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Day 2 (Sunday, 17th April)

Map of Laguna Atascosa


Hide

Drinking pool

Hide overlooking drinking pool

Open drinking pool

The morning started well, when, with light still only half decent, we were approaching the reserve on some of the long rough roads when we came across a pair of Harris’ Hawks perched on a telegraph pole, followed shortly by an Osprey. This seemed to be a favoured spot for Red-winged Blackbirds, which had kept their heads down on the trip so far. Once at the end of this drive, we turned left for the 3 mile road to the visitor centre. Even this was good for birds. The wires on the left hand side harboured species such as Harris’ Hawk, Couch’s Kingbird, Bronzed & Brown-headed Cowbirds, and rifling their way over the road in front of us, Greater Roadrunner and a number of Plain Chachalacas.

At the visitor centre, the latter were even more common, more noisy, and more approachable. We spent a small amount of time in the hide behind the visitor centre, before paying our $3 entry fee in the envelopes provided, since the centre didn’t open until 10am on a Sunday. The hide was excellent for close views of Green Jay, Chachalaca, and White-tipped Dove, all of which were numerous. This was also the case at the larger area with no blind nearer the main building – the smell was also more potent here!

White-tipped Dove

Green Jay

White-tipped Dove

Green Jay

Great-tailed Grackle

Plain Chachalaca

Great-tailed Grackle

Plain Chachalaca

We then drove around Bayside Drive, starting at the Paisano trail. This is a 1½-2 mile walk, which is initially straight, and then ends in a loop. The strange thing about this walk is that is almost all tarmacked, yet bounded on both side by thick thorny scrub and bushes. We had hoped for rattlesnake here, but the optimism proved unfounded. Birds weren’t particularly common, although the ones that we did see were worthwhile. We reacquainted ourselves with Verdin, eventually being quite close, as we returned to the car, but perhaps best for us were our first Long-billed Thrashers. The first 2 ran quickly across the track some way ahead, but we then found 2 singing birds, one perched in the open. Also along here, more woodpeckers, as well as Bewick’s Wren fairly common with at least 4 seen, and many more heard singing.

Paisano Trail

Verdin

Paisano Trail

Verdin

The Laguna Atascosa reserve area is huge, and this is demonstrated by the 15 mile loop drive completed after trekking the Paisano Trail. This passes through a few different types of habitat, mostly open low cut grassland and scrub, and bounds the Laguna Madre, which is sheltered from the Gulf. As was becoming the norm, there were plenty of Mockingbirds and Cowbirds, but we had hoped to see one or two raptors. After stopping off at the first Laguna Madre overlook, which was quiet apart from a couple of Little Blue Herons, we continued on our way, and found a tatty looking Osprey on the saltmarsh. It posed for some time before we picked up a pair of Shorelarks wading through the nearby tussocks of grass. Another 100 metres on, and a smaller raptor landed in a lone bush next to the road – a beautiful Aplomado Falcon, unfortunately with leg irons, perched directly above us! It seemed fearless, and we studied it for some time from the car. Not too much else was added on the loop, apart from an impressive circling White-tailed Hawk against the greying skies, and a flock of 17 Hudsonian Whimbrels. On leaving the drive to cross to the visitor centre, we had stunning views of a Greater Roadrunner, initially on the roadside verge, and then on the adjacent signpost.

Loop drive

Loop drive

Seawards from the Loop Drive

Open scrublands

Loop drive

Lone bush for Aplomado Falcon

Aplomado Falcon

Harris' Hawk

Greater Roadrunner

Harris' Hawk

Greater Roadrunner

Back at the visitor centre, we looked again at the bathing areas, but were then informed about a Screech Owl nest on the Kiskadee Trail. We had walked this trail earlier, with little luck, but we went back again, found the dead tree as described, which contained what was probably the deserted nest, but no sign of any owls. We did have reasonable views of a pair of Ash-throated Flycatchers. Another snippet of information was the possible location of a regular large snake and alligators. Although we couldn’t locate these, we did drive past some pools full of waders on either side of Lakeside Drive, containing some Stilt Sandpipers in non breeding plumage and a group of colourful Long-billed Dowitchers amongst others.


South Padre

The Boardwalk

Convention Centre from the marsh

The Boardwalk

After crossing the causeway to South Padre island, which is a couple of miles of concrete bridge over the Laguna Madre, we travelled the four miles North along Padre Boulevard bounded by endless characterless hotels, shops, etc, until we finally reached what must be the most hideously coloured convention centre in the world, in its garish yellow and blue – it just can’t be missed! It also has a surprising amount of quality birding on offer. They have recently constructed a small copse of trees next to the main buildings for migrant warblers. We didn’t find any – still no wood warblers on the trip – but we did locate a lone female (Ruby-throated) Hummingbird. However, the strength of this place lies in the marsh, which the boardwalk trisects. The boardwalk itself consists of one long stretch to a shaded area just in the sea, which is bounded on either side by slightly drier marsh, and a more interesting angular section which crossed a wetter reed section, and again ends in cover. Perhaps we were a little too late in the season for the variety of potential rails, but we did pick up at least 4 Soras, all very close. This proximity was the same for all other birds seen here. Perhaps the most stimulating of all were 2 male and 2 female Least Bitterns, one of the former didn’t look at all well, with what looked like a broken lower mandible, and strained attempts at feeding. American Purple Gallinule also appeared, and one or 2 waders dropped in, including a Pectoral Sandpiper and 2 Lesser Yellowlegs. A second Pec was on the long boardwalk in the saline part of the marsh, along with a small group of Least Sandpipers. Passing here was a least 1 Black Skimmer and a flock of Brown Pelicans. A lone singing male Marsh Wren was only feet away from us, and quite loud, but only stepped into the limelight occasionally. The first warblers of the trip were seen – 4 male Common Yellowthroats – but perhaps the best bird in terms of rarity was the last to be seen. A vireo from the main boardwalk showed very pale and indistinctly marked head, bright green back, and yellow flanks – a Yellow-green Vireo. They do occur here, but only scarcely, not usually venturing across the Rio Grande from Mexico.

Male Least Bittern

Female Least Bittern

Male Least Bittern

Female Least Bittern

Sora

Lesser Yellowlegs

Sora

Lesser Yellowlegs

Tricolored Heron

Yellow-crowned Night-heron

Tricoloured Heron

Yellow-crowned Night-heron

Pectoral Sandpiper

American Purple Gallinule

Pectoral Sandpiper

American Puple Gallinule


Last stop of the day was supposed to be Sabal Palm Grove, but by the time we arrived, the whole place was shut. Almost death was threatened to anybody venturing past the gates beyond the magic time. We did spend a short time around the sunflower fields, and found a male Blue Grosbeak and a flock of 6 Common Nighthawks looking to be passing over on migration. Before leaving, Couch’s Kingbird was perched above on telegraph wires, chased off by a Golden-fronted Woodpecker, both then to be replaced by a pair of Hooded Orioles.

State Farm

Black-bellied Whistling-duck

Lagoon behind State Farm office

Black-bellied Whistling-duck

We decided against searching for ticks such as Tamaulipas Crow and Parrots, so headed instead for an area next to the State Farm office in Brownesville. This was supposed to hold both Tropical & Couch’s Kingbird, as well as the potential of various waterbirds. We found the place in no time, and the manicured lagoon, with suburban residentia one side, and a golf course on the other. We did see a group of Black-bellied Whistling-ducks at close quarters, as well as a pair of Neotropic Cormorants perched on one of the dead trees. The lake didn’t hold much else of interest, but we were enthused by a flock of parakeets overhead, and decided to track down their destination anyway. We found the road junction where they were supposed to appear on an evening to roost, which apparently is mainly in the winter, and were happily told by some of the residents that indeed some “beautiful parrots” had been and gone half an hour ago. We started to search the vicinity, and heard some calling overhead, before turning round to see a Red-fronted Parrot on the wires. The Mexican residents had boarded their huge RV to drive the 20 metres to find us and show us the parrots, but we were already on the way back to their houses to find about 10 Green Parakeets and a single Red-fronted Parrot feeding in the fruit tree alongside the road. While we watched, the parakeets left, to be replaced by more Red-fronted Parrots a few minutes later. Both species in this part of the country are of dubious origin, despite each nesting in Mexico. At first this seemed to be more than tentative, and their credentials seemed fine, but doubts did creep in when one of the parrots was found to have a creamy white patch over the top of the bill.

Brownesville

Red-crowned Parrot

Roosting area for parrots and parakeets

Red-crowned Parrot


Home

Paintings gallery

Video clips

Images

DVD

Contact

Site map

Links

Content

Introduction

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Species list

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