Sunday, November 21, 2010

Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival: Friday

Did you catch the four previous posts? If not, go here, here, here and here.

Friday's birding began a bit earlier. Catherine departed before dawn for a shorebird field trip with WildBird contributors Kevin Karlson (of "The Shorebird Guide" with Michael O'Brien and Richard Crossley) and Jessie Barry of The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Our recently arrived roommate, Sharon -- also known as Birdchick -- wanted to see Ruddy Ground-Dove and Common Pauraque at Estero Llano Grande State Park, so that's where she and I went. Even though I'd been to the park the day before, I wasn't going to complain about another visit -- plus, Sharon had an experiment in mind.

The experiment involved the Internet and our friend in Michigan who'd planned to attend the festival but was thwarted. Mark Robinson, aka Blobbybirdman, sadly remained in Michigan while we three attended the festival and provided updates of our adventures.

Re the experiment: Estero offers free wireless Internet access near its visitor center (thank you very much!). Combine that with a laptop, a webcam and a video chat website -- and you have birding by Skype, or Skyrding or birping or something.

At the visitor center, Sharon connected online with Mark -- who's not birded yet in south Texas -- and started sharing the sights from the visitor center's observation deck next to Ibis Pond...

and the Texas Wildscapes demonstration site...

and the feeding station with a water drip tucked behind the visitor center. With Sharon's laptop on the ground, seed sprinkled in front of the computer and water dripping into the rock feature, Mark awaited the appearance of Plain Chachalaca, Inca Dove, anything that would thrill a Brit who hasn't set foot in the valley.

I couldn't help but chortle when my ears caught the sound of Mark pishing via the webcam. Actually, after a few pishing sessions, some Orange-crowned Warblers and doves ventured closer to the computer, but they didn't come into full view.

Mark didn't receive a clear view of any species, but we enjoyed showing him around and introducing him to other birders, such as field trip leader Michael O'Brien. I like the idea of more visitor centers offering wireless Internet access for more virtual birding.

Then Sharon and I set off for Common Pauraque near Alligator Lake. Just past Grebe Marsh, though, we encountered a soft-shelled turtle in the middle of the road. Sharon picked it up...

and let me get a good look before setting it next to the marsh's waterline. When we returned later, it was gone, so we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best.

I led Sharon to the spot where we saw the pauraque on Thursday, and after we marvelled at the bird, Sharon spotted another camouflage artist next to a tree.

Then she spied another hidden among some branches -- a hat trick of nightjars! (Can you pick it out at the top of the greenery?)

You can read Sharon's account and enjoy her photographs here. As Sharon worked on taking those pictures, we had the pleasure of pointing out the three birds to another birder -- and sharing the birds always makes birding more fun.

Then our stomachs said lunchtime had arrived, so we returned to Harlingen to pay homage to Alicia's Mexican Restaurant on North Commerce Street. I leave you with a photo of "Big Quesadilla."

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Blogger Krista said...

I love the pictures of the laptop waiting by the water drip! I heard about this 'skyrding' experiment from Mark - looks like you guys had a good time :)

November 22, 2010 1:02 PM  

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