Saturday, May 3, 2014

May 3 (Day 123) - A nice ride and 7 new birds in Junction, TX

Today started at 5:30am in the dark. It was 51F when I stepped out the door. It was ideal riding weather, and I even found myself a bit cold on steep downhill stretches where I was moving upwards of 20-22 MPH. Not long into the ride the sky started to lighten behind me to the east, and the temperature steadily climbed into the 60s. Nashville warblers belted out song along my westerly ride, and I kicked up hundreds of Lark sparrows from the roadside of the very cycling-friendly Route 290. I found a single, roadside Magnolia warbler which was a bit unexpected. I normally associate this species with lush woodlands instead of the dry, scrubby Hill Country through which I was riding. I was able to add Common Raven (#345) and Bell's Vireo (#346) this morning. The number of Bell's vireos I heard this morning was incredible. It seems like there was one every 50 feet!

After 40 miles on Route 290, I merged onto my figurative home for the next two weeks, Interstate 10. This road will carry me from where I am now, Junction (TX),  through Western New Mexico. I will say that the 25 miles of riding I did today on Interstate 10 were just fantastic. First, there is not much traffic. Second, there is just enough traffic that if I did have some sort of problem, I could probably flag someone down without too much effort. Third, I-10 has a very wide, debris-free shoulder. There were a fair number of shredded tires that presumably flew off 18-wheelers, but these posed no real impediment to riding. Fourth, the hills were appropriately graded for biking. A very long hill might be 3-4 miles in length, but it is pitched such that it is ridable. Lastly, at least this stretch of I-10 is asphalt. This smooth surface should not tax my bike, my body, or my brain as I ride along it. Nothing is worse than roads made of aggregates of large pebbles or roads with seams every 10 feet. The noise of the bike as it crosses the seams is enough to make any cyclist suicidal. "Tha-thunk, tha-thunk, tha-thunk" every 7 seconds for 8 hours - no thanks. I really hope what I experienced today on I-10 continues for the rest of Texas.

Downhill stretch on I-10. There's even a rumble
strip between the cars and me

Best Western in going to be very important on this stretch of the journey. I stayed with them in Fredericksburg last night, and I am staying with them again tonight in Junction. I arrived at the hotel around 1pm after eating lunch in town. I was very hot from my ride, so a nice dip in the hotel pool felt great. 

Best Western Dos Rios, Junction, TX

Missing: upper body strength/muscles

I recovered in my room for an hour, and then I headed out to South Llano River State Park 8 miles south of town. Considering that I birded the park from 3pm until 7pm, I found it to be quite birdy. The main target was Black-capped vireo. I dipped on this Hill Country specialty, but I was able to add 5 more species to the 2 I added earlier in the day. These were:

#347 Western scrub jay
#348 Black-throated sparrow
#349 Verdin
#350 Ash-throated flycatcher
#351 Canyon towhee

I was not able to manage any photos of any of these species (ugh). Oh wait, I forgot to tell everyone. I decided to lug my camera with me! I realized that my bird photos will help keep the blog up to its past high standards. Hopefully, I can actually get a few pics tomorrow (vireo or other!)

It was nice to find these common desert species, but none of them were unexpected; I would surely have seen all of these as I move west. I had allocated tomorrow to search for the vireo, so it looks as though this is what is going to have to happen. It would have been nice to tick the vireo today since it would have instantly turned tomorrow into a travel day instead of a birding day. I am not disappointed to return to South Llano though. It is a really nice park, and it has really been set up for birders. There are 4 fantastic bird blinds - complete with drips -  scattered about the park. The two that I visited today were exceptionally busy with sparrows, doves, tanager, and doves. I even had a Nashville warbler some in at one point. I even made a few friends in one of the blinds! For the more adventurous, the park has 25 miles of hiking trails that wind through a variety of habitats. 

(L to R) Park employee Bertha, Lynn and Bill Visiting from
Canada, and local photographer Don

As for the vireo, I have a good plan to find it tomorrow. I will met a local birder at the park who seems to have a good track record of finding this bird. It turns out that they only sing in the late morning. I clearly missed this window today with my 3pm arrival. I will return to South Llano tomorrow morning around 7am to resume the vireo hunt. I will also take a few minutes to look for Scott's oriole, Hutton's vireo, and a few other potentially new birds. It hold be a good day!

Time for bed, I am exhausted.......



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