The original plan was to hit South Padre Island today, but with a Gale Warning out for that area, Michael Marsden was very happy to take them out there on his guiding day tomorrow, and we would make today the “chase day”, even though I warned the crew first thing – don’t expect anything in this wind! L
Between missed birds from the first two days and additional “want” birds that I was able to weasel out of them, I whipped up a tentative itinerary starting at UTRGV Brownsville for the Social Flycatcher. Once piled out of the van, we zeroed in on the resaca next to the bookstore; the Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were all huddled on a concrete “island” across the way (along with a token White Ibis), and of course there were plenty of feral Muscovies around, most of which actually had “wild” plumage, so that was fun to study. One Neotropic Cormorant conveniently posed next to two Double-crested, but the star of that stop was the Black Phoebe that peeped and flopped in, posing very nicely on a stalk near the water!
Perusing one of the resacas at the UTRGV Brownsville campus
From there we walked over to the land bridge, and thankfully there were a few other people already there, but the bad news was that they had just seen the Social, and it flew across the resaca! L Rather than go running around to the other side, we opted to stay put and see if it would come back, as that apparently was a common pattern. In the meantime we enjoyed a male Anhinga, a stately Great Blue Heron, and a White Pelican in the main resaca. After about 15 minutes we also walked the edge of the resaca habitat (the original group came back and hadn’t seen it), hoping to at least hear the thing. I thought I was hearing a Wilson’s Warbler, but the wind was so bad it was hard to make out much of anything. From the bridge we had another Great Blue and a Great Egret, and way on the east end was a diving duck that looked like a female Ring-necked Duck, at least as best as I could make out (my scope took a nasty spill there as well, knocked over by the wind). Kerry spotted a Belted Kingfisher, so I got my scope on him to make sure it still worked… L We swung back around to the land bridge, where a couple of guys had at least heard the Social, so we gave it five more minutes, but all we heard were chattering Green Jays.
Hunt for the Social Flycatcher
From there we headed to the Progresso area, as Long-billed Curlews, Sprague’s Pipit, and Burrowing Owl were on the wish list. The water had dried up at the Rio Rico Sod Farms, so we headed on in to the new development along Esperanza (still known as the Progresso Sod Farms in eBird), where we ran into fellow guide Jim Danzenbaker coming out! He had seen a Say’s Phoebe near the end of the road, but also the curlews along the last connector road, so we thanked him profusely and Carrie proceeded to crawl along the road while we scoured the fencelines and open areas. A couple of Western Meadowlarks flew along (with a Starling right behind them, giving a great comparison of their similar wingbeats), but that was about all the birdlife we had along that stretch. At the end of the road a shrike posed, and an Eastern Meadowlark exploded from the grass, showing the quail-like wingbeat pattern. A flopping Mockingbird got everyone excited for a minute J, but then on the connector road we found the curlews, all huddled down – they would have been very easy to miss if you hadn’t been looking for them! We headed out on Hernandez, hoping the phoebe maybe headed over that direction, but got a couple of Cattle Egrets instead (there was white garbage in the yard they were in, and one of us almost wrote them off as just another piece of garbage J)! We took a quick look at the standpipe where the Burrowing Owl was wintering, but he was apparently hunkered down (don’t blame him in that wind), so we headed on to Weslaco.
After a great lunch at Nana’s, we tootled over to Valley Nature Center in hopes of bagging the Golden-crowned Warbler! We headed in, bypassing the family that was enthralled with the turtles on the bridge J, and headed straight to the Butterfly Trail, treading quietly and listening for its distinctive tick. When we got to the paved walkway we encountered three other guys also looking for the bird, but they had heard it (right around the same area I had it last time), so we all surrounded the area. Eventually I heard the thing like two feet in front of me, deep in this thick bush, and some of the guys literally got on the ground to try and see it! Suddenly he really started ticking, then hopped up into the open, right in front of Kerry and those who happened to be next to him! He told Diane that she’d probably have the best shot of it based on where she was sitting, and sure enough, she got the documentation photo! J
The gang on the bridge at Valley Nature Center
Most everyone at least got a “naked eye” view, so we continued on as we still needed to nail down that pesky White-tipped Dove for those who hadn’t seen the one blasting through at Rancho Lomitas! Chachalacas fooled us a couple of times, and some Inca Doves startled some of the folks, but finally Diane spotted one crossing the road, and when it took off and flew back across the road, everyone but John saw it, so we pushed him to the front while we tried to refind it. It did do its coke-bottle coo for us, so we zigzagged trying to track down the thing until we finally flushed one for John!
We didn’t have time to go to either Anzalduas (which was thankfully open again) or Laguna Seca Road, so we opted for a return trip to Estero to try for the Hooded Oriole, since some had missed the female at the blind on our first trip. John had a distant falcon in the parking lot that none of us could get on that he assumed was a Merlin (hold that thought). At the VC I padded the list with the whistler mob off the deck, along with a female Blue-winged Teal, before heading back to the camp host area. I had sent the crew back there while Carrie and I got everyone checked in, but when I showed up at the park host feeders, Park Host Susan, volunteer Huck, and another gentlemen were there, but no crew! Come to find out one of the group had convinced the others to go back to the Indigo Blind where we had the bird two days ago, but when I told Kerry over the phone that Huck had the bird here five minutes ago, he wasn’t too happy! L So they schlepped back over, and we took up watch for about a half hour, enjoying several Clay-colored Thrushes, Orange-crowned Warblers, a Kiskadee, a Long-billed Thrasher, and a Ladder-backed Woodpecker that came in. Huck and the guys erupted behind us, so we followed suit thinking they had the oriole, but they had actually spotted a Peregrine going over! None of us saw it, but I suggested to John that maybe that’s what he saw, as his bird was so distant he really couldn’t pin down the ID for sure! Some of the crew decided to go to the deck and shoot the ducks (with the camera J), but they weren’t gone too long before Susan saw the oriole out her camper window at the other feeders and alerted us, so I called Kerry who got the wanderers back post haste, only the bird was gone even before we scrambled over there! L The Altamira Oriole was a nice consolation prize, however! As Susan and I chatted an Olive Sparrow lisped from the foliage.
We really had to get home after that, so we dragged ourselves back to the van and headed towards Alamo, but not before taking a detour to marvel at the Bronzed Cowbird flock that carpeted the lawn off Tower Road!
On the way back to Alamo, we stop to enjoy a carpet of Bronzed Cowbirds (below)!
We had a meager 45 species for the day, but with that horrendous wind, I’m amazed we saw what we did! [Oh, and as a happy ending update, Kerry reported that they returned to Brownsville on their South Padre Island day with Michael, and bagged the Social Flycatcher!]
American White Pelican
Great Blue Heron