Friday, August 22, 2008

Bulletin #50 - RGV TX #2

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
August 22, 2008

Bulletin #50 – Rio Grande Valley (RGV), TX birds #2

Hello friends,

I feel like I have reached a milestone of sorts as this is the 50th bulletin I have sent out since I started in May 2007. Thank you to all the subscribers, as without your support and comments it would not be worthwhile to do.

I again hired a guide, Darrell Vollert, of Chappell Hill Texas. He also guides in the ‘valley’

Darrell’s website is

Several bird species, which are native to Mexico, just cross over into the USA in the RGV or Arizona. So in order to see these birds, one must travel to those locations.

In bulletin #49 last week, I neglected to mention that I visited a private ranch north of Harlingen to take some of the photos. The Harris’s Hawk and the Golden-fronted Woodpecker reproduced below were taken there. It is the San Miguelito Ranch and the owner is Leticia Tijerina. It is a premier destination to find the Ferruginous Pygmy Owl in the spring as they nest on the property. Unfortunately for me, I was a couple of weeks late, but I do intend to return next spring to photo this owl. Their web site is

I got photos of 3 species of Tyrant Flycatchers. All these birds just extend their range into south Texas and/or southwestern USA.

The Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus) is a large (10”), noisy, & colorful flycatcher. It is unmistakable with the striped head and lemon yellow breast. click ‘next’ once

The Brown-crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus tyrannulus) has a brown back and wings with gray throat and pale yellow breast. It is similar to several other flycatchers and best distinguished by voice. click ‘next’ once

The third is the Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrucephalus rubinus). The male is beautiful and unmistakable. I always take photos of this bird when I find it.

The Yellow-green Vireo (Vireo flavoviridis) is another Mexican species that just crosses the border at Brownsville. It is similar to Red-eyed Vireo.

The Audubon’s Oriole (Icterus graduacauda) is one of 2 orioles in the USA that is black and yellow instead of the usual black and orange plumage. It is found only along the Rio Grande near Falcon Dam. Here is the male. This was a lifer for me. click ‘next’ once

The Verdin (Auriparus flaviceps) is a small cute gray bird with a yellow head and red shoulder patches.

Another tiny bird is the Black-tailed Gnatcatcher (Polioptila melanura). Gnatcatchers are gray birds with long tails. This species has a black tail as its distinguishing characteristic. Normally they are difficult to photograph as they are so active. However, this bird responded to the tape and perched up, calling back to the tape.

I finally found a male Pyrrhuloxia (Cardinalis sinuatus). This is a member of the cardinal family but is gray and red rather than all red. click ‘next’ once

Lastly, when we were along the Rio Grande at the hamlet of Salineno, we saw a Ringed Kingfisher flying across the river. This is the largest kingfisher in the new world at 16” in length.

Also, across the river was a heavily armed contingent of the Mexican army patrolling for drug and human smuggling. It reinforces the sense of danger that exists in this rural area along the Texas-Mexico border.

All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2008 David McDonald

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