28 July 2013

Trippin' Texas

If you find birds/butterflies/dragonflies/damselflies boring, please move on!  This would be excruciating.

My travels had brought me back to Texas... again.  Of course, as a birder, I don't see much wrong with that!

Texas.  And a border wall:

My main reason for detouring down to Texas was to chase a long-time nemesis bird of mine, the Yellow-green Vireo.  My paths had never crossed with this tropical species despite several close calls.  So, upon arrival, I made a beeline to Resaca De La Palma State Park where at least one of these birds had been reliable.  Here's where it is:

View Resaca De La Palma State Park in a larger map

I was primed and ready, stocked up with fluids (it was hot, like 110 degrees), and mentally prepared.  A super-cool worker at the state park offered me a trolly ride out to the spot; I wouldn't pass that up.  Since I was the only person on the trolly, it was basically just the two of us birding our way out to the spot.  Shortly after we arrived, I heard the distinctive song of a Yellow-green Vireo nearby.  I had the audacity to think to myself "Man, that's just too easy".  That was my first mistake.  Although I had heard the bird, I COULD NOT see the thing.  Being impatient, I ended up walking the long way around a loop to maybe catch up to it on the other side; didn't work.  I got back to the original spot and the vireo was there, singing, just waiting for me.  However, I still couldn't SEE the thing!  Finally, after about an hour of stalking this thing, I finally got a glimpse.  And THEN it flew even closer.  It was at that point that I managed some pictures:

I was rather surprised when I heard another vireo singing not too far away.  "That's weird", I thought.  Turns out, sure enough, there were at least two of these birds in the area.  I later learned that up to 3-4 had been present this spring/summer.

After the vireo finally worked out, it was time to relax and enjoy all the other wildlife in Texas.  I ended up staying about 2 days, birding my way east to west through the Lower Rio Grande Valley.  Here are a bunch of pictures from the quick visit.

Hummingbirds, as you would expect in summer, only included BUFF-BELLIED HUMMINGBIRDS:

BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCKS were really quite common almost everywhere I went.  Here's a family at Sabal Palm:

In recent years, CLAY-COLORED THRUSHES have become commonplace in south Texas.  I bumped into some just about at every stop.  Here are a couple of pics of this relative of our American Robin:

Not particularly limited to south Texas, this BRONZED COWBIRD looked rather demonish either way:

One reason to pay attention to the swallows in south Texas are the CAVE SWALLOWS that breed under bridges.  It's not a great picture but you can see the pale cheek on this swallow perched above a bridge:

Who doesn't like GROOVE-BILLED ANIS?  Exactly.  I saw 2-3 dozen on this trip, mostly at Resaca De La Palma State Park.  Hell, I even managed to find a nest of one!

They're still a little camera-shy though.  Here's one through the brush:

Texas has some countable exotics too.  This GREEN PARAKEET was on a power-line near my hotel one evening:

... and a nearby local park had been hosting a sizable flock of parrots, mostly RED-CROWNED PARROTS.  Here's one in the fading light:

Orioles are fun in Texas; I ended up with 4 species:  AUDUBON'S, ALTAMIRA, BULLOCK'S, and then this HOODED ORIOLE at the feeders at Sabal Palm Audubon Sanctuary:

If you haven't been to Sabal Palm, go there!  It's here:

View Sabal Palm Audubon Sanctuary in a larger map

Another reliable species at Sabal Palm is the LEAST GREBE.  Here's an adult with a chick in the background:

And you can't forget the odd PLAIN CHACHALACAS!

Look closely and you'll see an adult chachalaca feeding a youngster in the shade of this thicket:

As I continued west through the Lower Rio Grande Valley, one of my last stops was at the San Ygnacio Seedeater Sanctuary.  I had been at this spot once before, probably 10 years ago or something, but MISSED the seedeaters.  I visited it again this time but found a singing WHITE-COLLARED SEEDEATER within 60 seconds of arriving.  Very cool.

It was fun being around different bugs too.  This might be my best picture of a BORDERED PATCH to date:

One of the highlights of my entire Texas visit was this tiny, somewhat bland butterfly.  It's called a GEMMED SATYR.  You might know I'm very partial to the family of satyrs but I've honestly wanted to see this species for years.  It finally worked out:

It's a pretty crappy photo but I believe the subject is a MIMOSA SKIPPER:

I was really excited to see this lifer butterfly known as a CLYTIE MINISTREAK...

...and then I realized that they were EVERYWHERE.  This entire hedge had hundreds swirling around it:

Another lifer was this TROPICAL CHECKERED-SKIPPER.  You might be able to see the distinguishing mark in this picture; the dark forewing fringe checks blending together into a dark bit:

It wasn't a lifer or anything but this EMPRESS LEILIA was still attractive:

Ok, brace yourself; I'm switching to dragonflies and damselflies for a bit.  BROAD-STRIPED FORCEPTAILS were pretty common:

This SMOKY RUBYSPOT was rather attractive, I thought.  Ok, I hadn't even heard of this species until I identified it later from the book.  :-P  Still counts!

This blazing little red damselfly is a DESERT FIRETAIL; it also was a lifer:

Another lifer damselfly came in the form of this DUSKY DANCER at the bank of the Rio Grande River at Salineno:

Yikes, watch your feet!  I saw dozens of tarantulas on this trip, mostly on the road and especially after a rain.  This particular one was just wandering closer and closer to my parked car.  At some point I figured it deserved to be photographed:

So, another visit to Texas was complete and I managed to stir up another ABA bird out of it.  But now it was time for me to continue west.  Next stop (with no offense to New Mexico) was the Chiricahuas of southeast Arizona.  Stay tuned for more bird/bug updates from my travels....