Summer birding may be unpredictable, and can be fun, here in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Setting out as a hot day cooled, just after 4 pm on June 23rd, 2016, we decided to focus on Weslaco, and as we drove there we watched the temperature drop from 98 to 94.
Starting out at Frontera Audubon, we heard them calling, and then made our way through a group of vocalizing Plain Chachalacas in the trees above the water feature behind the visitor center. They are always entertaining and we could not help smiling at their antics. We spent forty minutes at the first feeder station. The most active birds were Clay-colored Thrushes that bounced through the trees and seemed curious about us, moving in for close views. White-tipped Doves stayed in the background beyond the feeders and their summer call echoed through the woods. Periodically two Plain Chachalacas would chase across the stage, one following the other, first one direction, then back the other way. The feeders attracted a bright red male Northern Cardinal, as others of his species called from above, and a Black-crested Titmouse. Doves came, stayed a while and left again, White-winged and Inca. I glimpsed a Green Jay back in the brush. We had a good view of a Brown-crested Flycatcher.
We left the first feeder and at the second found fat White-tipped Doves pecking up sunflower seeds, while Inca Doves looked on. As we walked two Couch’s Kingbirds called from tree tops, and the Sabal Palms rustled. Walking across the board walk we found Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, two Great Kiskadees, a Great Egret, and swarms of tadpoles in the shallows. Rounding the lake Per spotted a Yellow-crowned Night-heron roosting halfway up a tree that leaned over the neighbor’s lake.
Estero Llano Grande State Park was our next destination. The breezeway deck was shaded and breezy, inviting us to stay a while, but it revealed a largely dry lake bed beneath it. We spotted a patchy white and blue Little Blue Heron, several Killdeer, a flock of European Starlings grazing on weeds in the lake bed, and two Black-necked Stilts. In the background a pond with water surrounded by tall cattails revealed White-faced Ibis, White Ibis, Snowy Egret, Great Blue Heron, and more stilts. Talking the path to Alligator Pond we found a Buff-bellied Hummingbird at the feeder, and then more stilts and killdeer, Great-tailed Grackles, and a lone Greater Yellowlegs, which we examined closely. Alligator pond was most disappointing, revealing only grackles and few Chimney Swifts overhead.
We walked back to the car, and drove to Estero Llano Grande Lake, where we found Cave and Barn Swallows at the bridge, Red-winged Blackbirds, four juvenile Black-necked Stilt resting like skimmers on the ground of a dirt field road. We also watched a White-tailed Kite, and numerous grackles and doves. We hoped for a summer American White Pelican, but did not find one. With time on our hands before dusk we drove a farm back road to a small pond and found two Black-crowned Night-Herons.
At dusk we waited at Fourth Street and Border until the sun set, and then enjoyed the sounds and sights of a flock of some twenty Red-Crowned Parrots. Homeward bound two night herons crossed our path while we spoke of where to eat supper.
Black-bellied Whistling-DuckPlain Chachalaca
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron