Saturday, December 29, 2012

Birding Centers of the Rio Grande Valley

As I have alluded to in previous postings, the Rio Grande Valley is on the migratory flyway between Central and South American and Canada.  Nearly 500 species have been sighted here.  On Thursday we drove over to Edinburgh Scenic Wetlands where there are winding trails and lagoonside platforms to view various forms of wildlife.  We had just started out on one of the trails when we noticed a bird perched over a small pond, he had a distinctive white collar and a ruddy colored breast with a dark green colored head.  We discovered later from our bird book that we had seen a green kingfisher, the smallest bird in that family.  Along one of the trails was another large pond where there were numerous waterfowl, one of which was a fulvous whistling duck.  It is hard to deal with both a binoculars as well as a camera, but I try!
On Friday we visited Quinta Mazatlan, a 10,000-square-foot 1930s Spanish Revival adobe hacienda set amidst tropical gardens.   We had a guided tour of both the house and the gardens.
Quinta Mazatlan is also a McAllen wing of the World Birding Center.  Over 100 species of birds have been identified here, one of which is the chachalaca.  That bird's only home is the Rio Grande Valley.
We watched a flock of about a dozen of those birds busily scurrying back and forth across our path, totally oblivious to our presence.  They also were constantly ascending and descending from a nearby hackberry tree which currently is loaded with fruit.  They look a bit like a road runner, but they are in a family by themselves and are a tropical-forest bird..  They give out a ringing cha-cha-lac sound.  In the gardens we heard many different bird calls, but only identified the kiskadee- which we saw several times.
Friday evening we did a full moon hike in another World Birding Center, Estero Llano Grande State Park.  We had an interpretive guided walk on the boardwalks and trails of the park.  Unfortunately it was a cool night, and our guide could not find many night creatures out.  Scorpions and tarantulas could not be found, but we did see the small gem-like eyes of many spiders in the grass.  Speaking of eyes, the red eyes of one goatsucker gave him/her away.  Goatsuckers are night hawks with wide mouths(those mouths help them catch insects), in that category are whip-or-wills and pauraques.  It was the latter which we saw, sitting on the ground near our path.  We also saw a great horned owl fly overhead and heard many whistling ducks who were perched in the trees.  I was very impressed by our guide who could identify the many night sounds!  He was also able to catch a glimpse of a bob cat who crossed our path, I only saw a white flash off in the distance.  The night walk was a first time experience for us, now we are anxious to do it again, but on a warmer evening.

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