Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Heat Is On!


            Thursday’s trip to Starr County was, as per usual, low on quantity but great on quality!  We arrived at Salineño to find a couple of tour groups had beaten us there and were crowded on the only dry spot where you could look upriver!  So we decided to hunt down the seedeater, which I heard almost immediately upon getting out of the car!  Another couple from Arizona were also trying to track it down, but it had quit singing by the time Sharon and I got to the area.  So we headed down to the end of the trail and had a great view of the river; she was thrilled that she was actually seeing Mexico!  Things were quiet at that end except for a Mexican Duck that flew by and an “Audubon’s” Warbler, and we actually heard another seedeater singing upriver, but on the way back, the guy from Arizona came and got us – they had found the seedeater!  So back we went, and eventually the little guy sat way up high in a spindly tree, just singing away, his little tail pumping along with each phrase!  What a look!
Sharon poses next to the Rio Grande
White-collared Seedeater

            We then joined the rest of the crowd doing river watch, and about the only exciting birds were a Gray Hawk being chased by a grackle almost as big as he was, and a Ringed Kingfisher that finally decided to fly by and give everyone great looks!  A big flock of Blue-winged Teal weren’t “uncommon”, but it was a pretty sight and gave the visiting Brits some good photo ops!
Happy birders at the boat ramp

            After awhile it was time to move on, so we headed up to the Dump Road.  Just as we made the right turn onto the main road, what should be standing right by the side but a gorgeous Scaled Quail!  He was in perfect light, and seemed to pose forever while we both got crippling views and shots!  There was actually a second bird down in the grass, and he eventually hopped off his tire to go join his mate…
Scaled Quail


            Things were rather anticlimactic after that, but we did manage to spot some more desert birds such as Black-throated Sparrow, but the Verdin was a little less cooperative.  A male Bobwhite stood in the middle of the road before flying off, and his wife soon followed, giving us a nice look first.  Heading over to Falcon County Park (most locals call it “Starr County Park” to avoid confusion with Falcon State Park next door), we made a sudden stop for a Kestrel, which was Sharon’s first!  Just before entering the park, I was surprised to see a young White-tailed Hawk that subsequently took off right towards us, as I couldn’t recall ever seeing one in that area before!  In the park proper, a Cactus Wren was singing at the top of a tree right outside the car, and after finding a shady spot to park we started the walking loop around the center thicket.  Almost right away Sharon spotted the Vermilion Flycatcher (another “most wanted” bird), and both Bullock’s and Hooded Orioles showed up.  A huge “bird-nado” in the sky turned out to be a mob of White Pelicans that had caught a thermal and was circling around gracefully, and a House Finch warbled briefly and then took off before he could be “documented”.  A sparrow flock blasted from tree to ground to tree, most of which were Larks, but we also picked out both Chipping and Clay-colored.  No sign of the Red-billed Pigeons, alas, but hopping in the car and driving the perimeter we scared up another Roadrunner, and this one we actually raced to stay abreast of it!
Western Kingbird
Bullock's Oriole

Hiking the loop at Starr Co. Park

            From there we went to the state park where Sharon spotted a Painted Bunting singing in the bushes on the entrance road along with a Texas Tortoise making headway across the road, but things were warming up by then; we did walk the loop over by the boat ramp and just got exercise and a few Coots for it, then decided to drive closer to the lake where we thought we had several egrets that turned out to be plastic bags stuck in the trees…  Just for kicks and grins I decided to go down to the old Falcon Dam Overlook to see if security had lightened up since I had last been there about seven years ago, and when we saw that the gate was open things looked hopeful!  However, when we got down to the actual overlook, a very nice official wheeled over and told us it was still off limits, due to a bomb threat from a cartel, I think he said… L
Texas Tortoise

Killdeer doing a distraction display

            We made one last river watch at Salineño before the heat inspired us to call it a day, winding up with 74 species for the day!  Bird List:
  Mallard (Mexican Duck)                              
  Blue-winged Teal                     
  Plain Chachalaca                     
  Scaled Quail                         
  Northern Bobwhite                    
  Double-crested Cormorant              
  American White Pelican               
  Great Egret                          
  Snowy Egret                          
  Green Heron                          
  Turkey Vulture                       
  Harris's Hawk                        
  White-tailed Hawk                    
  Gray Hawk                            
  Swainson's Hawk                      
  American Coot                        
  Spotted Sandpiper                    
  Laughing Gull                         
  Rock Pigeon                          
  Eurasian Collared-Dove               
  White-winged Dove                    
  Mourning Dove                        
  Inca Dove                            
  Common Ground-Dove                   
  White-tipped Dove                    
  Greater Roadrunner                   
  Ringed Kingfisher                    
  Golden-fronted Woodpecker            
  Ladder-backed Woodpecker             
  Crested Caracara                     
  American Kestrel                      
  Vermilion Flycatcher                 
  Ash-throated Flycatcher              
  Brown-crested Flycatcher             
  Great Kiskadee                        
  Couch's Kingbird                     
  Western Kingbird                     
  Scissor-tailed Flycatcher            
  Loggerhead Shrike                    
  White-eyed Vireo                     
  Green Jay                            
  Bank Swallow                         
  Cave Swallow                         
  Black-crested Titmouse               
  Bewick's Wren                        
  Cactus Wren                          
  Clay-colored Thrush                  
  Curve-billed Thrasher                
  Northern Mockingbird                 
  European Starling                    
  Yellow-rumped Warbler                 
  White-collared Seedeater             
  Olive Sparrow                        
  Cassin's Sparrow                     
  Chipping Sparrow                     
  Clay-colored Sparrow                 
  Lark Sparrow                         
  Black-throated Sparrow               
  Savannah Sparrow                     
  Northern Cardinal                    
  Painted Bunting                      
  Red-winged Blackbird                 
  Eastern Meadowlark                   
  Great-tailed Grackle                 
  Bronzed Cowbird                      
  Brown-headed Cowbird                 
  Hooded Oriole                         
  Bullock's Oriole                     
  Altamira Oriole                      
  House Finch                          
  House Sparrow                        

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