Thursday, March 28, 2019

Filling the Bucket List, Part 2


I warned the gang that after yesterday’s blitz the quantity would definitely go down (as it often does in Starr County), but hopefully not the quality!  Little did I know…  Heading west we noticed that the Scissor-tailed Flycatchers were back with a vengeance, and I had forgotten that some birds were lifers for Gail but not the other two, so we careened off the highway past Roma for a good look at a Loggerhead Shrike! J

Gail's life Loggerhead Shrike!

I had noticed that Red-billed Pigeons had been reported at Salineño City Park, so since I had never been there before (and it was right on the way to the famous preserve), we decided to check it out.  Right from the fire station parking area we logged an Ash-throated Flycatcher and a Bewick’s Wren singing his little heart out!  I heard the wheep of a Hooded Oriole, and shortly he darted over our heads and landed at the top of a tree for great scope views!  Gail spotted a Pyrrhuloxia (a most-wanted bird for Ron), but it got away before the others saw it, so we made a circle of the park to try and refind it.  In the meantime we logged a displaying Vermilion Flycatcher, Lark Sparrows, and oodles of House Finches!  On the way back we finally spotted the Pyrr sitting up and got the scope on him, and everyone was duly awed by that combination of silver and rose!

Bewick's Wren

Gail, Ron, and Gwen at Salineno City Park

Vermilion Flycatcher

Very distant Pyrrhuloxia giving us the looking-over...

No pigeons (except the Rock kind), so we headed on down to the boat ramp where some guys were fishing.  While Ron greeted them I checked the river, but while checking I actually heard a seedeater singing!!  So down the trail we went post haste; I was so afraid I was gonna spook him before I spotted him, so I recruited everyone’s eyes, but suddenly there he was at the top of a tree, not paying a bit of attention to us as we got great scope views!  Unfortunately he was a brown youngster (as opposed to the nappy black-and-white adult male), but he put on quite the concert!

Young male Morelet's Seedeater

We thought everything would be anticlimactic after that, but once down to the cul-de-sac, we spotted a Gray Hawk in a dead tree across the way, and a singing Long-billed Thrasher across the culvert!  Somewhere in here a male Bullock’s Oriole sat up for scope views, which was a FOY for me (and apparently an early arrival as it wasn’t on the eBird list).  No pigeons, but I suggested we give it 15 minutes for stuff to show up.  Swainson’s Hawks were circling along with the TVs, and we actually had a spoonbill flying way overhead!  A large group of Anhingas came at us, and while Cave Swallow was another wanted bird, we only had Rough-winged and Barns show up.  Not even a kingfisher of either flavor deigned to show themselves, but what did come tearing in again was the seedeater!  He shot right into that little bush at the foot of the culvert before darting back to another tree, singing away!  While we were enjoying him someone hissed, “Yellow!” and a brilliant male Lesser Goldfinch sat briefly over the rocks!  

Ron, Gail, and Gwen enjoying the Gray Hawk

Gail and Ron look longingly for the Audubon's Oriole

We were hearing both Altamira and Audubon’s Orioles calling and singing across the way, and thankfully I spotted the Audubon’s sitting up on a tree!  But Ron didn’t get to see it before it bolted, so we decided to give it another 15 minutes before heading back.  The Audubon’s finally came back and not only sat up, but came over to the US side (not that anyone cared, but we were joking about our “Mexican” lists J)!  Some ducks quacked and flew over the island, showing nice white borders to the speculums, nailing them as the newly-split Mexican!  But what was even better was the big black duck with big white wing patches and dark gray mottling on the face that went powering upriver – a (real) Muscovy Duck!  Everyone was ecstatic with that look!

We headed back happy campers (even without the pigeons), enjoying a lady Ladder-backed Woodpecker in the dead tree in the circle.  On the way the Chachalacas were starting to chorus; we counted at least three different pairs!  Back at the boat ramp the resident Osprey showed off, and we logged some cormorants, but that was the extent of the show, so we headed on up to the Dump Road.

A friendly birder took this portrait of the four of us at the boat ramp!

As we crawled along, a male Black-chinned Hummingbird perched right outside the car, and Black-throated Sparrows were singing all over; we finally got looks at one sitting up.  Cassin’s Sparrows were singing in the distance, and Gwen thought she may have seen one, but it bolted before anyone else saw it… L  The Cactus Wren was the other songster that got away, as we didn’t hear a one at Falcon.  Another Pyrrhuloxia perched close by as well, and turned out to be fairly numerous along the road.  But the star of the road was the Caracara that perched on a power pole right in front of us and let us study his every feather!  Near the grassy field I heard a rising wheeze coming from the brush next to us – it was a lingering Hermit Thrush!
Black-throated Sparrow

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

After a quick swing through Falcon County Park to see if the Coma Trees had any pigeons feeding in them yet (nada), we headed into the state park, stopping for a Bobwhite that had run across the road and then perched up on a bush!  Once we got our pass Gwen pulled over past the entrance kiosk to let a guy pulling a boat past, and he nearly ran down a Roadrunner trying to get across!  As we crawled along we heard more Black-throated Sparrows, Bewick’s Wrens, Verdins, and White-eyed Vireos, but also the distinctive deet-deet-deet cht-cht-cht song of a Black-tailed Gnatcatcher!  Unfortunately he didn’t wanna come out, and as we continued on I couldn’t believe my ears:  a Bell’s Vireo was singing!!  (He sings a belligerent Don’t-chyou-ev-ver-tellmewhattoDO!)  Unfortunately he didn’t wanna play ball, either, not even for the recorder! L

We stopped at the primitive campground to try and spot the Cassin’s Sparrows that were singing; sadly I think I was the only one to catch the guy skylarking, and he never did sit up where you could see him.  It was definitely getting quiet by then, and about the only additional songbird we picked up was a (finally) cooperative White-eyed Vireo that gave everyone great looks!  At the end of the picnic area some Savannah Sparrows were being stubborn, and we logged a gob of egrets and cormorants that were way out there, in addition to a couple of Great Blue Herons.  We picked up a pair of Inca Doves near the Rec Center, and a Common Ground Dove gave a very brief glimpse on the way to the boat ramp.

Trying to pull out a Cassin's Sparrow...

My charges were curious about Roma Bluffs, so since we had time we decided to swing by.  We gave it 15 minutes but didn’t add anything new (a blackbird flipping its tail like a phoebe had us going for a minute), and the swallows nesting under the bridge were too distant for me to discern whether they were Cliffs or Caves.  But the real shocker was yet another seedeater singing and calling in the cane!

The Rio Grande from Roma Bluffs

After a gas and ice cream stop in Rio Grande City J we headed towards home, but since we still had a little time, I suggested stopping on that bridge along Old Military Highway to see if the Cave Swallows were nesting there yet.  But a quick stop at Inspiration Pond added Mottled Duck and Pied-billed Grebe to the day list!  The swallows weren’t back yet (we didn’t even pick up the Black Phoebe), so we continued on, showing them the turnoff to Anzalduas for their solo exploration the next day.  Since we were going right through Hidalgo, we stopped for the Monk Parakeets, which was a nice ending to the day!

Monk Parakeets in the nest

And for a primarily Starr County day, we ended up with an astounding 81 species!  Bird list:

Muscovy Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Mexican Duck
Mottled Duck
Plain Chachalaca
Northern Bobwhite
Pied-billed Grebe
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Inca Dove
Common Ground-Dove
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove
Greater Roadrunner
Black-chinned Hummingbird
American Coot
Neotropic Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Cattle Egret
Roseate Spoonbill
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Gray Hawk
Swainson's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Crested Caracara
American Kestrel
Monk Parakeet
Vermilion Flycatcher
Ash-throated Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
Couch's Kingbird
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Loggerhead Shrike
White-eyed Vireo
Bell's Vireo
Green Jay
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-crested Titmouse
House Wren
Bewick's Wren
Cactus Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
Curve-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
Cassin's Sparrow
Olive Sparrow
Black-throated Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Eastern Meadowlark
Hooded Oriole
Bullock’s Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Audubon's Oriole
Red-winged Blackbird
Great-tailed Grackle
Orange-crowned Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Northern Cardinal
Morelet's Seedeater
House Sparrow

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