I’m finally back from my long trip to the Lone Star state. As predicted, business kept me completely pinned down this time out, but my birding luck was good regardless. I was met at the airport by the usual contingent of Mourning Doves, European Starlings, and Great-tailed Grackles, the last a welcome departure from New York’s Common species. Everything that makes up a grackle, from its terrible beak and cold, yellow glare to its darkly resplendent plumage and rudder-shaped real feathers, seems more pronounced on the great-tail, which makes them fun to watch.
The hotel offered more of the same, along with Blue Jays, Northern Mockingbirds, Rock Pigeons, and House Sparrows. No big deal there. It was, however, situated on the concrete banks of the obviously artificial Lake Carolyn, which offered other birding opportunities. Apart from a single Cooper’s Hawk, the birds here were the swimming kind – Mallards, American Coot, Pied-billed Grebes, and Canada Geese. The highlight was a lone Ring-necked Duck, a juvenile who seemed rather early for the winter festivities. Ring-necked duck is a year bird for me, so I deemed this sighting the most productive few minutes of birding I’d be likely to enjoy in Texas this time out.
Fortunately, I was wrong.
The big moment came when I finally managed to get away from the homogenous halls of my hotel and out into something resembling the great state of Texas. A few of us hopped in a cab to grab dinner at the local Pappa Bros (Shiner Bock on tap – sweet!) Though the light was failing, I kept my eyes out for avians out of the ordinary. I’m glad I did, since a utility wire full of starlings turned out to be something much better. You see, as I scanned the birds, one of them appeared to have a long stick strapped to its back. Looking more closely, it was clear that the group was not a murmuration of starlings at all, but in fact a squadron of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers. Though I wasn’t close enough to admire these birds’ salmon stained sides and streaming tail feathers in detail, I could certainly see enough to make my very first sighting of this species official. Of course, it comes as no surprise that my dinner companions did not share my enthusiasm, but that’s par for the course. What matters is that even my brief bit of birding in Texas turned out to be memorable.