A dentist’s appointment on Monday brought Michael G. back to Del Rio for a visit over the weekend.
After a hearty breakfast at Skillet’s on Sunday morning, we headed to the Amistad National Recreation Area to walk off some of those calories and see what winter birds we could find around the lake.
We parked just off Spur 454. The spur, old U.S. Highway 90, has been gated for months now. I’m assuming this was done because people just can’t seem to behave and obey the National Park Service’s rules about driving off-road in prohibited areas.
As we hiked toward the cove nearest our car, we listened for bird activity in the brushy and overgrown meadows on both sides of the road. In wetter years, these areas are teeming with birds, but on Sunday, they were absolutely quiet.
A few hundred yards from the car, we finally encountered a trio of Black-throated Sparrows, birds that are at home in arid, rocky habitats. We also spied a long Loggerhead Shrike sitting sentry on the topmost branch of a dead tree.
We told each other we’d see more birds as we approached the water, and we did.
As we crested a rise lined by huisaches, we got our first glimpse of a finger-shaped cove of the lake.
Out on the water, a small raft of American Coots bobbed, joined by a quartet of Mallards.
A Forster’s Tern winged by above us, flying out over the water, then diving dramaticly into the lake to recover a small fish.
Closer to the lakeshore, a thick carpet of straw-colored grass hid a flock of Savannah Sparrows, which startled up at our approach. They flew up into the huisaches on the ridge line above the cove, and we knew they’d return to their foraging in the grass if we were quiet and patient.
We moved along the shore and found a place to sit and watch.
Small dead trees, drowned in some long-ago rise in the level of water in the lake, made perfect perches for birds that like to be around water, like Say’s Phoebes and Vermilion Flycatchers.
As we watched and waited, we also saw a pipit foraging close to the water line.
We’ve seen these small, cryptic songbirds along the San Felipe Creek in small flocks, but this particular bird was all by itself.
After deliberating and comparing of photos after the fact, we decided this was an American Pipit, the more common of the two pipit species that can be found in North America.
After a time, we got up and moved on and found an Osprey and a Crested Caracara in the next cove over before it was time to walk back to the car and head for home.
FIELD NOTES: Jim Butterworth on Monday reported he and his wife Pat had four pairs of Purple Martins visit the martin houses at their home in Los Campos on Sunday. The Butterworths have three martin houses on their property, and Jim said Purple Martins have been coming there regularly for at least the last 20 years.
Karen Gleason is the senior staff writer for the Del Rio News-Herald. She loves nature and the outdoors and has been an avid bird watcher since childhood.