Monday, May 7, 2018

Hopping Around Hidalgo


What a day!  Given our destinations, I wasn’t anticipating a huge species list, but we managed to top 100!  We started by birding the Old Military Highway levee, which was quite productive:  we stopped for a Chachalaca chorusing from the top of a tree, and in the meantime an Ani squeaked from behind us, giving great looks!  A young male Bullock’s Oriole gave brief looks, and a Yellow-crowned Night Heron flew overhead and then landed in the canal.  Patty spotted a Gray Hawk making a hasty retreat over the trees, and a Mississippi Kite sailed over Chimney Park!  A little further down we stopped for a “bush break”, and had we not done that we would have missed the White-tailed Kite pair out in the field!  A House Finch sang and preened from a wire, and just before the dirt levee joined the paved levee, an Altamira Oriole flew into a tree ahead of us!  A stop at the bridge gave great comparative views of both Cave and Cliff Swallows as they swirled around under the overpass, and closer to the Butterfly Center the Eastern Bluebird was still hanging around!

Silhouetted Groove-billed Ani

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

House Finch

Patty trying to chase something down on the levee

White-tailed Kite

Murray takes a snapshot of the girls next to a sunflower field!

Curve-billed Thrasher near Bentsen SP

From there we headed back to Anzalduas, but not before swinging around to check out a hawk on a pole along FM 494, which turned out to be a juvenile Swainson’s.  But he wasn’t the only one – suddenly Swainie after Swainie started rising from the adjacent field, and before long about 30 birds were swirling around, including a dark morph adult!  What a show!

Juvenile Swainson's Hawk

Patty was able to get this shot of most of the group! (©2018 by Patty Sein)

Closer look at two more juvies 
We headed into the park after that, picking up a pair of Gadwall in the spillway on the way in, and while the gang was in the restroom by the levee a flock of Cedar Waxwings flew over!  It was really kind of quiet in the park; we took a look behind the dam and only had a few Neotropic Cormorants and a single Snowy Egret, but the nesting Cliff Swallows were a hit!  A fully spotted Spotted Sandpiper was in the river along with several Coots, and as we swung around the boat ramp we spotted the Black Phoebe!  Linda wanted to try for a better picture, so we parked next to the ramp and took a walk along the river while Linda waited for the phoebe to come back (which it never did).  We didn’t find much of anything, either (was hoping for kingfishers), so we headed on to Edinburg Scenic Wetlands, picking up Pied-billed Grebe, Blue-winged Teal, and Mottled Duck in the spillway on the way out.

Black Phoebe

Waiting for the phoebe to come back...

Altamira Oriole (©2018 by Patty Sein)

Stepping out of the car I couldn’t believe my eyes:  someone had flushed a Pauraque across the street!  The gang was duly impressed with the garden, and it was much more lush than the last time I was there!  White-eyed Vireos sang all over but wouldn’t show themselves, and we actually had a few warblers:  Tennessee, Orange-crowned, and Northern Parula (plus a pinking Northern Waterthrush near the pond)!  Said pond had a good selection of egrets and cormorants, but no kingfishers… L  Buff-bellied Hummingbirds buzzed all around us and gave good views but no photo ops.  Peeking into the canal Patty spotted a Painted Bunting, but I heard a Green Kingfisher and spotted the thing hightailing it across the pond!  Linda only got a glimpse, so that was the one that got away… L  A pretty pair of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks was the consolation prize…  Poking down the canal trail we flushed a Chuck-will’s-widow (they thought it was a hawk at first – common misperception!), and a Long-billed Thrasher pair was uncharacteristically friendly!  Murray spotted a Clay-colored Thrush before we headed across the street to check the south pond, but the overlook was still closed, so the only thing we saw there was a pair of Curve-billed Thrashers and a cooperative Green Heron.  We headed back to use the facilities and check the dragonfly pond, hearing a Catbird on the way.  Nothing was at the pond, but we decided to check the overlook one last time where a Forster’s Tern was batting around, and suddenly the Green Kingfisher shot across!  I think only Linda and I saw that one, so when Murray and Patty arrived I offered to go down and see if I could flush him their way, but he came over on his own volition! J  What a look!

Patty snapped this group shot at the entrance!  (©2018 by Patty Sein)

She also captured this nice portrait of an ultra-friendly Long-billed Thrasher!  (©2018 by Patty Sein)

Checking out the North Pond

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

Inca Dove catching some rays

Neotropic Cormorant

Green Heron

Golden-fronted Woodpecker (©2018 by Patty Sein)

Great Kiskadee (©2018 by Patty Sein)

Theona Checkerspot - ventral view

Dorsal view

Texan Crescent (©2018 by Patty Sein)

Argiope Spider; note the tiny male above the female!  (©2018 by Patty Sein)
From there we headed to Wallace Road just to see what we could pick up; early on Patty spotted a distant White-tailed Hawk, and a lovely male Lesser Goldfinch would have given Linda a great photo op had there not been traffic coming from the opposite direction that spooked it! L  In fact, we were all amazed at the amount of traffic on that dirt road for a Saturday, and some of those vehicles were going at warp speed!  But the wetlands were the definite highlight:  Patty spotted a drake Cinnamon Teal hiding in the dried reeds, and further down we added a hiding Little Blue Heron and Shoveler!  The main wetland was a treasure trove of shorebirds practically at our feet, with breeding-plumaged Long-billed Dowitchers, both yellowlegs, and Stilt, Pectoral, Semipalmated, and Least Sandpipers, in addition to some gorgeous female Wilson’s Phalaropes!  The icing on the cake was in an ag field further along where two male Dickcissels were chasing each other around and around in a circle, giving us all great looks at their field marks with each pass!  One of the males finally landed on the fence next to us and sang away, giving great photo ops!  I was ready to get a video, but we had to wait for about five vehicles to pass, hoping that the bird wouldn’t book with each pass, and he hung in there until I slowly opened the door, then booked!  We all had a good laugh about that…

Wilson's Phalaropes

Stilt Sandpipers

Semipalmated Sandpipers

Pectoral Sandpipers


Headed home after that, picking up a Caracara and Harris’ Hawk on FM 490 on the way.  Bird List:

  Black-bellied Whistling-Duck         
  Mottled Duck                         
  Blue-winged Teal                     
  Cinnamon Teal                        
  Northern Shoveler                    
  Plain Chachalaca                     
  Northern Bobwhite                    
  Least Grebe                          
  Pied-billed Grebe                    
  Neotropic Cormorant                  
  Great Egret                          
  Snowy Egret                          
  Little Blue Heron                    
  Cattle Egret                         
  Green Heron                           
  Yellow-crowned Night-Heron           
  Black Vulture                        
  Turkey Vulture                       
  White-tailed Kite                    
  Mississippi Kite                      
  Cooper's Hawk                        
  Harris's Hawk                        
  White-tailed Hawk                    
  Gray Hawk                            
  Swainson's Hawk                      
  American Coot                         
  Black-necked Stilt                   
  Spotted Sandpiper                    
  Greater Yellowlegs                   
  Lesser Yellowlegs                    
  Stilt Sandpiper                      
  Least Sandpiper                      
  Pectoral Sandpiper                   
  Semipalmated Sandpiper               
  Long-billed Dowitcher                
  Wilson's Phalarope                   
  Laughing Gull                        
  Forster's Tern                       
  Rock Pigeon                          
  Eurasian Collared-Dove               
  White-winged Dove                    
  Mourning Dove                        
  Inca Dove                            
  Yellow-billed Cuckoo                 
  Groove-billed Ani                    
  Common Pauraque                      
  Chimney Swift                        
  Buff-bellied Hummingbird             
  Green Kingfisher                      
  Golden-fronted Woodpecker            
  Ladder-backed Woodpecker             
  Crested Caracara                     
  Black Phoebe                         
  Brown-crested Flycatcher             
  Great Kiskadee                       
  Tropical Kingbird                    
  Couch's Kingbird                     
  Western Kingbird                     
  Scissor-tailed Flycatcher            
  Loggerhead Shrike                    
  White-eyed Vireo                     
  Green Jay                            
  Northern Rough-winged Swallow        
  Purple Martin                        
  Bank Swallow                         
  Cliff Swallow                        
  Cave Swallow                         
  Black-crested Titmouse               
  House Wren                           
  Eastern Bluebird                     
  Clay-colored Thrush                  
  Gray Catbird                         
  Curve-billed Thrasher                 
  Long-billed Thrasher                 
  Northern Mockingbird                 
  European Starling                    
  Cedar Waxwing                        
  Northern Waterthrush                 
  Tennessee Warbler                     
  Orange-crowned Warbler               
  Common Yellowthroat                  
  Northern Parula                      
  Olive Sparrow                        
  Lark Sparrow                         
  Northern Cardinal                    
  Blue Grosbeak                        
  Painted Bunting                      
  Red-winged Blackbird                 
  Great-tailed Grackle                 
  Bronzed Cowbird                      
  Bullock's Oriole                     
  Altamira Oriole                      
  House Finch                          
  Lesser Goldfinch                     
  House Sparrow                        


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