Saturday, December 18, 2021

First US Record of Bat Falcon at Santa Ana NWR, 12/18/21

About a week ago, a visiting birder posted on Facebook a poor image she had taken at Santa Ana NWR a couple of days earlier (12/8/21) of what appeared to be a Bat Falcon.  This would be the first record for the United States of this neotropical species that occurs from central Tamaulipas to northern Argentina.  It has long been expected.  Birders spent the following day not finding anything while I stayed home and tended to other things.  Plus the trail was cold and I didn't feel like putting in the effort.

Over the past week I've been doing a lot of yard work and chasing butterflies and goldeneyes (see below) and there's been no further sightings of the Bat Falcon.......untill this morning.  Troy and Marla Hibbets from Bracketville are often in the Valley looking for dragonflies but they have recently become hard core birders.  And today they came down to take a stab at the Bat Balcon and darned if they didn't find it while scoping from the hawk tower.  I got over there a bit later and joined the group on the crowded tower where I got some poor scope views of the distant first US record.  Well that was good but not great.  The Bat Falcon was perched on very distant dead snags somewhere in the direction of Cattail Lakes.  So I decided I had nothing to do but take a walk in that direction and soon came a report that the bird was being seen close up on the tour road near Cattail Lakes.  I got over there and there was Troy and Marla and several others and a Bat Falcon.

I've seen lots of Bat Falcons in Mexico so it wsn't a lifer but it was new for my ABA list which is around 685 and more importatly it was Hidalgo County species # 411.

Here's a shot from my original viewpoint on the tower.  By Google Earth I estimated the distance to be .97 miles.  The Bat Falcon is the black speck in the center.  I finished the morning walking nearly four miles in total.

A couple of days ago a Common Goldenye was found at South Padre Island during the Christmas Bird Count.  I ran over the next day and was happy to find this deep water duck that rarely makes it this far south.  It was my 421st species for Cameron County.

That's a pretty good pair of birds!