The rain threat went away, so we decided to head up to Starr County so we wouldn’t be taking back-to-back trips out to South Padre! It started off foggy and misty, but cleared up nicely, and it turned out to be a gorgeous day! We had multiple Red-tailed Hawks on the way up, along with a couple of Harris’.
Learning from my mistake last time, we decided to take the Seedeater Trail first in hopes of bagging the Red-billed Pigeon. Another couple arrived just as we did, so we gave them time to get ahead of us by doing a 15-minutes river watch, during which time we had oodles of ducks: mostly Blue-winged Teal and Mottled Ducks (that immediately took off), but also a few Ring-necked Ducks and Lesser Scaups. An adult and immature Double-crested Cormorant gave good scope views (with a Gadwall between them), and a Spotted Sandpiper wheeled in at the same place! Upriver we didn’t see any pigeons on the island, but the Osprey was still around! The best bird was the Audubon’s Oriole that sat up pretty on a dead tree across the river and sang for us (which was good, as he never came in to the feeders while we were there… L)
Catherine at the Rio Grande
Ring-necked Ducks (male left, female right)
We headed down the trail after that, listening for seedeaters, and some of those silly Redwings had me fooled a couple of times as they would utter some very high-pitched “sweety” sort of vocalizations! A Verdin actually popped out on its own, and the Cassin’s Sparrows were song-battling, so we got to see one of them skylark! At the first “seedeater overlook”, an Olive Sparrow was pretty cooperative for views, and a Ringed Kingfisher cracked as he flew overhead. We finally caught up with the couple who hadn’t seen any seedeaters, but they reported that the pigeon just left (and had been sitting there the whole time – a Caracara chased it off)! L We tried to turn some Chachalacas sitting up in the trees into pigeons, but that didn’t work… Before they left they did mention that they had the Swamp Sparrow, and Catherine found him, hopping around at the bottom of the ravine! That was great, as I kept missing him every time! While we waited another 15 minutes, the kingfisher returned, followed by a pair who were obviously not happy with the intruder, chased him downriver, and then did a victory lap right over our heads! The whistling Gray Hawk was almost anticlimactic!
Various shots of the wintering Swamp Sparrow (with only one tail feather left)
No seedeaters, so we headed back to the car and up to the feeders (after enjoying Mr. Osprey eating his fish on that same pole he’s always on J), where things were slow to start, but eventually most of the regulars showed up, including the Clay-colored Thrush (I think the only regulars that didn’t show up were the Olive Sparrow, Audubon’s and Hooded Orioles, and Long-billed Thrasher; even some of the regular doves were missing, but thankfully not the White-tipped). The porta-potty maintenance truck came in after about 45 minutes, so we decided to head on to Falcon by way of the Dump Road.
Mr. Osprey is back on his post with his breakfast!
Meanwhile, Mr. Kiskadee ponders the peanut butter mixture before diving in!
The Chachalaca kept flipping his tail as he fed!
Immature Altamira Oriole
Note the green back compared to the adult (below)
Spring is definitely in the air, as bushes were blooming profusely (Huisache and what I think was either Honey Mesquite or Texas Ebony was especially prevalent) and even at midday the birds were singing! The best birds along this stretch were a group of Black-throated Sparrows that unfortunately didn’t stay put for pictures! L We had good comparative looks at Black and Turkey Vultures as well, and got to hear Bewick’s Wrens singing.
Catherine shoots a yucca (also below) along the Dump Road
Falcon State Park was next (and they were handing out Sherry’s new bird checklist), and since butterflies were batting about, we visited the butterfly garden first, which was very productive (although frustrating for photography – especially if you were just learning your camera as Catherine was – as most of them wouldn’t stay put)! The most common showoffs were Red Admirals, Elada Checkerspots, Texan Crescents, and Queens, but we also had a Funereal Duskywing, White-patched Skipper, and a couple of Gray Hairstreaks. The Pipevine and Black Swallowtails went batting by but never landed… I think Catherine’s favorite moment there wasn’t a butter but the Inca Dove that sat on the trail and started “Bob Hope”ing to his mate! While there a pair of Chihuahuan Ravens ronked and flew overhead, which was fun; hadn’t seen them there in a long time!
Catherine in the butterfly garden at Falcon SP
Corn Earworm Moth
From there we crawled along the road, and again, compared to about a month ago, the place was alive with birdsong even in the heat of the day! Most of it belonged to Mockingbirds of course, but we had more Black-throated Sparrows, White-eyed Vireos, and Verdins filling the air. At the primitive camping area some Lark Sparrows were hiding yet singing lustily, while a shrike sat out in the open. A lady came over to ask what we were seeing about the time a Pyrrhuloxia popped up, so we chatted a bit – they were visiting all the Texas State Parks! What fun!
Continuing on we found the young male Vermilion Flycatcher, and just before getting to the boat ramp I heard a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher singing, but also the “pish”-like call and song of a Black-tailed Gnatcatcher! He came right out, showing off his nice black cap, but he was moving so fast that we both were just “shooting blind”, hoping we caught something! (We didn't, or at least I didn't...) We then off-roaded in the overflow area (Catherine went through a muddy patch I would have been afraid to take Heppy through J) and only picked up a Great Egret for our troubles. The picnic area was full of Weekend Warriors, but we walked down the little fenceline path picking up some Coots, but I kept hearing this buzzing that sounded like angry bees, which seemed to be coming from the Huisache trees and was more intense when the wind blew through them! I was all set to report that the Huisaches make this incredible noise when blown by the wind when Catherine said, “I think that’s a toy!!” Sure enough, we went to investigate and noticed a toy drone being buzzed over our heads; mystery solved…
We really had to start back after that, so we headed out, but got waylaid in Roma when I spotted a group of Green Parakeets on the wires in the historic district! We wheeled around the block and then got right under them (ended up parking at the police station)! That was a special gift and nice end to the day!
We spot a group of Green Parakeets in Roma!
Checking us out...
Sometimes they'll show a few flecks of orange or red around the head.
Great Blue Heron