Once a month, Mary Beth Stowe hosts a field trip to an interesting, birdy area somewhere in the Rio Grande Valley. Yesterday, we had six vehicles of birders that took to the back roads northeast of Harlingen in search of Mountain Plover. On the way to this area, we passed a small lake with about a 1,000 (probably more) Black-bellied Whistling Ducks. The photos in this post were taken by Mary Beth. Thanks Mary Beth for your permission to use these photos.
We did find some Mountain Plovers out in the fields. Unfortunately, they were too distant for photos. In addition, there were Savannah and Vesper Sparrows. Horned Larks. Long-billed Curlews. Huge flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds. Many Great-tailed Grackles. Lots and lots of Killdeer.
Some farmers were plowing in one field. This activity drew in numerous Crested Caracara, American Kestrel, vultures, a Northern Harrier, at least one Red-tailed Hawk and lots (10 at least) White-tailed Hawks.
Also in the backroads we were checking out, there were big flocks (thousands) of Sandhill Cranes, and smaller flocks of Snow Geese and Greater White-fronted Geese.
The area is very dry this year. Places that were “under water” last year are now green and dry. We did find one small pond near one farm. Here we saw Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Vermillion Flycatcher, Great Blue Heron, Mourning Dove, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Great Kiskadee, Loggerhead Shrike and Northern Mockingbird.
Then we snaked our way out to the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Area. I use the word “snaked” because there are several detours in that area due to road work that has been on-going for several years (extremely slow going on this). And the approach road to the Wildlife Area is totally covered with potholes. I have been coming here for 4 years, and this road just keeps getting worse and worse. There is evidently some kind of conflict over which branch of government is responsible for the road and they can’t come to together to get the road repaired. Cars traveling along here sweep back and forth as they try to drive around the holes and ruts. Fortunately, there is little traffic (understandable) so this allows for driving all over the road as you pick your way along.
The target birds at Laguna Atascosa, were Eurasian Wigeon and Tropical Parula. They both have been present for the past several weeks. We drove to Pelican Lake in the refuge to look for the wigeon. This a LARGE lake. There were over 10,000 (maybe twice that number) waterfowl on the lake. Finding the Eurasian Wigeon was quite a task. However, one member of the group located it and most of the group was able to view the bird.
On Pelican Lake there were American Wigeon, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Canvasback, Redhead, Ruddy Duck, scaup (probably Lesser), White Pelican, American Coot, Pied-billed Grebe, Double-crested Cormorants, Great Blue Heron, Great and Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tri-coloured Heron, White-faced Ibis and Osprey. Several alligators were seen drifting along the surface, also. Along the trails and feeding area, we noted Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Green Jay, Tropical Kingbird and White-eyed Vireo.
As we were leaving the refuge, I was watching for Road-runner, as I have seen them along here in the past. But that was not the case yesterday. However, I did manage to spot a Texas Tortoise as it was heading back into the brush and an immature Harris’s Hawk perched on a utility pole and took these pictures.
Even though I love going off on my own in search birds, and birdy areas, I also enjoy these group endeavors. There is good camaraderie and always lots of laughs and just a general good time.