Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Thanksgiving Holiday, Part 1


A train delay in Indiana made for a later-than-expected arrival for my Amish guest Gary and his two sons Jonathan and Jesse, but it worked out for the best, as by taking a daytime train down they were able to add a few lifers to their list, such as Harris' and White-tailed Hawks!  But it's always nicer to get a good, solid look at these beauties, so after I picked them up and they had a chance to refresh, we were off to Weslaco for some afternoon birding!

Only as we pulled into the drive at Frontera Audubon, the closed gate reminded me that they were closed on Mondays! :-O  No worries; we could snoop around the butterfly garden and pick up some Valley specialties, as this was their first time to South Texas!  All three of them were great spotters, and they even carried walkie-talkies to keep in touch when we split up (which proved to come in handy on more than one occasion)!  It wasn't long before Jonathan found their first Chachalacas huddled in a citrus tree, and thanks to the feeders we were able to add Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Black-crested Titmouse, Green Jay, and Inca Dove to their list in short order!  Kiskadees and Golden-fronted Woodpeckers were easy, along with more Orange-crowned Warblers than they were used to seeing up north!

The guys enjoying their first Chachalacas at Frontera Audubon!

Estero Llano Grande was by far the highlight, however, with lots of ducks off the deck and their first Least Grebes!  An immature Black-chinned Hummer came to the feeder while we were there, and after enjoying the various waterfowl, we headed over to Alligator Lake in hopes of Pauraque and the "McCall's" Screech Owl.  A scan around Dowitcher Pond actually produced a pair of White-tailed Kites, but the Bufflehead that had been reporting wasn't showing himself.  We searched Grebe Marsh without success for a Green Kingfisher, but a White Ibis next to a big ol' Alligator had the boys digiscoping like crazy!  Before long Gary (who had gone on ahead) was whistling to us - he had found a posing Green Kingfisher!  The night herons also showed well, but we searched and searched for the Pauraque in vain (although a baby Alligator was a nice consolation prize). 

Snoozing Green-winged Teal and Northern Shoveler

White Ibis keeps an eye on a rather large Alligator!

Close-up of the White Ibis

The guys waiting to see if the ibis becomes dinner for the alligator...

Least Grebe

Baby Alligator getting some sun

Since a Sage Thrasher had been reported earlier, we decided to go up on the levee, and while the thrasher didn't show, a nice Ringed Kingfisher did row by nicely!  We had good views of Avocets, White Pelicans, and Roseate Spoonbills up there along with other waders and shorebirds.

We took the back trail to the Tropical Zone in hopes of White-tipped Dove, and while back there we ran into Park Host Huck, who pointed us to another stake-out Pauraque who showed beautifully!  Some American Robins happened by while Huck mentioned he had seen Clay-colored earlier along with the young Bullock's Oriole.

Huck puts out food for the doves

Jon "digi-binning" the Pauraque

After that we moseyed back to the car and headed over to cruise the neighborhoods of Weslaco and listen for Red-crowned Parrots coming in to stage.  We cruised, and cruised...and cruised....and as sunset arrived I was really despondent that we hadn't heard a squawk (but we did find a Merlin ripping into his dinner with gusto)!  Giving up, we headed north towards the freeway when guess what - a whole flock flew right overhead!  Gary said, "That's good enough!" and we headed home!

Bird List:

  Black-bellied Whistling-Duck         
  Mottled Duck                         
  Blue-winged Teal                     
  Cinnamon Teal                        
  Northern Shoveler                     
  Northern Pintail                     
  Green-winged Teal                    
  Ring-necked Duck                     
  Ruddy Duck                           
  Plain Chachalaca                      
  Least Grebe                          
  Pied-billed Grebe                    
  American White Pelican               
  Great Blue Heron                      
  Great Egret                          
  Snowy Egret                          
  Little Blue Heron                    
  Black-crowned Night-Heron            
  Yellow-crowned Night-Heron           
  White Ibis                           
  White-faced Ibis                     
  Roseate Spoonbill                    
  Black Vulture                        
  Turkey Vulture                       
  White-tailed Kite                    
  Northern Harrier                     
  Harris's Hawk                        
  White-tailed Hawk                    
  American Coot                        
  Black-necked Stilt                   
  American Avocet                      
  Stilt Sandpiper                      
  Long-billed Dowitcher                
  Caspian Tern                         
  Rock Pigeon                           
  Eurasian Collared-Dove               
  White-winged Dove                    
  Mourning Dove                        
  Inca Dove                            
  White-tipped Dove                    
  Common Pauraque                      
  Black-chinned Hummingbird            
  Buff-bellied Hummingbird             
  Ringed Kingfisher                    
  Green Kingfisher                     
  Golden-fronted Woodpecker            
  Ladder-backed Woodpecker             
  Peregrine Falcon                     
  Red-crowned Parrot                   
  Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet        
  Vermilion Flycatcher                 
  Great Kiskadee                       
  Couch's Kingbird                     
  Loggerhead Shrike                    
  White-eyed Vireo                     
  Green Jay                            
  Northern Rough-winged Swallow        
  Tree Swallow                         
  Black-crested Titmouse                
  House Wren                           
  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher                
  Ruby-crowned Kinglet                 
  American Robin                       
  Curve-billed Thrasher                
  Northern Mockingbird                 
  European Starling                    
  Orange-crowned Warbler               
  Common Yellowthroat                  
  Yellow-rumped Warbler                
  Savannah Sparrow                     
  Red-winged Blackbird                 
  Great-tailed Grackle                  
  Bronzed Cowbird                      
  Brown-headed Cowbird                 
  House Sparrow                        

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