Hill Country was a fine place for some birding but Audrey and I were excited to leave behind the exotic animal hunting ranches to meet up with a new cast of characters in Brownsville. We picked up Sarah, Max, and Eric from the airport, dumped all our stuff at our amazing Airbnb in Harlingen, and then drove through a golf course for no reason (Google Maps has much to learn). Eventually we made it to Estero Llano Grande State Park to meet up with Nate and his friend AJ.
This place was so great we ended up visiting a second time while we were there, but I will begin with our first visit. The brick pathway above leads from the parking area to the visitor center and is packed with birds. Plain Chachalacas were most conspicuous.
Sometimes it's nice to enjoy an easy and loud AF lifer. A Curve-billed Thrasher was not as interested in being noticed.
The viewing deck by the visitor center was a perfectly shady spot pick up lifers and year birds.
Especially baffling to us Oregonians was a bunch of Stilt Sandpipers. Like more than one. Like a flock. Say what.
The hummingbird feeders hosted my only lifer hummingbird of the trip, the Buff-bellied Hummingbird.
We walked out to Alligator Lake (I think) and found no gators but tons of Least Grebes, of which I am a big fan.
Nate led us to a spot where he knew to look for a snoozing Common Pauraque.
Most of us were super excited about the birds, but I think AJ was most pumped on this Mexican bluewing:
A few days after this visit we returned in hopes of seeing the reported Fulvous Whistling-Duck.
We arrived at the observation deck and began scanning for the desired duck. A Roseate Spoonbill was extremely distracting as it knocked ducks off a log with its giant spoony duck-scooping bill.
We walked out to one of the back ponds and quickly found the Fulvous Whistling-Duck. This was quite lucky as the bird disappeared out of sight within a minute or two.
With the duck out of sight we turned around to watch more spoonbill antics.
We were walking back towards the parking lot when a bug started buzzing around Sarah, which sent Sarah running down the path ahead of us. This was quite fortuitous because she managed to scare up a Clay-colored Thrush.
In the parking lot we were psyched to finally see one of those fancy Texas Lesser Goldfinches that have all black backs.
Estero Llano treated us very well and I highly recommend a stop here if you're birding the area. Our eBird checklists from our two visits can be found here and here.