Thursday, January 22, 2015

McCook is Smokin! 1/22/15

Most years, sometime during the winter, I will make a run up FM 2221, AKA "Sparrow Road", northwards from La Joya, to knock off my sparrows and try to find some desert stuff for the Hidalgo County year list.  I usually continue north up Jara China Road and by the time I get to McCook it's afternoon and I make some casual scans over the plowed fields hoping for Mountain Plovers.  Of course I don't find any and then I head for home.

Well, Corey Lange came down from Kingsville last weekend and promptly showed us RGV birders how to properly bird the McCook area.  Last weekend he saw both Mountain Plovers and Prairie Falcon, two species I have failed to see in the county in the past.  Turns out they were west of McCook in a large area of plowed fields I had never checked out before.  Thanks Corey!

So last Sunday I was among several Valley birders who made the run up and easily scored the Mountain Plovers.  Turns out Marie Stewart also found a Ferruginous Hawk on Sunday  and Rick Nirschl found a Prairie Falcon yesterday so I made the run back up there this morning before the cold front blew in.  The Ferruginous Hawk was easy, about two miles south of McCook on FM 2058.  It is a striking young bird!

Look at those feathered tarsi.  I could have used some leggings like that when we had our recent cold spell. This is the third time I've seen one in this area.  They are pretty rare in the rest of the RGV.

Back up on FM 490, 2.9 miles west of the junction in McCook, I manged to find a couple of very distant Mountain Plovers in the field west of the gas compression station and then five more flew in from the north east, right over my head, making a call that sounded a lot like Red-winged Blackbird flight notes.  But they landed way off in the distance and then a Peregrine swooped over the field and the plovers, Horned larks, Western Meadowlarks and about a thousand pigeons scattered all over.  I could not refind the Mountain Plovers so I decided to drive the dirt road south that borders the east end of the plover field.  A mile or so to the south I saw a distant good sized pale falcon flying low over the barren field and I immediately knew I had found my #1 nemesis Hidalgo County bird, a stonkin' Praire Falcon.

I then took the first right down a track between some really barren plowed fields and what should appear standing in the middle of the road but a Mountain Plover.  I saw a couple more and managed a decent photo.

Wow, what a morning!  The Prairie Falcon and Mountain Plovers moved my Hidalgo county life list up to 383.  It's getting hard to find new ones.  I think with more people coming up here to look we may someday find some longspurs in those fields.

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