For their second day, Andrew and Bill opted to head up to Starr County, seeing as they also needed the “desert” species for their life list, so we headed west, going on a Wild Parakeet Chase in Rio Grande City when I heard the parakeets but couldn’t relocate them L. A singing House Finch was a consolation prize…
We headed on to Salineño where the “parking lot” was still full but we had the boat ramp to ourselves, which meant we were on our own finding the seedeater! We looked and looked, picking up some of the same sparrows we had on Wednesday and also managing to bag a nice Ringed Kingfisher upriver. Bill spotted an Olive Sparrow that gave great looks, and a few Bobwhite came out on the trail (which was also a lifer for them both, as they’ve become scarce in Wisconsin), but little did we know!
We finally gave up on the seedeater and headed towards the feeders, and unlike Wednesday, there was only a handful of folks there today, but the bird action was just as exciting! The Bobwhite family followed us up there in spades and practically came up to our feet to get at the corn that Bob put out! The Peanut Butter Stump provided a perfect photo setup with Orange-crowned Warblers, Altamira Orioles, Green Jays, and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers all coming in at point blank range for a snack! Another Olive Sparrow came in for a bath, and amongst the horde of Red-winged Blackbirds was a funky individual that had his fully adult male plumage except for a sharply contrasting patch of buffy on the breast, and an additional whitish wing bar! A female Pyrrhuloxia came to visit amongst the dozens of Cardinals, but unfortunately the Roadrunner never showed (which also would have been a life bird). Thankfully, the Audubon’s finally appeared, making everyone a happy camper!
Approaching the famous feeders
Orange-crowned Warbler (above and below)
The pale-faced lady Ladderback is still around...
A covey of Bobwhite come to visit! (Male above, female below)
Funky Red-winged Blackbird; one scientist suggested xanthism, which is an overdose of yellow pigment.
Altamira Oriole examines the Peanut Butter mixture...
Female Cardinal does the same...
Undignified-looking Olive Sparrow taking a bath...
From there it was time to tackle the famous Dump Road, and while we did hear a couple of Black-throated Sparrows, the little guys were uncharacteristically uncooperative. A Cactus Wren showed nicely, however, and down the road a bit their life Curve-billed Thrasher popped up, and a Chihuahuan Raven soared overhead. But a little further on I couldn’t believe my ears: after eight years of birding the area and being assured that, yes, they really do occur here, I finally heard a Black-tailed Gnatcatcher!! True to form, this guy came right out to pishing (their scold sounds like a pish J), and he was even getting his black cap already! What a bird!
Peek-a-boo Black-tailed Gnatcatcher; even if he didn't have the characteristic black cap, the amount of black on the undertail gives him away!
Next was Falcon County Park in hopes of bagging Vermilion Flycatcher, and we thankfully had a gorgeous male almost on the way out! I heard a Verdin down a side road, and he finally came right up with a little coaxing! We cruised around the state park, picking up a pair of Eastern Bluebirds on the fence going in, but it was getting a little breezy, and I wasn’t holding out much hope for targets until Bill spotted a Roadrunner in the shadow of a tree in the primitive camping area! He started heading into the brush as we pulled up, so I cooed at him to see what he would do, and sure enough, he came back and practically jumped into the car! (He jumped into the tree instead… J) That’s the way to get a life bird!
We “four-wheeled” around the overflow area, and in the upper lot a Cassin’s Sparrow did pop up briefly on my side of the car and then blasted behind us, but unfortunately we couldn’t get it to come back for the guys. As usual, the lake was pretty birdless, but we did have all three “expected” gulls, although Herring is more unusual inland. The White Pelicans were starting to grow their “breeding horns” on their bills, so that was fun to see!
With what time we had left, I gave the guys the option to keep trying to kick up a Black-throated Sparrow, or to go back to Salineño for a river watch in hopes of a Gray Hawk, and they opted for the latter. While Bill and I chilled (enjoying my FOS Purple Martin repeatedly dipping down to the river for a drink), Andrew decided to poke down the trail a bit, and before long he came tearing back breathless: he thought he had the seedeater but wanted us to confirm it! So we trudged down to the spot (which happened to be the same spot we had it Wednesday), but no bird was to be seen. It was getting about the time where we had to head back, but just as we started up the trail I heard that suspicious vocalization (a combination of whistles and cheps) that had gotten my attention Wednesday, and sure enough, the bird once again popped up in front of us and gave great looks! (However, I believe this may have been a different bird, as the one we had Wednesday showed a very prominent white primary patch, while this bird really didn’t show much of one…) My camera battery held out just long enough to fire off a few shots before dying! J
White-collared Seedeater; superficially they can look kind of like a goldfinch, but that stubby bill gives it away!
Heading home, we listened once again for parakeets going through both Roma and Rio Grande City, but not a squawk was heard, so at a stop light I was accessing my Bird’s Eye app to see where parakeets had been seen lately (as the guys were heading to Brownsville that evening), when Alec suddenly yelled, “There they are!!” I looked up to see a flock of brilliant green bodies glowing in the afternoon sun, racing across US 83! That was like asking “Siri” where to find Green Parakeets and having him answer, “Right in front of your nose!!” J
Usually a Starr County day list is pretty sparse, but we actually logged 71 species for the day! Oh, and as an aside, the Oliver Sparrow was Andrew’s 400th ABA bird! J Bird List:Plain Chachalaca
American White Pelican
Great Blue Heron