I have a love/hate relationship with the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival. I love the fact that the best birding guides in the country descend on the Valley for a period in early November to lead tours for the Festival. The birding trips and associated scouting turn up a lot of unusual birds. But I hate the fact that while I'm leading trips, my WhatsApp is dinging with their finds and I'm stuck with a group. Don't get me wrong. My birders are always nice people and we have a great time. But it sure messes with my serendipitous drop-what-I'm-doing-and-chase-the-bird nature.
Saturday while I was co-leading a group around the Hidalgo County back country with well known ornithologist Jon Dunn, my phone was dinging like crazy. "Roadside Hawk" at the National Butterfly Center", "Cackling Geese at the Jaime Zapata boat ramp", Brown Creeper at the SPI Convention Center", Whip-poor-will at Sheepshead" Argggg!!!! And nothing I can do about it. So Sunday I was finished with my Festival duties and it was time for some chasing. South Padre Island seemed like the best bet. I needed the Brown Creeper and Whip-poor-will for my Cameron County list. Although I knew the Whip was probably gone, I might have a chance at the Brown Creeper. I had missed one once before.
The Brown Creeper at the Convention Center was a pretty easy find. Cameron County bird #404.
Meanwhile two more pretty rare for the Valley birds were being reported from the Valley Land Fund's Sheepshead lot; Red-breasted Nuthatch and Golden-crowned Kinglet. Got em both!
The other noteworthy ornithological occurrence was the large number of very late passerine migrants for mid-November. Here's a Swainson's Thrush and a Wood Thrush.
A late Scarlet Tanager.
I think before this fall, I had only seen one or two fall Bay-breasted Warblers. We get a few in spring. But during the fall,they go south through Florida. But for some reason, we are getting a bunch of them this fall. So the three or four I saw were both rare and late.
Here's a late Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.
A late Red-eyed Vireo.
A late Painted Bunting.
And at the Convention Center were an amazing eight late Rose-breasted Grosbeaks in various plumages.
Normally this uncommon White-crowned Sparrow would have been"bird of the day."
I said I don't like to be missing good birds because I'm leading trips. But sometimes I find good birds because I'm leading trips. Such was the case with this Common Loon at Sal del Rey. Were it not for having to lead the trip, I would have missed this very rare for Hidalgo County bird. As we approached the salt lake, I saw the Common Loon circling and eventually it landed. Hidalgo County bird #397.
My co-leader, Eric Martinez from Oaxaca, Mexico then found a group of five rare Red-necked Phalaropes. They were too distant for photos so here's the very late Wilson's Phalaropes that were also on Sal del Rey.
And some late migrating Franklin's Gulls.
Well, the Festival is over and I was too tired to go chase the Roadside Hawk that kept dinging on my WhatsApp today. Maybe tomorrow.