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With temperature in the mid 40s and and brisk 10 mph wind, we started the day by donning the coats we bought on last year’s Antarctica trip and birded our home base—the UT RGV university Resaca area. Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks greeted us with whistles (we did not feel flattered). The “usual suspects included Mottled Ducks, Least Grebes, White-winged Doves, Anhinga, Golden-fronted Woodpecker and more for 22 species.
We warmed up in the condo, loaded the lunch box and headed west along 281 to the Progresso Lakes grain silos where we found 27 Yellow-headed Blackbirds and a few Bronzed Cowbirds among the thousands of Red-wings.
The temperature was in the 60s by the time we got to Quinta Mazatlan, McAllen’s World Birding Center site. We dipped on the Pacific-slope Flycatcher even after Leo Miller showed us the tree he had seen it in. The search for the Blue Bunting went better, and seeing it was a combination of experience (we’d seen them before and know the habitat and habits to look for) and luck—emphasis on the latter. We were wandering a path when we simultaneously saw the little skulker zipping along the ground in a thicket, then watched it take a short, low flight into never-never land. A good looking Black-throated Green Warbler was a bonus.
The third was our day for the long drive upriver to Salineno and Falcon State Park in sunshine and upper 70s. We stopped at the Roma Bluffs World Birding Center—an overlook at the Rio Grande—hoping for Red-billed Pigeons, but settling for a Mexican Duck.
We had a very pleasant sit at Salineno watching the riot of colors in the form of several Green Jays, Great Kiskadees and Altamira Orioles. Two Audubon Orioles. Plain Chachalacas, Inca and White-tipped Doves, a Long-billed Thrasher, Chipping Sparrow and Black-crested Titmouse joined in chowing down the goodies set out. One Orange-crowned Warbler worked very hard to get a quiet single access meal in the peanut butter bucket. We learned the court date for the Valley Land Trust and government is March 4.
We walked the trail along the river, but dipped on seedeater as well as the Barn Owl, probably deep into the hole above the whitewash.
Covid has closed the rec center at Falcon SP, so we picnicked in the area where I broke my wrist in 2014. Crested Caracaras and Pyrrhuloxias entertained us as we searched in vain for Verdins Just before we headed out two Cactus Wrens showed.
Today, January 4, promised perfect weather. A walk around the Resaca had some surprises: Least Sandpipers and Lesser Yellowlegs. A Ringed Kingfisher was hunting, but we have not yet found a Green Kingfisher.
We lugged the lunchbox cooler to the car and headed out TX48 to Shrimp Basin Bridge fishing access. The tide was out; the oyster beds fully exposed, and the birds—well, the birds seemed few and distant. We set up the scope and began to scan. Oystercatchers? Yup, two. Oh, over there—one-by-one the Black-necked Stilts added up to 106. And, one-by-one the species kept showing—Ruddy Turnstone, Long-billed Curlew (orange-gold underwings glowing in the sunlight), Gull-billed Terns, as well as Caspian, Forster’s and Royal. American Avocets, Black Skimmers. A fine stop!
At Port Isabel, we turned left onto Hwy. 100 and began watching the big double utility pole crossbeams. A Red-tailed, then a White-tailed Hawk prompted us to pull off for closer looks. We were almost to the little blue building at the turn-around point when the bird on the beam with cactus proved to be the jackpot Aplomado Falcon.
We turned around and went into Laguna Vista to walk the nature trail. Among the birds there was a Verdin and an Olive Sparrow—birds we’d missed upriver. The water features with blinds are really well done. We watched a Buff-bellied and Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Long-billed Thrasher, Nashville Warbler, White-crowned Sparrows, Ruby-crowned Kinglet and White-eyed Vireo.
In Port Isabel, the lure of seafood hit hard. We pulled into Pirate’s Landing and enjoyed sea bass and oysters on the deck while watching pelicans, gulls, and restaurant savvy Great-tailed Grackles.
Across the causeway and down SPI, we zoomed onto Hang glider beach. It looked deserted until we saw some movement at the north end. Rewards included Black-bellied, Semi-palmated and Piping Plover.
Four-thirty was the perfect time to head out the Convention Centre boardwalk to watch Reddish Egrets, Tri-colored Herons, a bathing Brown Pelican, a smattering of duck species, more gulls, and terns. As the sun was setting, we took up positions along the section that connects the two boardwalks arms extending toward the bay. We watched the bare areas near the vegetation clumps and—bingo! First was the Sora, then its foraging friend: a Clapper Rail. While watching them we were treated to a close-up of a Marsh Wren and then a Swamp Sparrow. By 6 o’clock we were in the car headed for Brownsville celebrating a beautiful birding day.
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