Thursday, March 29, 2007

Birding Along the Rio Grande

Thursday, March 29, 2007
Signs welcome you to the trails at Falcon State Park above Falcon Dam.

Early mornings these past two days have been spent bird watching along the Rio Grande, the river that serves, here in Texas, as our border with Mexico. We were scheduled to canoe from Chapeño to Salineño yesterday morning, but the water was too high and the winds too strong for easy canoeing, so we just stayed on terra firma.

BTW, for you experienced South Texas birders, the property at Chapeño is now owned by new people and access to EVERYONE, including birders has been cut off. It's a big bummer. Even locals aren't allowed to picnic and fish there as they once were. Birdwise this is not such a big deal since the feeding station that was once maintained there for the brown jays and Audubon's and altamira orioles has not been stocked in a long time. Salineño offers most of the same birds.
A male pyrrhuloxia, one of the hardest names to spell or say in all of birddom.

We walked around Falcon State Park seeing caracaras, pyrrhuloxias, black-throated sparrows, and hearing lots of other birds. Again, the wind kept bird activity a bit subdued. Then we raced off to Salineño where we all started birding at the boat ramp along the river. After a few minutes the rest of our group walked up the hill to check out some feeders in a backyard. It was after they left that the birds started showing up. In about 30 minutes we got quite a few of the South Texas specialties: red-billed pigeon, ringed and green kingfisher, and gray hawk. We also saw a courting pair of Swainson's hawks and a female canvasback, a very uncommon bird this far south.

Cormorants loafing above the ramp at Salineño.

This morning I ventured out with John Schaust from Wild Birds Unlimited, Jim Williams, birding columnist from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and Melissa Pitkin from Point Reyes Bird Observatory. We left before dawn to squeeze in a few hours of intense birding at Anzalduas Park before John's plane back home. John was looking for the two kingfishers and we got him great looks at one of them: the ringed.
John and Melissa scan for kingfishers at the Anzalduas boat landing.

Anzalduas is a great place for birding because you never know WHAT is going to appear. We heard gray hawks calling and a northern beardless tyrannulet, too. We saw peregrine falcon, merlin, a Swainson's hawk, a sharpie, and a Cooper's hawk. Cave swallows were in the air, along with virtually all the heron and egret species. It was a short visit--we left by just after 9 am, but it was as birdy as we'd hoped it would be. We saw or heard 54 species in just under two hours. As we drove to Anzalduas, we made predictions about the number of species we'd see. This is a game I love to play when I'm birding with others. I'm pleased to say we blew away my guess of 42 species. In fact, everyone guessed way too low.
A huge ringed kingfisher photographed at Anzalduas.

If you're in McAllen, Texas tomorrow, stop by the Texas Tropics Nature Festival. I'm leading a trip somewhere birdy and I'd love to have you along.


On March 29, 2007 at 3:54 PM Cheezer said...

Kickin' ringed kingfisher shot!! I would hate to be a fish about to be hit by that dagger-bill. I love his misplaced secondary and barred boxer shorts. Thanks for finding the time to blog, B.

On March 31, 2007 at 10:57 PM Susan Gets Native said...

Yep, I would feel very welcome on that trail.

On April 1, 2007 at 10:12 PM Jack said...

If you noticed a hugh ebony tree upriver from the dock at Salineno, then you saw the tree that held the black-collared hawk.