Weekend Trip to the Rio Grande Valley
Lured by daily reports of fabulous rarities, this past weekend I made a quick trip down to the Rio Grande Valley. I got a flight into McAllen on Saturday morning, and returned early Monday morning to be back in time for work.
I had to cram a lot of birding into only a day and a half. First stop on Saturday was the Frontera Audubon Sanctuary in Weslaco. Prize birds there were the White-throated Robin and Crimson-collared Grosbeak, but I also saw Gray Hawk, Common Pauraque, a Black-throated Green Warbler, 2-3 Ovenbirds, a male Summer Tanager, and a (tailess) Black-headed Grosbeak. Missed an Elegant Trogon that has been seen earlier in the day. From there I drove to the Los Ebanos Preserve, where I had to do some searching but finally got awesome looks at the Golden-crowned Warbler as it hopped around in the undergrowth only a few yards away!
Male Crimson-collared Grosbeak at Frontera Audubon Sanctuary
Sunday morning I birded Bentsen State Park, hoping to see the Social Flycatcher (along with many other birders). Disappointed! Never did cross paths with the flycatcher, but contented myself with observations of 2 Northern Beardless Tyrannulets, a Vermilion Flycatcher, 2 Clay-colored Robins, several Indigo Buntings, a Javelina, and nice scope views of a Ferruginous Pygmy Owl!!!
Clay-colored Robin at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park
After that I drove to Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge with hopes of Hook-billed Kite. Missed the kite, but for consolation prize I got Green Kingfisher, and was surprised to see a Bank Swallow (rare north of the border in winter) at Pintail Lake. At a private residence in McAllen I paid my $10 to see the Green-breasted Mango, then drove to Allan William's home in Pharr and paid another $10 to look for the Blue Mockingbird & female Rose-throated Becard (there is a definite trend toward fees for the priviledge of birding backyards, at least in high-traffic areas like the LRGV). The becard was cooperative, but the mockingbird turned out to be the elusive type. A flock of Red-crowned Parrots was circling as I walked back to my car. Didn't get every bird I searched for, but with four lifers and a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl who could complain? What a great trip!
Summer Tanager at Frontera Audubon Sanctuary
List of birds seen, 15-16 January, 2005 (lifers in caps): Least Grebe (30+ at Willow Lake in Santa Ana NWR, more at other sites), Pied-billed Grebe, American White Pelican, Neotropic Cormorant, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Cattle Egret, White-faced Ibis, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Mottled Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Lesser Scaup, Cooper's Hawk, Gray Hawk, American Kestrel, Plain Chachalaca, Common Moorhen, American Coot, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, Wilson's Snipe, Rock Pigeon, White-winged Dove, Mourning Dove, Inca Dove, Common Ground-Dove, White-tipped Dove, Red-crowned Parrot, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Common Pauraque, GREEN-BREASTED MANGO, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Green Kingfisher, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Eastern Phoebe, Vermilion Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Rose-throated Becard, White-eyed Vireo, Green Jay, Tree Swallow, Bank Swallow, Cave Swallow, Black-crested Titmouse, Carolina Wren, House Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Hermit Thrush, Clay-colored Robin (3!), WHITE-THROATED ROBIN, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Long-billed Thrasher, Curve-billed Thrasher, European Starling, American Pipit, Cedar Waxwing, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler (2), Ovenbird (3-4), Common Yellowthroat, Wilson's Warbler, GOLDEN-CROWNED WARBLER, Summer Tanager, Olive Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow, CRIMSON-COLLARED GROSBEAK (2; a male at the Frontera Audubon Sanctuary, and a female in Pharr), Northern Cardinal, Black-headed Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Red-winged Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle, Bronzed Cowbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, Altamira Oriole, American Goldfinch, and House Sparrow.