were the day’s only Purple Martins.

It was still dusky by the time I zipped by the entrance to the park (made a quick Uie J) and started the BBS protocol in order to enter some EBird data.  I figured the road would probably be short, so I stopped every .3 miles instead of half-miles, and that was a lot of fun: a lot of our familiar Valley birds were sounding off, such as titmice, Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, White-eyed Vireos, and Cardinals, but in addition a few “desert” type things got on the list, such as a tinkling Black-throated Sparrow and an Ash-throated Flycatcher doing his “police whistle”!  EBird saved my neck, because a nighthawk batted by low over the bushes, and I assumed Lesser because of the drier, more desert-like habitat (although it was closer to western Hill Country habitat), but according to the TOS Handbook, it looked like Lessers were supposed to be rare here, while Common is widespread!  So I entered it into my BirdBase as Common, but the only option in EBird was Lesser for the park, so I figured the locals knew best!

Dawn chorus along the entrance road to Chalk Bluff:  the clear, musical tones of the Cassin's Sparrow, starts things, then what was either a Cardinal or Pyrrhuloxia sounds off.  The harsh tones of a Cactus Wren are next, followed by the buzzy zhreep zhreep of a Bewick's Wren.  In the distance are the monotone whistles of a Black-crested Titmouse, and finally the emphatic titters of a Vermilion Flycatcher end the recording.

Continuing on, Turkeys were gobbling in the distance, and a couple of Bell’s Vireos were having a singing contest on either side of the road!  At an open field a Grasshopper Sparrow sang, and in the distance a Great Horned Owl sounded off.  I had several thrashers singing that I at first assumed must have been Curve-billed, but I discovered that Longbills do indeed get up this far (and the song sounded more throaty to me anyway), so that’s what I called them. 

Bell's Vireo sings, "Don't you ev-er tellmewhattoDO!"

The area where you pull in to the actual park is very open, and added Vermilion Flycatcher, Cassin’s and Field Sparrows, and tons of Collared Doves and House Sparrows! L  The office wasn’t open yet (picked up a Hooded Oriole at least), so I just crawled along the roads, most of which go right through the campground, which is situated in this huge live oak forest – it was just gorgeous!  There was a rocky road down to the Nueces River and the big, beautiful bluff for which the park is named, and while I couldn’t spot much expect for the Rough-winged Swallows batting back and forth, stuff was singing and calling all over, including some Valley birds I would not have expected this far north such as Kiskadee, Couch’s Kingbird, and White-tipped Dove!  (The latter did indeed get flagged by EBird, so I was thankful I was able to get a recording, but I guess the other two are regular enough to be included on the list…)  A Green Kingfisher gave its excited little braat call, and both Rock and Canyon Wrens sang and called from the cliff face.  Behind me a Summer Tanager sang, and a Rufous-crowned Sparrow gave its rattling song from downriver.

Cabins in the camping area

The famous "chalk bluff" for which the park is named

Chorus at the river:  a singing Summer Tanager dominates, and more titmice whistle monotonously.  A Carolina Wren sings "Cheedle-cheedle-cheedle,", then a Great Kiskadee gives its nasal call (and if you listen carefully, you might pick up the single buzz of a Rough-winged Swallow as it flies by).  Listen also for the "laugh" of a Golden-fronted Woodpecker, the cascading song of a Canyon Wren, and finally the syncopated coos of a White-winged Dove.

Here's the Summer Tanager again; in the background you can hear titmice, a Vermilion Flycatcher, a Mourning Dove, and at the end a Kiskadee.

A White-tipped Dove gives its "Coke bottle" who-whooo along the river's edge; this is a rare bird for these parts!  In addition to the other dawn choristers noted previously, a White-eyed Vireo sings, "Quick, get the beer, chick!"

Slipping and sliding back up the hill (those rocks were pretty loose) I crawled down to the other end of the park to Pecan Grove (I believe it was called), which looked like a primitive camping area.  Here the road ended in a nice little woodland where both a Yellow-throated Vireo and Yellow-throated Warbler were singing, and a couple of Yellow-breasted Chats were also sounding off!  In the open area that separated the two camping areas some Scissor-tailed Flycatchers were being very vocal, and two more “Valley” birds, Brown-crested Flycatcher and Olive Sparrow, vocalized nicely.  Somewhere in here I picked up Carolina Chickadee for the day, and on the road going past the animal pens were a whole bunch of Lark Sparrows!  As a side note, a Texbirder asked me how crowded it was, and I told her that it really wasn’t bad – most people were still in bed, I guess!  But she mentioned that on Easter Weekend it can be as bad if not worse than Garner, so she was surprised at my observation!

An oxbow "pool" visible from the road in the picnic area

Said picnic area

On the road that leads from the cabin area to the primitive camping area

The start of the flower show that graced all of West Texas!

Heading into the primitive camping area

A Yellow-breasted Chat sings on the way in

The slow, harsh phrases of a Yellow-throated Vireo are interrupted by the liquid chirps of a House Finch, who finally decides to sing his lively song at the end.

Here the bouncing-ball song of the Olive Sparrow competes with the vireo.

Lark Sparrow by the corral

Eastern Bluebird on the way out

I checked the headquarters again on the way out and they were still closed, but I saw a guy driving one of those maintenance golf carts over by another pen, so I figured he must have been an employee.  I wandered over and saw another gal in the pen with a foal that had just been born, she said!  Chuck, one of our orchestra members in San Diego, got me in the habit of saying, “He is risen!” to people on Easter morning, so I greeted these two with that, to which she said, “Yes, ma’am!” J  Chuck loved to tease Baptists who didn’t know the “correct” response! J  (Which is, "He is risen, indeed!" in case you didn't know... ☺)  At any rate, I wanted to pay my ten buck day use fee, but when I told her I had already finished my survey and was heading out (it was only a little after nine), she waived the fee!  That was really nice of her!  As an added surprise, on the way out what I thought was a classic Cardinal song turned out to be a female Pyrrhuloxia singing – so much for my theory that Pyrrs don’t change rhythms mid-song!

Here, the dominate song is a White-eyed Vireo doing a whisper song (very different from the normal Quick, get the beer chick! song), but a female Pyrrhuloxia also sings a very Cardinal-like "Wheo tungtungtungtung!", and at the end does a couple of plain "Wheo!"s

Click here to continue to Kickapoo Caverns State Park,

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