Monday, 20 November 2017

Texas 17 - Day 11

Out west today, but not too far. Although we ended going further than anticipated due to it being Sunday. Limited services early doors and all that. So instead of Birding Salinino we ended up (after a Subway stop) at San Ygnacio! No matter. It was good to make a nostalgic return visit here to where I saw my ABA/Texas White-collared Seedeater many moons ago. We stayed for a couple of hours and had the place to ourselves. No WCS were seen nor much else for that matter. Disappointing.

We then retraced our route to Salineno. WCS had been reported from here recently as had Audubon’s Oriole and Zone-tailed Hawk. There are two main areas here, the campsite (with feeders) and the river footpath. There was a group by the feeders so I headed for the river to try for the Seedeater. Ospreys were in evidence…


Plenty of “Mexican Ducks” floated around and a few Great Blue Herons fished. I checked the reeds for an hour but nothing was seen. I returned to the car and Louise said she’d seen a fox. A gray fox apparently, as we were told later.

I then made my way into the campground to check out the feeders. I was called in by the host, so I walked around the RV and sat next to him. We had a great chat about ABA birding and we shared stories about Arizona and beyond. Nice chap. He said that a couple of hawks had quietened things down somewhat. Anyway after around 20 minutes, the Green Jays started to re-appear…


So did the Hawk!!!


Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned are very similar. I feel this is a Sharp-shinned. The smaller head, thinner build and squared off tail confirm this. I was lucky to be present when this stunning raptor appeared briefly at the feeding station.

The site closed at 4 so I walked with Mike to the gate. I had 5 with Louise then headed for the river again. A few vultures had appeared. I’d checked hundreds of Turkey in the hope of a ZTH. Today it paid off...I think!?


A distant dark raptor.


This isn't the head profile of a Turkey Vulture and I'm sure there's a hint of a tail band. Happy with that.

I gave the riverside path the full treatment till 5.30 but no sign of any WCS. I did see a distant Harris’s Hawk just before dusk…


We both agreed this was yet another beautiful place and it’s likely we’ll return later in the week...

The Rio Grande across to Mexico
We’re off to San Padre Island early tomorrow for an overnight stop at the Best Western as my birthday treat. 21 yet again!


Trip Total 118

Stay tuned…

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Texas 17 - Day 10

Today Louise hit the McAllen Mall...I didn't! I dropped her off at 11 and headed just down the road to Quinta Matzalan. As you can see from the link it's one of 9 sites that make up the modestly named "World Birding Centre"! The standard and specification of these reserves is superb.

A speciality bird of this reserve is the Clay-coloured Thrush. A very quiet and secretive species that spends it's time in deep cover. It has a subtle plumage that's still very attractive. It took me around 45 minutes to find one then another 30 to get any sort of image. Two birds lingered in the deep cover...




I was hoping to connect with another Tropical Parula and/or my favourite Black and White Warbler. Neither were seen but I did see my first Plain Chachalacas...


They had obviously come for a drink. I don't blame them, it was 93F! Another RGV special which is unbelievably noisy at dawn but quiet and unobtrusive during the day.

As I reached the car I saw a movement under a bush, as you do. It was a Thrasher...


...that duly disappeared. I got in the car (turned the A/C on) and waited...and waited. After about 15 minutes I had an idea, I get them now and again. I opened my phone case and tapped my Ibird Pro App. This app has enhanced my ABA birding immeasurably. I played a short blast of song and within 5 seconds I had 2 Curve-billed Thrashers and a Northern Mockingbird in full view, wondering were the sound was coming from!

Who said that?

Just a great bird...



I am determined to connect with a Zone-tailed Hawk. Three sightings between the National Butterfly centre and Anzalduas park had me spending the last three hours of daylight scanning the Turkey Vultures. Still no luck.

An enjoyable afternoon.

We're heading west tomorrow to Salineno.

Stay tuned...

Oh, I nearly forgot. I finally managed a close encounter with the charismatic Great Kiskadee...

What a beauty!
Trip total 114

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Texas 17 - Day 9

A quieter day today spent visiting some local sites.

We started at the National Butterfly Centre south of Mission. My target was going to be the wonderful Audubon's Oriole but the $20 admission fee put paid to that! We moved down the road to Bentsen...


I birded around the visitor centre until lunch at 1...


Guess who's in the pink!
...but it was very quiet. I did find an Altamira Oriole...nest!


Best bird was Buff-bellied Hummer.

We stayed till around 2 then headed the short distance to Anzalduas Country Park. A Zone-tailed Hawk had been reported in the area and I reckon I may have seen one gliding away around 4.30...but I couldn't be sure. Frustrating. One day I'll get a pic? Last visit  had a few warblers in the live oaks...but not today...


 I spent some time down by the lake...


I had decent views of a fly catching Say's Phoebe.

We were the only people in the park...except for the Police and Border Patrol! Guess we felt pretty safe.

Tomorrow were heading west up the Valley to try a few sites by the Rio Grande including Salinino were I hope to finally connect with an Audubon's Oriole.

Trip List 100

Stay Tuned...


Friday, 17 November 2017

Texas 17 - Day 8

The morning was spent checking out a few sites that had recently reported Wood Stork. No luck at any of them but the trip down Cannon Road was great. We saw around 50 soaring White Pelicans...


Awesome birds with a 9 foot wing span!!! Even they can look diminutive in a Texas sky. I managed a record shot of a superb White-tailed Kite through the windscreen before it flew...


We then headed for the Edinburg Scenic Wetlands for lunch and a relaxed afternoon. The main quarry here being...Kingfishers.

Belted is common but Green is only found in southern Texas and Arizona while Ringed is exclusive to Texas. I was hoping to see all three here. We made our way to the North pond overlook which gave us a great view over the water. I bumped into another birder who told me a bit about the reserve. Nice chap...spoke like James Stewart!

We then both heard a loud clicking noise. We looked up and there high n a dead tree was a Ringed Kingfisher!


We moved carefully along the track and obtained better views...


I thought Belted was big until I saw this (16in)! By far and away my best view of this species. It was present all afternoon giving great views perched...

Male
and in flight. There was a small pool behind the viewpoint and the chap said that the Green would almost certainly visit it at sometime. I decided to sit in the cover and wait. It paid off...

Female
Pleased how this came out as the bird was in deep shade. It was great to spend quality time with these two superb special species. I reckon I saw at least four Green.

As the afternoon wore on Snowy egrets began to appear in numbers to roost around the pond. One came over to see us...


I estimated c400 by the time we left...

However before they arrived we spotted a single bird which was obviously snagged in a tree...maybe fishing line. Not a nice sight. It was fighting to free itself but failing. It had probably been there since its last roost...at least!

Friends trying to help
We informed the staff and they went straight away to try and free it. Full marks. After around 20 minutes they succeeded in freeing the hapless bird...


Felt good.

Full roost...


A distant Osprey over a sports field was a nice finish...


Trip list 100

Stay tuned...

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Texas 17 - Day 7

Wednesday started with a drive down to Brownsville dump! Another good time for the boss. She drove me (via Starbucks of course) to the entrance. A line of cars was present but it wasn’t clear if they were workers or birders vehicles. It was 85F and not a soul in sight. I’d decided to come here because a Wood Stork had been reported yesterday…as well as the TAMAULIPAS CROWS that had been present for a few days. Ironically I’ve seen this species many moons ago at the same location! So I was trying to see the “lesser” species.
 
While we were in Starbucks I’d checked the info’ sources on-line and discovered I’d missed a sighting of a Long-tailed Duck at Kaufer-Hubert Memorial Park east of Riviera, which was a couple of hours drive. I decided to abort the Brownsville twitch and head North. The 77 is yet another dead straight, open dual carriageway, so we made good time arriving at the park at 1 for our traditional Subway lunch. I watched the poles for a White-tailed Hawk…and found one...


Yet another beautiful Texas bird only found along the southern coastal strip in the US. Another stunner seen was the exquisite Scissor-tailed Flycatcher...


We arrived at the park on time and had lunch. I then walked to the pond and started to scan the wildfowl. An interesting mix of feral and wild. No joy after 15 minutes. LTD can be an obsessive diver so I wasn’t disheartened…yet. It was present yesterday? More searching. Bingo…
 
Distant at first through the heat haze

Then closer

A stretch
Close by
An excellent Texas tick (465) which could so easily have been overlooked.

On the way back we detoured via Delta Lake, another site were Wood Stork had been reported recently. I couldn’t dig one out but my scanning was brief as I was being eaten by mosquitoes! Thousands of Grackles and Turkey Vultures were present. Plenty of ducks as well!



Trip list 94
 
A relaxing day. Stay tuned…

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Texas 17 -Day 5/6

Time to slooooooooooow down!

We're now settled in the Birding paradise that is the Rio Grande Valley. On reflection I bit off more than we could chew regarding distances. Louise did mention it!




Everything is on the up now...well nearly. I FINALLY managed to connect with my suitcase at McAllen airport. I like my orange Columbia shirt but this was pushing it a bit.

Anyway...the birds.

Sunday morning along the west side of the Davis Mnts has to be one of my best Birding experiences...period. Activity from dawn right through till 11am in golden grassland...

The boss having a stretch

I must have seen double figure Northern Harriers including at least 6 around the iconic rail crossing...



Things got even better when  spotted a raptor that looked different on a telegraph pole...

Prairie Falcon
My best view by a country mile. A stunning bird. We retraced our route a few times in the hope of another Golden Eagle sighting. I think I can safely say we were successful...




Unfortunately the bird was into the sun but the whole experience was magical. A Golden Eagle sat low in a bush some 50 yds away!!!


Then it was gone into the heat haze...


After lunch n Fort Davis we headed for the I10 via Lake Balmorhea. The Clarke's Grebes were there in force...


I also managed a couple of Western in a brief scan before dusk. It was then time for the long drive to Kerrville.

Monday was a travel day to Mission with no Birding done. I did see a few things on the way and a brief rest stop added Crested Caracara to the trip list...



Today (Tuesday) after hopefully ending the teething problems we spent the afternoon at Estero Llano Grande. An enjoyable and relaxing three hours were spent around the viewing platform and tropical zone were I managed to connect with the Tropical Parula...




I'd tried to get a view of an Altamira Oriole many times on my last visit and all I managed was a couple of distant brief views. Today one landed in a dead tree right above my head as I watched the TP...


Trip total...83

Brownsville dump tomorrow! Louise can't wait.

Stay tuned...