Friday, February 12, 2016

Going For Bird #779!


            “Graham” had 777 species on his ABA list when he flew down from Michigan last week specifically to see the Crimson-collared Grosbeak, and he and Keith spent all day at Frontera and were getting ready to call it quits at 4:45 when another birder announced they had it, and Graham got a brief but identifiable look for ABA Bird #778!  Little did I know that with the arrival of a White-throated Thrush at Estero Llano Grande SP he would make a return trip this week!

            I had the honor of accompanying him over there (hey, I wanted to see it, too J), and after going straight to the Tropical Zone, we were surprised that we were the only birders there!  We poked around a little, picking up an American Robin on a wire at least, and plenty of birds were coming in to the feeders and water feature to entertain in the meantime.  Slowly other birders began to trickle in and we made a few circles around Ben Basham’s place (many people assume this is the same bird from previous years, in which case it traveled all over the Tropical Zone), but no thrush. 
American Robin, which can be tough in winter in the Valley!

Snooping along "Basham's Trail" in search of the elusive White-throated Thrush!

Curious Chachalaca at the Tropical Zone's water feature

Around 9:00 a text came through on the LTGV RBA that yet another White-throated Thrush was currently being seen at the Kiskadee Blind at Bentsen!  Graham was all for chasing that one, so we jumped into Diggory and headed out (thankfully with no pileup at the 83/281 interchange…), and made it there in good time!  The weather was absolutely fabulous, with blue skies and warm temps, so after checking in we walked all the way in (picking up the canal’s Black Phoebe on the way), and took our places inside the blind.  We enjoyed both adult and immature Altamira Orioles in addition to the expected Kiskadees and Green Jays, as well as at least three Nashville Warblers that were coming in to drink!  But as we were watching the warblers, what should appear in the same spot but the thrush!!  He leisurely took a drink while shutters went off left and right, then hopped up onto a crooked branch that seemed to be made just for him!  What a show!
Immature Altamira Oriole

Adult Altamira

The coveted White-throated Thrush (a vagrant from Mexico) comes in to drink...

...then poses on an open branch!

Having gotten his bird (and that was the best look either of us had ever had of that particular bird), we decided to go ahead and try for the Audubon’s Oriole that was hanging out at Feeder #10.  While easy to get at the Salineño feeders in Starr County, this is a very rare bird for Hidalgo County, so that was fun to see.
Hanging out at Feeder #10

The wandering Audubon's Oriole makes a showing!
After enjoying a flyover Gray Hawk on the way back, we grabbed some lunch at P.F. Chang’s and then decided to go back to Frontera to see if Graham could get a better look at the grosbeak (and me a look at the grosbeak and/or the Blue Bunting).  I figured it was gonna be tough as it was “that time of day”, but as we approached Feeder Area #1, the Black-headed Grosbeak (another rarity from the west) was already there at the feeders!  So we enjoyed him before making the circuit around the area, where it was indeed very quiet; even the Turkey Vultures were few and far between (I was tickled by the fact that they were selling stuffed TVs in the visitor’s center J)!  After the excitement of the morning, the atmosphere at Frontera was rather subdued as neither mega-rarity had been seen.  But, as the saying goes, “Disappointment is inevitable, but discouragement is a choice,” and we had a great time watching the regulars come in to the feeders, including a Catbird, a sprawled-out squirrel, and a woodpecker who could reach the hummer feeder from his tree!
Fox Squirrel enjoys a laid-back meal...

...while a Golden-fronted Woodpecker has found a creative way to raid the hummer feeder!

While not a "mega", a Black-headed Grosbeak from the West is a nice consolation prize!
I was actually dozing off after that big lunch, so we decided to call it a day and head back to the Inn!  Bird List:
      Plain Chachalaca                     
  Cattle Egret                          
  Black Vulture                        
  Turkey Vulture                       
  Gray Hawk                            
  American Coot                        
  Mourning Dove                        
  Inca Dove                             
  White-tipped Dove                    
  Buff-bellied Hummingbird             
  Golden-fronted Woodpecker            
  Ladder-backed Woodpecker             
  Black Phoebe                         
  Great Kiskadee                       
  Green Jay                            
  Black-crested Titmouse               
  House Wren                           
  Carolina Wren                        
  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher                
  Ruby-crowned Kinglet                 
  Clay-colored Thrush                  
  White-throated Thrush                
  American Robin                       
  Gray Catbird                         
  Curve-billed Thrasher                
  Long-billed Thrasher                  
  Northern Mockingbird                 
  European Starling                    
  Orange-crowned Warbler               
  Nashville Warbler                    
  Yellow-rumped Warbler                
  Lincoln's Sparrow                     
  Northern Cardinal                    
  Black-headed Grosbeak                
  Red-winged Blackbird                 
  Great-tailed Grackle                 
  Altamira Oriole                      
  Audubon's Oriole                     
  Lesser Goldfinch                     
  American Goldfinch                   
  House Sparrow                        

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