Sunday, December 9, 2012

Texas Trip: Santa Ana NWR

One of the places I was most excited to visit in south Texas was Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.  This beautiful, more than 2,000 acre refuge harbors many of the rare and sought-after birds in south Texas.  We visited the refuge three times during our 6 days in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.  Despite the refuge's great reviews by other birders, we left the park each time a little disappointed.  Perhaps we had bad luck here compared with other places.  We did two long early morning hikes in the park, but found bird activity and diversity to be relatively low.  Still, we enjoyed the long hikes through forests of texas ebony, and got a lot of great birds.  Waterfowl and shorebirds abounded in the park, and we spent a lot of time scanning the impoundments and lakes hoping for a Northern Jacana or a Masked Duck, but with no luck.
Green Jay at the feeder, Santa Ana NWR, TX
White-tipped Dove, Santa Ana NWR, TX
The main birds we saw in the park were Green Jay, White-tipped Dove, Plain (BOOM!) Chachalaca, Harris's Hawk, Great Kiskadee, Olive Sparrow, and Long-billed Thrasher.  We also spent a lot of time pishing to see what we could turn up in the flocks of wintering songbirds.  Despite our efforts, we only had common species such as Orange-crowned Warbler (just about everywhere!), Yellow-rumped Warbler, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Pine Warbler, and Black-crested Titmouse.  On the lakes we saw Least and Pied-billed Grebes, most of the normal North American waterfowl, Wilson's Snipe, Long-billed Dowitchers, and other shorebirds.
Harris's Hawk, Santa Ana NWR, TX
I put in a little bit of time on the observation tower hoping to spot a Hook-billed Kite, but much to my chagrin, I could not locate one.  Harris's Hawk, Gray Hawk, Turkey and Black Vulture, Northern Harrier, Osprey, Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks were the only raptors I saw from up there.

Even though we were a little disappointed after our visits here, I would recommend this refuge to any birder or naturalist visiting south Texas.  The extensiveness of the trails, habitat diversity, and potential for rare birds is amazing in itself.  I am absolutely looking forward to going back in the future.

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