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Saturday, February 20, 2016

Two Birds with One very-nearly-almost-a Stone

Little pond with reeds where THE thrush has shown itself
I was up early today, seated on the back patio at Casa Santa Ana Bed & Breakfast in Hidalgo, Texas. I wasn't as much concentrating on the vast numbers of birds at the feeders, as I was feeling grateful for the extraordinary kindness of B&B owners who let oddballs such as myself onto their property, allowing them to bird. I mean, such unabashed kindness made me a bit teary with gratitude. But enough sentimentality on the wonder that is birding. I was at the Casa on the off chance the White-throated Thrush seen over the past few days would once again appear. While awaiting the 'guest star bird' there were other species to watch getting in their morning meal at the feeders.











Beautiful male Altamira Oriole is more colorful than the orange it enjoys for breakfast.
This girlie Golden-fronted Woodpecker enjoys a little OJ too
Noisy Kiskadees also wanted a free breakfast 
While waiting and watching there were several inn guests and outside visitors such as myself. One of the B&B owners told me how the Thrush skulked in from shrubbery to the north, then taking a quick drink at patio's reedy little pond.

There was a fair amount of action overhead as well as near the ground. A couple of juvenile Gray Hawks soared overhead.

Juvie Gray Hawk has to work for its morning meal
It was fun relaxing while watching the birds, wondering how the very beat-up looking squirrel at the feeders had managed to escape whatever had taken two big chunks from its hide. A good deal of my gray matter was focused on the delightful fact that the weather was nice... not hot at all, after all, this is Texas! Then, I noticed something - a bird, running along behind the wire fencing. Holy mother-of-feathered critters... that can't be the...

It could... it WOULD!
Considering I'd been seated in my spot, for over an hour, waiting for precisely what was just outside the fence-line, I was speechless for at least half a minute while I stared at the Thrush, looking into the yard as though hoping to be invited in. L-I-F-E-R! I finally snapped into reality and fired off  ten Canon shots, only a few of which would ultimately prove to be focused or contamination-free enough to be of any value.
The best shot of White-throated Thrush showing the
white eye ring and best of all, the clean, white throat
 
I was snapping shots like crazy and the rub was, the only ones left on the patio was myself and the B&B's owner. I called out to him as to where the bird was... the bird wasn't where it had ever been spotted before so he was a little dubious. Also, sadly, he'd suffered a recent bout of shingles in his eyes and his vision's fine tuning was temporarily on the wack. Oy, was I glad to have taken photos for my proof of the bird in its new locale. 
The final salvageable shot
The White-throated Thrush had soon moved to the far left, disappearing. I was over-excited - no surprises there - and thrilled for my luck. I decided I will have to stay at this wonderful little B&B later this week and maybe see the bird again and get better shots. After the bird disappeared an ensemble of birders showed up, and with little modesty I showed off my photos. Yeah, sometimes I'm one of those "Too bad you missed it!" birders you want to strangle with their binocular straps. After a half hour or so, I was feeling too antsy to sit still, so I decided to try for another lifer. I was off southeast, to Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. I visited the refuge on my two previous visits to south Texas and back then, I'd been greeted at the entrance by tame-ish coyotes. This time there was no coyote to greet me but as at least a half dozen roadrunners were there to say howdy, I was happy.


These days I keep a pedometer on one ankle, continuously, even *sigh* when showering. So I parked, paid my fees and walked.
A Plain Chachalaca that trotted along the Gazebo railing



Being a Saturday, the refuge trails were jam-packed with families, chock full of rambunctious, noisy kiddies, who race about being adorable, scaring the crap out of the less socialized wildlife. I imagine most the visitors were not aware there was a rara ava nearby.
Discovered a duckweed filled tank, chock full of cryptic froggies. 
Cute little Gray Catbird wearing a teeny beret
How did I visit Texas so many times, yet never saw
these brilliant Mexican Ground Squirrels before?
Wha... no. I'm not a Grosbeak.
There were lots of birders about and I spoke with many of them. The general consensus was the female grosbeak was purposefully disguised itself in the manner of an alien predator and was suspected of being capable of cloaking itself in the manner of a Romulan warbird.
Huh? Just eating some seed here.




Yes, there were sullen and disappointed birders roaming the refuge. Nevertheless, the advantage of so many birders around means if target fowl is seen, the others can be called over for a peak for themselves.




The Visitor Center also had advice on the location of the Grosbeak, which seemed to be flying around in the 'potato trees' between the Center and the nearby Refuge Headquarters.


Earlier in the week I'd been shown what a Potato Trees looks like. Do you know potatoes don't grow on trees? Uh... of course you do.
Potato Tree not harboring any rare Grosbeak
OK, I had my eye on the numerous potato trees on the property. I chatted with a fellow lady birder and we had both concluded, it would be advantageous to stay put until all the families with their noisy offspring went home, which was happily about the time of day the WILDLY noisy Great-tailed Grackles - a loud and boisterous species which hogs up the bird feeders - had gone to roost for the night. So, post-kiddies, we individually roamed the grounds.          
                                                                                               


Lots of the peculiar Pyrruloxias hunted bugs and such on some lawns behind the refuge headquarters. The funny little birds looked like what would happen if Parrakeets (double-R, get the gag???) were to breed with Northern Cardinals.







Now really, Pyrruloxias (pie-rue-LOCKS-ee-ya) are a lovely dove gray with some reddish bits to their feathering and bills. Like their cousins, Northern Cardinals, Pyrruloxias are brilliant and beautiful songsters.


Being Saturday, I could perve-ishly entertain meself watching birds have their Saturday night bath.



OY! Perve Lady, I'm BATHING Here!
There were some, content just to drink the bathwater.
Truthfully, I had an awful feeling - as per usual - my chances of seeing the Grosbeak ranged from zilch to zip. So I continued roaming around the many trails near the headquarters, and every time I passed through the parking lot, it was emptier and emptier, until I was one of only a very few left. Still, no bird. Then, while headed back to the refuge HQ, something shot across the trail and into a Potato tree. I lumbered over for a peek. OM...!
There sat a little bird with a distinct black head and greenish body,
gulping down a mouthful of flowers
Why am I always so stunned when I find the very thing I'm looking for? Dropping my binoculars I took dozens of shots of my newest Lifer, all the while feeling guilty about my good fortune. Yes, I have very annoying anxiety issues and quirks. When I was certain I had some reasonable shots, I trotted off to find the other birding lady. I spotted her at the parking lot and after she answered my shreiks of 'OY!' I lead her back to where the little Crimson-collared Grosbeak continued to stuff its face.
The little female showed her colors much better at this angle
I thought the bird adorable with all the chow stuck to her substantial bill
We watched the little female bird for quite a bit, and tried viewing her from different angles, but the first remained the best. Eventually I went off, locating a couple of other birders I'd spoken to earlier in the afternoon. 

Wow - another two 'lifer' day. I counted my blessings and headed off to drive the Lakeside Auto Trail. Saw kingbirds, an Osprey and quite a few waterfowl, too far off to identify. At the end of the drive - only a couple of miles - there was a lakeside gazebo. There I spotted a busy little fellow, digging diligently. LOVE seeing armadillos. They are so cool and prehistoric looking. 
At day's end I now have five lifers racked up for this Texas trip, and that's not too shabby.
Sunset on the lakeside Gazebo.






Sit Ubu, Sit!











Good Boy!

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