Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Paul's Texas Trip Part 2 (Texas Hill Country)

On the second of our Texas adventure (see here for part 1), we headed for the hills. The Texas Hill Country that is. Our first stop would be the Hamilton Pool, which is a very large and very blue pool of water at the bottom of a small canyon. In the summer, folks go swimming there but we went to walk around it and I hoped to see some new and interesting birds.

First we had to have lunch and, while the gang sat around a picnic table, I wandered off into the scrub. There were a couple Northern Cardinals, a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet and a Northern Mockingbird hanging about. And then I saw something new: a Carolina Chickadee! I have to admit, it looked a lot like a Black-Capped Chickadee, but I will still count it. I then saw my first Black-Crested Titmouse, which was another entirely new bird for me. 

Soon after that, we walked into the canyon and up to the pool. Vultures circled overhead and we found pigeons loafing in the cliff walls overhanging the pool. This was it for the pool; my hopes for a vast array of semi-desert birds went unfulfilled. Maybe I would see more at our next stop?

Hiking into Hamilton Pool
Hamilton Pool sans mid-winter swimmers.
After the Hamilton Pool hike, we headed off towards the Enchanted Rock. Goofy name, I know especially because we didn't see any goblins, witches, or trolls there. Anyways, on the way there, we saw a few hawks, American Kestrels, and some Gadwall and American Wigeon at a small pond by the side of the road. The hawks were somewhat difficult to identify until finally we got a close look at one: a Red-Shouldered Hawk!

The Enchanted Rock is a very large rock with little vegetation growing on it. Think Ayers Rock (the big red one in Australia) but put it in the middle of Texas (a coyote ate my baby! -Damon). With three little kids, we didn't try hiking to the top but circled part way around the bottom where was short brush and small trees mixed in with large boulders. Good bird habitat to say the least!

There were more vultures circling above and a Northern Mockingbird made an appearance, and a few times we stopped to inspect trees only to find Ruby-Crowned Kinglets and Black-Crested Titmouse. Then we saw a new bird. It was pale gray all over with a bit of brown on its head and was flitting between boulders and a small bush. I went in for a closer look, but it flew away. Then a very large group of hikers and their dog climbed, crawled and talked their way right through my newest birding hotspot. The bird was gone. I suspect it was a Green-Tailed Towhee, but who really knows? Couldn't those people see that we were birding? On our way out I saw another new bird of the year (Field Sparrow) that brought me up to 33 species for the year in only two days of birding.

Looking for the Green-Tailed Towhee
Field Sparrow at the Enchanted Rock

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