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Part 8:  Guadalupe River SP (and the Weekend in San Antonio, 10-13 APR)

Kerr never takes that long to do, so I headed straight for San Antonio from there to scout Guadalupe River SP, where my ex-San Diego friend Marsha Gear and I would go Monday.  It was nippy when I got up there (it was in the 50s driving over), and according to the ranger it had just rained pretty good, so the trails had some wet spots to negotiate.  But it was an absolutely gorgeous park; after getting my pass I swung around to check out a trailhead that you had to drive down a dirt road to get to, and the first thing I noticed was that the place was burned almost to a crisp!  Found out later they had done a controlled burn to get rid of cedars; I didn’t ask why, but I didn’t think they were invasive or anything…  A nice little flock of Field Sparrows was along this trail, along with something dead that the vultures were taking care of (could small it L)…

Obligatory entrance sign

Results of a controlled burn along the Prairie Trail

The trail itself

From there just checked the road, and were I doing it by myself Monday, I would have included the Park Road in the survey, as in total it was about eight or nine miles, which is a good length for a state park.  In one of the campgrounds managed to log both Nashville Warbler and Northern Parula singing, and a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks were yelling.  At the end of the road are several trailheads, but I noticed on the map that they had a bin symbol, which usually means a bird blind, so I stopped at the Discovery Center and asked the guy there about it, and he pointed me toward it (he was getting ready to stock the feeders), but also said “they were working” over there, so there might not be much activity.  I thanked him and continued on the trail that was there (the Cedar Sage Trail), and that went through some lush woodland and open meadow, and eventually ended up in another campground!  I’m glad I didn’t try to make a loop of it, because it woulda been a long way to the other parking area from there!  As it was, I backtracked and spent five minutes on the bench where a White-eyed Vireo and a Spotted Towhee stopped by to say hi!

Viola's Wood Satyr along the Cedar Sage Trail

   

Shy White-eyed Vireo

After getting back to the lot I checked out the blind, and the “work” being done involved building a new water feature!  The guy said they’d probably be done by Monday, but the other guy had just stocked the feeders, and the presence of Mr. Water Feature didn’t deter the Cardinals and Lesser Goldfinches from coming in at least!  Even a chickadee and a Black-chinned Hummer made a brief appearance!  (Later on the trip I ran into a Texbirder who had read my report and informed me that “Mr. Water Feature” was her husband! J)

Beat-up Cardinal at the bird blind

Female Lesser Goldfinch

In the same lot area are accesses to the river, which was absolutely gorgeous!  I took one ramped trail that ended up looping back to the lot, where a Great Crested Flycatcher wheeked from  the top of a tree!  I was also pleasantly surprised to hear a White-throated Sparrow singing; their checklist marks them as “rare” here!  Even crazier was a notation that considered Cave Swallows accidental, when a big flock wheeled around overhead down by the river, rattling and gurgling away!  (Their checklist has Cliff as the default, but I didn’t even bother looking because they sounded like Caves…)  After some water and a rest (during which a three-generation family and their dogs made their way down the steps and to the river) I headed down and went the other direction, which was wonderful!  On the other side of the river are limestone cliffs where a Canyon Wren was singing, and after about ten minutes the trail peters out by some rapids in a deep woods – just a perfect spot to sit and rest!  A Clubtail of some kind cruised by, which reminded me to be on the lookout for odes along here; saw several damsels that I think were Powdered Dancers, but one may have been a female Arroyo Bluet – will have to have the ode guys take a look that that one!  A Variegated Meadowhawk made an appearance, and also had a pretty beat-up Monarch batting around, along with Viola’s Wood Satyrs and a Buckeye.

View of the river from the main parking area

Cliff face that the Canyon Wrens liked!

   

I think these are both Powdered Dancers...

Great Crested Flycatcher in the parking lot 

Bald Cypress Trail

Rapids where the trail peters out...

Blue-faced Dancer

 

I think this is another Powdered Dancer, even though the thorax pattern seems to better fit Kiowa...

Possible Arroyo Bluet

Variegated Meadowhawk

I was pretty shot after that, but continued my crawling through the campgrounds and picked up the Golden-cheeked Warbler by ear and a beat-up Question Mark.  Had just enough time for one more trail, so I did a little of the Painted Bunting Trail; the guy said they had arrived, but I noticed that EBird doesn’t have them listed yet for here, either!  No buntings along the trail at any rate…  Headed out after that and stopped to use the restroom one last time, but on the way in I noticed a little dark butterfly in the flowers in the median, and went tearing back for my camera – it was a Great Purple Hairstreak!  I was so jazzed – definitely the highlight of the day! 

   

Beat-up Question Mark

Scenes along the Painted Bunting Trail

   

Great Purple Hairstreak

Fought the traffic heading into San Antonio (the traffic heading out was something to behold) and found the BW but didn’t get a chance to ice up – thankfully the mayo survived!  Got settled in and gave Marsha a call, and planned for a late breakfast the next morning!

Woke up around 6:30 (so I must have needed it), and after doing the morning routine I headed to the laundry room, only the dryers weren’t drying for some reason!  I told the front desk about it, and the guy came up later and thought maybe the exhaust hose was full of lint, as that happened to his dryer at home that had the same symptoms (and that’s dangerous, I’ve heard, as it can start a fire)!  So he reimbursed me for two cycles (which was very nice of them) and sent the maintenance guy up, who said the fan wasn’t hooked up on either of them!  So he performed some stunts worthy of any cirque performer to get back there, and that fixed the problem!  And the timing was perfect, as Marsha called just as the cycle finished and I was ready to pack my stuff!  Got a good chunk of C.S. Lewis' That Hideous Strength read, too, and it’s really starting to be a page-turner!

Got everything put away and before long Marsha knocked on the door, so I locked up everything and we headed to breakfast!  We went to this quaint little bakery that also had breakfast sandwiches, so I got a sausage-egg-cheese croissant and we split a cinnamon roll! J  The place really reminded me of San Diego (even the demographics) and I felt a twinge of longing and told Marsha the story (she didn’t realize I had been laid off), and that if she heard of anything to let me know!  The whole area (at least the area I saw) was very affluent and “manicured”, and while the traffic left something to be desired, the atmosphere was closer to what I’m used to from San Diego. 

After breakfast we went to their house, and I met her husband Bud and the two Chihuahua mixes, Carman and Lola.  They have a lovely house, and their back yard is wonderful:  it abuts a hill that is too steep to build more houses on, so they’ve got a little woodsy area back there that could house all sorts of stuff!  She’s got bird feeders up and even a water feature (it recycles, so I encouraged her to keep it running), so I suggested she set up some oranges and PB mixture, and even a hummer feeder, and if she learned her vocalizations J, I’d bet she’d get a whole lot more for her yard list (in fact, I think we added a few stepping out of the car, as a Chimney Swift chattered overhead, several Barn Swallows swooped low, some waxwings flew by, and a Black Vulture sailed overhead)!  As we were out there some Blue Jays sounded off, so that was a new trip bird for me!

After we visited for awhile she dropped me back off, and I turned around and headed to the Wal-Mart to get groceries; they had just finished their rotisserie chickens, so I got one and chopped it up for lunch this coming week (a little more healthy than processed meat…).  While going “around the block” I discovered a Trader Joe's and called my friend Pat to see if she wanted anything from there!  (This is apparently the closest one to the Valley, and being a former Californian she's a big Trader Joe's fan...)  In addition to the items she wanted, I discovered they had chocolate-covered espresso beans (which I've been unable to find in the Valley)!  Picked up a Black-bellied Whistling Duck for the trip on the way back from that…

I didn’t have much time to plan the rest of the week before it was time to leave for dinner; I had noticed one of those Brazilian steakhouses (Chama Gaucha) next to the TJ’s, so I headed over there around five, and what a zoo!  Thankfully they seated me almost immediately, but I could tell it was a popular place with families, and it was quite the experience!  The guy explained how they worked:  you went up to the salad bar first, and then when you were ready for the gauchas to come by with the various meats, you would turn this little card over to the green side, and you were shortly inundated with guys with meats skewered on these big sticks, and if you wanted some, they would carve off a slice!  The first guy to descend upon me had a rack of lamb chops, so I started with that, then the chicken guys came by, but I was waiting for the beef!  J  A guy came by with a sirloin slab, and he did indeed have some that was walking to the table, so I tried some, and it was to die for!  The ribeye guy came by shortly after that, and same story!  When a waiter came by asking if I wanted steak or horseradish sauce to go with it, I nearly clobbered him J as it was heavenly just the way it was!  The garlic beef did me in, however, and I was done for the night (but not without indulging in some crème broulee J)!  My only complaint (if you care to call it that) was that the mashed potatoes were lukewarm, but everything else was out of this world, even the salad (and I concentrated on green leafy veggies and a piece of broccoli, as I knew I needed that)!  And the price wasn’t bad, but unlike a comparable meal at, say, Donovan’s, there’s nothing to take home; it’s “all you can eat”, but if you can’t eat much, it’s a pricey dinner.

Got home, showered, and finished planning next week, and joined Marsha and Bud at Shearer Hills Baptist the next morning (click here to read the notes from the sermon).

On Monday I was actually able to have the hotel’s breakfast this time (couldn’t get the bacon to crisp up, though…) and picked up Marsha at the designated time!  She actually had better directions than I had to the park – I was all turned around!  The gate wasn’t open yet by the time we got there (7:59), and we really thought the ranger wheeling in behind us was gonna open the gate and keep it open!  But when it closed (and it was after eight by this time), I was getting ready to call them when the thing suddenly opened by itself, so it must have been on some kind of timer.  So in we went, got our pass, used the potty, and picked up an Eastern Phoebe right there along with a Carolina Wren that actually gave us a look! 

From there we hiked the opposite direction on the Painted Bunting Trail from where I had hiked Friday, and Marsha especially enjoyed the flower show!  Again, we heard more than we saw, but she finally did get a good look at a Field Sparrow (and he was serenading us, too J), but unfortunately she missed the Vermilion Flycatcher (she was thinking I was referring to the bird on the post which turned out to be a cowbird…).  A Turkey gobbled in the distance, and on the return trip an Upland Sandpiper called overhead unseen.

Painted Bunting Trail going the other direction

Marsha checking out the flowers

From there we crawled through the Turkey Sink Campground (Marsha got a kick out of that name J), and we scared up several kinds of doves in here.  But just as we were about ready to get back into the car I heard a Golden-cheeked Warbler singing its buzzy “Can can can you SEEEE me?” song, so we tracked him down to a thick grove of what looked like oaks, and as per usual, a little pishing brought them right in, only the first bird looked soaking wet!  A really nice male came in soon after, so Marsha was able to get a good look at (and a picture of) this specialty of the Hill Country!

Inca Dove sings Bob Hope! while a titmouse scolds and Cardinals teep in the background.

Turkey Sink Campground serenade:  listen for the monotone whistles of a couple of Black-crested Titmice, the Inca Dove's Bob Hope! along with the more syncopated White-winged Dove, an incessantly buzzing Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, the more buoyant whistles of a couple of Cardinals, and near the end the rising buzzy song of Marsh'a life Golden-cheeked Warbler!

The first Goldencheek we found was pretty scruffy-looking...

...but the second one was in better shape!

From there we came to the parking area for the Barred Owl Trail (we both smiled at the fact that we were the only ones utilizing this huge parking lot – it must get really busy during the summer!); according to the map it was nice and short and gave you an overview of the river, so we gave it a shot.  A Summer Tanager was singing nearby and he finally came out and gave us a good look when a Cardinal flew into his tree and shook things up a bit!  The overlook was beautiful: a Canyon Wren was singing, and across the way a Rufous-crowned Sparrow and Red-eyed Vireo were giving a concert.  On the way back we kicked up a golden-headed Dun Skipper.

Barred Owl Trail

Summer Tanager

Dun Skipper

River overlook

From there we headed to the bird blind; didn’t look like the guy was finished with the water feature, but no one was working on it at any rate, so we enjoyed what was coming in for about 15 minutes (I had heard a bluebird just as we walked up, but he never returned):  mostly Lesser Goldfinches and Cardinals, plus a few House Finches and a couple of Fox Squirrels J.  A chickadee came in briefly, as did a Black-chinned Hummer, but nothing out of the ordinary.   A Ruby-crowned Kinglet chattered and then tried a little of his song.

       

Lesser Goldfinches

   

Female Cardinal

House Finch

Ruby-crowned Kinglet chatters softly, then does a little bit of his song (with a Lesser Goldfinch giving its rising wheeeee!).

Then it was time to show Marsha that gorgeous Bald Cypress Trail!  Those swallows were flying overhead again, so since the checklist said that Caves were accidental, I took a look, and sure enough, everything I could get a good look at looked like Cliffs – I guess I’ve just forgotten what they sound like! L  (I just did a review – Cliffs do have a bit of a rattle that can sound like Caves…) The flowers were nuts, and so were the butters: a big black one attached itself to some pretty thistles, and at first I thought it was a female Black Swallowtail (and we could indeed have had one), but the pictures I got of one more or less cooperative bug turned out to be a black female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail!  That was definitely a first for me!  Several turtles (that were not Red-eared Sliders) sat on a log but vamoosed the minute I pulled my camera out; Marsha mentioned that the sliders were actually invasive in some areas of the country!  We sat and enjoyed the rapids (and loved on a lady’s Miniature Pinscher J), while what I thought was just another Powdered Dancer sat next to me – it looked a little darker, and the experts indeed called it a Kiowa Dancer!  The Clubtail sailed by again but never stopped…  On the way back we ran into more pretty butters, including both kinds of Lady, and a Phaon Crescent.

Thistles in various stages of development along the Bald Cypress Trail

   

Black morph female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Phaon Crescent

Another view of the rapids

Kiowa Dancer

Some kind of water bugs...

Marsha had informed me the day before that Bud was fine with her joining me at Warbler Woods (as the official "Day Care" for their grandbaby, they always needed to coordinate schedules).  I was originally gonna stop there the previous Friday on the way to Sealy and the Prairie Chicken Festival, but the weekend’s storms canceled that trip, so I made arrangements with Susan to change the date to this afternoon and Tuesday morning, so after finishing up that trail we were both ready to hit the road.  After checking out some warblers there in the grove (added Orange-crowned and Nashville), we stopped at Marsha’s to use the restroom (without waking the baby J), then she led me to I-35, where I took over and got us to the right exit. 

Click here to continue to Warbler Woods,

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