Another horrible, cloudy, drizzly and very cold day but it turned out to be an excellent days birding for my last full day in the States; I started off just after dawn at the Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR and drove round the loop where new birds included good views of a SPRAGUE’S PIPIT on the side of the track, a small group of BREWER’S BLACKBIRDS (a bigger flock was seen later in the day) and good but distant views of two GREATER PRAIRIE CHICKENS (the smaller isolated Attwater’s race pretty much only found on this reserve) down a side track with one of them flushed by a Harrier and another seen well feeding in the middle of the track, even calling once and jumping up and down, practising for spring. A walk round one of the paths also produced a few new birds with good views of a GRASSHOPPER SPARROW, good numbers of FIELD SPARROWS in the long grass and a few brief but good views of a couple of LE CONTE’S SPARROWS in amongst big numbers of Savannah, Vesper, Lincoln’s and White-throated Sparrows.
Other birds included two Long-billed Dowitchers and good numbers of Wilson’s Snipe and Killdeer, one flock of Mallard (new for the trip!), lots of raptors with 2 White-tailed Hawks, many Northern Harriers cruising around, a few Red-tailed Hawks and a few American Kestrels, a couple of family parties of Sandhill Cranes, Mourning Doves, Common Ground Doves, Red-bellied Woodpeckers and Downy Woodpeckers in the creek bed, Eastern Phoebes, a couple of Loggerhead Shrikes and a big flock of Myrtle Warblers in the creek bed along with Ruby-crowned Kinglet and House Wren.
I then drove down some back roads where birds included several thousand more Sandhill Cranes with many of them starting to jump around and dance, a decent flock of WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS, lots more Northern Harriers including a couple of adult males, more Red-tailed Hawks showing amazing variation from all dark birds to very white adults, a Sharp-shinned Hawk and more Sprague’s Pipits, Loggerhead Shrikes and Sparrows.
I then had a walk along one side of Eagle Lake where the highlight was definitely great views of two brilliant 1st winter BALD EAGLES right along the edge; other birds included excellent views of a smart Red-shouldered Hawk, good numbers of waterbirds such as White Ibis, Great and Snowy Egrets, Little Blue Heron, Tricoloured Heron, American Wigeon, Blue-winged Teal and Pintail, Swamp Sparrows, Carolina Chickadees, a Couch’s Kingbird and another small group of White-crowned Sparrows.
Sandhill Cranes flocking and dancing
I'm not sure what this is. Some kind of Musk Rat thing or is it maybe a Beaver?