Saturday, November 12, 2005

Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival 6

Saturday's field trip to El Canelo Ranch with leaders Michael O'Brien, Louise Zemaitis, Chris Merkord and Marissa Ahlering started with a flourish when owner Monica Burdette greeted us with fresh homemade baked goodies, coffee and orange juice. What a treat!

For years, The Inn at El Canelo has been known for the resident Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls. Monica unfortunately had to tell us that the lone female--a Cooper's Hawk took her mate last spring--wasn't seen the previous day, which raised the possibility that we wouldn't see her either.

While walking around the property, we did see many other species, such as White-tailed Hawk, Crested Caracara, Harris' Hawk, Killdeer, American Kestrel, Eastern Phoebe, Pyrrhuloxia, Western Meadowlark, Inca Dove, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Curve-billed Thrasher, Savannah Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, a flock of Lark Buntings, Lark Sparrow, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Turkey Vulture and Black Vulture--but no owl.

I liked looking at the wildflowers, too, including a dark blue one that Louise identified as an Asiatic dayflower. It has three purple curled stamens and look darn pretty in person; too bad it's non-native.

By the way, if you encounter a coral snake, look but don't touch.

When we got back to the inn, we found that Monica had left copies of the recipe of the most popular baked good--a pull-apart goodie topped with pecans that she called Quick Caramel Coffee Ring. To my mind, that outweighs all the chigger bites on my legs, ankles and feet (again, slather on the insect repellent, and even consider tucking the pant legs into the socks).

On the way out to the main road, the bus stopped near a pond that had Black-necked Stilts and Least Sandpipers. We walked through a nearby area in hopes of flushing a Sprague's Pipit--and it worked. At least three pipits flew in front of and above us before we boarded the bus.

On the road toward the highway, a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher perched on a wire fence. It sat within 15 feet from the bus and seemed nonplussed by the huge vehicle slowly rolling past it and stopping so that we could admire its long tail and red shoulder patches. It even flew up briefly and perched again, which gave us a delightful view.

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