Sunday, March 22, 2020

An Impromptu Outing


Today Norma, Fran, Deb, and I went on a spur of the moment trip up to Rancho Lomitas, a native plant nursery and guest ranch out in the boonies north of Rio Grande City!  If you call ahead, Toni (the owner) will put out food for the birds, as this is about the only truly reliable spot in the Valley any more for Scaled Quail!  (Contact info: )  Since we left from Deb’s house off Monte Cristo Road in North McAllen, we took the back way through McCook, and saw that the Scissor-tailed Flycatchers had returned in force along FM 490!  We eventually wound up on La Sagunada Road, which was quite birdy:  we heard lots of Verdins, Bewick’s Wrens, and Pyrrhuloxias, along with at least one Ash-throated Flycatcher and Black-throated Sparrow.

Once we got to the ranch we opened the gate and let ourselves in, then rolled down to where the casitas were (which are very nice:  every suite is fully furnished and equipped, so all you need to do is stock up on groceries in Rio Grande City and you can easily chill here for a week)!  Toni had put out oranges, seed, and marshmallows (!) for the birds, so after using the facilities we settled down and waited for the show!  The quail had made a brief appearance while we were lined up to use the bathrooms, but when we came back things quieted down (except for the Pyrrs and Cardinals coming in at point blank), and Teri was so apologetic!  But as I often declare to my guests (and they thankfully concur J), I assured her, “You’re not in charge of the birds!”  

Norma and Deb get ready to settle in!

Male Pyrrhuloxia studies the feeder

Check out that crest!


The Scaled Quail sneak in while we're taking a bathroom break!

And stuff did start trickling in:  the Hooded Oriole dined on the orange to the right, the Altamira whistled and dined on the suet feeder to the left, and the Audubon’s dined in the middle!  The Orange-crowned Warbler favored the marshmallow, and Green Jays blasted in, grabbed a peanut, and then took off, while Inca and White-tipped Doves strutted around on the floor.  A single White-winged Dove skittishly tried to land on the bird bath, while a couple of Bronzed Cowbirds joined the other ground feeders (thankfully the Red-winged Blackbirds weren’t as plentiful here as in other feeder areas).  A couple of Curve-billed Thrashers ran around in front of us, and the girls were particularly thrilled with the Cactus Wren that showed off!  A Long-billed Thrasher came in to the suet feeder, and a Black-throated Sparrow was just a little ham as he chewed his seed on the ground!  Even the little Mexican Ground Squirrel was a hit!  But eventually the Scaled Quail came running in and gave great views, along with a pair of Bobwhite that snuck in as well!

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Orange-crowned Warbler

Green Jay

Audubon's Oriole

Grabbing a PB ball...

With his nose in the marshmallow...

Hooded Oriole

His face mask is more rounded compared to the Altamira (below)

Notice how the Altamira's orange cheek angles in!

More Altamira Orioles...
Curve-billed Thrasher

Face on...

Pondering a peanut...
Several shots of the very cooperative Cactus Wren

And the stars of the show, the Scaled Quail!

Easy to see why they're nicknamed "Cottontops"!

He's got a different-looking friend behind him...

A Northern Bobwhite!

Bronzed Cowbird

Long-billed Thrasher

Inca Dove

Black-throated Sparrow

Mexican Ground Squirrel (token mammal)

A Kiskadee spooked everything away, so Toni used the opportunity to show us one of the casitas, then pulled out the “Bad Boy” (she described it as a souped-up golf cart) so we could swing down to the pond and see if we could log anything else for the day!  We did spook a pair of Blue-winged Teal, and Fran (I think it was) spotted an Eastern Phoebe on some sticks across the way.  A mystery bird drinking on the opposite end struck us as a dove before it flushed; my gut feeling was a Common Ground Dove, and thankfully we heard one sing as we swung back around to the main area.  We also saw that the Purple Martins had arrived in force in their two martin houses!

The Purple Martins are back!
Closeup of one of the martin pairs (female left, male right)

Deb holds the gate open for us...

I actually went too far, and as I was turning around Norma spotted a Roadrunner sitting up on a rock!  Not being able to help myself J, I started messin’ with him, and he came right over and practically hopped into the Bad Boy!  When he started singing back the girls were just awestruck!  Some felt that was worth the whole trip!

This Roadrunner came right up to us after I cooed at him!

...and he cooed back!

I had driven separately to honor the Coronavirus Social Distancing Rule, so at that point the others headed to Wallace Road before dropping Deb off, and I continued to scout La Sagunada to its north end terminus as a possible new road-birding route (including a stop at Rancho Lomitas, of course J)!  I really didn’t have time left to “BBS” it, but it was a lovely drive through the desert scrub, and I ended up picking up three new birds for the route: a Turkey trying to keep ahead of me, a singing Cassin’s Sparrow, and a brilliant Vermilion Flycatcher!

"Windshield shot" of the Turkey trying to stay ahead of me...

The north end of La Segunada Road (looking south)

Vermilion Flycatcher

Including the Great Egret I saw at Deb’s, the Scissortails along 490, the Collared Dove along the ranch road, and the Cattle Egret back home, I ended up with a modest 44 species for the morning, but the quality couldn’t be beat!  Bird list:

Blue-winged Teal
Northern Bobwhite
Scaled Quail
Wild Turkey
Eurasian Collared Dove
Inca Dove
Common Ground Dove
White-tipped Dove
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove
Greater Roadrunner
Great Egret
Cattle Egret
Turkey Vulture
Harris's Hawk
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Crested Caracara
American Kestrel
Eastern Phoebe
Vermilion Flycatcher
Ash-throated Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
Couch's Kingbird
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
White-eyed Vireo
Green Jay
Black-crested Titmouse
Purple Martin
Bewick's Wren
Cactus Wren
Curve-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Northern Mockingbird
Cassin's Sparrow
Black-throated Sparrow
Hooded Oriole
Audubon's Oriole
Red-winged Blackbird
Bronzed Cowbird
Orange-crowned Warbler
Northern Cardinal

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