A bit up the road at the Alabama Creek WMA I found a trail wandering through a nice stand of pines and was rewarded with three Red-cockaded Woodpecers and a Brown-headed Nuthatch.
I spent the night in Marshall and drove over to Bodclau Dam 60 miles to the east in Louisiana where as many as 26 Henslow's Sparrows were reported over a two day census on the grassy spillway of the the dam. I think it helped that they had prior experience and a half dozen people to chase down sparrows when they were flushed from the tall grass. It took me three hours but I finally found one which flew from the grass to land under a shrub at the edge of the field. I almost got some pretty good photos of the green-headed little beauty. It had been 35 years since I had seen some on their breeding grounds in SW Missouri on the Niawatha Prairie Reserve.
That afternoon I checked out the Caddo Lake NWR where Henslow's Sparrows have been reported through the years but I could not find any good looking habitat. It was nice seeing a few Eastern Towhees. The next morning I drove up to Olney Road where Henslows had been seen two years ago. I couldn't find any there either and the habitat looked a bit degraded. Henslow's Sparrows are choosy with regards to their habitat. A field that they find suitable can quickly regenerate with shrubs and soon not be to their liking.
So I decided to just enjoy the day of birding and not be so obsessed with Henslow's Sparrows. I soon found a wonderful little park I was unfamiliar with, Dangerfield State Park. Old tall pine trees surrounded a peaceful lake and campground. Here I found a cooperative Brown-headed Nuthatch and some Red-headed Woodpeckers.
After a couple of hours at the park I decided to go farther north and found myself in Red River County not far from the Oklahoma Border. I randomly chose a county road leading north from the small town of Avery and scored a much wanted bird, Hairy Woodpecker. I heard the call first and was fortunate to get a diagnostic photo. My previous sightings of the species in Texas were a bit iffy so I'm glad to get this one cleaned up. The long bill and unspotted outer rectrices rule out Downy Woodpecker.
And soon a female Purple Finch landed over my head, my first self found one for Texas.
I spent the night in Paris (it's not as great as it sounds) because Henslow's Sparows have been reported in the past at Camp Maxey. Even though I could not enter the National Guard base, I hoped to find suitable habitat in the area. I didn't find much at Pat Mayse WMA and was really disappointed with the Caddo National Grasslands. It has a few nice lakes and some fine stands of pines, but not the tall prairie grasslands I had hoped for. At least I couldn't find any. So I had to settle for a few Harris's Sparrows.
At this point I was not that far from Dallas so I decided to just head for home. And if I made good time, I might get south of Temple in time to make a run for the much maligned Striped Sparrow which has been present for several weeks east of Granger. Striped Sparrow is a nonmigratory species from the arid high county of western and central Mexico with no history of wandering, even in Mexico. So there's a high probability this bird received human assistance with its 600+ mile journey. But it's still a beautiful bird and I've never seen one despite lots of birding in Mexico.
I arrived at the intersection of CR 428 and CR 361 east of Granger in Williamson County at 4:40 PM and parked. After walking around the bend, I saw a flock of birds feeding on seed that had been put out by birders the past couple of weeks. I was about a hundred feet from the flock while five other birders were about the same distance down the road on the other side of the flock. After just a few minutes the Striped Sparrow joined the crowd. I later heard that a couple of those birders had been waiting for ten hours!
Even though I failed in my goal of finding a Henslow's Sparrow in Texas, I still got to see one in Louisiana plus I got to see some neat Texas birds. So it was a very successful four day birding trip. Now I need to head out to west Texas and try to get some photos of the Henslow's Sparrow's cousin, Baird's Sparrow.