Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Starr County Squeeze


This was Julie and Richard’s first “Winter Texan” trip to escape the cold of Indiana, and they had already visited many wonderful places before coming to the Inn for several days!  After chatting a bit in the office on Thursday, they had a handful of target birds that I thought might be best bagged in Starr County, so we made plans to head out the next day!

Seeing as the Green Parakeet mob along Bus 83 in Palmview was becoming more reliable, we stopped for them on the way (about 800 at least), and had a Red-tailed Hawk on the way to Salineño.  My plan was to go there first thinking morning might be better for the seedeaters, but the place was absolutely mobbed!!  The seedeaters had been seen that morning, but many folks (including us) subsequently missed them; we went up a side road (that I think was actually someone’s very long and rough driveway) and got Cassin’s and Lark Sparrows instead, both thankfully lifers!  I thought I heard a seedeater whistle around the canyon but it sounded too close to a whistle the Redwings were making to be sure.  Part of The Mob was a group from Estero Llano Grande led by Ranger John Yochum; they actually went way up the canyon a la my young friend Josh last December (when I guarded the rocks J)!  My charges were perfectly amenable to “guarding the rocks” as opposed to bush-beating up the canyon; turns out the seedeaters weren’t up there, either.  We couldn’t kick up any kingfishers, either, but we did see Coots and a pair of Gadwall in the river, besides the ever present Ospreys and a couple of fishermen…

Checking out the parakeets on Business 83

Lines of pointy tails!

Julie on the upper road

View back towards the river

Julie at one of the traditional seedeater spots

The Estero group was heading elsewhere, so we made a break for the feeders, but even so it was quite cozy!  All the regulars came in (including “Patch the Redwing” and “Baldy the Audubon’s”), and as promised, Richard was able to get some good pics while the Gray Hawk squealed unseen overhead.  From there we went up Dump Road and had scope views of a Bewick’s Wren before even getting there!  (I’m always nervous about pulling out a scope in a residential area, though…).  We had passable views of the Pyrrhuloxia, but unfortunately not photo quality.  It was actually pretty dead except for more Mockers, Bewick’s Wrens, and Curve-billed Thrashers, plus a Turkey Vulture with its wings out!

Altamira Oriole

Having a spat with the young'un

Olive Sparrow


Orange-crowned Warbler

"Mrs. Baldy" (the female Audubon's Oriole) takes a look around...

...while "Baldy" comes in after she's had her fill!
One never tires of the colors on a male Golden-fronted Woodpecker!

Young male Hooded Oriole

Harris' Hawk poses on an old windmill along the Dump Road...

...while a Turkey Vulture catches some rays!

We headed to Falcon County Park on a whim; no Red-billed Pigeons yet (they like to feed on the Coma berries), but we did run into a flock of Cedar Waxwings!  Other than that they really didn’t have many birds either, perhaps due to the presence of lots of campers.  The State Park was pretty quiet, too, although we saw more Pyrrs; feedings flocks included Orange-crowned and Yellow-rumped Warblers, gnatcatchers, and kinglets.  Had a female Vermilion Flycatcher flopping around near the boat ramp, and a little off-roading got an Eastern Phoebe, a calling Greater Yellowlegs, and Chipping Sparrows up in the circle.  Tried for the Rock Wren behind the rec center, but he was a no-show... L  The lake was pretty devoid of water birds except for Laughing Gulls (too many boaters, probably), but had the Savannah Sparrow flock at the end of the picnic area, along with the Harris’ Hawk on his pole, and the resident Caracara on his pole as well in the cabin area!

Cedar Waxwing

Crested Caracara

Headed home with 67 species for the day.  Bird List:

  Plain Chachalaca                     
  Northern Bobwhite                    
  Double-crested Cormorant             
  American White Pelican               
  Great Blue Heron                     
  Great Egret                          
  Black Vulture                        
  Turkey Vulture                       
  Harris's Hawk                        
  Gray Hawk                            
  Red-tailed Hawk                      
  American Coot                        
  Spotted Sandpiper                    
  Greater Yellowlegs                   
  Laughing Gull                        
  Rock Pigeon                          
  Eurasian Collared-Dove               
  White-winged Dove                    
  Mourning Dove                         
  Common Ground-Dove                   
  White-tipped Dove                    
  Greater Roadrunner                   
  Buff-bellied Hummingbird             
  Golden-fronted Woodpecker            
  Ladder-backed Woodpecker              
  Crested Caracara                     
  American Kestrel                     
  Green Parakeet                       
  Eastern Phoebe                       
  Vermilion Flycatcher                 
  Great Kiskadee                       
  Loggerhead Shrike                    
  White-eyed Vireo                     
  Green Jay                            
  Cave Swallow                         
  Black-crested Titmouse               
  House Wren                           
  Bewick's Wren                        
  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher                
  Ruby-crowned Kinglet                 
  Curve-billed Thrasher                
  Long-billed Thrasher                 
  Northern Mockingbird                 
  European Starling                    
  Cedar Waxwing                        
  Orange-crowned Warbler               
  Common Yellowthroat                  
  Yellow-rumped Warbler                
  Olive Sparrow                         
  Cassin's Sparrow                     
  Chipping Sparrow                     
  Lark Sparrow                         
  Savannah Sparrow                     
  Lincoln's Sparrow                    
  Northern Cardinal                     
  Red-winged Blackbird                 
  Eastern Meadowlark                   
  Great-tailed Grackle                 
  Hooded Oriole                        
  Altamira Oriole                      
  Audubon's Oriole                     
  House Sparrow                        


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