Date: 4/1/17 8:23 pm
From: Paul Roberts <phawk254...>
Subject: [MASSBIRD] News for Mass Birders who Bird Southern Texas in Winter
(Posted with prior approval of the moderator.)

I know many Massachusetts birders visit frequently southern Texas,
especially in winter. For those who go fairly regularly or are planning on
going in the next year or two, I have several pieces of news to share with
you, news that I have yet to see publicized anywhere.

First, the good news. Pat DeWind has written and the Valley Land Trust has
published her brief memoirs of the internationally famous Salineno birding
site she and her husband Gale established over thirty years ago. For those
who visited Salineno many times over the years, ³Salineno Birder: Tales of
Salineno² is a wonderful, brief reprise of life, including bird life, at one
of the most famous and special birding sites in North America. Pat fondly
recalls visits by tour groups led by Bill Drummond, from ³Brookline,
Massachusetts.² The guide just published in mid-February is available at
Salineno and may be directly available from the Valley Land Trust via the
web. Visitors were encouraged to sign a visitorsı log kept by state so you
could see what fellow birders from your state had been there that winter
season, or even years previous, a tradition maintained by the DeWindıs
successors at the birding site.

The bad news is current and future. While we were in the Rio Grande Valley
Œthe government² came in and took down the small grove of trees and all the
brush west of the Anzalduas dam on the American side. One of the best
birding areas in Anzalduas County Park is no more. It was an excellent spot
for warblers, Black Phoebes, and perches for all three kinds of kingfisher.
They were finishing their clear cutting and hurriedly hauling away the brush
as a widely known senator from Texas was visiting the park that afternoon to
see how new technology and weaponry were being employed to prevent illegal
immigration. If you have not been to Anzalduas for several years, be advised
that beginning about two years ago you can no longer bird east of the dike
connected to the dam, which historically was one of our most productive
birding sites in the valley.

Route 106, the General Brandt Highway, leading to Laguna Atascosa National
Wildlife Refuge is one of my favorite roads to bird in North America. For
decades the road has resembled a primary target in an artillery range, full
of all manner and depths of shell- or potholes. There are familiar spots
where locals know to go off the road to go around gaping fissures in the
asphalt, which is safer and smoother than remaining on the road. A great
spot to find Pauraques hunting and resting at night, it is surrounded by
agricultural fields and chaparral, and in wet years ephemeral ponds. Most
important, however, is that it is possible to see any of 16-19 species of
diurnal raptors in one day along that road, including the local specialty
Aplomado Falcon. Some of my best birding days and hours ever have been along
that road, which has very little traffic because of its war-zone appearance
and the relatively low traffic directly to the refuge. In wet years, which
have been rare for the past decade or more, one might also see hundreds if
not thousands of Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese, and dozens of Long-billed
Curlews. Route 106 has been magical.

The road has officially been closed to through traffic for the past two
years because it is being repaired or ³improved² and they are building
underpasses for the endangered ocelot. (The main loop road on the refuge
has also been closed to auto traffic for several years to reduce the threat
of road kills for Ocelot, though daily ³habitat tram tours² at least enable
people to see what is one of the most beautiful pieces of land in south
Texas.) The really bad news is that we were informed that the State of
Texas is planning to build a second, northern causeway from South Padre
Island to the mainland, to reduce traffic congestion on Route 100, which is
the only means of access to and egress from South Padre, a major problem
especially in the event of a hurricane. We have been told that new causeway
will dump its traffic onto Buena Vista highway and Rte 106, which will
become a high traffic, high-speed 4-6 lane highway cutting right through
through some of the best birding territory currently accessible on the
refuge.

Best,

Paul


Paul M. Roberts
Medford, MA
<phawk254...>


 
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