Nature Quest 2005
Lost Maples State Natural Area
On Friday, April 29th, we went to the Lost Maples State Natural Area, hoping for another chance to find the Black-capped Vireo, but no luck there either.  However, it is a beautiful area and we had a long hike, seeing lots of birds, snakes and wild flowers.  We started off along the western branch of the East Trail, intending to go only as far as the ponds and back.  Along the way we found an Acadian Flycatcher and Yellow-throated Vireo, both lifers for us, also Red-eyed and White-eyed Vireos, plus Summer Tanagers, Indigo Buntings, Ash-throated Flycatcher and a Louisiana Waterthrush, which had been located by another group of birders. At the ponds, we had the most wonderful encounter with a Rufous-crowned Sparrow, which was so intent on collecting insects in the leaf litter, that it took absolutely no notice of me and my camera and I was able to get some really close-up shots (photos below right). Also seen at the pond, were Green Kingfisher, Canyon Wren, Chipping Sparrow, Eastern Phoebe and an Eastern Wood-Pewee (photo below left).  At the ponds, we decided to continue on as we were enjoying the hiking and scenery so much, so we took the West Trail, which followed Mystic Canyon southwards and then turned back eastwards to meet up with the East Trail again.
Along Mystic Canyon, we heard a Golden-cheeked Warbler, which then obliged us by popping out into the open for a while (photo above).  Further on we noticed a couple of Eastern Phoebes, behaving rather strangely.  We thought that they probably had a nest in the area and didn't want to alert us to where it was, but actually, there was a snake at the entrance to a small cave where the nest was located, on a slightly overhanging the rock wall and they were obviously worried about the snake robbing the nest of it's fluffy nestlings.  The snake (photo above), slithered off into the back of the cave when it saw us, and possibly returned after we left.  We didn't know whether it was poisonous or not, so kept our distance and left well alone!  Later, we were able to identify it as an Eastern Coachwhip which is non-venomous, but still dangerous to small birds.

We saw a number of butterflies on our hike, 4 of which are pictured above.

rufous-crowned sparrow
eastern wood-pewee
gulf fritillary
golden-cheeked warbler
rufous-crowned sparrow
question mark butterfly
phoebe nest
eastern coachwhip snake
red-spotted purple
gray hairsteak butterfly
Click on a photo to see a larger image
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