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Jake Mohlmann on his recently completed tour, Texas: The Rio Grande Valley

February 26: Jake Mohlmann on his recently completed tour, Texas: The Rio Grande Valley

South Texas thrilled us during our week in this tropical paradise...but it was anything but tropical as the coldest winter in the last 10 years held the valley in its grasp. It didn’t seem to bother the birds too much, although Mexican strays were in short supply, and we managed to cross paths with a stunning male Blue Bunting beaming in the dense undergrowth and hard to find valley specialties crossed our paths in several places such as Red-billed Pigeons at Chapeño, White-collared Seedeaters at Salineño, and Aplomado Falcons in the coastal flats.

Aplomado Falcon perched for close inspection

Hummingbirds stole the show some days. An amazing 6 species were seen throughout the week including Black-chinned, Ruby-throated, the regional specialty Buff-bellied, Rufous, a banded male Allen’s Hummingbird and most surprising of all a wayward Broad-tailed Hummingbird.

A banded Allen’s Hummingbird confirmed its ID

Red-tailed and Harris’s Hawks vied for the highest raptor total some days. At one point we witnessed 7 Harris’s Hawks perched in close proximity choosing to roost together, an anomaly in the raptor world. Though several species of Parrots occurred we took our time to get great looks at the ‘countable’ ones. A flock of nearly 500 Green Parakeets screamed over our heads as they would reposition for the best spots on the power lines. Red-crowned Parrots were seen 2 days coming into roost trees where we enjoyed their company as the sun set.

A Harris’s Hawk done for the day

Green Parakeets huddled together for warmth

Valley specialties were abundant at several of the protected areas. Least Grebes chattered to each other in the vegetated wetlands and Olive Sparrows, normally difficult to spot, showed well throughout the week. Green Jays, Altamira and Audubon’s Orioles, and White-tipped Doves were always around and available to watch when nothing else was in view.

The diminutive Least Grebe has a big personality

Olive Sparrow oddly perched in the open

The drier Chihuahuan Desert portion of the tour focused above and below Falcon Reservoir near Zapata. Species much more common further west joined our tally including the raucous song of a singing Cactus Wrens, harsh scolds of foraging Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, and the always entertaining antics of the Greater Roadrunner methodically searching for prey.

Scanning the Rio Grande produced many birds

 Our extension brought us to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge where over half of the world’s population of Whooping Cranes spend the winter looking for Blue Crabs. An astounding 50 of these huge birds were counted on our boat trip through the calm waters. We even got to witness some dancing between a pair as they showed their young how to bust a move.

A Whooping Crane pair practices dance moves

And as always, thanks to our wonderful group for companionship and fun

Our group, excited after seeing Blue Bunting

Posted: February 26, 2018