I have been doing quite a lot of traveling in the past month. Home on Long Island for Thanksgiving, then right after that a week in San Francisco for AGU, then a week back at Rice tying up some loose ends, then a road trip with Ben Van Allen down into the Lower Rio Grande Valley for some spectacular birding, and now, back home on Long Island again for the Christmas break. Below, mostly photos and some annotations about our RGV trip:
The weather was not the best - it rained both days we were down there, and it was cold and overcast the whole time. But, such is life and nature! We still got to see some great birds, 17 lifebirds for me: great kiskadee, green jay, plain chachalaca, clay-colored robin, long-billed thrasher, curve-billed thrasher, buff-bellied hummingbird, Altamira oriole, hooded oriole, Audubon's oriole, least grebe, cinnamon teal, to name a few. Green jay and Altamira oriole (in fact all the orioles we saw.. and orioles in general!) were my favorite. I felt like i was in almost a tropical place with green jays flapping overhead, kiskadees screeching, and plain chachalacas bumbling about everywhere. Here are some bird photos, taken by ncisco for AGU, then a week back at Rice tying up some loose ends, then a road trip with Ben:
Least Grebe. This bird is so awesome. It's tiny, and it zooms around the pond like a total badass. When we first saw it, it was in cruising in front of a Northern Shoveler, and we were like, "what the heck is that? is it a baby? but wait... babies don't swim in front of the parents! it kind of looks like a grebe... but its way too small for a pied-billed grebe..."
Vermilion flycatcher - surreal brilliance amidst dead winter snags.
Here are some non-bird photos of the rainy trip:
Palm trees (forgot the name of the big one but I think the little one is Sabal minor) at Frontera Thicket
Raindrops on fronds of huisache (I think?)
Winter landscape in Santa Ana NWR. There are 2 American pipits sitting in this tree, and an entire flock of them on the ground (not visible in the photo).
Spanish moss balls.
We followed a big winter flock full of orange-crowned warblers, yellow-rumped warblers, black-crested titmice, ruby-crowned kinglets (i saw the ruby crown raised for the first time!!!) through this thicket. Ben also saw a white-eyed vireo here, but I didn't see it. We did see a blue-headed vireo though... so I didn't go home vireoless.
It was incredibly muddy at Santa Ana. Texas coastal floodplain mud is extremely clayey and sticky, that after walking a few steps, we accrued almost an entire shoe's worth of mud.
Having fun flinging off the mud.
We also studied a colony of leafcutter ants intently at Frontera Thicket for a while. These insects are amazing! What looked like bike tire tracks in the dirt were really paths cleared by the ants hauling leaf bits to their nest.
And finally - a picture of us hanging out with Santa on the visitor center deck at Estero Llano Grande SP.