Twilight. We were in Bentsen State Park, looking for Elf Owls (Micrathene whitneyi). These are our smallest owls, 1.4oz (compare with House Sparrow, .98oz, and Great Horned Owl, 3.1lb). There was a nest in a snag, perhaps originally carved out by a woodpecker. An owl was periodically poking out as the sun set. “Owl in the hole!” The distinctive “eyebrows” are visible even in this long-shot in low light. The other half of the pair showed up just as our human vision began to fail in the dark. We heard the birds calling as they prepared to hunt through the night.
Lesser Nighthawks were also in the air, zooming after insects. These southwestern nighthawks have more rounded wings and a white wing bar nearer the wingtip than the slightly larger Common Nighthawk. We heard the yip of coyotes in the distance and the onomatopoeic call of a Chuck-will’s-widow, very near. We were also on the look-out for Common Pauraques, another night-flying insectivore, found only in the southeastern tip of Texas (in the U.S., anyway). One did fly over our heads, heading downwards to the road, but we would have better views another day. Bentsen doesn’t allow cars (there’s a large golf cart type of tram during the day), giving us the freedom of the night road. There were a few fireflies. We heard the distinctive tremolo of an Eastern Screech Owl, which came to investigate us.
A magical night, with only a few mosquitoes and Ninja-garbed La Migra agents (as omnipresent in the Rio Grande Valley as Great-tailed Grackles). We had been accidentally locked out of our van; as we waited for the lock-popper, we looked at all four Galilean moons of Jupiter through a spotting scope.