#528-#530 in Corpus Christi

Sunday I took an early morning photography class at Paradise Pond, and then left for the airport to catch 6:00 PM flight. Of course this left about eight hours to kill in between, and I planned to use it visiting some more inland hotspots. I mostly followed the route outlined in Cooksey and Weeks’ Birder’s Guide to the Texas Coast, starting from Oso Creek Park.

Oso Creek Park turned out to be too windy for birds on Sunday. It was pretty much a bust aside from a single Loggerhead Shrike. The next stop, Bill Witt City Park, did turn up a dozen or so Long-billed Curlews feeding on the ball fields, just as the guide promised. The South Texas Botanic Gardens were much more fun, and I spent a good couple of hours roaming the grounds. I only added one species to my Texas list there, Black-necked Stilt. Frustratingly I heard at least two possible life birds singing/calling very unfamiliar songs, but I couldn’t find them or ID them despite extensive searching. :-(

After the Botanic Gardens, I followed a route that took me to some unlikely local hotspots in industrial areas and small local parks. Among other birds, I added Least Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, and American Avocet to the trip list.

However the real jewel was the final stop at a small park at the Hilltop Community Center. I don’t know why this is such a hot spot, but it was just popping with new and interesting birds. There were several I hadn’t found earlier on the trip including Ruby-crowned Kinglet and White-winged Dove. The area wasn’t that great–just about 30 acres–but the foliage was very dense with lots of cover, no open fields, so you had to walk all the trails. The first “lifer” I found was a surprised Javelina (Pecari tajacu), a local native wild pig. It ran off before I could get a good shot.

However the first life bird was a Couch’s Kingbird, a kind of flycatcher and one of my target species for the trip:

I may have seen one earlier at Lake Findley on the first day, but that one was too far away to be sure. This one was much more cooperative, and gave me plenty of time to shoot it from all angles, and carefully check the field marks against my Sibley Field Guide to make sure it wasn’t the very similar (but much rarer) Tropical Kingbird.

I continued to zigzag slowly through the trails. Toward 1:00 I was thinking about starting to the airport but decided to explore one last loop trail I hadn’t yet followed, and a good thing I did because as I was walking down it I heard a really loud racous jay-like call, and then a big Woodpeckerish bird flew over. #529 Great Kiskadee! Another target bird for the trip.

Great Kiskadee in flight

Not a great photo, but given that it didn’t perch anywhere I could see, I’m lucky to have gotten it.

But that wasn’t it. At one small corner I saw a lot of activity. I was tracking down an unusual sparrow that turned out to be a my first Lincoln’s Sparrow for the tip, when a thrasher popped up. At first I thought this was a Brown Thrasher, but after looking at the photographs–in particular the grayish cheek, dark bill, and distinctly white breast–I’m now calling it #530, the very similar Long-billed Thrasher:

Long-billed Thrasher

The biggest differentiating characteristic here is the facial pattern. In good light, you can distinguish these species by color–the Brown Thrasher is much more rufous. However I didn’t have good light. This bird was deeply in the shade, and when developing the raw image it’s very easy to make the bird more or less rufous.

I left Hilltop about 2:00, grabbed some lunch, filled up the tank, and returned the rental car. Unfortunately when I got to the airport, I discovered my flight had been canceled, and I wasn’t leaving till the next morning. If I had known that in advance I could have spent a few more hours in the field. I thought about going back to Hertz to see if I could get my car back, but by the time I got back to Hilltop I would have only had about another hour of daylight left so I just took the shuttle to the hotel.

Total species count for the entire 5-day trip was 112 including 11 life birds:

  • House Sparrow
  • Couch’s Kingbird
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Lincoln’s Sparrow
  • Swan Goose
  • American Avocet
  • Stilt Sandpiper
  • Sanderling
  • Black-necked Stilt
  • Common Ground-Dove
  • Black-bellied Plover
  • Long-billed Dowitcher
  • Semipalmated Plover
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Least Sandpiper
  • Horned Lark
  • Ruddy Turnstone
  • Common Grackle
  • Black-crested Titmouse
  • Vermilion Flycatcher
  • Carolina Wren
  • Tree Swallow
  • American Pipit
  • American Goldfinch
  • Savannah Sparrow
  • Bald Eagle
  • Sandhill Crane
  • White-eyed Vireo
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Wilson’s Snipe
  • Orange-crowned Warbler
  • Red-shouldered Hawk
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Mallard
  • Common Moorhen
  • Cinnamon Teal
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Northern Harrier
  • Lesser Yellowlegs
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Mottled Duck
  • Rock Pigeon
  • American Kestrel
  • American Oystercatcher
  • American White Pelican
  • Black Vulture
  • Bonaparte’s Gull
  • Boat-tailed Grackle
  • Brown Pelican
  • Bufflehead
  • Caspian Tern
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Forster’s Tern
  • Gadwall
  • Greater Yellowlegs
  • Herring Gull
  • Killdeer
  • Lesser Scaup
  • Little Blue Heron
  • Long-billed Curlew
  • Neotropic Cormorant
  • Northern Pintail
  • Osprey
  • Red-breasted Merganser
  • Reddish Egret
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Royal Tern
  • Sandwich Tern
  • Snowy Egret
  • Tricolored Heron
  • White-faced Ibis
  • White Ibis
  • Whooping Crane
  • White-tailed Hawk
  • Willet
  • Redhead
  • Green-winged Teal
  • American Coot
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Great Egret
  • Blue-winged Teal
  • Black-crowned Night-Heron
  • White-winged Dove
  • Roseate Spoonbill
  • Laughing Gull
  • Great-tailed Grackle
  • Great Blue Heron
  • European Starling
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Loggerhead Shrike
  • Brown Thrasher
  • Long-billed Thrasher
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Mourning Dove
  • Audubon’s Oriole
  • Crested Caracara
  • Curve-billed Thrasher
  • Eastern Meadowlark
  • Pyrrhuloxia
  • Bronzed Cowbird
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Green Jay
  • Northern Cardinal

I was hoping for more like 150 species with 20-30 life birds and I missed several I wanted. I guess I’ll just have to go back to Texas again. There are a couple of good festivals coming up in April, including Galveston Featherfest and Wings Over the Hills. However the next one I’m likely to attend is the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival in Harlingen in November. Just maybe I can break 200 species in Texas this year.

Leave a Reply