Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Texas- Day 1

The last stronghold for new year and new photo birds for the year was south Texas. I had yet to visit Texas this year and I found a really cheap, non-stop ticket from Minneapolis to Harlingen right after my grad school finals ended. I had to take it.

I booked it to Texas the morning after my finals ended. On December 18th I landed in Harlingen just before noon. My friend, Mike Lester, flew in the day before and picked me up from the airport. The birding started at Sabal Palm Sanctuary. A Black-crested Titmouse and was the first new photo bird of the trip.

Black-crested Titmouse
 We made our way to the well-stocked feeders where a bunch of the south Texas specialties greeted us. Green Jays were abundant.

Green Jay
This is a good spot to easily see the Clay-colored Thrushes that frequent the feeder areas. Today was no exception.

Clay-colored Thrush
White-tipped Doves were also all over the feeders. There must have been half a dozen or more.

White-tipped Dove
We saw yet another south Texas specialty under the feeders; Olive Sparrow. This was too easy!

Olive Sparrow
We continued to watch the feeders. It seemed like every few minutes a new species would pop in. This Golden-fronted Woodpecker showed nicely.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker
It wasn't long before things started slowing down and we thought we had seen all there was to see at the feeders. But this Buff-bellied Hummingbird didn't want to be left out! This is one of my better pictures from the trip.

Buff-bellied Hummingbird
We decided to walk the trails that went along the water. This is toted to be a good place to see Green Kingfishers, a bird I always have trouble finding in the Valley. However, it wasn't long before we heard, and then saw, this Green Kingfisher zipping around. I had worried that this might be a tough bird to see, and photograph, on this short trip. After a few rattles of the shutter, I worried no more!

Green Kingfisher
One bird I frequently see on every trip I take to the Valley is Least Grebe. I figured they would be all over the place on this trip as well. I got a quick look through some reeds at a pair. I snapped two pictures before they disappeared. Good thing I did as we didn't see any more the rest of the trip!

Least Grebe
On the way out of the park, we noticed a pair of yellow-bellied Kingbirds on the wires. Both Tropical and Couch's are in the Valley and can really only be safely identified by voice. Luckily, these two were very vocal toward each other and allowed me to get both pictures and a sound recording. Take a look/listen. Make sure to turn up the volume as loud as you can get it:

Couch's Kingbird

 We made our way to the Brownsville dump where we hoped for Chihuahuan Ravens. Unfortunately, the dump was closed. Fortunately, we got the ravens on the way in, so no harm done. The only crow/raven in the Valley is Chihuahuan Raven. While the Brownsville dump was historically a place to find Tamulipas Crow, they haven't been seen in years, and are much smaller than this Chihuahuan Raven:

Chihuahuan Raven
We also picked up this White-tailed Hawk sitting on the side of the road. It wasn't bothered by us in the least.

White-tailed Hawk
This was a great afternoon to start the trip! But, we weren't done yet. One last stop at Oliveira Park in Brownsville for the Red-crowned Parrots that come in the evenings to stage/roost proved successful. This was another bird I had never photographed, so it was nice to have them at point-blank range.

Red-crowned Parrot
With 13 new photo birds in one afternoon, I had no complaints. The weather was also much nicer than Minneapolis. I had high hopes for the next day as we were going to one of my favorite locations in the Valley; Salineno! Check back soon to see how it went!

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