Wednesday, November 15, 2006

RGV: Saturday

Cool breezes greeted us on the fourth day of the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival. Our bus set out east in the pre-dawn dark--with Mike Hannisian and Gary Waggerman in the front rows--and took us to a pontoon boat for a cruise on the Rio Grande, near Mission.

We quickly boarded the boat, a very nice craft with windows, padded vinyl seats and a bathroom. The month-old boat provided a much cushier ride than the previous one.

As we began motoring west on the water, with America to our north and Mexico to our south, the breeze became a wind. That didn't dampen our spirits as we spotted Osprey, Great Kiskadee, Green Kingfisher, Spotted Sandpiper, Black Phoebe, Tricolored Heron, Ringed Kingfisher, American Coot, Cattle Egret, Mourning Dove, Great Blue Heron, Common Moorhen, Vermilion Flycatcher, Turkey Vulture and Black Vulture in the same trees, Anhinga and Couch's Kingbird.

During our leisurely cruise, the wind picked up its pace, the sky became darker, and rain began to fall. Most of the boat's windows came down, and we remained dry while looking at the shore.

The avian highlight for me was seeing a Red-shouldered Hawk as it apparently tried to catch a Common Moorhen along the Mexican shore, across from Anzalduas County Park. I didn't see the raptor land on the moorhen but saw it standing in the water before flying into the nearby trees and showing its beautiful white-and-black-striped tail. A few second later, a moorhen wobbled away from that spot.

I also enjoyed seeing one of our trip leaders, Jane Kittleman, talking with the youngest member of the group, the niece of a Harlingen Chamber of Commerce representative. The youngster dutifully wrote down the name of the birds as we saw them.

After disembarking and warming up with coffee, tea and hot chocolate, we strolled through the RV park next door and observed Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Golden-fronted Woodpecker and Green Jay. I never will tire of those.

Retracing our route, we stopped on a dirt road that leads over a levee. The leaders located the resident Burrowing Owl, and most of us made the short walk to peer at the little raptor for just a couple minutes. Can you spy it?

Here's a digibinned image.

Leaving the owl in peace, we drove west to Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen. I visited the hacienda for the first time in April and thoroughly enjoyed it. The grounds include many feeding stations with moving water...

as well as a fair number of Plain Chachalacas. This one had perched in a tree next to the parking lot, greeting us as we disembarked from the bus. Such funky birds!

During the too-short visit, I also enjoyed seeing Curve-billed Thrasher, Great Kiskadee, Buff-bellied Hummingbird and Inca Dove while walking the grounds with Blake, the resident naturalist. It's such a great spot, and I hope to amble more thoroughly next spring.


Blogger Susan Gets Native said...

Jeez, I hope that burrowing owl doesn't think that big hole it's sitting next to is a good place to nest.

November 15, 2006 8:48 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Odd location for the little bird, isn't it? When we saw a BUOW last year, it was sitting on a culvert out in the field, much farther from the road.

November 15, 2006 8:56 PM  

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