Birdbrains! Jan 18 and 19 in Lower Rio Grande Valley

The Lower Rio Grande Valley (RGV) in Texas, at the Mexican border, is a designated World Birding Site.  We like birds, like looking at and looking for birds, so this area is a win-win for us.  On Friday we visited Santa Ana NWR and Estero Llano Grande St Pk - hot spots for tropical exotics.  On Saturday morning, we got lost.  And then we found Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley St Pk and spent many hours gawking and listening.  At Bentsen, we eased our way into a tram tour for other volunteers that was hosted by a knowledgeable guide... there was room and he seemed glad we were aboard.  He knew where to find the Eastern Screech Owl's niche in a large, low limb where it slept peacefully, while we strained our eyes to see it thru the bird scope - the owl matched the bark perfectly.  We walked and walked both days, with complimentary blue skies and warm temps.  We spied many new-to-us birds, interesting and/or colorful, and generally loved being outdoors on such fine days.  The following pictures are in no particular order from all three parks. 

This was the first thing we saw when we arrived at Santa Ana NWR -- branches full of raucous Blackbirds and Great Kiskadees!  Nice welcoming committee!

No bird epitomizes the exotic tropical wildlife of the Lower RGV more than the beautiful Green Jay!

We'd never heard of Common Pauraques (nightjar family), much less ever saw any.  On our "way home from Santa Ana NWR," we stopped at Estero Llano Grande, and spent a delightful couple of hours there.  We were tipped off by the staff about seeing these cute li'l fellers, so we took off on foot to find them.  Can you see two in the photo at left?  IF the staff hadn't posted the above sign, we NEVER would have spotted either one.  The close-up is of the Common Pauraque found on the left in the first picture. Near-perfect camouflage.  Neither moved while we took photos; they were asleep as they're nocturnal hunters.  In the US, they're found only in the Lower RGV.  They appeared cuddly... uh-huh....

Enlarge any picture for a better view.

Left:  Stalking the elusive fish... Right:  GOT IT!  Nice big fish.. almost too big to swallow!

Observation towers on either end of this suspension bridge at Santa Ana, good for watching hawks a-soarin'. 

Black-crowned night heron.  Skinny legs, huh?

Birds weren't all we saw.  This big toothy guy had to be 12-15' long and FAT, and smiling!  The Neotropic Cormorant didn't seem to mind the alligator.

Plain Chachalacas gathered at a feeder base.  Jimmy said they look like chickens.  They are noisy: "No one sleeps late in the Valley when the Chachalacas are around.  The dawn chorus of these 'Mexican pheasants' is almost deafening."  The two-foot long Chachalacas are at home on the ground or in the trees... or hanging upside down on a feeder!

Ring-necked Ducks floating near an observation deck.  We saw lots of other duck flavors, too.

I could have posted many more pictures, say, of the Altamira oriole (but the pics were fuzzy 'cause the oriole was far away), Golden-fronted woodpecker, and so on and so on, but this post is a small representation of what we saw.  WE didn't see a bobcat in Santa Ana NWR, but two others saw a bobcat on the same trail we were on around the same time we were traipsing merrily along.  They got pictures, too.  

Spied one of the biggest wasp-paper nests we've ever seen, with honeycomb showing.  This thing had to be two-three feet long - way up high in a large tree - but this one had bees, not wasps.  ??


After eating our sandwiches in Bentsen, we watched this young Cooper's Hawk fly in its stealth mode toward a feeder (1).  All the birds scattered, except for the House sparrows in the fluffy green bush.  They got to hollerin'.  The hawk sat patiently, hoping the other birds would forget it was there.  We watched for at least a half hour.  Suddenly an Olive Sparrow flew in for a bite and darted away, the hawk swept in, missed, and dropped to the ground (2), and then returned to the branch after missing its chance (3).  A few minutes later, it took off neatly over our heads in hot pursuit of ... whatever it was, got away.  We lost sight of the hawk, and then figured we may as well follow suit, and headed for the car. 

So be it for now.  Goodnight all.  A big fat red squirrely "Ending."


  1. Anonymous7:59 AM

    GREAT pictures! Thanks for sharing! love from Nannie

  2. Giant Gator Generates Goofy Grin. Excelentes fotos.


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