Another Run to the Coast

by AJ 29. January 2014 21:44

Today was pretty chilly.  Last night there was some sleet and freezing rain so schools were postponed until late morning.  It was a good day to do some laundry and have a good BBQ lunch at the original Willie's in Alamo.  Yummy food!

After lunch I figured a drive was the best bet so headed east and south to Brownsville.  There had been enough moisture that staying on paved roads was prudent so I headed towards Port Isabel.  At a boat ramp I found a number of species I'd missed so far plus a few others like Reddish Egret that are always fun to see.

Black Skimmers (one of my favorite birds) with Willets

Marbled Godwits (with Willets)

Spotted Sandpiper

I was hoping to maybe find an Aplomado Falcon along this road but no joy.  The wind was picking up as was the drizzle.  It was just one of those days if you were home you would stay inside but I'm in South Texas for crying out loud.  So it was on to South Padre Island in hopes of finding something offshore like a Northern Gannet.  Nope, but it was fun.

Surf's Up

I did find a few birds to photograph in the parking lots and along the beach.  Sanderlings really don't care how ferocious the breakers are.


Semipalmated Plover

Laughing Gull

Ring-billed Gull

Royal Tern


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El Rocio

by AJ 28. January 2014 21:19

Thanks to Loren & Babs Padelford, I learned about this great place to stay while birding the Rio Grande Valley.  It is an island of native vegetation in a sea of development - homes, RV parks, and the like.  Unfortunately I could only get the place for a week.  When I checked in an walked around a bit I knew it was a winner.

The place is a bit on the eclectic side but in a good way.  The main house is built around a tree which still serves as support for the roof.  It has three bedrooms and two baths and is really very nice for a larger group.  I enjoyed my neighbors.  Gene said he taught at Iowa State Teachers College many years ago.  I told him that dated him!

I should have taken more photos from here but oh well.  These are all from the patio where I had coffee each morning.

Clay-colored Thrush (there was a pair)


Gray Fox

Across the road from El Rocio is the Veteran's Cemetery.  A flock of about 40 Long-billed Curlews have found the lawns to their liking for a winter home.


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A Day at Llano Grande

by AJ 26. January 2014 16:29

Today I wanted to get back and bird the tropical forest area at Estero Llano Grande.  The last time I did this was after my broken leg and it was brutal. Today there were no rare birds but it was fun. Tropical forest birds fed at the many oranges and peanut butter feeding stations. 
Plain Chachalaca

Great Kiskadee

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Long-billed Thrasher

I managed to find a sleeping Paraque in the woods.

Waterbirds were also in evidence and I did manage to find a very few dragonflies.  The butterflies are incredible and I need to learn them. This Mexican Bluewing is a stunner even though my photography skills were lacking.


Common Gallinule

To end a great day I managed to find the staging area for Green Parakeets heading into their nighttime roost - the local K-Mart parking lot. What noise!


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Birding Up River

by AJ 25. January 2014 17:31

It was the day to head up river and bird one of my favorite parts of the Valley. Thankfully the feeding operation at Salineno has started up again and it was great fun just hanging out at the feeders.  It was orioles, orioles, orioles! The most common species is Altamira with both an adult and juvenile shown here.


The prize for this part of the Rio Grande, however, is the Audubon's Oriole.


Falcon State Park was a bit of a disappointment for photography since there was no feeding operation going on this year. I did manage to get off a shot of a Roadrunner trying to hide from me in the grasses and a javelina crossing the road.




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Edinburg Wetlands

by AJ 24. January 2014 17:19

The cold front arrived and for this far south it was really, really cold! The wind drove right through my fleece and I never expected to need to wear gloves while birding here. Although it was too cold to wander around the ponds, a sheltered area of the wooded area produced five warbler species - Yellow-rumped, Orange-crowned, Black-and-White, Wilson's, and the prize - Tropical Parula.  One bird that seems to "weather the weather" pretty well is the Green Jay.


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Estero Llano Grande

by AJ 22. January 2014 16:11

What a fun day meeting up with old friend Jim and spending the morning birding Estero Llano Grande State Park. It was a beautiful morning and we found a few birds but no dragonflies yet. This Great Egret cracked us up as he stood by the depth marker.

This Eastern Screech Owl was sound asleep and oblivious to all the birders looking at it.


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Birding the Gulf Coast

by AJ 21. January 2014 09:48

I left home on January 19th and headed south as far as Waco, Texas for the night. The next morning it was another day of hard driving to South Padre Island for the night.  The plan was to bird the World Birding Center the next morning before heading inland, but the wind was howling and my car was getting sandblasted. Instead of trying to walk in that wind I simply drove out on some flats overlooking the bay and birded from the car. These Royal Terns were huddled together facing the wind.

The wind was still raging at Laguna Atascosa NWR but I did manage to snap a few photos from the bird blind. This Olive Sparrow was the first of many Valley specialties.



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The Last Lap

by AJ 15. March 2013 21:32

Hmmmm... it is now Wednesday and I intend to be home by Friday but am still in Arizona.  It's time to drive!  Leaving Willcox about 8:30 I dead-head east to Deming, NM and catch the shortcut to Hatch.  It was tempting to stop and buy a bunch of Hatch chili peppers but what would I do with them all?  North through Albuquerque, Las Vegas, and Raton.  The weather was great and I really enjoyed the drive through Raton Pass.  Prior to hitting the town I saw numerous pronghorns grazing in the grasslands.  Going through the mountains I was intrigued by all the signs warning of deer, elk, and bear but wasn't lucky enough to see any of these critters.  The New Mexico side of the pass is beautiful, but once one crosses into Colorado the scenery becomes spectacular.  There had obviously been a significant snowfall not so long ago.  It was getting dark by time I got to Colorado City (680 miles) so it was time to stop for the night.  This was the view from my motel.

The next morning it was off to Nebraska.  After getting through Colorado Springs and around Denver it was smooth sailing.  Once I reached Ogallala I took a short break and birded Lake Ogallala where the most significant bird was probably a Horned Grebe. There was also a good movement of primarily Snow Geese moving to the northwest.

Next stop was Sutherland Reservoir where the light was miserable and few birds outside of some geese and Mallards were identified.  Pushing further east, seeing a few cranes and large numbers of geese, I stopped for the night in Kearney,NE and spent the twilight hours watching Sandhill Cranes coming in from their feeding fields.  Another 500 miles under the belt.

The last stretch saw many flocks of geese flying overhead - mostly Snow Geese but also some Canadas.  The last stop was in Iowa and Lake Manawa SP.  Not all of the eagles have left yet.  This guy had a nice fish for lunch.

Home in time to pick up the mail and another adventure comes to a close.


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Heading for Home (Birder's Direct Route) Part 2 - 12 Mar 2013

by AJ 13. March 2013 00:01

One of the purposes of heading south was to experience the Common Black Hawk migration along the Santa Cruz River.  After breakfast I headed for Tubac and immediately found a good number of birders waiting for action.  The first bird was a Prairie Falcon which was a nice omen.  Next up were two buteos, one of which was a Red-tail but the other was a beautiful Ferruginous that was pretty unusual for this area.  Magically those two were joined by the target - a Common Black Hawk.

It was soon joined by three others and they drifted lazily to the north.  I turned my attention to the pair of Vermilion Flycatchers and a few other passerines when another eight materialized from nowhere and headed north.  I worked so hard in 100+ degree heat for my first one and now there were 12 easy to see.  What a cool experience.

From there it was south to Nogales and then back north to Patagonia where I took a little break at the Paton House.  The birds were about the same as when I was there almost a month ago now but the hummers are beginning to return.  This Broad-billed was beautiful.

I had seen a Cooper's Hawk sitting on a sign along the frontage road and there was a Sharp-shinned terrorizing the neighborhood at Paton's so the next destination was the San Pedro House near Sierra Vista in hopes of seeing the Gray Hawk.  No joy there but it was fun to just enjoy a few birds I don't see at home such as these Lesser Goldfinch, Pyrrhuloxia, and White-winged Dove.  The dove numbers have increased over the month.


Next stop would be Whitewater Draw which necessitated going south through Bisbee and then back north.  In a couple of days I will be seeing migrating cranes along the Platte River in Nebraska but there are still a few thousand wintering here.  They were joined by Snow Geese, Ross' Geese and one Gr. White-fronted Goose.  A few ducks also presented some photo opportunities.

It was now about 3:00 PM so there was still time to visit Chiricahua National Monument and get some feel for the effect of the Horseshoe 2 fire.  An added benefit was to have one more chance to see birds like Mexican Jay.

The drive through Sulphur Springs Valley as the sun was setting brought out numerous Northern Harriers and Red-tailed Hawks.  The day ended at Willcox with one lap around Lake Cochise.  There was nothing very unusual but the sunset was nice.  Another nice end to birding in Arizona.


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Heading for Home (Birder's Direct Route) Part 1 - 11 Mar 2013

by AJ 11. March 2013 23:46

It's time to leave the Phoenix area and head towards home but it's a mess in the mountains to the north and Iowa is getting it again.  What to do?  Only one choice - head south.  After breakfast with Kurt I tried one more time to find a caracara in the Santa Cruz Flats with no luck. On to Green Valley and an afternoon once again birding Madera Canyon.  I found that when I left there earlier it was a good choice - they had seven inches of snow the next day!  It was great to enjoy Hepatic Tanager, Painted Redstart, etc. one more time.  New trip birds included Gould's Wild Turkey and Hutton's Vireo.

Wild Turkey (Gould's) 

Yellow-eyed Junco

Lesser Goldfinch

Acorn Woodpecker


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