This morning, my dad and I got off to a late start arriving at Santa Ana NWR at 8:15 for the 8:30 bird walk. Immediately, we were greeted with a flurry of bird sounds walking down Chachalaca Trail resulting in Orange-crowned Warbler, Black-and-White Warbler, and the best bird of the day, the Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet. Since our ultimate goal for the day included hitting birding sites east, we left Santa Ana by roughly 10:30, but not before getting new Texas birds including Great Crested Flycatcher, Nashville Warbler, Swainson’s Hawk, and White Ibis.
Following Santa Ana, we visited Estero Llano Grande State Park, which was highly productive from a birding perspective. We spent over a half an hour looking for a Pauraque, which as the picture below shows, blends in incredibly well with the surrounding habitat. In addition to the Pauraque, Estero contributed unique birds such as Black and Yellow-crowned Night Herons, American Avocet, and Roseate Spoonbill. After Estero we took a short trip to Resaca de la Palma State Park, where we got another life bird, the White-tailed Hawk. In addition to birds, I added an Armadillo and roughly 15 foot long alligator to the list of other animals I have seen on the trip. I’m still hoping for a bobcat or the much rarer ocelot before I leave.
Something I have now noticed at all the World Birding Center locations (Bentsen-Rio, Estero Llano Grande, and Resaca de la Palma) is that there is a unique dichotomy between making money and promoting the environment through education and appreciation. All the World Birding Center locations have charged a higher entrance fee than National Wildlife Refuges and the WBC’s certainly have more opportunities to make money on patrons (bike and binocular rentals, extensive gift shops, and some camping options). Both state parks and national wildlife refuges are hurting for money, but the WBC’s seem to be more active in trying to be economic self-sufficient. In contrast, Balcones Canyonlands NWR (near Austin, Texas) didn’t charge an entrance fee. When I asked about the future costs of projects they wanted to accomplish in addition to the fact that they make very little revenue, head park officials still said they have no plans of implementing any kind of cost to enter the park. Essentially, national wildlife refuges put nature first, period. It seems as though World Birding Centers (state parks) definitely have an appreciation for nature, but also try to capitalize financially on each visitor.
As a final note, my dad and I went through and entered all our listings into a computer software program in order to organize our lists. To date, I have 33 life birds on the trip and my dad has 25. Originally, I had made an ambitious goal to see 200 species in Texas during our time here. With roughly 2.5 days of birding to go, we have amassed 146 total species. There’s no doubt that the birding we have done so far has been phenomenal, but it will take a herculean effort with a little bit of luck to reach our ultimate goal of 200. Nonetheless, tomorrow starts at 6:15 with the hopes of seeing a Crimson-collared Grosbeak and whatever else happens to make its way into the sight of my binoculars.