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January 5 was a day demonstrating the limits of karma—we’d used up a lot already. We had no trouble locating Monk Parakeets at the colony on 5 th St. in Hidalgo, so it was on to 15 th St. where a Green-tailed Towhee had been reported. We made four very slow passes. No Towhee, but kingbirds, shrike, meadowlarks and the usual suspects before being denied access to the the lake at the end of the road by Border Patrol as trucks with materials for wall building roared past.
Onward toward the Burrowing Owl site at Granjeno. No access due to wall work. Okay, we have Anzalduas County Park for lunch and birding. Not to be. Closed due to levee work (the levee is part of the entrance road). Westward to Little Lomita Mission. We picnicked in peace, but shortly after we began birding, standing in the open, we were buzzed eight times by a US Customs/Border Patrol helicopter making slow, low circles overhead with us in the center. Not pleasant. They must have been really bored; there was no other reason for their action.
We drove past the National Butterfly Center and on to Bentsen Rio Grande State Park, where we parked in the lot, showed our annual Texas Parks pass, and walked to La Familia Nature Center, where the entrance gate was when the park was a birder’s paradise. We sat for more than two hours watching Feeder Area #1 waiting for the reported Ruddy Ground-Dove, but had no success. A marauding Sharpie cleared the area and soon after, park volunteers began sweeping leaves and brought out a leaf blower. We left. In the large cleared expanse north of the entrance station we found an American Pipit, but no RUGD.
The sixth dawned clear. We birded the Resaca for an hour and twenty minutes with 34 species, but no skittish Common Black Hawk, which had been reported the day before. Later in the morning we walked across University Ave. to the “other” resaca and grassy area. We found a Black-crowned Night-heron and a vocalizing Couch’s Kingbird (most we have seen have been Tropical vocalizing in their diagnostic twittering). More than 30 House Finches were feeding. This is a species that requires comment on eBird checklists because it is not expected elsewhere in Cameraon Co. Same thing applies to the Black Phoebes, although they’ve been resident here at Ft. Brown for many years.
We came back to the condo for lunch, turned on the TV to see the electoral college confirmation proceedings…at about 4:30 we pulled ourselves out of chairs to do a walk around the resaca for sanity. Forty-five minutes brought 25 species, including Wilson’s Snipe, Least Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, Cedar Waxwings, Tricolored Heron, White Ibis, Vermilion Flycatcher, Lesser Goldfinch, and a Wilson’s Warbler.
The seventh began with a pleasant walk around the resaca, again with a Red-shouldered, but no Black Hawk. A Black-throated Gray Warbler was there, as well as a previously seen Black-throated Green.
Then it was off to Boca Chica beach. About a mile before the Border Patrol check station on Hwy. 4 a Peregrine Falcon flew over the road in front of us. We enjoyed shorebirds and drunk/dancing Reddish Egrets (many of them white morph) before passing the SpaceX complex and noting that on launch days the highway is closed and there can be no access to the beach.
We got to the beach just as the tide was going out and were able to drive to the north end. The most notable find was a lone Sandwich Tern among the Caspians and Royals at the tern roost. We then went to the south end, zipping past the Laughing, Ring-billed and a few Herring Gulls as we went. We stopped and watched fishermen and resting birds on the Mexican side before heading back up Hwy. 4 to Brownsville and lunch.
The afternoon had two goals: Quinta Mazatlan to look for Black-headed Grosbeak, Dusky-capped Flycatcher and Pacific Slope Flycatcher. We were successful only with the latter before we had to leave to get to Oliviera Park in time to see the parrot fly-in. We did, and it was grand.
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