I've been in a birding slump lately. There's been an incursion of Pinyon Jays in west Texas and after a flock of thirty were seen on the entrance road to McKittrick Canyon at Guadalupe Mountains Naional Park, I made the nearly 800 mile drive out there. But I got nothing. And meanwhile the Nature Conservancy's Davis Mountains Preserve was open so I ran over there hoping to get lucky in the Pinyon Pines but it was not to be. Upon returning home I discovered a transmission leak in our Forester. Then I had to lead trips for the the Texas Butterfly Festival while a Parasitic Jaeger, which I need for my Texas list, was showing on a lake near DFW airport. Then there was the Townsend's Solitaire at Falcon State Park which I was not able to chase.
Between the butterfly and bird festivals, I decided to get my transmission leak fixed. But our local Subaru dearler refused to give me an estimate for the cost over the phone. She said they needed to look at it. I told her the CVT was leaking where their service department had replaced the valve block in the transmission three years earlier. She still refused to give me an estimate. So with the help of Mr. Subaru on You Tube, I repaced the leaking gasket myself and saved probably well over $500.
So now my car is running well and I'm leading butterfly trips for the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival when word gets out of a possible Smooth-billed Ani at South Padre Island. Seemed pretty impossible to me that this Caribbean and South American species would show up in south Texas. They are even hard to find in south Florida where they were once common. But good photos surfaced and it proved to be a good ID. So after finishing my trip I raced out to the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center and got to see this first record for Texas. Amazingly it was hanging out with a Grooved-billed Ani and the two were even seen preening each other.
I have seen Smooth-billed Anis several times in South America but it was a first for my ABA list. South Padre Island has now hosted four of the south Florida specialties: Black-whiskered Vireo, Gray Kingbird, White-crowned Pegeon and Smooth-billed Ani. Who knows what will be next?