Thursday, February 15, 2024

Green-tailed Towhee, Mission, TX 2/15/24

I was birding today south of  Mission when I ran into a couple who had just found a Green-tailed Towhee.  There's been quite a few in the Rio Grande Valley this winter with a particularly cooperative one at the Edinburg Scenic Wetlands so it's no big deal.  When they described the location I realized it was Los Ebanos Road just east of the National Butterfly Center.  This area was famous a few years ago for several Hooked-billed Kites that were feeding on the Rabdotus snails that were having a good year.  I had not seen a Green-tailed Towhee yet this year so I made the run over there.

I found the spot they described by three old telephone poles and started pygmy owl tooting and pishing.  It didn't take long till the local passerines came rushing in.  First were Black-crested-titmice, Blue-gray Gnatchatchers and Myrtle and Orange-crowned Warblers.  Then a Northern Cardinal and a Pyrrhuloxia.  Bewick's and Catus Wrens called nearby.  Well pretty good but where's the Green-tailed Towhee?  As the flock tired of me and wandered off, I finally spotted the towhee and got a couple of distant documentary photos of this locally uncommon species to keep eBird happy.  I kept tooting and  pishing and the towhee kept creeping closer.  I finally got a decent shot of the bird perched in a nearby mezquite when it dropped to the ground.  I was shocked when it popped out just a few feet away.

Well that was a nice surprise.  Birding is just like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you're going to get.  Maybe a little cheesy but it's true!

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Resaca de la Palma, 2/13/24

Today I decided to make a try for the Cassin's Vireo at Resaca de la Palma State Park near Brownsville.  Even though I still need that species for my Cameron County list, I have not made much effort during my past few visits.  It's always a chore trying to distinguish between Cassin's Vireo and pale Blue-headed Vireo.  In west Texas during migration I feel pretty good about calling Cassin's Vireo but down here I've seen way too many pale Blue-headed Vireos to feel comfortable about making the call.  I wish they would just lump 'em all back into Solitary Vireo.  Anyway the only "Solitary" Vireo I saw today was a dark headed Blue-headed so I didn't have to worry.

Meanwhile, the Roadside Hawk has been present since November.

Both the Gray-headed and Rose-throated Becards also continue but I only saw the female Rose-throated Becard today.

I hung around the feeding station for a while hoping for the Tropical Parula but I had to settle for the wintering Northern Parula.

Here's a Black-and-white Warbler.

I counted twenty Green Jays at the feeding station.

Do not hate me because I am beautiful.

Supposed to rain in a couple of days.  I hope we get dumped on cuz we need it.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Limpkin at Salineno, 2-7-24

It was forecast to be windy today so I decided to head west as the wind is usually not as bad out there.  Since my last trip to Falcon State Park suffered from Crane Hawkus interruptus, I thought I might go back to the lake and see what was about.  But as I drove through Roma I noticed the wind had already picked up so I decided to head to Salineno instead.  I figured the wind wouldn't be as bad down along the Rio Grande.  And maybe I could refind the Crane Hawk which has gone missing for a few days.

Well as I approached Salineno the WhatsApp dinged.  Cameron Cox had just refound the Crane Hawk at the Santa Margarita Ranch.  So that's where it's been.  The Crane Hawk had moved a few miles downstream.  Not a problem.  I still needed the Limpkin for Starr County.  Originally it had been found along the Rio Grande at the Santa Margarita Ranch but recently had been seen along the river at Salineno.

So I drove down to the boat launch area below Salineno and noticed several cars.  Birders were out looking for Crane Hawk, Morlet's Seedeater and Red-billed Pigeons.  I set up the scope by the river as an elderly birder walked up.  He had not seen much along the trail up river and was happy to hear about the Crane Hawk as he had reservations there tomorrow.  As we were talking a Zone-tailed Hawk flew right over our heads.  It was a lifer for the elderly birder so he was excited.  I was happy to get a nice year bird.

Later another birder returned from up river and told me he had seen the Limpkin along the river beyond the Montezuma Cypress trees.  I thanked him and returned to the spot where I had seen the Crane Hawk eight days ago.  Only instead of bushwacking under the Sabinos, I was going to walk the primitive trail above them and hope to find a spot to see the river.  The Limpkin had been hanging out near the north end of the island.  Well eventually I did find an overlook and there a few hundred yards away up river was the Limpkin.  I got a few poor shot and then waisted another hour trying to find a spot along the river that was a bit closer.  All I got out of it was a good workout and a few scratches.  Maybe I could have gotten on my hands and knees and clawed my way to the river but I'm getting too old for that.

It was just last October that the first Limpkins for the Rio Grande Valley were seen with two at Estero Llano Grande State Park.  Then two more were found in the San Benito area.  And as I was leaving Salineno I ran into a tour group who had just seen the Limpkin at the Santa Margarita Ranch.  So there are now two of them along the Rio Grande.  Six Limpkins in the RGV and it was just a couple of years ago that the first for Texas was found up by Brazos Bend.  Now that they've adapted to eating fresh water mussels instead of apple snails like they eat in Florida, I bet they become a regular part of the RGV avifauna.

Meanwhile it was only noon so I thought I would head on up to the park.  Maybe the strong wind would make the gulls and terns look for a good loafing spot.  The water had risen several feet since my visit in August and the spot where I had seen the Swallow-tailed Kite was completely underwater.  So I checked another spot and sure enough I found the loafing gulls and terns.  I was hoping for something good like a Lesser Black-backed or a Bonaparte's but it was just the expected Herring and Ring-billed Gulls and Caspian Terns.

One of the Capian Terns had grabbed a plecostomous.  First time I've seen a tern try to eat one of these introduced armored catfish from Amazonia.

So any day you see a Limpkin in Texas is a pretty good day.

Friday, February 2, 2024

Fan-tailed Warbler at UTRGV Brownsville, 2/2/24

Back in December the second ever for Texas, Fan-tailed Warbler, was found by Evan Farese on the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley campus in Brownsville.  I went out there a few days later and had a good but very brief view of the bird in the thick vegetation that borders the resaca behind the biology building.  It was a much better look than I had of the first record in Pine Canyon at Big Bend National Park.  I got very poor views of that bird and no photos at either sighting.  The Fan-tailed Warbler has been present since then at UTRGV but was MIA for a few days until Evan relocated it farther east along the resaca.

So today I drove to Brownsville to make another try at getting photos.  Problem was I didn't realize the bird was at a different location from when I saw it in December.  I put Evan's lat/long coordinates into my phone but I didn't notice the marker was about 50 yards farther east.  So I put in a couple of hours at the old location before I discovered birders were seeing it at a new spot.  So anyway, here's the fantastic Fan-tailed Warbler.

Fan-tailed Warbler is endemic to Mexico occuring in both the Sierra Occidental and Oriental.  They show up in SE Arizona every few years and there's also a record from New Mexico.  As with the Crane Hawk, my views of the Fan-tailed Warbler brought to mind the 1985 Christmas Bird Count in Alamos, Sonora where I saw my first along the Rio Cuchujaqui.  Now we need the other two skulkers I saw along the river that day, Blue Mockingbird and Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush.  Stranger things have happened.