Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Texas and Lower Rio Grande Valley, Tuesday, April 2

I flew to San Antonio, Texas to continue to the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) to try for the Crimson-collared Grosbeak and other south Texas specialties, leaving on a 6:00 am flight.  I arrived at about 9:45 am.  My first new bird at the rental car pick-up in San Antonio was Great-tailed Grackle right near the original car for me.  I also heard the characteristic cooing calling of a White-winged Dove and finally found it on a nearby power line but hidden behind the cross-piece of the power pole.  The male Great-tailed Grackle was making all the characteristic whistles and cackles and other assorted noises, too many to describe, and showed its large tail; thus, its name.  I wanted a Compact vehicle but there was only an Economy size that was too small for my suitcase to fit in the trunk.  I got a free upgrade to an intermediate size, and I was on my way.  I have been to the LRGV at least 20 times in my birding career.  I usually take I-281 because this is a good birding route particularly for hawks.

I stopped in Three Rivers to get some snacks, drinks and food and ended up with a delicious Texas beef brisket barbeque sandwich with freshly chopped onions and dill pickles.  After that energy boost, my first stop was Choke Canyon State Park about eight miles west of Three Rivers on Route. 72.   I added a lot of new birds for the year at Choke Canyon.  I will mention all of the new birds in this account.  The first was a gorgeous Scissor-tailed Flycatcher sitting a tree right after the fee paying area and soon thereafter, on a spit at the boat ramp, Laughing Gull and Snowy Egret.  I walked the nature trail and found over-wintering or migrant Blue-gray Gnatcatchers everywhere, Orange-crowned Warbler, Green Jay, Bewick's Wren, Lincoln's Sparrow, Olive Sparrow singing its rapidly accelerating series of chips, a male Summer Tanager, Couch's Kingbird, and White-eyed Vireo, trying mightily to sing its breeding song but still stuck on the partial winter version.  At a designated fish cleaning area near the boat ramp, the fish scraps attracted a Black-crowned Night Heron, some Black and Turkey Vultures and a Crested Caracara.  See photo. 
I heard a thrasher singing a more complicated song than our eastern version, Brown Thrasher, and got a brief view but hidden deep within a bush.  I suspect Long-billed Thrasher given the location, but will delay adding it to the list until I get an identifiable view.  I also heard but did not see well some titmice, but will also delay adding Black-crested until I get an identifiable view.  On my way out of the park, I stopped to look at a sparrow on the power line, only a House Sparrow, and heard a Bell's Vireo singing from the brush along the road opposite a trailer camping park right near the intersection of Route 72.  This bird's song is distinctive, a rapid series of harsh scolding notes repeated frequently.  After returning to Three Rivers, I continued south on 281 to McAllen, looking for hawks and wire birds.  Scissor-tailed Flycatchers are either back in force or migrating, because I saw about 25 different birds on my way south.  Somewhere between Falfurrias and the turn-off to Raymondville, I found a kettle of what appeared to be about thirty vultures at a distance but where actually hawks.   I stopped and turned on my flashers for safety and found that all of these hawks were Swainson's Hawks, probably migrating.  Further down 281, I found a Harris's Hawk sitting on a power pole.  I looked for but did not find a White-tailed Hawk, but will have more chances for this hawk during my visit.  I continued to Pharr and reserved a room for the night, and then left immediately to go to N. 10th and Dove to look for Green Parakeets, which often stage at this intersection.  On my way to 10th and Dove on Nolana Loop, I found two Loggerhead Shrikes, possibly a pair.  When I arrived at N. 10th and Dove, a local Cooper's Hawk was patrolling the area and chasing the Rock Pigeons.  There was about 1.5 hours before sunset, so I waked around the area.  Behind the Walgreen's store, I found a pair of Great Kiskadees.

I started to hear Green Parakeets before I actually saw them.  In total, I saw 10 or 12 flocks of Green Parakeets fly over heading north.  They were identifiable in flight with binoculars.  A few came very low and looked like they would land but none did, and all kept going north.  A small kettle of raptors flew north and included about 12 Broad-winged Hawks and a few vultures.

As the sun set, I quit birding for the day.  With the new birds mentioned above, I added 23 new birds in a mostly travel day in Texas, making the total 223.  On Wednesday, actually toady as I finish this entry, I go to Sabal Palm Sanctuary to try for the Crimson-collared Grosbeak.   

1 comment:

  1. Jay,
    Welcome to the RGV. Been following your year and am impressed with the good birds you have totaled so far. If I can be of assistance let me know.
    Fr. Tom Pincelli