June 08, 2009

Birds: Lower Rio Grande Valley

June 2 - Noah and I played a dance in San Antonio back on May 30.  Near the dorm where we stayed was a decent sized egret rookery.  I woke up early on May 31 and was able to get some decent shots of some more or less expected city birds.  Then we drove south on Route 16 and had wonderful looks at Harris's Hawk, Pyrrhuloxia, Greater Roadrunner and Bronzed Cowbird; all birds I'd seen only once before on my previous trip to Texas in 2006.  Also had CHIHUAHUAN RAVEN (Life Bird), HOODED ORIOLE (Life Bird) and WHITE-TAILED HAWK (Life Bird) on our way down to the Rio Grande Valley.  Near our campsite I had a pair of CURVE-BILLED THRASHERS (Life Bird) and neat looks at a COMMON PAURAQUE (Life Bird) flying around in the brush.  We arrived at Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park in the late afternoon and almost immediately had a beautiful CLAY-COLORED THRUSH (Life Bird) bathing near the Visitor Center.  In the park we saw many of the expected but still amazing southern Texas birds like Green Jay, Couch's Kingbird, White-tipped Dove, ALTAMIRA ORIOLE (Life Bird), GREAT KISKADEE (Life Bird) and PLAIN CHACHALACA (Life Bird).  The Kiskadee and Altamira Oriole had nests across the trail from each other and it was so cool to watch them go back and forth.  On June 1 I walked down the road to Bentsen before dawn and heard several trilling Eastern Screech-Owls, as well as many more Pauraques.  Near the beginning of the drive I heard two Gray Hawks calling but never got a look at them.  Farther in I had a single singing NORTHERN BEARDLESS TYRANNULET (Life Bird) while back at the Visitor Center there were several BUFF-BELLIED HUMMINGBIRDS (Life Bird), OLIVE SPARROWS (Life Bird) and GROOVE-BILLED ANIS (Life Bird).  A final late morning hike down to the river was very hot and buggy but I did manage to spish up a CACTUS WREN (Life Bird) while dancing to avoid the fire ants and sacrificing my knuckles to the mosquitos to snatch a couple photos.  A late afternoon trip to Santa Ana was mostly quiet and I had to wait out a big thunderstorm in a photo blind.  LONG-BILLED THRASHER (Life Bird) was new and I got more decent looks at Black-crested Titmouse, Groove-billed Ani, Olive Sparrow and Green Jay.  I did see a bobcat briefly which was very cool.  We ended the day in Weslaco where we had a few large flocks of RED-CROWNED PARROTS (Life Bird) fly in to the neighborhood at sunset.  Definitely a trip highlight!  We've seen many nighthawks ever since we arrived in Texas and I'm assuming most them have been Common.  Not sure if I'd be able to pick out a Lesser or not.  This morning I went back to Santa Ana for a couple hours.  Nearly my first bird was a beautiful GREEN KINGFISHER along the canal.  I walked around for a while without seeing too much new but I did finally decide to count BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER (Life Bird) thanks to some help from another birder.  On my way out of the park I heard another NORTHERN BEARDLESS TYRRANULET mixed in with some titmice and I got a very brief look at an adult GRAY HAWK (Life Bird) before it was chased off by angry kingbirds.  No photos of either of these great valley specialties unfortunately.  This afternoon we drove to Brownsville and then out to the beach at Boca Chica.  Lots of terns: Caspian, Royal, Sandwich, Gull-billed, Least and Black.  As we were watching the Brown Pelicans feeding I noticed a silhouette that was somehow a little different.  Bigger with a longer tail.  It was an immature MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD (Life Bird)!!!  I was a little disappointed to see this bird without Sarah.  But it was an amazing experience and it came quite close; nearly overhead.  My year list is currently 393.
Altamira Oriole
Great Kiskadee
Buff-bellied Hummingbird
Green Jay
Plain Chachalaca
Common Pauraque
Hooded Oriole
Curve-billed Thrasher
Cactus Wren
Groove-billed Ani
Bronzed Cowbird
Red-crowned Parrots