|Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Lake Abilene|
Part of the appeal of this trip for me was a chance to bird the Big County, and area where I had a block of 14 counties I have never birded in and to the best of my knowledge never have even passed through. I wanted to start my birding day in Palo Pinto County the east most county in this block that was new to me. It just so happens that Possum Kingdom State Park is in Palo Pinto County so I was thinking meeting my goal of 47 birds in the county should be pretty easy too. Then I would bird the lower strip of counties I needed on my way to Abilene.
Things didn't work out as planned though. Instead of leaving at say 3 am and arriving at the park about 9 am, I wasn't able to leave until about 7 am because I had been on an unsuccessful chase the day before and had gone 20 hours on 4 hours of sleep. I got a full nights sleep and left at 7 am and arrived at about 2 pm instead (rush hour traffic and I birded a little at picnic areas on the way.
I tallied up bird in nine new counties for the year on the way. Finally I made the turn onto Park Road 33 about 1:30 pm almost to Possum Kingdom State Park. Basically all of PR33 is in the neighboring county, Stephens County, and it was very good to me, netting me 24 species for the day and the bird of the day for me, Western Bluebirds.
The State Park was kinda dead, yielding only 16 species of birds. Adding some species on my drive though the county I got Palo Pinto County to 24 species. Ok for mid afternoon, but not close to my goal of 47 average per county.
I pressed on through Stephen's County, wishing I had some time to stop and bird at Hubbard Creek Lake, it looked good. I pressed on through Shackelford County just making 6 species. Heading in to Abilene I pass briefly though Jones County and log Eurasian Collared-Dove for a single in the County to get it one the map, but failed to find a bird in Callahan County. I added 13 new counties for the year bring my total of counties I've recorded something in for the year to 62.
Day 2 of the road trip was all about Taylor County, Jay and I made a bit of a big day about it and started at Lake Abilene with Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Just a few things on the lake, but we were off and running. Between the lake and the park proper we found the first raven of the day starting a day long debate on raven ID in the county. I don't think we ever decided on the ID of a raven that day even though we saw many during the day. Raven ID is certainly a problem in the Big County.
We finished the day with 93 species, pretty good for a seat of the pants big day. Jay got 3 new ones for his Big Year, Cave Swallow, Lark Bunting, and Lesser Yellowlegs. Highlight of the day for me was Mountain Bluebird.
Day 3 was going to be a big one for me, I wanted to attempt to reach 14 counties in a day and get back to Abilene in time to go to the Big County Audubon meeting with Jay.
|Ferruginous Hawk, Crosby County|
This was my western limit of the day and I made my turn to the east getting my first bird in Motley County at 12:53 pm. Where has the time gone I thought. Motley and Cottle Counties went smoothly, but I traveled miles of Foard County with no birds. I was afraid of missing birds in the county so I took a loop on an unpaved county road. A couple of miles of that road and nothing still. Then right before I hit the pavement I see a flock in a field. I scan and wow, there are about 100 Mountain Bluebirds in the field. That field and a productive picnic area and I hit 13 species before I leave the county.
|Mountain Bluebird, Foard County|
Day 4, headed home the long way. I make a beeline fore Stonewall County. I can't really resist stopping to bird at picnic areas, and the US83 Aspermont Picnic Area is a good one, its right on the Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos River. I wasn't able to stay long, I had miles to go and it was well 20 degrees. I had 14 species in as many minutes. There is a fair amount of birdable area there too.
Another great stop in the county was FM1263 at the Salt Fork of the Brazos River. Besides being very scenic I found 13 species here.
|Salt Fork of the Brazos River|
My GPS Overloads picked a route that went through several new counties for year. By sunset in Leon County I had logged birds in 12 counties for the day bringing my total to 85 counties for the year.
Next week I'm going to try and finish off my last block in east Texas, then I have to figure out how to get into the Panhandle soon.