R is for roads, raptors, and ruminators, so I'm linking up with Alphabe-Thursday .
This weekend, I headed to the Texas Hill Country for a hike at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area with one of the Meetup Groups. Enchanted Rock is one of the sites along the Heart of Texas Wildlife Trail - West, but I've discovered I cannot be a hiker and a photographer/birder at the same time. With a camera, my pace is about a mile an hour. I'll visit another time with the intention of wildlife photography.
The hike was not until Sunday, and check-in time at my hotel was not until 4 pm, so I visited some of the Katy Prairie sites of the Coastal Birding Trails on my way out of town Saturday. That's Longenbaugh Road in the above photo. I searched for the waterfowl pond, but was not able to find it. I didn't see any signs, all of the gates along the road were locked, and there were no obvious large bodies of water. I did find birds, though, including the ever-present vultures.
I've seen vultures stretch their wings while roosting before, always shortly before taking off. Are they doing this to dry their feathers and warm themselves, I wonder, or simply to loosen up before taking flight? There was no sun on this day, but there was rain.
Both vulture species were posing this way, so I captured some shots that illustrate the difference in appearance when sited soaring overhead. Turkey vultures have light feathers on the bottom halves of their wings...
...while Black Vultures have solid dark wings with the exception of light tips.
I thought I was photographing a Red-Tailed Hawk, but when I uploaded the pictures, the head was wrong. The tail doesn't really look red, either. With those facial markings, I think it has to be a Prairie Falcon. Birds look so different when they are fluffed up against the rain and cold, they confuse me sometimes.
There was a cattle herd in the field, as well. They mostly ignored me, but the young one never looked away. I wonder what he found so fascinating.
I Googled the site after returning home, and the satellite map does show a spot in the field that could very well be the Longenbaugh Waterfowl Pond. I wonder if I looked right at it without seeing.
The Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail - Upper Texas Coast: UTC098
Date of visit: 3/15/2014
Temp: 68 deg F
Conditions: Overcast, periods of light rain.
Species identified (11): White-winged Dove, Northern Mockingbird, Turkey Vulture, Prairie Falcon, Black Vulture, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Northern Cardinal, Mourning Dove, Savannah Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, European Starling