There are a couple of rare buntings in the area and in the last couple of days, we saw them both. The first was at Quinta Matzalan, a sprawling Spanish-revival estate surrounded by sprawling tropical gardens and lots of birds. The juvenile male Blue Bunting has been drawing birders from all over and after a chilly wait, I saw it at a feeder along with a dozen others.
I thought I’d seen a Blue Bunting in Maryland a few years ago and was surprised to find that this was a life bird – #466 – the Maryland bird was a Blue Grosbeak.
The second bunting was a Painted Bunting which has been hanging out at the National Butterfly Center. Sally and I got great looks at it as it foraged along the pathways, oblivious to the clicking telephoto lenses.
One of the nice problems we have in the Rio Grande Valley is managing bird photos – if you don’t stay with it, you end up with electronic shoe boxes of digital photos. Here are some samples from our first trip to the National Butterfly Center, starting with a couple of Altimira Orioles.
The Audobon’s Oriole is a rarity here but this guy is becoming well-known.
Northern Cardinal, Black-crested Titmouse, White-tipped Doves.
This guy was the only one watching wihout binoculars and a camera.
We visited the National Butterfly Center where a lot of interesting birds are being seen. Butterflies have been sparse due to the recent chilly weather. One of the highlghts was the dozen or sp Green Jays who were hanging out at the feeding station. Here are a few of them.
Come back for some oriole and hawk shots on the next post.
The nasty Texas weather continues for a few more days but the forecast is good.
We took the van out today, in 34 degree/misty weather to check out Anzalduas Park, a favorite local birding site. Here are a few photos from the van:
House Finches are supposedly rare here but these apparently didn’t get the memo.
Vermillion Flycatchers are delightful to watch was they forage and return to their starting point.
This Fox Squirrel was fun to watch on a rainy day.
Other encounters were a Cooper’s Hawk, dozen of Scaup and Coots, 15 Killdeer, some meadowlarks, and Least and Pied-Billed Grebes. And we stayed warm with the heater blasting.
Sunday, we headed out of chilly (31) Goliad State Park enroute to the Rio Grande Valley. We saw some neat birds at Goliad including these two Black Vultures catching some afternoon rays.
Along Highway 59, some movement caught my eye and I spotted a bunch of Sandhill Cranes. After a U-turn, dodging several large trucks, we returned to look them over.
There were 100-200 in the field. We thought the van had spooked them but looking at this photo, I think a raptor got them airborne.
At the first day here at Americana RV park, we are seeing lots of birds, especially during a visit to the Bentsen-Palm State Park.
A handsome White Pelican
A Snowy Egret
Two Great Egrets and a Snowy. Note the yellow “slippers” on the Snowy.
The chicken-like Plain Chachalaca is furtive but also very noisy.
Fontainbleau State Park, on an old sugar plantation on Lake Ponchratrain, is filled with wildlife. Deer, relatively tame, watch us as we tend to the van or walk the camp roads.
It is great to see our northern birds, such as Yellow-rumped Warblers here in force. Southern birds, such as Loggerhead Shrikes like this one, are also fun to see once again.
Here is a sampling of others we have seen on this first birding stop of the trip:
We are off to Texas today and anticipating some cool rainy travel weather but next week in the Rio Grande Valley look good. Buenos dias, mis amigos.
After delaying several days for dangerously frigid weather, we got the van dug out and started and launched Sunday in -13 degree weather (we hit -21 on the road that morning) and after three long drives and motel stays, headed to Fountainbleau State Park in LA where we are resting for a day.
We’ve been out on a couple of walks and I’ll be posting a few photos tomorrow. It"s fun to run a camera with warm fingers.
We are planning to stay at one place this winter for about six weeks since we’ll be returning early to go on a birding trip in late March. We have reservations in the Rio Grande Valley at a funky little RV park called Americana The Birding Center RV Park.
I have stayed there before and while not really into all the “activities” offered, I like the fact that you can bike to the Bentsen- Rio Grand Valley World Bird Site and it’s a short drive or a day trip to eight others:
It’s easy to get up to Salenino and Falcon Lake State Park and dozens of other RGV hotspots. Sitting here in cool rainy Vermont, I’m getting itchy.
Here are some shots off the web of the park — it’s old school and very birder-friendly.
Tree-lined streets offer shade and onsite birding.
The pool is a popular gathering spot
The park, like most, has modest wifi. It is strongest here.
While we will miss hitting Arizona and California this winter, we’ll see how ‘staying put” works out. Stay tuned.
Last night, assisted by Doctor Erika, we said goodbye to Penny, our wonderful traveling companion. She had hiked her last hike with me last week and after nearly 14 years of high energy living, ran out of gas. She crossed the country seven times, had a long life list of critters (alligators, armadillos, javelinas, road-runners, coots, gallinules, to name a few), and as a rescue dog, was very much “a piece of work.” Well-loved by all” is not an exaggeration.
Here is a little photo tribute to this great dog, who we will miss deeply.
Penny loved a good run….
and nap on chairs and couches
She took up a lot of space in my Luscombe but enjoyed flying.
and she was a great traveling companion.
Caminos felices, mi maravillosa amiga
Sparrows are often the Rodney Dangerfield’s of my birding world – they just don’t get any respect. However, fed up with the antics of fall warblers, it’s fun to see some of the sparrows sitting a bit still for identification and perhaps photos.
I came across this Lincoln’s Sparrow the other day and just wanted to share how lovely some of these little brown jobs can be: