Our six-day trip to Texas was highlighted by:
- Trekking down our icy driveway with last minute luggage for a 5:45 AM launch Monday
- Whiteout with treacherous driving for 20 miles around Saratoga on the Northway
- Awful crosswinds for the first three days
- Black ice on I-81 in PA below Chambersburg
- Freezing rain and 30 degrees in MS
- Heavy rain around Beaumont and steady rain through Houston (and a backup that I luckily circumvented, pulling the Mass-h_le trick of driving up the right side of everything)
- Four comfortable nights in La Quinta Inns which, while seeming to lower in quality as we went south, still were clean, warm, and restful.)
Once out of Houston, the weather cleared and we stopped for fuel at Buc-cees (and topped off our fat levels with some great barbecue sandwiches. Soon, I was starting to see more birds – and at 70 mph (on low traffic roads) I noted Eastern Meadowlarks, Great-tailed Grackles, a Crested Caracara, several Northern Harriers, many Red-tail Hawks, and the ever-present Turkey Vultures. We are now settled at Goose Island State Park for a week and whilebit’s cool and windy, the only white stuff around are American White Pelicans and Great Egrets. The park is one-third full and we have a quiet spot to relax and get the trailer organized. And bird.
I took Penny on four walks today and the bird activity was good — too early for warblers except for many Yellow-rumps, but loaded with sparrows. Sparrow identification is not something I would list when considering KSA’s (Knowledge, Skill, Ability.) It’s not easy when they keep flying up from the tall grass to spots just out of binocular range while the Vizsla on leash pulls your arm off. I missed more than I even got a look at. Yet, I got a lifer, a Harris’s Sparrow. It popped up on a bush not too far away and I got the glasses, then the camera, on it. I didn’t know what it was but went back, downloaded the photos, and tentatively identified it as a juvenile Harris’s. Then I emailed my friends at North Branch Nature Center and Chip, the Executive Director, agreed with my call. So it was life bird #412 — first of the year and the trip.
I ended up with six sparrow species (and may have missed others):
I hope to sort ducks and gulls in the next couple of days. There are rafts of Redheads and Northern Pintails and it will be time to relearn the gulls and shorebirds. Good birding.