Birding Eldorado Water Ponds


One place that Ann and I always enjoy visiting is the Water Treatment Ponds at Eldorado, Texas.  About forty miles south of our home in San Angelo, it is consists of five huge ponds, each about 200 feet by 300 feet.  I think one of them is even larger.  Anyway, you never know what you will find when you visit.  We have had times when the birding was scarce.

This time proved to be a bit different.  It was cool, overcast and windy when we left and didn’t really expect to see much, but we felt that it may be worth the trip.  We sometimes tire of the routine birding locally and just like to get away for awhile.

Savannah Sparrow on fence.

By the time we arrived it had warmed a bit, and the wind had abated somewhat.  The clouds were still overhead, and I really don’t mind that as the light is softer for photography.  Some of the winter duck types have arrived there, such as Gadwalls, Ruddy Ducks, Northern Shovelers.  These we haven’t seen in San Angelo yet, but I guess they are on their way.

There were numerous Savannah Sparrows on the fences, and we saw several overflights of other birds that we couldn’t identify, however there were several Blue-winged Teal arriving.

At one point we were were driving slowly and watching the close shoreline, looking for Wilson’s Snipes.  They are difficult to see and we were not successful in sighting any.  However we saw an American Bittern, a few yards ahead with it’s familiar head stretching upward.  Wanting to get a photograph, I crept a slowly as I could, but it still managed to detect me.  By the time we reached the location where we had seen it, it had nearly disappeared.  Upon close examination, though, I spotted it in the grasses, nearly invisible.  I managed to get several photos of it.

American Bittern – trying to be invisible.

A few yards farther along was one of two Great Egrets that we had seen.

Great Egret at Eldorado Water Treatment ponds.

One of the highlights of the day was spotting this Merlin.  I got several images of it and I wasn’t sure of the identification until I got home and could get a closer look at it in the computer.  It is very similar to the Prairie Falcon.  But when it spread it’s tail, I could see the wider, bolder stripes.

Merlin

But this gives you an indication of the variety of birds that can be seen there.  We also saw about three Great Blue Herons, a Double-crested Cormorant. an American Kestrel, a few swallows and some other un-identified birds.  In all, according to Ann’s list that she always keeps, we saw twenty-four species in about two hours.  Here is a complete list.

  1. House Finch
  2. Great Egret
  3. American Coot
  4. Northern Shoveler
  5. White-winged Dove
  6. Northern Mockingbird
  7. American Kestrel
  8. Turkey Vulture
  9. Yellow-headed Blackbird
  10. Ruddy Duck
  11. Eared Grebe
  12. Double-crested Cormorant
  13. Pied-billed Grebe
  14. Wild Turkey
  15. Blue-winged Teal
  16. Savannah Sparrow
  17. Gadwall
  18. American Bittern
  19. Barn Swallow
  20. Great Blue Heron
  21. Killdeer
  22. Merlin
  23. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
  24. Red-tailed Hawk
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23 thoughts on “Birding Eldorado Water Ponds

    • Thanks a bunch, Alison. The Merlin took me surprise, flying to that little tree just a few feet from me. I was lucky to get the shot before it flew again. It is funny, that Bittern thought that it was hidden from me. I appreciate you visiting again. I was watching for new posts on your own blog. :-)

  1. These are wonderful, Bob! I love that you caught the American Bittern hiding in the grass. So humorous! I also love the photo of the Merlin… My, what gorgeous tail feathers it has. I’ve never heard of a Merlin and would probably have assumed it was a hawk lol. What does a Wilson’s snipe look like? I’m intrigues. Have you caught one with your mighty lens before? Great post Bob :)

    • Thanks for much, Polly. I love that you commented. I was lucky to catch that Bittern. They usually keep themselves pretty well hidden. The Merlin is, as you assumed, a small hawk. The Wilson’s Snipe is a tiny shorebird the stays in the muddy grasses. I has a long needle-like bill and he blends so much into the grass that you can be looking right at him, and still can’t see him. (like hiding in plain sight) I do have some great pictures of one.

  2. Great shots, Bob! Love that photo of the American Bittern hiding behind the grass. Looks like there was really no chance of him escaping your well trained eye ;)

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