Before heading out to the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Kim and I decided to try some of the local cuisine at Alicia's. I have been intrigued by this place every since Birdchick posted about it back in 2006. The artwork is amazing and the food is great. The lunch specials are the best and you get a lot of food for the price.
After loading up on Tacos Mexicanos we were off to the refuge. I love how this area of the world is so welcoming to the birders. Everywhere we went whether it was the hotel, airport, local liquor store, or nature center had a big sign out celebrating your visit.
At Santa Ana we picked up a few new waterfowl for our Texas lists. The trails were empty of birders but we had great sightings of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks and Mottled Ducks with very bright pinkish orange legs. Maybe it was the sun but the legs seemed a little different color than the Mottled Ducks down in Florida.
Kim and I had a lot of fun being goofy and hiking through the trails. We took some side trails down to the Rio Grande. On one such trail we may have found some evidence of an illegal crossing. A couple of trash bags, lots of water bottles, and an old shirt crumpled just inside the tree line beside the river. Some of these side trails were marked no entry and we stayed clear of them for the most part.
The highlight at Santa Ana that day was the tower. This large noisy white tower puts you right above the canopy. The view is spectacular and the birds were busy in the afternoon sun. Once at the top Kim got an up-close-and-personal look at a Harris's Hawk. It was perched in the nearest tree right beside the tower. It didn't move and I wasn't quick enough to snap a picture. Just when we thought it was going to stay an Altimira Oriole attacked it and they both took flight into the distance.
Kim taking a closer look at her lifer Harris's Hawk being chased by an Altimira Oriole. In the background Great Kiskadees were calling everywhere. It was one of those moments that it never felt better than to be outside birding, soaking in some new trails, and enjoying the afternoon sunset with a friend.