Friday, February 5, 2016

Joe and Mary Go West


            The next two days were supposed to be nice and sunny, but we were sweating a little as we started out for Starr County in the fog and mist!  Because of that, I decided to do Falcon State Park first, as we could at least stay in the car until the mist let up!  The road in gave us the first of many Pyrrhuloxias and a flock of Chipping Sparrows, and just past the entrance gate a flock of Cedar Waxwings posed in a dead tree!  Joe and Mary’s life Curve-billed Thrasher made an appearance shortly after that, but things really didn’t start hopping until we poked around the boat ramp overflow area (they got a taste of “4-wheeling”… J), where a Cassin’s Sparrow showed nicely and an “Audubon’s” Warbler came in to pishing.  The park no longer stocks the feeders, so I didn’t hold out much hope around the Rec Hall, but one of the park hosts did have a feeder going where a Long-billed Thrasher bullied a Pyrr off the crossbar!  I did hear a Black-throated Sparrow sing as I approached the old blind, so we walked down the road and took the part of the nature trail that wound back to the rec hall, but saw virtually nothing.  After a quick stop at the hall to use the facilities and swipe some cookies and coffee J we made a fruitless search of the picnic area (try as we might, we just could not turn any of the Blue-gray Gnatcatchers into Black-tailed), but hit pay dirt in the cabin area where a big covey of Bobwhite was feeding!  The big miss there (besides the sparrow) was Roadrunner, as they really wanted to see one of those (and with good reason)!  I was about as bummed as they were!
Cedar Waxwing
Great Egret hiding in the swamp

Pyrrhuloxia (above) that was bullied off the feeder by a Long-billed Thrasher (below)

            By that time the mist had pretty much let up, so we decided to head straight to the feeders at Salineño, and that was the show of the day!  Merle was there to greet us, and we pretty much had the place to ourselves and a few Winter Texans who showed up about 30 minutes after we did armed with nothing but their IPhones, but they asked a lot of questions which allowed Merle to relate a lot of info about the birds, what they eat, the history of the area, and even the border security issue!  While we were there no fewer than four Audubon’s Orioles (the real target species here, along with their wintering Hooded Oriole) came in constantly, along with many Altamira Orioles, Kiskadees, Cardinals, Green Jays, both flavors of woodpecker (including a lady Ladder-backed that had a very faint “bracket” on her face), and of course tons of Red-winged Blackbirds and House Sparrows with the odd Brown-headed Cowbird and Great-tailed Grackle thrown in.  I was thrilled that an Olive Sparrow came out in the open, and as both Joe and I were focused on the sparrow, Mary saw this big, long-tailed stripy thing in another part of the feeder area, but no one seemed to get excited, so she let things be until someone announced a little later that a Roadrunner was in the back corner!  I was so happy that they finally got to see one!!  When we left to go down to the river the same guy came tearing out onto the road and gave a great look!
Merle puts out the food, and the show begins!
Male (above) and female Audubon's Orioles
Hooded Oriole, rare in the winter
"The Mad Oriole"  (Altamira)
Female Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Another female Ladderback with a very pale "bracket"
Kiskadee with an attitude...

Northern Cardinal

Orange-crowned Warbler
Golden-fronted Woodpecker

            We set up vigil for another hour at the boat ramp, and while still overcast, the fog had lifted, so we had a great view both up and down river.  A Spotted Sandpiper came wheeling in as if on cue, and kept us company the whole time we were there!  While the two “most wanted” river birds never showed (Muscovy Duck and Red-billed Pigeon, both of which are rare anyway), we got great views of two different Ringed Kingfishers, a classic Red-shouldered Hawk, another Black Phoebe, and three different Gray Hawks!  Ospreys were all over, and a male Bufflehead was down by the island.  We walked the westbound trail where the White-collared Seedeater had been reported, but we bagged nothing but Yellowthroats and the aforementioned second kingfisher.  All three wintering swallows were swooping around, and on the hike back to the car a Vesper Sparrow popped up but was rather uncooperative for decent pictures. 
Joe scans the Rio Grande while a Spotted Sandpiper wheels in (can you spot him in the above picture?)

Mr. Spotty then proceeds to strut and admire himself!

Before long it was time to head back, but as we approached McAllen I suggested maybe cruising up 10th Street in hopes of bagging some Green Parakeets, seeing as it was nearing the time that they should have been staging.  Alas, we searched well past Trenton with no sign of the beasties, so we headed back to Alamo with 72 species under the belt for the day.
Bird List:
       Greater White-fronted Goose 
  Plain Chachalaca                     
  Northern Bobwhite                    
  Pied-billed Grebe                    
  Neotropic Cormorant                   
  Double-crested Cormorant             
  American White Pelican               
  Great Blue Heron                      
  Great Egret                          
  Snowy Egret                          
  Turkey Vulture                       
  Harris's Hawk                        
  Red-shouldered Hawk                  
  Gray Hawk                            
  American Coot                        
  Spotted Sandpiper                    
  Greater Yellowlegs                   
  Least Sandpiper                      
  Rock Pigeon                          
  Eurasian Collared-Dove               
  White-winged Dove                    
  Inca Dove                            
  White-tipped Dove                    
  Greater Roadrunner                   
  Ringed Kingfisher                    
  Belted Kingfisher                    
  Golden-fronted Woodpecker            
  Ladder-backed Woodpecker             
  Crested Caracara                     
  American Kestrel                     
  Black Phoebe                         
  Eastern Phoebe                        
  Great Kiskadee                       
  Tropical Kingbird                    
  Loggerhead Shrike                    
  Green Jay                            
  Northern Rough-winged Swallow        
  Tree Swallow                         
  Cave Swallow                         
  Black-crested Titmouse               
  House Wren                           
  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher                
  Ruby-crowned Kinglet                 
  Hermit Thrush                        
  Curve-billed Thrasher                
  Long-billed Thrasher                 
  Northern Mockingbird                 
  European Starling                    
  American Pipit                        
  Cedar Waxwing                        
  Orange-crowned Warbler               
  Common Yellowthroat                  
  Yellow-rumped Warbler (incl. Audubon’s)
  Olive Sparrow                        
  Cassin's Sparrow                     
  Chipping Sparrow                     
  Vesper Sparrow                       
  Savannah Sparrow                     
  Northern Cardinal                    
  Red-winged Blackbird                 
  Western Meadowlark                   
  Great-tailed Grackle                 
  Brown-headed Cowbird                 
  Hooded Oriole                        
  Altamira Oriole                       
  Audubon's Oriole                     
  House Sparrow                        

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