Thursday, November 27, 2008

One For Two

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Internet reports suggested two big ticket birds could be found at Estero Llano Grande State Park: Rose-throated Becard and Tropical Parula. I was there at 7am, but the Park itself was closed until 8am. Without access to the park proper (and not really knowing where to go to find the key birds), I just started to blunder around looking for anything until I could get some direction from staff.

Around 8am, I bumped in John Yochum, a new addition to the Park staff and a former Midwestern guy. It turns out I was blundering around in exactly the right spot for both birds. John's situation was truly a sad one. He was still in his first week at Estero but there were some technical details that still needed to be addressed. So, he was working, but he couldn't work. Basically, his boss siad he could just bird al day and help visitors (like me!) find the birds. Wow. How awful. Birding all day and getting paid for it. My heart bleeds for him.

One peach of a bird was the Black-throated Magpie Jay. Normally found in Mexico, this bird had been at Estero for quite a few weeks. All indications suggest it did not get there on its own, but it can certainly whet one's appetite for more tropical birding. By 10:30, we had located the Rose-throated Becard(#624). By that time, over half a dozen people where looking for it, so it was certainly a case of "the more eyes the better".

On the way back to the Visitors Center for a drink, we both heard it: that high rising buzzy zip. If I had been standing in Michigan, I would say "Northern Parula", but I was not in Michigan, of course. Down there, in winter, a Parula needs to be checked. It could be the Tropical instead. Knowing that a Tropical had been in the area, we stopped dead in our tracks. Somehow, even though it was only 30 feet away, it evaporated. Gone. Poof. Just like that. No looks at all. Just that agonizing thought that life bird #625, and key bird for the trip, had slipped into a wormhole and vanished forever.

After investing even more time with no return, I opted to head to Quinta Matzalan. TWO Tropical Parulas had been reported in previous days. After about an hour, I realized I should probably head back to Estero. That was the place to be. At least we heard was what probably the bird.

I stayed until sundown. I got a second look at the Becard (unfortunately, despite being a flycatcher, they don't seem to like perching in the open). I also nabbed a Black-throated Gray Warbler that had been on the property - thats a tough bird in Texas. Earlier in the day, a Cinnamon Teal was on the pond, so the day was rather productive overall. The mosquitoes chased me out before sunset. I had put on shorts to beat the heat.

Dinner was at BJ's Brewhouse. I had bumbled into this place when I was in the Valley in June. Two new beers for the ole list - Harvest Hefeweizen (#516) and the Nutty Brewnette (#517). The Hefe was a solid 4 out of 5, but that Brown was a 3. That said, however, it would have paired nicely with the spinach and artichoke heart pizza.

The night was at the Alamo Inn. I stayed there in June and I say again - if you are a birder and you stay in the Rio Grande Valley, stay here. Great accomodations and super prices for the travelling birder.

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