Friday, June 20, 2014

USA 2014 - Austin

We'd been planning a trip to the USA for a while, mostly driven by the need to use my last airmiles earned whilst working before they expired.  We constructed it around three objectives:

(1) I wanted Helen to see Austin, Texas and we both wanted to see a Golden-cheeked Warbler
(2) We had a road trip planned in Utah for some time
(3) To visit family in the North-West

So we booked a trip encompassing all three, with the first stop in Austin, which we reached transiting via Dallas.

Austin itself is a delightful, fun and vibrant city, and is also the State Capitol (US spelling) of Texas.  The Capitol building itself is made out of pink granite:


The first morning we visited a reserve (Balcones Canyonlands) known for the Golden-cheeked Warbler and did indeed see them though the vegetation was very close and the views were distant so the photography tricky (I have record shots but nothing worth publishing).

We spent the afternoon local to the city and enjoyed a walk around in the baking heat.

On Wednesday morning we set out to another Golden-cheeked Warbler hotspot, Pedronales Falls State Park.

There are two bird blinds/hides with feeders, which provided a good view of a Western Scrub Jay amongst other species:


Between the two hides is a small butterfly garden which was replete with Monarchs:


And this one whatever it may be:


Just outside the hide area, pecking away at a tree, a Ladder-backed Woodpecker:



We went on a hike down the falls themselves, encountering a Black-crested Titmouse on the way: 


We missed the peak season for wildflowers in Texas - as you can see here they were mostly setting seed by late May:


There's a lot of rough land and rocks, it's obvious when there's flash-flooding the water levels rise dramatically and fill the river valley:



However the water levels were low and pace of the river slow during our visit:



On the hike back to the car, a Black-chinned Hummingbird was feeding on a cactus flower:


Our visit was curtailed at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Gardens as Helen developed a migraine, so an early night meant missing out on a vegan dinner special and the wild bat spectacle but she needed to rest and recover.

Zilker Botanical Gardens:

On our last morning and under something of a cloud (it actually rained!) we walked around Zilker Botanical Gardens.  Northern Cardinals seemed plentiful:


A delightful Summer Tanager with food:


In the gloom water lilies were flowering:


And on a remote (ish) path, a White-eyed Vireo, a lifetime sighting, and a cracking looking bird:


At one point a baby rabbit was eating by the side of the trail.  Rather than run it just froze, helpfully given the prevailing light:


We left Zilker and indeed Austin, our next destination Salt Lake City and the start of a nine day driving holiday to look forward to.

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