Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bulletin 73 - Rio Grande Valley TX birds #1

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
March 26, 2009

Bulletin #73 – Rio Grande Valley, Texas – part 1

Hello friends,

(Note - click on the images to see a full size photo)

(Also - see all of my photos on my Pbase photo site)

There were a number of Mexican species in the RGV this winter, so I had to make a trip to see them. Also, there is an owl in the valley that I missed last summer, so it was a target of my trip as well.

I flew into Harlingen on a Friday morning and rented a car to drive north to Raymondville to the San Miguelito Ranch. The owner, Leticia Tijerina, has Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls nesting in bird houses in her yard. Her web site is

This was truly an owl paradise, for we found Barn Owls and Great Horned Owls as well as the Pygmy-Owls.

The Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium brasilianum) is a small (6.75”) diurnal owl. It is brown-backed with streaked breast and rufous tail (below right). The eyes are bright yellow.

Next, we looked for the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) nests of which Leticia has 2 on her property. Here is the bird on the nest. The ‘horns’ are both pointing to the right, as the wind was 20-25mph.

We found a baby in the other nest.

The wind was a nuisance, but did help us with the Barn Owl (Tyto alba). This owl roosts in some of the out buildings. Normally, the owl hears you as you approach and flies off. The wind was so loud, that my footsteps were muffled and allowed me to approach and get this full frame photo of the sleeping bird. What a magnificent animal! He looks like he is wearing a brown cape. Also, it looks like he is leaning against the post.

That was an exceptional owl trifecta to start the weekend. Thanks Leticia for your hospitality.

Next I went to look for some Mountain Plovers but the wind was blowing lots of dust in the plowed field where they were supposed to be and I didn’t find them.

I next went to Laguna Atascosa NWR east of Harlingen to look for several birds. I caught a glimpse of both the male and female Blue Bunting, but wasn’t able to get any photos on Friday.

On the way home for the evening, I did find this immature Harris’s Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus) on top of a yucca plant in the waning hours of daylight.

Saturday morning, I went to Estero Llano Grande SP in Weslaco for the scheduled bird walk with a resident naturalist.

Again, it was still windy and started to rain for a time, but we found some great birds and most of the target birds.

The rarity is the Rose-throated Becard (Pachyramphus aglaiae). This is a 1st year male. With the gray head, brown back and pink throat patch. This bird has long been considered a member of the flycatcher family, but recently, the IOU as placed it in with the cotingas (a family of showy neotropical birds). This is the only bird of this species in the USA at this time.

A treat for me was to photograph a Common Pauraque (Nyctidromus albicolllis). This bird is a member of the nightjar family like nighthawks and whip-poor-wills. I have tried to photo this bird at night as they sit on roads etc, but I can never get close enough before they fly off. The park guide knew a couple of places where they roosted and slept on the ground during the day. They certainly blend into the leaf litter!

The last bird in the state park is actually an escaped cage bird. Many birds in Mexico are caught and kept as pets including song birds. In the USA and Canada this practice would be illegal.

Here is a beautiful jay, the Black-throated Magpie-Jay (Calocitta colliei). This bird is native to western Mexico. It is 24-27” long with a magnificent crest and tail. I have seen this bird in the wild. Here are a couple of photos of this non-countable, but wonderful bird.

All comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald
photos copyright 2009 David McDonald

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