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2021-03-21 Resaca2mi de la Palma

Louisiana Waterthrush - Parkesia motacilla
I spotted this waterthrush earlier, but pictures were not possible because of distance and brushy obstructions. This was my first meeting with the species. Hunter Lane is at the far side of the park, two miles from the Resaca de la Palma Visitor Center. It is the most reliable place in the reserve to find standing water, and my favorite place to enjoy birds.
Least Grebe - Tachybaptus dominicus
I saw but one pair of Least Grebes on the resaca during my visit, and the crayfish hunting was good.

I last visited Resaca de la Palma State Park just before leaving Texas on my first visit in spring of 2020. It was closed during most of my stay because of the pandemic. However, just prior to my planned departure, they opened up the park, and I took advantage of my opportunity, twice visiting here before I left Texas last May.

This state park encompasses 1200 acres and is the largest of all the reserves in the World Birding Center network. With miles of trails traversing the property, I find it is best negotiated on my bicycle, as my favorite location is the resaca at Hunter Lane, some 2 miles from the Visitor Center.

Last year I’d hoped to meet Least Grebes, but I failed on every attempt and every location I tried. Hunter Lane was the only location in this park with even a hint of standing water. I found it more of a puddle than a pond on that visit. The grebes eluded me last year, but I enjoyed the time I spent in the company of thrushes, warblers, cuckoos, anis, and shorebirds. Today’s visit offered much more water and a new set of avian players.

This day’s weather was sunny and warm, though breezes and cloudy skies presented themselves at different times of the day. I wasted no time in riding out to my spot at Hunter Lane. Most of the day I enjoyed the serenity of a shady trail side spot between the two water bodies of this often dry resaca. The trail, or road, traverses the resaca from north to south, and resaca’s bed drains east to west.

Today the shallow water on the east side of the trail extended beyond my view and hosted most of the birds I could see. The backlighting from the sun’s morning light compromised any image I might attempt from that direction. But I tried anyway. The early sun’s orientation from the east means the west side of the trail is best for morning shooting. The east is better in the afternoon. The birds I meet often have an uncanny knack for putting themselves in the worst lighting. Though occasionally, they may slip up and pose in optimal light. I benefited from their occasional repositioning into the well lit west side of the trail in the morning. Of course, when afternoon rolls around, the situation reverses, favoring images captured on the east side of the trail.

I had this place to myself for most of the day. But the folks I met were a pleasure. Some people were there to meet the birds and spend time with nature. That describes me as well. Some folks were there to pursue their love of nature photography. A passion I also share. Conversations came naturally.

When I finished my day, the birds I’d met were Common Yellowthroat, Great Egret, Greater Yellowlegs, Great Kiskadee, Least Grebe, Lesser Yellowlegs, Little Blue Heron, Louisiana Waterthrush, Snowy Egret, Solitary Sandpiper, and White Ibis.

Birds of note for me were the Louisiana Waterthrush and the Solitary Sandpiper. It was the first time I’d met the Louisiana Waterthrush. I found the bird enjoyed spending its time along the brushy edges of the ponds, making it a challenge to capture an unobstructed image. The Solitary Sandpiper had been one of my nemesis birds for many years, though a visit to Nevada some years ago blessed me with a close encounter. Today’s meeting, though welcome, was not such a close encounter.

Observing behaviours is one aspect that time in the field provides me. Today I captured White Ibis and Least Grebes bagging crayfish. The ibis spent part of the morning foraging in pleasant light, at close range. They worked hard for their living, but occasionally I caught them playing with their hard earned meals. I watched as one of the Least Grebes caught a sizable crayfish and flew a short distance before gulping down its sizable prey.

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