Thursday, February 23—Serious Birding

Every Thursday, Jerry and Karen lead a birding trip from Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort to an interesting Rio Grande Valley location.  This week’s trip was to Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).  As you may recall from previous writings, Jerry and Karen are a couple we met at the Savage River in Denali National Park in Alaska. Jerry is retired from the US Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, and he and Karen are SERIOUS birders.  They volunteer their knowledge, time, and expense in leading these trips each week, and Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort is quite fortunate to have them as residents.  Cars began queuing up in front of Guest Services at about 7:15 AM, and we were somewhere in the middle of the 11 total cars going on the trip.  We drove to the NWR, showed our senior pass, and immediately began a hike along NWR trails.  After just a short while, I was both humbled and intimidated; most of the rest of the birders knew even the smallest nuance of each species we heard or saw, and to me, most looked liked birds, though I did recognize the woodpeckers, birds of prey, and a few of the waterfowl.  IMG_3095Most of the others could tell birds by their sound, their body movements, their color variations, etc.  Wow, do we ever have a lot to learn.  A total of 66 birds were identified today, and a relatively rare mountain bluebird was observed.  We specifically “hunted” for the bluebird, and someone spotted it in a large, seasonally dry lake bed.  It immediately flew to a tree near us, and we were able to view it through binoculars, spotting scopes, and some of us were lucky enough to photograph it.  For many it was a new bird to add to their list.  It is shown first among the following pictures.  Kay liked the ibis and kingfisher best of all the birds we saw, and both are also shown among the photos below.  At the end of the day, we had hiked some 6 miles in humid, mid-80 degree temperatures with lots of mosquitos feasting on exposed bare skin.  After the morning’s bird watching, we joined others in a picnic area for lunch; it was a great day!IMG_2350B

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We discovered a couple of things about the equipment we used today.  First, my binoculars are great for wildlife viewing, but poor for bird watching.  They have a large depth of field, but require refocusing each eyepiece when the distance changes very much, and today it did with birds both far and near.  Second, the wind was so high that the camera would bounce, even using a tripod, and the overcast sky did not provide a decent background for bird pictures, as you can see above.  Oh, well, life remains a learning experience.

We stopped enroute “home” for a few groceries, and after unloading, immediately took advantage of the spa and pool.  With the long hike, Kay had done some serious damage to an already hurt foot, and badly needed the soothing warmth of the hot tub.

This evening proved to be one of our most active nights at the palapa, and we suspect it’s because several folks will start pulling out for home next week, including us.  After visiting for a couple of hours, we adjourned early to the motorhome, too tired to prepare dinner.  Instead, we drove to Costa Messa, and had great Mexican food to end our evening. 

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