Sunday, March 18, 2012

Independence Creek Preserve - 3/9/12 thru 3/11/12

My family is on the Texas Nature Conservancy's board, and as a thank you gift of sorts we - along with 4 other Austin families - were lucky enough to spend the weekend at the Independence Creek Preserve, in Terrell County. As we arrived, i noticed two white dots on the side of one of the ponds, fed by a spring. These ponds are the only standing water in the county, aside from Independence Creek, the Pecos River, and the Rio Grande, none of which are ideal for shorebirds and waterfowl. I notice that the white dots that i thought were decoys were moving, and one was bigger that the other. It was a young Snow Goose with a Ross's Goose,  foraging on the edge of the ponds. They stayed Friday and Saturday, but continued northward Sunday.
Ross's Goose (left) and Snow Goose (right)

Ross's and Snow Goose
Friday evening, I also saw a large raft of Redheads, a few Buffleheads, some Long-billed Dowitchers, and two Black Pheobes. Soon after that, it got dark.

On Saturday morning I got up early and went and birded around the ponds. I finished the day with 10 species of waterfowl, the best of which was three drake Cinnamon Teal. Also the same Long-billed Dowitchers were still there. 
Long-billed Dowitcher

Cinnamon Teal
As I continued to walk around the ponds, I saw numerous Gadwall and Wigeon, as well as Swamp and Lincoln's Sparrows, and a flock of Lark Buntings.
Lark Buntings
Then I saw an odd bird, in the grove of large Pecan trees near the houses.  It looked almost crow-like as it flew over the trees, but landed like a woodpecker. I knew what it was right then: LEWIS'S WOODPECKER. Lewis's Woodpeckers are rare in Texas, and often none are seen for several years. I immediately snapped some poor pictures (terrible lighting, Saturday was very overcast) but ended up watching him forage for an hour. It was then when a second Lewis's Woodpecker flew into the tree, and began eating pecans too. They both playfully took turns chasing each other around the pecan grove for the better part of an hour. 
Lewis's Woodpecker

Lewis's Woodpecker
I continued walking around the ponds, riding high from my big find, when I spooked a big flock of of Red-winged Blackbirds that were sitting up in a small pecan tree. One bird remained however, and I put my bins on it. To my surprise, it was a RUSTY BLACKBIRD, another very rare bird for the region. It allowed me to get very close, so I could snap some good pictures!
Rusty Blackbird

Rusty Blackbird
After working the ponds well, I walk a small stretch of the road into the scrubby juniper desert around the ponds. I found a good number of sparrows, including Canyon Towhee, Black-throated Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows,  plus Brewer's Sparrows and a Green-tailed Towhee, both state birds for me. Cactus Wrens were also out in good numbers. 
Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

Brewer's Sparrow
As I worked my way back to the house,  I came across a Vermillion Flycatcher and Golden-fronted Woodpecker.
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
It began to go get dark, so I went inside, ate dinner and played some Minecraft. Very good day!

I woke up again sunday morning, to a bright beautiful sunny day. Yes! I can get good shots of the Lewis's Woodpecker!! I spent the better half of three hours watching and photographing the Lewis's Woodpeckers, as they ate pecans and chased each other around. Here are my best shots: 
Lewis's Woodpecker

Lewis's Woodpecker

Lewis's Woodpecker
I was also able to relocate the Rusty Blackbird, and add Verdin, Wild Turkey, Phainopepla and Ruddy Duck to my trip list. I then spent my last minutes with my friends the Lewis's (Woodpeckers that is) and then loaded up into the car and headed back to Austin. What a great trip! Here is the full trip list! 

Snow Goose
Ross's Goose
American Wigeon
Blue-winged Teal
Cinnamon Teak
Northern Shovelor
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
Ruddy Duck
Scaled Quail
Wild Turkey
Pied-billed Grebe
Eared Grebe
Neotropic Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant
Great-blue Heron
Great Egret
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American kestrel
Least Sandpiper
Long-billed Dowitcher
Wilson's Snipe
Eurasian Collared Dove
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove
Greater Roadrunner
Great-horned Owl
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Black Pheobe
Eastern Pheobe
Say's Pheobe
Vermillion Flycatcher
Loggerhead Shrike
American Crow - very rare for the region too...i'm kicking myself for blowing this bird off as common and not photoing it. damn
Common Raven
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Cave Swallow
Barn Swallow
Brown Creeper
Cactus Wren
Rock Wren
Canyon Wren
Bewick's Wren
Marsh Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Mountain Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
Curve-billed Thrasher
European Starling (can't escape them, can you?)
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Common Yellowthroat (early migrant, or overwintering bird?)
Green-tailed Towhee
Spotted Towhee
Canyon Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Brewer's Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Black-throated Sparrow
Lark Bunting
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Western Meadowlark
Rusty Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow (also can't escape 'em. only seen one day, hopefully the sharpie got 'em)
102 species total!!!!!!

Also the Lewis's Woodpeckers and Rusty Blackbird are both first documented Terrell Co. records. I really loved birding Independence Creek, and I look forward to visiting in the future. The place looks like the ultimate migrant trap!