February was another chance to visit a new part of the world that I have wanted to go to for a while. The trip started in New Orleans however.  We wanted to visit this city and enjoy a little local music. It was very nice . The French Quarter retains it’s charm and the Beignets (type of super unhealthy donuts!) were delicious!  We spent one day out of the city at an old sugar cane plantation called Oak Alley. Beautiful house and grounds from the profits of the slave trade! I did see my first cardinal. I have been to the US many times and never seen one before, so it was great to finally see this fabulous little bird. More later. We hired the cheapest car available to drive out to Oak Alley, and the nice man at Enterprise gave us this ridiculous monster as a free upgrade! 

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We then moved down to the Lower Rio Grande valley for some photography. We were based in the very ordinary and characterless city of McAllen. However the nearby ranches that we visited were great. Perhaps not the best time of year to visit as the migrant birds had not yet arrived, it was nonetheless full of great birds. Almost the first we saw and now a firm favourite was the cardinal. These birds are impossibly red with such stunning plumage.

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There were many other species including the dazzling green jay seen here, a couple of warblers, thrashers, and the gorgeous pyrrhuloxia.

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Tufted titmouse is another cute bird that flits in and out very quickly but happily often settles on the same perch giving a chance to get a picture.DSC_1616

As well as the songbirds, there were also a number of birds of prey. Crested caracaras most most common, and a white tailed hawk perhaps the most attractive, but the Harris hawk shown here is a great hunter that often works in teams, very unusual for birds.

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The only mammals we saw were these collared peccaries or Javelina. they were quite cute and also provided a little action!

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As well as the ranches, we also visited a couple of other reserves including the lovely South Padre Island Nature Centre where we saw some black skimmers amongst others. 

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Also saw a few turtles here. This is a red eared slider.

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Estero Llano Grande State Park was another little jewel with some lovely birds including this rather grumpy looking yellow crowned night heron.

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The last couple of days were spent in Dallas and Fort Worth. Not my favourite cities, but the Stockyards in Fort Worth were ok, and the Book depository from which JFK may have been shot makes for a very interesting museum. 

Although we missed the migrants, it was a successful trip that I thoroughly enjoyed with lots of wonderful birds to photograph, and some pretty good steaks too!. 

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