Saturday, April 24, 2010

Rio Grande Valley, April 2010

Plain Chachalaca
After a nice week at High Island, I spent 6 more days on the Gulf Coast, starting with 4 days in the Rio Grande Valley (racking up 189 species!) and then flew over to Mobile to spend another couple of days on Dauphin Island and vicinity. All in all, I scored 216 species of birds, several javalinas and an armadillo grazing along the side of the road at Laguna Atascosa!

This was my fourth trip to the Valley, but my first time on South Padre Island. I was really impressed with the number of migrants at the conference center at Sheepshead, and afterwards touring a few vacant lots that scored a Clay-colored Sparrow and the birding center where I saw a Say's Phoebe and some close-range Clapper Rails! Santa Ana and Laguna Atascosa were fantastic as always, and I got a few firsts: a Common Nighthawk sleeping on a telephone wire, a Willet on a fencepost, and a Greater Roadrunner in a tree!

Here are a few photos by location: First, some farmland near Santa Ana (which was completely flooded due to recent heavy rain) where I saw American Pipits, Horned Larks, Bronzed Cowbirds and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks:

Bronzed Cowbird

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks
At Santa Ana, migrants were slow. I did get a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, an Ovenbird and White-eyed Vireos along with the usual suspects (Olive Sparrow, Green Jay, Black-crested Titmouse, Ringed Kingfisher, Greater Kiskadee). I also got to photograph a beautiful Sora in the marsh as a Border Patrol helicopter made a lot of noise overhead...

Great Kiskadee


Afterwards, I headed to Bentsen State Park where I got Altamira Oriole and White-tipped Dove. At Hidalgo, I also managed to snag a Black Phoebe at the birding center. That evening, I headed to South Padre where the real action began: Baltimore Orioles, Orchard Orioles, Painted and Indigo Buntings, Scarlet and Summer Tanagers, scads of Northern Parulas with Tennessee, Hooded, Yellow-throated, Blackpoll, Cerulean, Nashville Warblers, Northern Waterthrush, Yellow-breasted Chat, White-eyed, Warbling, Philadelphia and Red-eyed Vireos. Also present were Yellow and Black-billed Cuckoos!

Indigo Bunting
Scarlet Tanager

female Hooded Warbler

Baltimore Oriole

Poking around South Padre Island, a new friend and I managed to find an Upland Sandpiper, Black-crowned Night Heron, Inca Dove and Clay-colored Sparrow, along with a beautiful Tennessee Warbler (along with Swainson's Thrush, Eastern Phoebe and a few other goodies).

Upland Sandpiper

Tennessee Warbler

Northern Parula
Orchard Oriole

Black-billed Cuckoo

The shoreline was stuffed with terns and shorebirds. Least, Sandwich, Royal, Caspian and Forster's Terns, Franklins and Laughing Gulls, Snowy Plover, Black-bellied Plover and Semipalmated Plovers among them. And of course, Black Skimmers!

Black Skimmer
Before heading to the airport, I hit the boardwalk and found Clapper Rail, Reddish Egrets, Tricolored Heron, Say's Phoebe, White-rumped, Semipalmated and Spotted Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitchers and Dunlin. And a Belted Kingfisher also.

Clapper Rail

Reddish Egret

Laguna Atascosa was the final stop before the airport. Highlights included Philadelphia Vireo, Painted Bunting, Harris Hawk, Long and Short-billed Dowitchers and a White-tailed Hawk that I unfortunately did not manage to photograph. Also unfortunate was a miss on the Aplomado Falcon...

Greater Roadrunner

Painted Bunting

Green Jay in the parking lot!
That was it for the Rio Grande Valley for this trip. More on Alabama birding the next post!

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