2021-03-19 Friday Among Sabal Palms

White-Eyed Vireo - Vireo griseus
White-Eyed Vireos are often skulking birds, but I caught a few clear shots this morning. Sabal Palm Sanctuary is only five miles from where I camp in Brownsville. My last visit was late January 2021 and felt it was time to get reacquainted. I couldn’t have picked a better day. There was glorious weather and wonderful birds.

Only five miles south from my camp in Brownsville (Texas), Sabal Palm Sanctuary is an attractive birding destination. Nestled into the southernmost arc of the Rio Grande, it has jungle trails, grasslands, thorn scrub, and resacas. As remnants of old watercourses for the river, resacas hold water for pond-loving birds and other wildlife.

During my first visit to Texas, in the earliest days of the Covid pandemic, this park was closed to the public, and I wasn’t able to explore there. It wasn’t until my second Brownsville tenure in January 2021 I could visit this mystical place and meet her birds. I met my first Least Grebes and my first Green Kingfisher on those visits. I left Brownsville in February to explore other places in the lower Rio Grande and the entire Texas Gulf Coast, but now that I’m back, I’m eager to explore the local region and see how the changes of season affect the birding opportunities.

I was the first visitor to arrive at the sanctuary. After checking in at the Visitor Center, I grabbed a quick breakfast in the RV and prepared for my adventure on the trails ahead. As I was beginning my trek, two other nature lovers showed up and discussed their strategy for the day to survey the reptiles here. I loaded up my water, folding chair, binoculars, tripod and camera with its 800mm lens, and walked out to meet the day. I only walked a mile and a half this day. Including my stops along the way, it was three and a half hours before I returned to the van.

The south resaca pond has proven worthy in the past for spending time with birds. My most memorable encounters occurred there, including the Least Grebes and the Green Kingfisher. After I noticed a pair of Belted Kingfishers, I knew I’d be spending time here again. Later, when a Ringed Kingfisher flew in, chasing one of the Belted Kingfishers from its perch, I knew I was in the best place I could be this morning. Between today and last January’s visit, this small pond has delivered to me a trifecta of kingfishers; all three North American species.

By the end of my tour, I’d captured American Coot, Belted Kingfisher, Blue-Winged Teal, Gadwall, Green Jay, Least Grebe, Northern Cardinal, Pied-Billed Grebe, Red-Eared Slider, Ringed Kingfisher, and White-Eyed Vireo.

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