Rain was in the forecast for both Hidalgo and Cameron Counties on my day off, so decided to bird Falcon State Park and Salineño, two of my favorite spots in Starr County. It was a foggy drive up there, so ended up starting a little past sunrise, but by the time I got there the fog had lifted somewhat and it was calm. Stopping along the entrance road bagged a Kestrel on the post and a singing Cactus Wren, and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were very prevalent (no Blacktails today, though, and didn’t have time to bird the famous “Dump Road”). After getting my pass I made the circle around the park, stopping every half mile; it was actually pretty quiet, and what looks I had into the reservoir yielded only a handful of Laughing Gulls, a line of Double-crested Cormorants, and a couple of White Pelicans. Took a bumpy ride down the dirt road next to the boat ramp, where a Great Egret and, interestingly, a stag White-tailed Deer fed across the way (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a deer there)! A Belted Kingfisher rowed in and later rattled, and a Great Blue Heron croaked from somewhere. Some of the roads to the edge were under water, but one of them opened up into a nice view of the lake. Heading back and climbing into the overflow parking area, there weren’t many birds, but a Red-tailed Pennant perched nicely, and at least heard a Greater Yellowlegs and a quacking Mottled Duck for the day list!
View of the reservoir from the primitive camping area
Stag White-tailed Deer
Dorky-looking Great Egret
View of the lake and Falcon Dam from the 4WD access
Swinging back towards the Rec Center, I hiked a little of the big circular trail from the little hidden parking area, and again didn’t pick up much of anything, but ironically the most action occurred at the defunct bird blind where, despite the lack of feeding for years, the place was alive with Black-crested Titmice and White-eyed Vireos! Walking back to the car, a covey of Bobwhite went tearing across the road before pausing to feed in the grass by the side!
Brown-throated female in front on the right
Saving the butterfly garden for last, I headed down to the picnic area where a Roadrunner finally showed up (he was leaving the confines of the garden, probably having just had a nice lunch…)! The picnic area can often be good for raptors, and today didn’t disappoint: a nice Osprey was sitting on a stump shuffling her feathers and dolling up herself while her mate flew overhead! At the end of the cabin area, a Caracara sat on a pole while a couple of Collared Doves flew by in the background! Crawling through the hookup campground bagged what I suspected I had been hearing earlier but wanted to be sure: my FOS Orange-crowned Warbler! A Peccary fed in an open area, totally oblivious to my car, and a bunting buzzed and picked by one camper, but the culprit refused to come out; several darkish bunting-shaped birds had been bouncing over and buzzing during the course of the morning, but none would let me get a look. They were probably migrant Indigos, but Painteds actually breed at Falcon, so I felt hesitant to call them one or the other; I didn't think eBird had an entry for “bunting sp.”, so I crossed my fingers and called them all Indigos… (Found out later the correct entry would have been "Passerina sp."...) A notable miss was Black-throated Sparrow, as this is usually a reliable spot for them.
Caracara (with a pair of Collared Doves photo-bombing...)
It was time for the butterfly garden, which was really what I was looking forward to all morning; by that time the sun was coming in and out, so while the butter action wasn’t “crazy”, the garden itself was in great shape with lots of blooms, and common species were well represented. The most unusual butter was a Texas Powdered Skipper, of which this was only my third sighting (and the thing took off before I could get a picture, naturally L)! The most abundant butter was the little Elada Checkerspot, and there were some other cool bugs around as well, the best one being a lovely little beetle that I had no clue about, but Ken Kaufman’s Guide to Insects helped me narrow it down to a wood-boring beetle, so with a post to the Texas Insects Facebook page, my friend John Brush found it quickly on BugGuide: it had no English name, so we dubbed it Yellow-margined Wood-boring Beetle based on the scientific name! Notable by their apparent absence were checkered and grass skippers!
This might be a female with the paler forewing band...
Showing a bit of the ventral view
Giant Swallowtail, dorsal view
Lookit that face...
White Peacock that had a narrow escape...
Great Southern White
Probable Ceraunus Blue
Gray (above) and Mallow Scrub Hairstreaks
Having wrapped that up it was time to head down to Salineño and enjoy my lunch while watching the river, logging several Scissor-tailed Flycatchers on the way down. While no “upriver specialties” showed up, it was nice to at least hear Gray Hawk and Ringed Kingfisher for the day! Green Jays kept “crossing the border” while a couple of Great Blue Herons stood off, and the Spotted Sandpiper who always seems to be there sounded off. My FOS Ruby-crowned Kinglet chattered behind me while an Altamira Oriole whistled happily on the Mexican side. Odes were floating around; what I suspected were Straw-colored Sylphs (based on the long, skinny straw-colored abdomens against the dark thoraxes) went back and forth and back and forth, but never settled down. The damsels were more cooperative, however, the most numerous being Blue-ringed Dancer, followed by Powdered Dancer. A very pretty one with light blue and buff stripes posed, which I suspected was probably an immature of either species, and sure enough, my old buddy Josh Rose (whose doctorate was in odes J) came to the rescue and suggested it was a Powdered Dancer in some “intermediate” form! Odes (like birds and butters) can be so variable that it really takes a lot of experience to become comfortable in ID’ing all but the most obvious ones!
Immature Powdered Dancer
Mottled DuckNorthern Bobwhite
American White Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Pipevine SwallowtailGiant Swallowtail
Great Southern White
Large Orange Sulphur
Mallow Scrub Hairstreak
Texas Powdered Skipper