Texas and My Lucky Charm

With the relatively mild winter, and Sue’s new job, we weren’t really planning (and really couldn’t find a good time) to go down south this winter.

I asked Sue if she was interested in joining me on a birding trip to the Rio Grande Valley and she said yes but couldn’t get away for much more than a long weekend.

We left on March 10th from Ottawa and had to fly through Toronto, Chicago and then on to San Antonio (only flight I could find due to March Break).

Easy flights, short hops, should have been but Toronto Airport had other plans.  One and a half hours should have been plenty of time but with the crowds and the confusion, we heard our names being called when we were 4 gates away……enough to say “if I can help it, I will never fly through Toronto again”.

We arrived in San Antonio, picked up the car and we were on our way.   I drove southwest out towards Kingsville but after an hour I knew I wasn’t going much further.  The first motel we saw, we stopped and got a good nights sleep.

In the morning we drove in the direction of Aransas, I planned on stopping in the area of Goose Island to see the Whooping Cranes.   At the intersection of 8th Street and Lamar Beach Road, Whooping Cranes can usually be seen in the farm field in the vicinity of the pond.  If you get there early enough, you can catch them flying in.

This day the birds were in plain view, Sue and I had great looks….

WhoopingCraneMarch2016FB

The rest of the day we meandered the 200 miles to Laguna Atascosa, birdwatching as we went.

American Avocet

AmericanAvocetMarch2016

American Kestrel

AmericanKestrelMarch2016FB

Laughing Gull

LaughingGullMarch2016FB

Snowy Egret

SnowyEgretMarch2016FB

White Ibis

WhiteIbisMarch2016FB

We arrived at the Wildlife Refuge after closing time but there were a few people still looking for the Crimson-collared Grosbeak.  We spent an hour looking, but the bird had appeared briefly in the morning, hadn’t been seen since.

Merlin

MerlinMarch2016B

Baby Gator

BabyGatorMarch2016CFB

Altimira Oriole

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Driving out of the Refuge we did see a male and female Nilgai but I wasn’t quick enough on the draw.

We headed towards the Drury Hotel in McAllen to check in for our 3 day stay….seeing this lovely sunset on the way, I just had to stop for a photo.

TexasSunsetMarch2016

Next morning found us at Frontera Audubon, in Westlaco, searching for the Blue Bunting overwintering there.  It had been seen off and on since late January.

Most of the people there were searching for the Bunting, so we all exchanged phone numbers, so if we got on the bird we could let others know.  Checking the areas where the bird was seen for 4 plus hours without seeing many birds let alone a blue one, I decided to take a break and head over to Estero Grande (a short 10 minute drive).  We needed water.

I was looking to see if Huck was around when my phone rang, wouldn’t you know it the Blue Bunting had been just seen.  No use rushing, we headed back to Frontera,  grabbed a lawn chair from one of the feeding stations and sat by the water dish with 4 others, hoping the bunting would come back.   We were there for at least an hour when a movement caught everyone’s eye but I had the best vantage point when the bird flew in.  Lovely bird but not what we were looking for.

Wilson’s Warbler

WilsonsWarblerMarch2016FB

At the same time another movement came in quickly from the left, there it was the Blue Bunting.

My 700th ABA photographed bird the – Blue Bunting

BlueBunting

There wasn’t much point going anywhere else, so we hung around the feeders for a bit then returned to the hotel and had supper, called it an early night.

Black-headed Grosbeak

BlackheadedGrosbeakMarch2016FB

Buff-bellied Hummingbird

 

BuffbelliedMarch2016C2FB

Plain Chachalaca

ChachalacaMarch2016B

Brown Anole

BrownAnole2016

Next morning we drove over to the Aplomado Falcon site and were pleased to find 4 birds in the area.   The photo below was taken from about 1/2 km away but you can clearly see the female on the nest.

AplomadoFalconMarch2016

Once again my phone rang and I was told that the Crimson-collared Grosbeak was being see at the moment, needless to say, it didn’t take very long to cover the8 miles to the Laguna Atascosa headquarters.  We went straight to the spot and we’re immediately waved over.  The Grosbeak was visible but buried in the brush.   I took so many photos, hoping to get one sharp image but it was not to be.  I was lucky to get the image below.

Another ABA Bird was in the books – Crimson-collared Grosbeak

CrimsonCollaredGrosbeak

Here it was 8am, what to do for the rest of the day.  We decided to head over to South Padre Island and see what birds we could find at the Convention Centre.

Black-bellied Whistling Duck

BlackbelliedDuckMarch2016FB

White Morph Reddish Egret

WhiteMorphReddishEgretMarch2016FB

Clapper Rail

ClapperRailMarch2016FB

As I was leaving the Island I saw this Long-billed Curlew,  feeding, oblivious to the traffic.

LongbilledCurlewMarch2016FB

LongbilledCurlew2March2016FB

What luck!

Next morning we left McAllen for Salineno early, Chris Feeney had told me that he’d seen Red-billed Pigeons at daybreak along the river.  Not on this morning though.  We walked over to Lois and Merl’s, feeders.  It is just a great place to bird watch.  Birds were up close and everywhere, you sometimes don’t know where to look, there are so many birds coming to these feeders.

Pyrrhuloxia

PyrrhuloxiaMarch2016B

Bathing Orange-crowned Warbler

OrangeCrownedMarch2016FB

Olive Sparrow

OliveSparrowMarch2016FB

OliveSparrowMarch2016CFB

Long-billed Thrasher

LongbilledThrasherMarch2016FB

Lincoln Sparrow

LincolnSparrowMarch2016FB

Chachalaca

ChachalacaMarch2016CFB

Audubon’s Oriole

AudubonOrioleMarch2015FB

AudubonOrioleMarch20152FB

Bobwhite Quail

BobwhiteMarch2016FB

We had to leave soon but we walked back to the boat launch and walked along the river, trying to find one of the White-collared Seedeater’s frequenting the waters edge.  Not a life bird but a great find anywhere in this area.

WhitecollaredSeedeaterMarch2016FB

Snowy Egret

SnowyEgretMarch2016CFB

Ringed Kingfisher Flyby

RingedKingfisherMarch2016FB

Just as we were walking along 3 pigeons buzzed over our heads, and even though I got a brief glimpse, I knew they were my lifer Red-billed Pigeons.  Unfortunately the disappeared in an instant.  We watched the Seedeaters for a few minutes more the decided it was time to leave.   As we turned back towards the car, I noticed the same 3 Pigeons coming right back towards us.  This time I was ready.

ABA Life Bird and Golden Guide Bird – Red-billed Pigeon

Red-billedPigeon

Three life birds in 4 days, that doesn’t happen often these days.  It is getting harder and harder as my lifelist get higher to add multiple birds on trips.

We left and headed north via Hwy 16, towards San Antonio.   This road was prime, hardly a town or building on the way and birds were everywhere along the route.

Ash-throated Flycatcher  (composite image)

AshthroatedFlycatcherMarch2016FB

Cactus Wren

CactusWrenMarch2016FB

Cave Swallow

CaveSwallowMarch2016FB

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

DSC_4368FB

Harris Hawk

HarrisHawkMarch2016

Tropical Kingbird

TropicalKingbirdMarch2016FB

The biggest surprise was three African Plains animals on someone’s huge front yard.

Blackbuck

BlackbuckMarch2016FB

Gnu

GnuMarch2016FB

Zebra

ZebraMarch2016FB

Sue and I arrived at our hotel in San Antonio, cleaned up and headed to Riverwalk, for a nice meal, a bottle of wine and sightseeing.  It was the least I could do for my lucky charm.

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IMG_3355B

IMG_3358B

 

IMG_3360B

Even in the city, there are always birds….

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Another great trip, Thanks Sue…

Ciao for now

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Responses to Texas and My Lucky Charm

  1. Cindy says:

    Another great adventure even with the Toronto challenges. Your Lucky Charm is also very patient!

  2. Rosemary says:

    Wonderful series of photos glad you were able to get away even for a few days, thanks for sharing.

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