Sunday, January 11
I woke up about 7, confirmed that I still couldn’t figure out how to access the hotel wireless and also that the shower didn’t appear to be working (although I think I got this figured out by the next hotel). I took a look out the window and noticed a bunch of birds on the water. Setting up the scope quickly, I found them to be mostly American Coots and Blue-winged Teal with a few blackbirds mixed in.
After the standard hotel breakfast, I went back to the room to pack up and get going but took another look out the window and ended up spending close to 30 minutes watching. By far the best thing was an oriole that appeared to have an orange head and black throat. I couldn’t make it into anything but an Altamira, which was the first life bird of the trip (bad views of life birds would be a common pattern for awhile). Eventually it moved on and a Vermilion Flycatcher replaced it! As I finally got ready to go, an American Kestrel came in and landed on the light pole right outside the window.
Little did I know how common they were in the area.
I finally got going and checked out. On the way out, I took a walk around the hotel. The view from the ground wasn’t as good, but I did pick up a few Yellow-rumps.
The first stop I made was at the Zapata Public Boat Ramp (LTC-085 mentions it). Apparently it’s a big fishing area (I forgot to take a picture of the hotel parking lot, but it was 90% pickups with trailers and boats). At the water were more coots and some Neotropic Cormorants (I think, cormorants trouble me). I walked up the road a bit and found a bunch of Orange-crowned Warblers (probably more than I’ve seen total in Massachusetts) and the only House Finches of the trip. There were a couple Ruby-crowned Kinglets mixed in as well and Laughing Gulls and American White Pelicans flew over.
After the boat ramp, I went looking for the city park to check for White-collared Seedeater. On the way out from the boat ramp, I got a quick look at a Green Jay in someone’s yard, life bird number two. I missed the turn for the park somehow and decided to head up to San Ygnacio (LTC-087) instead. Upon arriving there, I took a quick look around but didn’t feel comfortable by myself and headed back toward Zapata. On the way I got yet another lousy life look when a Crested Caracara flew over. There were also a couple Chihuahuan Ravens along the side of the road and some Eurasian Collared Doves as well. A couple Black Vultures overhead were nice.
I took a quick trip down the Hebbronville Scenic Drive (LTC-086), or at least in the general direction. Lots of kestrels on the wires and at least 5 Caracaras as well. Meadowlarks flushed regularly, but I never was able to figure them out (for the entire trip actually).
Eventually, I made my way over to Falcon State Park, arriving at about 10:30 and picking up Loggerhead Shrike and Lark Sparrow along the road in. I pulled up at the gate but the window appeared closed so I pulled in to the parking lot to pay. Started to walk over to the self pay station and someone walking by tells me that this is the employee’s entrance and the visitor entrance is over there. So there were people in there. I went in, paid, and grabbed a map. It was a bit windy, but I decided to walk the nature trail for a few minutes at least anyway. I ended up spending a couple hours walking around.
Early highlights on the trail included a huge flock of cormorants going by. I took 4 photos of different parts of the flock and don’t think I got them all. Here’s one, anyone want to comment on which cormorant? You probably want to click through and hit all sizes to get a decent look.
I got two more life birds on the walk in: a lousy look at a Great Kiskadee as it flew over and a better look at Black-crested Titmice.
Other good birds included several Pyrrhuloxia, White-eyed Vireos, and good numbers of gnatcatchers. I spent some time working the gnatcatchers and could only come up with Blue-gray.
There were also lots of bugs around here. Butterflies included my first Queen, Gulf Fritillary, Reakirt’s Blues, and Little Yellow along with Ceraunus Blue, Dainty Sulphur, and White Checkered-Skipper. There was also a Familiar Bluet or two and a good number of Robber Flies. The experts aren’t sure about the robbers (probably because of the picture quality) but there apparently aren’t any species expected in January.
Reakirt’s in various stages of wear:
Two Robber Flies (male and female):
On the way back, I heard a bit of scratching in the brush and eventually found a Long-billed Thrasher but yet again had lousy looks.
Back at the car, I drove around a bit and came across an immense flock of cowbirds:
I stopped at the boat ramp where there was another Vermilion Flycatcher. I started down the trail from there and flushed an interesting dragonfly off the ground. It landed and I was able to snap one photo before it flew off again, moving along the path about 2 feet off the ground until I lost track of it. Checking out the photo later, I expected one of the pondhawks, but it turned out to be a Straw-colored Sylph. The date ranges I can find for that appear to be April to November, so it’s quite an extension. Whether that’s early or late I’m not sure but it was the first of several seasonal extensions I found.
It was also ode #100 for me. Other things along the trail included a female Band-winged Dragonlet, a Wandering Glider, a Checkered White, a Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak, a Fatal Metalmark, and a Texan Crescent. Birds weren’t overly plentiful and I headed back to the car fairly quickly.
Once back at the car, I drove around a bit and then headed out. On the way, I flushed a flock of pipits. Most flew off, but one stayed on the ground and ran around, giving me time to roll down the window and get a few shots.
The next stop was at Salineno. For those who haven’t been, it’s a tiny spot along the Rio Grande. It was formerly a trailer park populated by birders but has since been transfered to USFWS. One birder still lives there and has a huge number of feeders set up. You can wander in to the yard, sit down, and watch. It was absolutely spectacular with tons of Texas specialties flying around and making lots of noise. In 20 minutes, I had about 20 species including another three lifers (Audubon’s Oriole, White-tipped Dove, and Golden-fronted Woodpecker). But I also finally got good views of Altamira Oriole, Green Jay, and Great Kiskadee, in addition to Inca and White-winged Doves, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, and the only Chipping Sparrows of the trip. A Lincoln’s Sparrow also popped up, which was a highlight until I discovered that they were the most common sparrow around.
A selection of shots:
This female oriole’s a bit interesting and I need to actually do some research on it:
After watching the feeders, I went back to check on the car. The nonbirder type had been down at the river and there aren’t too many people who go down there for legal things other than birds. Fortunately, he had left and I spent a few minutes watching the river. There was something big in the trees where the Red-billed Pigeons are supposed to hang out but after I set up the scope it turned out to be an Osprey.
A car of birders from Alabama drove up and I spent a few minutes talking to them while we waited for Muscovies to flew by (which never happened). Apparently there were Olive Sparrow, Clay-colored Thrush, and a few other things at the feeders earlier and a Green Kingfisher along the river. I wandered down the path a bit after they left, but other than a Sharpie I didn’t find much.
I also did manage to build up a list of birds on the Mexican side of the river (some ducks and herons and blackbirds flying over), so I now have a 6th country I’ve seen birds in.
Leaving Salineno, I got back on the highway for the drive to Mission. The GPS didn’t seem to be able to find my hotel (Hawthorn Suites) but I got there after a little bit of circling. Quite nice, although I probably didn’t need a suite or the two table settings that were provided. Dinner was at the first place I found, a Chili’s. About what I expected, acceptable and would have been good if they trimmed the steak properly.
Oops: I managed to forget that as I was driving along the highway to Mission, I came across two kingfishers together. One was huge and had to be a Ringed (yet another lousy life look). I think the other was a Belted, but it was hard to tell at 70MPH.
Double oops: The Long-billed Thrasher appears to be world #500!