Then on February 11 I went to Belize for two weeks. Sure it was fun and I did see 248 species of birds, but none of them added to my big year. Three days after I arrived in Belize I saw the news of the Long-eared Owls at Lake Arrowhead State Park near Wichita Falls, TX. Long-eared Owls are early migrants north and I thought it would be a miracle if they stuck around for at least 10 more days.
Over the next 10 days there were updates and the birds were there every day. I began to think it was possible. I finally was able to go and try for these birds on March 1st.
I rose at 1:30 am to make the 390 mile drive to the park from Houston. I was feeling the fatigue of birding sunrise to sunset in Belize and driving the van everyday I realized. I make a lot of coffee stops along the way. These delays slowly built up though.
I made it to the park by 8:15 am though. At the headquarters I was greeted with "Good Morning" and I responded, "Good Morning, I've come for your owls!" The staff smiled and let me know the birds had been in the tree by the flag pole the day before.
I parked and kept my distance from the tree scanning carefully. I had tried for the Long-eared Owls at Hueco Tanks State Park with no luck in a similar situation. There the park host told us he had been photographing them everyday until they flew off and he was mystified why they weren't there for us. I didn't want flush these birds so I stayed between 50 and 40 feet out from the tree.
Lake Arrowhead State Park
I tooled around the park ticking of county birds for a bit then decided I should chase a few things in the DFW area. I could see using Birdseye that Rusty Blackbird had been seen at the Village Creek Drying Beds in Arlington in the last few days and that a Little Gull had been seen the day before at White Rock Lake in Dallas. Time to fly.
I made to Village Creek in good time and from past experience knew the place to look for Rusty Blackbird would be the woods on the entrance to the beds. I parked and started looking. I walked up and down the road a few times listening and looking at everything. On my fourth pass in about 30 minutes I heard a squeaky call and saw three blackbirds with rusty backs fly across the road. Rusty Blackbird was Year Bird 312. Time to fly!
When I arrived at White Rock Lake I could see a lot of birds on the spillway. That was a good sign. Most were Ring-billed Gulls and a couple of Herring Gulls. Once in a while I would find a Bonaparte's Gull mixed in but no Little Gull. Bonaparte's Gulls where flying close periodically and I started scanning the lake for the distinct dark underwings of a Little Gull in flight.
While scanning a pair of Purple Martin's made for Year Bird 313. Way over due actually, I expected to get Purple Martin in early February actually.
White Rock Lake