February Road Trip - Dallas, Rockport and San Antonio

Madison (front right) at her dance/drill competition
After leaving the White Sands area, we took a leisurely route to Dallas where we had plans to see Mike's granddaughter compete in a her first dance/drill competition. Madison did great and it was so fun to watch her perform in this new (to us) performance style.

Of course we knew there'd be birds to watch in Texas, too, and we hoped to pick up a good number of them for our 2012 list.

Our first birding stop was at the newly opened Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center in Cedar Hill. Although we didn't see any new birds here, we did see White Trout Lilies, named for the appearance of their leaves, in bloom.

White Trout Lily (Erythronium albidum)

Texas Spiny Lizard
While hiking the birding trails, I spotted a very well-camouflaged Texas Spiny Lizard. We had never seen one before and were surprised that they climb trees -- this one was about at eye level.

That weekend we also squeezed in a birding morning at Lake Tawakoni.

The following weekend would be spent with Mike's son Ben in San Antonio, so we took advantage of the free time mid-week and headed to the Gulf Coast. We based ourselves in Rockport so we would be close to the Whooping Crane Boat Tour. As it turned out we did not take the tour due to rainy weather, or maybe we just couldn't tear ourselves away from all the new birds we were seeing at so many other places. Rockport itself is great for birding, and we our choice of several other nearby birding areas as well. Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Goose Island State Park, and Port Aransas were our favorites. We would return to South Texas in 2013 to explore the Rio Grande Valley.

Colorful sunset at Aransas NWR

White-tailed Hawk (Buteo albicaudatus)

Whooping Cranes near Goose Island SP

White Ibis near Goose Island SP

Brown Pelicans near Rockport, TX

Aside from the birds we're always on the lookout for we saw more bonus creatures -- Javalinas (peccary) at Goose Island and a small Armadillo at Aransas NWR.


Javelina (peccary) and babies

One drizzly windy day, we drove down to Padre Island National Seashore, which didn't prove to be productive for birding.

On the drive up to San Antonio Mike searched the Great Texas Birding Trails and found a great little birding spot to break up the drive. We had a little trouble finding the entrance to Pollywog Ponds, but were glad we didn't give up. We picked up a few life birds here, including the Golden Fronted Woodpecker and the Great Kiskadee which Mike noticed hassling a hawk. We actually didn't identify the Kiskdaee until we looked at our photos later, although we had heard them calling in the trees.

Great Kiskadee (upper left) buzzing a hawk

Back on the road we saw a sea of white to our right - it was thousands of snow geese in the grass! No time to document with a photo, but I'm sure there were more than we've seen at Bosque del Apache.

In San Antonio, Ben introduced us to puffy tacos on our way to the airport to pick up Madison. The rest of the visit we enjoyed Ben's company, hospitality and good cooking -- awesome salsa and fajitas! We spent a day at the San Antonio Rodeo where we tried chicken fried bacon. And we met the Bentley, the most active dog in the world.

Three generations: Ben, Madison, and Mike Molloy

Too soon, we were on the road again. We had German food on our mind so New Braunfels was the natural spot to stop for lunch. The comfort food at Friesenhaus was delicious, but unfortunately didn't cure the colds we were fighting.

Muscovy Duck
On the way we stumbled onto Landa Park, a city park that had some very strange looking ducks. Some of them were Muscovy Ducks, and others may have been hybrids of whistling ducks, but they looked like zombie ducks to me. We're still trying to figure it out.

We're thinking "zombie duck" :-)

After lunch we opted for an easy afternoon of birding at Choke Canyon State Park. The extra driving paid off and we saw our first Crested Caracaras near the entrance gate. There was a nesting pair carrying sticks. We were also able to study and identify mottled ducks, those female mallard imposers. A highlight of the afternoon was spotting a Harris's Hawk at close range in a tree overhanging the birding trail.

Crested Caracara

Choke Canyon SP, Texas -- farthest west for alligators in the US

Harris's Hawk along the trail

At this point in our trip we were struggling a bit to decide what to do next. Rainy weather, colds and a surprising lack of availability of last minute lodging in Texas had us thinking we should just go home. We stayed in Boerne that night not sure what we'd do in the morning.

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