Monday, January 30, 2017

Western Hidalgo County, 1/28/17

Every winter I like to make at least one trip out to western Hidalgo County to look for stuff for my county year list and maybe even an Hidalgo County lifer.  There's a quartet of birds I've not seen that are possible in the arid part of the county; Scaled Quail, Common Poorwill, Chihuahuan Raven and Black-tailed Gnatcatcher.  Chances are slim but I always hope.

I started my day on FM 2221 (AKA Sparrow Road) on the west side of La Joya and got lucky on my second stop, a gate along the highway with great visibility down two long senderos. Here I always stop and look for Black-throated Sparrows, Pyrrhuloxias and Lark Buntings.  Through my scope I was enjoying a group of Pyrrhuloxias and who should run out of the brush and into the open but a covey of four Scaled Quails.  Hot dang!  Hidalgo County species #390.

The second best bird of the day had to be the male House Finch at the same spot.  This was the first I've seen in the Valley away from Anzalduas County Park and the UTRGV campus in Brownsville.  It was nice to see one in the brush like they occur in the desert of west Texas. 

With the big score so early in the day I was going to be happy even if I failed to find anything else interesting. The first bird on Mile 7 Road was this sentinal White-tailed Hawk who dared me to take its picture.

 A bit down Mile 7 road I tuned up the expected Black-throated Sparrows.

And common Bewick's Wrens and White-eyed Vireos.

But the hoped for sparrows were pretty much absent in the extremely dry brush.  I got a few Black-throated, Cassin's and Savannah Sparrows and that was it.

The seven miles of Jara China Road were pretty barren.  I played recordings of Black-tailed Gnatcatcher  in appropriate habitat but got no responses.  A few Western Meadowlarks were the best I could muster.

A brief run west on Mile 14 turned up a nice flock of Lark Sparrows.

Then it was time for the plowed agricultural fields southwest of McCook and the search for Mountain Plovers and Prairie Falcons.  I did not see either but did manage to dig out a Say's Phoebe on FM 490 west of McCook.

The return home took me through Hargill where I found little on the playa and Delta Lake which had great mudflats for a change.  The good bird there was a Dunlin hanging out with the Least Sandpipers and Long-billed Dowitchers.

Ten Canvasbacks were the most I've ever seen in the RGV.

 A very satisfying day indeed!

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