Sunday, November 13, 2005

Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival 7

The field trip to Brownsville on Sunday featured three stops: Resaca Boulevard, Sabal Palm Audubon Center and Sanctuary and Boca Chica. Our leaders included John Odgers, Kevin Karlson, Jay Packer and Richard Gibbons. Kevin is a WildBird Advisory Board member and writes the Birder's I.D. column in each issue, so I enjoyed the chance to bird with him.

At Resaca Boulevard, we split into small groups, and I went with Jay and a handful of other folks. We saw Double-crested Cormorants perched in trees, Green Parakeets, Cooper's Hawk, Pied-billed Grebe, Carolina Wren, Anhinga, Great Kiskadee (one sat on a telephone, repeatedly calling while holding a dragonfly in his bill), Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Common Moorhen (with its candy-corn beak), Greater White-fronted Geese flying in a checkmark formation, Vermilion Flycatcher and Couch's Kingbird.

Moving on to Sabal Palm--known for Plain Chachalaca, Green Jay, Olive Sparrow and White-tipped Dove--we again split into groups, and I joined Richard's cadre. We took the resaca loop trail and immediately saw Plain Chachalacas and Green Jays--as well as mosquitoes. Pull out that bug spray to thwart them and chiggers!

We also saw or heard Least Grebe, Eastern Phoebe, Olive Sparrow, Couch's Kingbird, Turkey Vulture and Red-shouldered Hawk. At the photo blind, I enjoyed seeing Ringed Kingfisher and American Coot, pulling up and eating aquatic plants.

My favorite bird at Sabal Palm undoubtedly is Groove-billed Ani. The prehistoric-looking bird initially thwarted us by hiding in the brush (likely because of a hawk flying overhead) but responded to the judicious use of a recording. I saw four anis perched in the open at one point, and they really made my day.

The next stop, Boca Chica, offered a great lineup of terns and shorebirds. Kevin expounded on his method of birding by impression with Forster's Tern, Royal Tern, Caspian Tern and Sandwich Tern along the wet sand. We also saw Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone and Ring-billed Gull.

Along the drive back to the auditorium, we saw Long-billed Curlew, Willet, White-tailed Hawk and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. It was a fantastically birdy day and a great way to end the festival!

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