Wednesday, 25 March 2009

More Birding

On Monday we ventured to the convention centre to see what birds were there. It wasn't TOO windy for a change.

We saw the usual birds that frequent this area:

greater yellowlegs (tringa melanoleuca)

black-necked stilt (himantopus mexicanus)

great blue heron (ardea herodias)

and a long-billed curlew (numenius americanus) with a newly scrounged crab in its beak.

We saw some birds that we've not seen here before:

red-breasted merganser (mergus serrator)

and a common yellowthroat (geothylpis trichas)

As it was a sunny day, the turtles were out sunning. This is a red-eared slider (trachemys scripta elegans) - the kind of turtle we used to buy in pet stores years ago.

There are lots of them in the pond here.

Yesterday we decided to make the 120km trip to Bentsen State Park. It is up the Rio Grande Valley and within spitting distance of Mexico. We didn't see any birds of note in the park, however at the park office there is a lovely butterfly garden with lots of hummingbird feeders and we did see two kinds of hummingbirds:

the ruby-throated hummingbird (archilochus colubris). My bird book (Kaufman) says that if it winters on the Gulf Coast it is more likely a stray from the west.

and the buff-bellied hummingbird (amazilia yucatanensis). This hummingbird is commonly found in south Texas and southward. It may wander up the Gulf Coast to Lousiana. It has a red bill with a black tip.

We also saw a pair of great kiskadees (pitangus sulphuratus) who were picking up nesting material.

After leaving the park, we thought we'd head to the Anzalduas Dam, about 10 km down the valley which is also a noted birding site. On the road parallel to the levee (heavily patrolled by the US Border Protection Agency) Skip veered wildly over to the side of the road.

He had spotted a scissor-tailed flycatcher (tyrannus forticatus) up on a telephone wire.

When a Border Patrol vehicle approached and the agent rolled down his window, I thought he was going to scold us about Skip's erratic screeching to a stop. Instead he inquired as to the name of the bird.

We saw it fly up and catch some insects a few times with a flash of red from the top of its wings.

At Anzalduas County Park, we had trouble finding how to get to the dam. There are a couple of levees (one where they're building the huge wall to keep out illegals) but after driving up and over the second one, we found the dam.

That is Mexico on the other side of the river. There is razor wire atop the fence at the end of the dam on the US side.

Not only is the river very narrow there, it is also very shallow. There is very little that would make it difficult for someone to wade across. I don't see how it is possible to keep people from crossing the Rio Grande. Fences and border patrol can't be everywhere along several hundred miles of border like this.

Anyway, there were a few swallows flying around and people fishing in the water.

And at the side of the path, yet another scissor-tailed flycatcher was perched on a low wire.

Prickly pear cactus grow on the side of the levee. They are in bloom at this time of the year.

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