Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Paul's Texas Trip Part 6 (Tour of King's Ranch)

After a morning full of exotic south Texas birds, I really didn't think I would see anymore as we were headed for the historic King's Ranch. We had decided to take a tour around the ranch partly because we thought the kids would have fun and partly because we wanted to see a real Texas longhorn.

We arrived at the visitor center a bit early and were killing time until the 2:30 start of our tour. There was a short promotional video (heavy on the 'promotion') about King's Ranch and there was an area where the kids could play. While they practiced their roping skills, I poked around the garden surrounding the visitor center. They had some feeders which were attracting hoards of House Sparrows and some American Goldfinches; perhaps there was another bird in the mix? This was, when I noticed a hummingbird landing on a tree near the hummingbird feeders and cacti in bloom. After a short crisis involving my middle sized boy and a hill of sleepy fire ants, I was able to focus on the bird and realized it was a Buff-Bellied Hummingbird.

Ride 'em cowboy.
With that, we noticed the tour was about to start. The tour consisted of us being ferried around the ranch (well, a very small part of it) in a little shuttlebus with a very friendly (almost overly-friendly) guide showering us with stories, facts and figures, and other trivial information about the ranch. Meanwhile, I was focused on the south Texas landscape and the birds that were perched here and there.

Texas longhorn in its native habitat
So while the group was looking at the Texas longhorns and hearing about the horses on the ranch, I saw carcaras, phoebes, and kiskadees. There were several new birds in the mix including the Pyrrhuloxia, a Vermillon Flycatcher, and a Cattle Egret.

They don't call it a Cattle Egret for nothing
The tour lasted about 2 hours and after we arrived back at the visitor's center, I had seen 24 birds in the afternoon including 5 new year birds. I was now 90 for the trip and I was pretty happy with all that we had seen. We drove back to Austin that night and I spent the next couple of days at a science conference (well, that was why I went to Texas in the first place). I was able to see a few more birds (Red-Tailed Hawk, Lincoln's Sparrow, White-Crowned Sparrow) before heading back to Canada. It was a good dose of Texas birding and a great trip overall.

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