Tuesday, November 24, 2009

RGVBF - post festival birding

After 4 days of daily (very) early morning starts to go birding for the better part of the day, you might think that we'd take our last day of vacation a little easier - sleep in, maybe do a little local sightseeing or shopping etc. No way! We are birders, and with only one day left in the valley, we wanted to get out and check out some sightings from the festival and maybe get one last visit in to our favorite spots. (OK, maybe we slept in a little bit)

My biggest goal for the day was to try and find the Rose-throated Becard that had been seen on-and-off at Estero Llano Grande State Park. Luck was not with us, as this particular morning dawned windy with occasional light rain. Someday I'll catch up with this bird. (there's a festival again next year, right?) We really enjoyed this World Birding Center location, so spent a bit of time there, watching waterfowl right from the deck at the visitor's center, and I attempted to get some satisfactory shots at the Northern Shoveller's there.

While on the deck we had a special treat - the resident bobcat had come to the edge of the water, and with very little ado, grabbed a coot (yea, that is a bird for those of you who might not know) and wandered back to it lair with it.Estero Llano Grande is also a great place for butterflies and dragonflies as well. Just as we were leaving we spotted this beautiful Mexican BlueWing right near the hummingbird feeders.
It was late morning by the time we got on the road again. We were both feeling the effects of 8 days of almost non-stop birding (as well as a bit of partying) so neither of us felt up to any real intense birding. While in the valley, this means to me that we'd head back to one of our favorite spots - Laguna Atascosa NWR. With a 15 mile wildlife drive, you can see plenty of great stuff while sitting on your @ss in the car.
Along the way, my attention was drawn, by a large blackbird flock feeding in the grass along the side of the road. I quickly pulled over as I realized that the flock was mostly Bronzed Cowbirds, and although not uncommon, I really wanted to get a few photos of these birds. I really like their rich shiny blue-black plumage against the devilish red eye. But the best is when they are worked up a bit - they raised the feathers on their head and neck, giving them the appearance of wearing a cowl.
Pretty cool - or at least I think so!

On the drive in to the refuge, we passed another tarantula on the road, and stopped to admire it (as well as to try to coax it to a less dangerous place. Not sure if other drivers would be appreciating them as much as we do)

We stopped in at the refuge headquarters to check in and see if there had been any good sightings listed from that morning (there weren't) and checked the spot where we'd seen a roosting pauraque a few years ago (it wasn't there) a spent a few moments in one of the blinds, where I finally got a shot off at another beautiful dragonfly that I'd been hoping to get a pic of, a Carmine Skimmer:

Upon entering the refuge drive, we were greeted by one of the locals. This girl was rather non-plussed by our cars appearance on the road. I know both that she was non-plussed and that she was a she, because after a few moments of looking at us, she squatted down and um... well to use a term I like to use in mixed company - she "hydro-regulated" in the middle of the road. Gave us a few more moments looks, then trotted of into the brush.

Driving along the refuge road, we saw many of the birds that we are used to seeing there, including several of my favorites, the White-tailed Kite. This one stayed perched for extended looks with the scope:

While others hovered above:

And just as we'd had in the past, as we were on the last half of the refuge drive, we were treated to an all too brief glimpse of an Aplomado Falcon as it zoomed past and behind us. No chance for a photo though. Someday, I'll get to see one perched from closer than a mile or two away!

That evening we headed back to the hotel, grabbed a bit to eat at the Las Vegas restaurant (quite good Mexican food!) and called it a great vacation!!!

Anybody who is interested in more details of logistics, birds, places, etc please feel free to drop me a line! We really love visiting the valley and I'll be happy to be a birding ambassador and encouraging anybody to go who is even considering the trip!