The plan for today was to ride the ~70 miles south from Rocksprings, TX to Uvalde, TX. I knew there would be some light to moderate south winds, but these did not look like anything that would make today terribly arduous. I was also going to lose about 1,500 feet of elevation over the course of the ride, so that would help keep me moving along despite the wind. The first part of the ride was actually quite scenic as it took me through some very undulating terrain in the southern part of the Hill Country. As the day progressed I dropped off the Edwards Plateau and into the flats surrounding Uvalde. Here, I am at 900' of elevation. I will be losing this in tiny bits as I head south and east in the next 2 weeks. I should not see any really significant hills for the remaining 6 weeks of the year - whew.
70 miles from Rocksprings to Uvalde +
5 miles birding in Uvalde for 75 total.
Rolling hills this morning
The Nueces River
The Redbox in the Camp Wood gas station!
You know you're in Texas when......
I received a tip that Cook's Slough Nature Park in Uvalde provided decent birding. After dropping most of my stuff in my motel, I biked over to check this place out. I had the entire place to myself for the 2+ hours I spent wandering the trails through dry scrub and around the series of impoundments. There were grebes, cormorants, herons, and coots on the water. However, it was a number of land birds that really made the afternoon. The first of these was the Great kiskadee that I found just as I arrived for #587! This large and colorful flycatcher is a South Texas specialty with tons of personality. Their squeaky calls and striking color patterns make it hard for them to hide. The photo I managed is terrible, but I will surely see lots more of these in the next few weeks.
#587 Great kiskadee
Walking through some of the scrubby areas, I found a Northern cardinal feeding on the path. Not terribly exciting, I know, but from right behind her emerged my first Olive Sparrow of the year! Unfortunately, I could not manage a photo of #588 as he and his cardinal friend split as soon as I attempted an approach. I waited for a few minutes to see if the bird would hop back out onto the path; It would not. However, while I was waiting, I heard a rustling in the dead leaves just a few feet oof the path. Peering through the tangled vines, I was able to catch a glimpse of my first Long-billed thrasher of the year for #589. This species, like the Olive sparrow above, is a common resident of scrubby and tangles understory throughout South Texas and the LRGV. I managed a very poor photo of the the thrasher. Like the kiskadee, I will certainly see more Olive sparrows and Long-billed thrashers as I move south.
If you use your imagination you can see a Long-Billed thrasher
buried in the center of this tangle!
It's great to start finding new birds after a very challenging week of ridding across Western and Central Texas. Cook's Slough was incredibly peaceful this afternoon. After my ride to reach Uvalde and the sanctuary, it was so nice to just casually wander around at a snail's pace. These are the times that I think I will miss most when I return to the real world next year. I can bird at a slow pace back in Boston, but, as I know most of the birding areas fairly well, those excursions often lack the curiosity and surprises that a first visit to a new area necessarily elicits. I should have many more afternoons like today's as I move south into birdier areas!
Tomorrow I have an easy ~50 miles to reach Carrizo Springs. There will be a headwind (and maybe some rain!), so there is no chance I can push to make it to Laredo, 125 miles away, in a single day. The prevailing south winds are really limiting what I can do each day, but each day that I make it to the next 'station' is a good day in my book!