W.G. Jones State Park
Sadly, we had now reached our final day and were flying out in the early evening. However, there were still birding opportunities and the plan was to head for W.G. Jones State Park. En route two (at least) of us saw a bird on a lake (from a road bridge where we couldn't stop) which we were sure was a large grebe. Paula thought it was a Western Grebe as did I ‐ another rarity in this area but alas we'll never know.
Arriving at the park we parked and got out the 'scopes. Helen saw two birds in the top of a tree which Rob and I then 'scoped and together shouted 'Brown-headed Nuthatch'. This brought everyone running! Apparently these birds are hard to see but fortunately no-one had told them and they showed well in various trees nearby. Also in the carpark were a pair of Eastern Bluebirds.
Having had a superb start we followed instructions provided by the rangers and headed for a cluster – a cluster containing a group of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers that is. As we walked through the pine wood we heard and saw two or three Pine Warblers, Blue Jay and Carolina Chickadee. At a certain spot we set up 'scopes and all watched a hole in a tree with a blue band at the base. After a few minutes, when everyone had stopped looking in the right direction and were now watching another two Brown-headed Nuthatches, I glanced into my 'scope and shouted 'It's out – woodpecker coming out' as a Red-cockaded Woodpecker put in its first appearance. People dived for their 'scopes, some seeing the bird briefly and others saying nothing was in sight. It was then we realised there were two trees with blue bands around them! Fortunately the woodpeckers, which, as hoped, were Red-cockaded, came back and showed well. Then Pete came on the walky-talky with the news that he had got Red-cockaded Woodpecker! Ours having seemingly disappeared we all headed off to Pete's location. The birds showed well here as well and we also had White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-breasted Chat, Pileated Woodpecker, TVs and BVs and a Red-tailed Hawk.
There was really only one more bird we hoped to get in Texas and this was our last chance. Helen and I decided to head back to the van where the trees wouldn't obscure the view of the sky and wait for raptors to fly over. We got back and waited and were soon joined by four of our group who said they had shouted and whistled and been generally apoplectic trying to get everyone's attention as a Mississippi Kite had flown over them. This was the bird we wanted and missing it caused deep depression (how easily that happens - elation to depression in an instant). So, we had about an hour before we had to leave for the airport – time to check every thing that flew past. We got Red-tailed Hawks, a Red-shouldered Hawk and a Cooper's Hawk. Carolina Wren and Hooded Warbler sang from the nearby woods. No Kites. The rest of the group returned and we took group photos. Time to leave. Then a cry. 'Mississippi Kite'. There was one about 40 metres away heading for us, then turning and disappearing behind the trees. Once the bird had gone a big cheer went up, fists were thrust into the air and general hugging was occurring all round. A superb way to end a superb trip.