Jon and Nancy were newly retired and late risers, so we compromised on a start time of 8:00 to head out to Starr County (so managed to pick up Green Parakeet for the day while going to pick them up)! They were new birders and had already explored parts of the Valley, but Jon was especially interested in good photo ops, so Salineño was definitely the place to go!
As per usual the plan was to start at Falcon State Park while things were still active, but even the drive up was raptor-friendly with Harris’, Red-shouldered, and White-tailed Hawks! On the entrance road a cooperative shrike flew up and down off his wire for us, along with a pretty Kestrel! Even before making the turn on the loop road the resident Caracara posed for us on a post! Down in the primitive area we finally nabbed several Pyrrhuloxias feeding on the ground, but I was more excited about the Lark Bunting pair! Also in the crowd were some spizella sparrows, but the distance and poor light precluded a positive ID… L With the sun finally shining, the place was crowded with fishermen, so we didn’t bother driving down into the overflow lot as it was already stuffed with vehicles!
Loggerhead Shrike eyeing his next meal
There was a report of a Rock Wren “on the rocks between the hall and the lake,” so we headed that direction but were waylaid by a very cooperative Verdin that was sitting out in the open and chirping away! While Jon was out shooting him, Sheri Wilson (the park host) wheeled by and mentioned that their bird walk couldn’t kick up the reported Rock Wren, but she confirmed the area where it had been seen, as I really had no idea where it was! So we parked and walked the little trail to the picnic tables, shooting the Snouts that had “come to life” with the warmer weather! We actually found a little trail behind one of the shelters, and it did indeed lead to a nice rocky area that looked perfect for Rock Wrens! However, we saw and heard nothing, but had a lovely view of Falcon Dam!
Jon shoots a Snout (below)
Ventral view of the Snout (you can see where they get their name)
The search for the Rock Wren (with Falcon Dam in the background)
On a clear day you can see Mexico's Sierra Madre Oriental!
Even though Jon was interested in leps (and the butters were starting to fly), the garden didn’t look very active, so we bailed on that and headed to the picnic area where we drove to the very end and walked down to the lake and back in a loop, picking up Caspian Tern, Laughing Gulls, some Savannah Sparrows on the fence, and a somewhat cooperative Belted Kingfisher! After a fruitless cruise through the cabin area, we checked the hookups and finally bagged a Roadrunner for the day!
The feeders at Salineño were great! The usual suspects came in and Jon was thrilled, but what was even more exciting to me was the arrival of a Clay-colored Thrush! After spending an action-packed hour there we reluctantly headed to the car to “do” the boat ramp and “Seedeater Trail”, when who should we see coming up the road but my boss Keith and his cousins Paul and Chris! J They had just come from the trail (no seedeater, but they did have an excavating Ladder-backed Woodpecker), so they went to the feeders and we headed on down. Before we even started on the trail a beautiful Gray Hawk circled overhead, and unfortunately Jon’s camera decided not to fire! (I can relate – nothing more frustrating than pushing the shutter and nothing happens…) The trail was quiet (except for Keith’s woodpecker) so we sat and ate lunch at the boat ramp while waiting for something exciting to fly by; cormorants were the only customers, along with the ever-present Ospreys. We did the Dump Road to finish the day, which was really quiet: we only added Mourning Dove, Black Vulture, and a Fuertes’ Redtail.
Salineno feeder area (note the bucket in front...)
Altamira Oriole claims an orange!
"Anything left in here?"
The adult sneaks in to grab some PB mixture out of the aforementioned bucket!
Chachalacas chowing down
Great Kiskadee likes the PB mixture
The top of his crown has an interesting pattern!
Trying to be sneaky...
Clay-colored Thrush makes a maiden appearance!
Even birds blink when you take their picture!
(Female Golden-fronted Woodpecker)
The male has a delightful combination of color on his crown!
Immature Hooded Oriole
An Orange-crowned Warbler tries to sneak into the bucket as well...
Mike makes sure everyone signs in!
We run into my boss and his cousins! (L-R: Chris, Doug, Keith, Nancy, and Jon)
Nancy and Jon at the boat ramp along the Rio Grande
Since we started “late,” we were naturally getting back “late,” so we decided to make a swing through the “Parrot Neighborhood” in McAllen on the way home to see if, perchance, we could bag these noisy fellows! We did indeed hear and see a distant flock, but as we followed it to the area of Cynthia we couldn’t find anything (except another car of birders), so we decided to call it a day. We were several blocks down the road when Mary Gustafson (another Valley guide) called me and said, “They’re in the eucs on Cynthia!” Jon and Nancy were game, so we did a U-ie and found them right where Mary and her crew had them, getting great scope looks at the Redcrowns and one Lilac-crowned (and they had seen a Yellow-headed earlier)! Turns out Mary was hidden in that car we passed – she saw me but I didn’t see her! J
Finally headed home with a respectable (for Starr County) 64 species for the day! Bird List:
Plain ChachalacaNorthern Bobwhite
Great Blue Heron
“Fuertes’” Red-tailed Hawk