Thursday, 19 March 2015

Birding Group

It was very foggy this morning with only 1/4 mile of visibility.
Hilton Garden Inn in the fog as seen from the boardwalk of the World Birding Centre on SPI
Crossing the Queen Isabella causeway from the island to Port Isabel we were engulfed in fog on the highest part of the span. Once we started our birding, things started to clear up and by the time we got to Palo Alto we saw mostly blue sky. The temperature got up to 26C - ahhhhh. It will be like that again tomorrow and again on Sunday after rain on Saturday.

There is a birding group that meets every Thursday morning at the South Padre Island Golf Course in Laguna Vista. We finally made it to one of the meetings today. Last week we slept in and the week before it was raining.

We decided to birdwatch along Highway 100 and then go down from Los Fresnos to the Palo Alto Historical Battle Site.

The first significant one we saw was a peregrine falcon. It was very far away so this is my camera zoomed 90x. I finally learned how to use the digital zoom on the damned thing. The pictures are quite grainy at that distance but there is enough detail to accurately identify it.
Then we saw this Harris hawk on a wire along the road.
It even let me drive abreast of it so I could get a good photo.
As there has been so much rain this winter, a lot of the terrain is flooded. It isn't unusual to find kingfishers at the side of the road hoping to fish in flooded fields and ditches. This is a belted kingfisher.
A couple of the people in the group we were with do some fundraising for birding interests in the area. This aplomado falcon box was erected as a result of some of that fundraising.
I took these shots through our spotting scope. This is another life bird for me. The aplomado falcon is an endangered non-migratory, medium sized falcon. There were as few as 2 pairs of them in the 1940s and 50s due to the hobby of egg collection that used to be popular. It was put on the endangered list in the 1980s.
We saw many meadowlarks today. There is always a debate as to whether it is eastern or western. Apparently one makes the distinction by the call.
We heard and saw several of them today.
Most big, black birds we see here are grackles. Today we saw these 'chunky' black birds - Chihuahuan ravens. This is another life bird for me. In fact we saw 5 of them today. Apparently their skin is white, so if you see a parting of the feathers, you will see white. Here you can see it on the neck of the one on the left.
Pulling into the Palo Alto parking lot, we heard, then saw this curve-billed thrasher, belting it out at the top of a tree.
Walking along the path we saw, then heard this flock of sandhill cranes flying overhead.
Other birds we spotted were: a scissor-tailed flycatcher, a loggerhead shrike, a crested caracara, a verdin (life bird), a Cassin's sparrow (another life bird ), etc. We also saw a herd of about 6 nilgai - the largest type of Asian antelope. According to Wikipedia, 'Nilgai were introduced in the US state of Texas in the 1920s by the King Ranch for recreational purposes [hunting]. Over the years, some escaped and they are not free-ranging in various southern portions of the state.' There are about 30,000 of them in the Texas/Mexico are - 10,000 of them on the King Ranch. 

Skip and I are taking a mini-holiday from Spring Break on the island and are spending the next three days 'up the valley' in and around McAllen, TX. We plan to visit the remaining three World Birding Centers - Quinta Mazatlan, the Old Hidalgo Pumphouse, and the Roma Bluffs. We're also close to Bentsen State Park so may stop in there as well. Saturday will be rainy so we'll probably shop then and do other indoor pursuits.

After lunch in Los Fresnos with our new birding friends, Skip and I bid farewell and made our way to the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show. It was only $10 to get in. There were lots of animals being shown or getting ready to be shown. We also saw a little kids' tractor pull.
This little girl had a full pull of 10' with a 250 lb. load.
The parking lot was a mass of mud. I have a lot of scraping to do to get the mud off my shoes.

Another area we explored was the antique farm machinery building. At the far end was a couple of old timers operating a rope making machine.

I got to give it a whirl and made a length of rope. Basically it was like a three-clip fringe twister with strands of nylon rope twisted as three individual pairs, then the three plied strands were twisted together. I got to add a piece of blue acrylic yarn to two of the pairs of strands.
By 3pm we had had a full day, having risen at 6am to get to meet up with the birding group by 8am. Once we got checked into our hotel, I passed out for a couple of hours. I feel much better now and look forward to more adventures tomorrow.

As I clicked the button to publish this post, I noted that it is my 1000th post since beginning blogging in May of 2007. I really enjoy reading about some of the things we've done these past 7+ years and looking at the photos. This blog has very much been a pictorial journal for me and it's been very nice to have acquired some followers as well as knowing there are others 'out there' reading it as well. Happy 1000th Postiversary to me!

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