Birding Delta Lake, Hargill & Brushline Road
by Keith Hackland (firstname.lastname@example.org)
photo credits: Steve Sinclair
published December 2015
The Valley is a remarkable place to watch
birds. There are sanctuaries, parks and refuges,
and then there are also pastures, brush
lines, fence lines, ponds, fields and yards
that are not a part of any area set aside for
birds, but also offer rich birding.
Mary Beth Stowe works for Alamo Inn
B&B, Gear & Tours as a birding guide. She
gets out birding regularly, and last weekend
she and a birder friend visited these special
areas at Delta Lake, Hargill, and Brushline
The following account is Mary Beth
Stowe's report on their trip and the highlights
of what they saw. When she writes
about bagging birds, she is using an old
hunting term for successfully shooting birds
(dead birds were retrieved and carried in a
canvas bag), but in this context she means
they watched them through binoculars and
positively identified them. The whiskered
fish being eaten by an Osprey she mentions
would most likely have been a catfish.
"A good birder friend joined me this frigid
morning (by South Texas standards) as
I wanted to try and bag a couple of birds
I needed for the year, so we started at the
little FM 1015 Pond in hopes that the goose
flocks would fly overhead early, which they
did ... not in huge flocks, but a small mixed
group contained the coveted Ross' Goose,
so I was glad to bag that!
We then revisited a flooded field we had
passed on the way up (now in better light);
the two White Pelicans we saw had left, but
there were still lots of ducks and shorebirds
We made our way to Delta Lake (bagging
a Peregrine on the way), where cruising the
park added an Osprey eating a strange fish
with a long "whisker", a brilliant Vermilion
Flycatcher, and a surprise Black Phoebe,
which I thought was a little north for them!
A feeding flock in the back part of the
park produced a Yellow, Pine, and Audubon's
Warbler in addition to the regulars,
and a couple of Solitary Sandpipers fed in
a muddy area.
A Merlin was at the rest rooms, and a
Kestrel posed on the way out. After a
quick look at the lake itself, we checked out
Nittler Road (as far as we could go), and
bagged two needed Sprague's Pipits while
checking some ducks that included a Canvasback!
Having gotten my two reasonable targets
(my friend agreed that driving all the way
to Boca Chica to try for a Gannet was a little
much), we then headed over to Hargill,
where the big surprise at the playa was a
pair of Hooded Mergansers! A couple who
was just "exploring" crawled by and told
us about another wetland to the west, so
we checked it out and found about a dozen
Fulvous Whistling Ducks (among other
We then headed up Brushline Road and
had a nice selection of sparrows, including
Black-throated and Vesper, along with a
handful more cranes and water birds.
Brushline north of 186 actually had a water
hazard nasty enough to make me turn
back (which was a first on that road), so
we called it quits and headed home with a
whopping 103 species for the morning! Oh,
and I can't forget about the White-striped
Longtail butterfly that went batting by right
in front of the car along Brushline!"
103 species is an excellent count for a
morning in the field. It takes experienced
birders to identify that many species in
such a short time.
They would not have to look up any of
these species in a field guide, thus they
spend all their time watching.
Two or more people working together is
also a great advantage, because typically
birds surround a person, and also with driving
one person cannot see every bird that is
The fall is a great time to bird. It is my
favorite time because the birds are active,
visible, not shy, and with migrants moving
through and wintering birds coming in,
these added to our resident birds increases
the volume of birds several hundred percent.
So anyone with a spare hour or more
should get out there and do some birding.