Black-vented Oriole

Black-vented Oriole
Mary and I took a drive down to Bentsen Rio Grande State Park to do a little birding today. It’s about an hour and half drive – no big deal for Texas – and the park has a great reputation for special birds. However, Hurricane Alex hit the Rio Grande River hard (as we have seen here at Falcon) and the high water decimated Bentsen. Many areas are still not open and the habitat is slowly recovering.

Plain Chachalaca

We took a cold walk spotting the standard warblers and gnat-catchers, Green Jays, and woodpeckers and were a bit discouraged — but still enjoying some nice looks at birds.  Mary headed back up to to the center to warm up and I went on a bit to a river outlook, hoping to see an Anhinga.  Which I did — three of them in fact.  They were too far away to photograph but they were a new bird on my life list — one that I’ve just missed at other places.

There has been a rather rare bird – a Black-vented Oriole – hanging around the RV park next door for several weeks.  It’s been chased by many birders but I hadn’t heard much about it in the last few days and hadn’t planned to try to see it.  (Our time was limited with the dog waiting in the car.)  As I came back, I saw a guy with a big lens sitting on a bench, looking into the woods so I asked him what he was seeing.  “The oriole is up there,” he reported — and soon had a neighbor on the bench.  We watched the bird move through the foliage, never really coming into the open, but giving us some nice looks anyways.  I shot some pictures, more for the record than for high quality, and was thrilled to nail this lovely bird who normally is in Mexico or Central America.  It’s survived a number of below-freezing nights recently and looked no worse of wear.

At the same time, a noisy gang of Plain Chachalacas strode up to the feeders. These turkey-sized birds are hard to miss but this was my first time seeing them — so they became lifelist bird 3 for the day.

I returned to find Mary and she reported that she had seen the Clay-colored Thrush up by the feeders.  I knew that bird was often seen at Bentsen but probably walked right by it.  So I back-tracked, waited just a few minutes, and Bingo — one showed up at the feeder.  Bird 4 for the day.

Clay-colored Thrush

We don’t go crazy chasing birds but it’s fun to see new stuff and add them to the list.  I’ve got a few sparrows and hawks I’d like to see here at Falcon before we leave next week but I won’t lose any sleep if I don’t.  Just watching the Caracaras and Ospreys fly in the high winds of the last few days has been a treat – as was seeing a couple of special birds today. 

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