Thursday, April 11, 2019

Parulas on the Devil's River, Val Verde County, 4/7/19

After viewing the Lesser Prairie Chickens west of Lubbock, I decided to bird my way back to the Valley.  I wasted my time seeing only common birds in obscure counties like Lynn, Sterling, Irion and Sutton.  Val Verde County was also proving to be pretty boring till I reached the Devil's River north of Comstock.  I had driven TX 163 a couple of times in my life, the first being a family vacation to Del Rio back in 1967 but never spent anytime birding.  I finally reached the lush riparian  corridor along Devil's River at 1:30 in the afternoon and wasn't expecting a lot.   But a Zone-tailed Hawk drifted overhead to lift my spirits.

Both sides of the highway are posted as property of the Hudspeth River Ranch.  Fortunately there are a few places to pull off and walk along the road under the large pecans growing along the river which flows from just north of here to the Pecos River.  Looks like perfect habitat for Common Black Hawk but I don't think I've ever heard of them being seen here.  I did some pishing and pygmy owl tooting and called in a flock which held this Yellow-throated Vireo along with more common things.

Summer Tanagers are common here in uhm.....summer.  Here's a female.

I heard a familiar warbler song overhead and thought it might be Yellow-throated Warbler.  It was.  This is pretty much the extreme southwest limit of this species' range.

I drove a bit down the road and found another good looking spot to pull off.  The river was on the right and a heavily wooded draw was on the left.  I didn't see anything but heard a Ringed Kingfisher on the river.  Global warming has brought more of these guys to the Hill Country in recent years.  So I did some more pishing and tooting and called in a super bright breeding plumaged male Tropical Parula that fussed over my head.  I have never seen one this bright.

Then another mile down the road I heard a singing parula.  At this point I didn't know whether to expect a Tropical or a Northern.  I gave it a blast of Northern Parula song from my phone and this guy zoomed in.  Well, I guess he's kind of both.  In the Valley we often get female Tropical Parulas with week eye arcs that supposedly knowledgeable people say are Tropical X Northern Parula hybrids.  This male has the extensive yellow breast with orange throat and black face of a Tropical with the bold eye arcs of of a male Northern.  Looks like a real honest to goodness hybrid.

Well, now I guess I'm a believer.  I wonder why we never see any of these male hybrids in the Valley.

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