Tuesday, November 14, 2006

RGV: Friday

On the third day of the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, the bus for the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge field trip began driving east at 6 a.m. In the front rows sat four leaders: Kevin Karlson, Gary Waggerman, Parker Backstrom and Cameron Cox.

After the bus stopped near the refuge's visitor center, we ambled to the road and started hearing and spying Green Jay, White-tipped Dove, Long-billed Thrasher, Orange-crowned Warbler, Eastern Phoebe and huge waterfowl flights. We could hear all those wings flapping overhead. We also spied Northern Mockingbird, Ladder-backed Woodpecker and White-winged Dove before splitting into smaller groups. I followed Cameron toward the

On the way there, I got to see a Northern Cardinal bathing in a stream, and Cameron found a Wilson's Warbler -- very dapper with his black cap. At the blind, the Great-tailed Grackles tended to dominate the feeders, but after they left, more Green Jays moved toward the seed.

Then we walked along the various winding paths around the visitor center, looking into the native plants for hidden treasures. We saw many butterflies, large and small, and this lacy leaf really caught my attention.

The bus took us to Osprey Overlook, which gave us views of thousands of waterfowl. I really enjoyed seeing a Roseate Spoonbill, which flew by and then started feeding with its side-to-side motion. We also watched Snowy Egret, Great Egret, Long-billed Curlew, Northern Pintail, American Coot, Ruddy Duck, Lincoln's Sparrow, Northern Harrier and Sandhill Crane.

Along the loop, the bus stopped so that we could look for raptors, which we found overhead and in the distance. I really enjoyed the two White-tailed Hawks as well as Sandhill Cranes, White-tailed Kite, Cooper's Hawk and White Ibis.

At Laguna Madre, the body of water between the mainland and Padre Island, we spied Great Blue Heron, Ring-billed Gull, Curve-billed Thrasher, Black-bellied Plover, western Willet, Long-billed Curlew, Osprey as it fished, Reddish Egret, Great Egret, Ruddy Turnstone, Double-crested Cormorant, Laughing Gull, White-tailed Kite as it fished and a trio of terns: Forster's, Royal and Caspian.

I can't remember which of those birds Kevin was going to scope, but I remember the fellow in the orange hat, Chris, staying pretty close to the trip leaders during the morning. He lives in Pennsylvania and this was his first visit to south Texas, so it was fun to see his enthusiasm and curiosity about the birds and sites.

And here's a view of Laguna Madre toward South Padre Island. After a quick return to the auditorium in Harlingen, Kevin lead some of us toward the spot in the park where he's spied Tropical Kingbirds, distinct from Couch's Kingbird by virtue of their call. We easily spied a Vermilion Flycatcher (I might try to match his hair color someday) and saw a TRKI but couldn't get good long views. There's always tomorrow!


Blogger Susan Gets Native said...

Nice day! Jeez, all those birds. I wouldn't know what to do with myself.

November 14, 2006 7:12 PM  
Blogger Leigh said...

Man I do miss Texas!

November 14, 2006 10:47 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Susan: Just a wild guess, but I bet you'd do a happy dance or two, let out a few whoops of joy, take lots of pictures and smile a lot.

Leigh: I'd hoped that you could attend the festival. Pat Wade and I fondly reminisced about all the mosquitoes at our last stop ;)

November 15, 2006 9:27 AM  
Blogger Patrick Belardo said...

I remember hearing a story that Tropical Kingbirds weren't known in the RGV until David Sibley and Victor Emmanuel found a few by their calls around 1980 or so. Very cool birds! I can't wait to go there again someday. So many birds and butterflies.

November 15, 2006 9:36 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Patrick: I checked with Kevin, who wrote: "In February 1988, or somewhere in that vicinity, Scott Rea and I found the second record of Tropical Kingbird for Texas at Laguna Atascosa. It was seen by many birders after that, including Alan Wormington (an ABA records committee member) and Mike Farmer, who worked at Sabal Palm at the time.

"The bird was never formally accepted by the Texas Bird Records Committee, even though it was documented by a number of good observers who played Tropical tapes and had the bird respond. The committee wanted the response on tape!

"After I told David about the sighting, knowing he was leading a trip for Wings somewhere around 1990, he and Jeff Kingery heard one calling in Brownsville and recorded the bird on their tape recorder. That bird was accepted for the first present-day record (the first record was a specimen from 1916), and the rest is history. They are now regular in the valley."

November 15, 2006 3:51 PM  
Blogger brdpics said...

Vis-a-vis the VEFL hair, may I suggest Manic Panic's Pillarbox Red or maybe Wildfire?

November 16, 2006 8:41 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Thanks for the tip, Bill! Wheee!

November 16, 2006 10:05 AM  

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