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Southern Texas in February


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Trip report: https://ebird.org/tripreport/106630

My father invited me to join him at the very southern tip of Texas for a segment of his huge camping trip (one that probably could use its own thread). I'll be visiting later this month into early March, for approximately two weeks.

Notable places we'd like to visit include:

If anyone has any advice before we head down there, I would greatly appreciate it. I have way too many targets to list them all here, and I hope to nab a few dozen lifers with photos.

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One place I would recommend checking out is Salineno Wildlife Refuge, especially the feeder area as it provides amazing photo opportunities of stunning birds like Green Jays, Altamira Orioles, and Great Kiskadees. Here is my checklist from January last year. https://ebird.org/checklist/S100813290. Here is the entire trip report https://ebird.org/tripreport/32628.

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@BlueJay I appreciate it, but my father is staying in Falcon before I fly out, and we aren't going to be traveling back west of McAllen (unless there is some mega-rarity like a Brown Jay). I've been working on transcribing data on my targets across most of the big hotspots between McAllen and South Padre Island so we can see most of the big specialties.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm leaving this Wednesday! 😀 My father is currently chasing the Red-billed Pigeon and Morelet's Seedeater in Salineño.

We'll be staying at Bentsen Palm for the first week before moving to South Padre Island then up to Corpus Christi. We have a few specific days planned (23rd in Santa Ana, 25th in Estero Llano), but much of the trip will be based on things like weather, how good the activity is, and the locations of rarities like Hook-billed Kite (there's one hanging around Bentsen right now). Depending on my father's luck in Salineño, a drive there could be in the cards.

I assume most of the information in this comment from @Liam is still valid. I definitely wouldn't mind seeing those pygmy-owls.

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Oh yeah, still valid, for the most part, but with a couple of updates:


1. I think the Santa Ana NWR trails are all open now, but I haven't visited in a year so I could be wrong.

2. Bentsen is actually an enjoyable place to bird now that I've spent more time there. If you focus on the feeder areas, especially. There's a Rose-throated Becard there now that moves between the La Familia feeder area (map) and the Ebony Grove picnic area (and the adjacent feeders). Hook-billed Kites have been putting on a show at Bentsen this winter. I saw two on my last visit. They hang out in the woods south of Roadrunner Crossing (note: the map does not face north). The bird I saw perched was just south of Roadrunner and east of Mesquite. More info on my eBird checklist: https://ebird.org/checklist/S127723197

3. Check out the Butterfly Center. Good birding there too, not to mention the amazing butterfly diversity. There's a Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet on the Hackberry Trail on the levee. Learn its call and you should be able to find it pretty easily. They're scarce in the winter. Also look for the McCall's Screech-Owl in tree holes on the levee.

DM me and I'll share the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl spots with you.

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17 minutes ago, Liam said:

Check out the Butterfly Center.

We'll very likely visit that after going to a "main attraction" and still having a few hours in the afternoon due to its proximity to the RV park. From the rare bird alert, it looks like an Audubon's Oriole is there now, and a Groove-billed Ani was there a few days ago.

Edited by Zoroark
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1 hour ago, Kevin said:

That's not bad at all, on the contrary, it is wonderful weather. Wish we had it year round!

Oh, I agree. We've had days where the temperature doesn't go below 100°. On the contrary, we practically never have below about 25°.

I wonder what my first lifer is going to be. My vote goes to the Green Jay.

Edited by Zoroark
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1 hour ago, Zoroark said:

the contrary, we practically never have below about 25°.

How nice! Just a few years ago it was -2  here, and just a few months before it 116. Must be nice to live somewhere where the weather is more stable. It will be 95 degrees and two days later we are sledding. There is just something wrong with that.

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I figure I might as well copy my list. Here are the birds I have anywhere from a fair to high chance of seeing on the trip. Some of these are very local, while others are fairly widespread.

  • Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
  • Fulvous Whistling-Duck
  • Mottled Duck
  • Plain Chachalaca
  • Least Grebe
  • White-tipped Dove
  • Groove-billed Ani
  • Common Pauraque
  • Buff-bellied Hummingbird
  • Whooping Crane
  • Snowy Plover
  • Stilt Sandpiper
  • Gull-billed Tern
  • White-tailed Kite
  • Hook-billed Kite
  • White-tailed Hawk
  • Broad-winged Hawk
  • Eastern Screech-Owl
  • Ringed Kingfisher
  • Green Kingfisher
  • Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  • Crested Caracara
  • Aplomado Falcon
  • Monk Parakeet
  • Red-crowned Parrot
  • Green Parakeet
  • Rose-throated Becard
  • Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Tropical Kingbird
  • Couch’s Kingbird
  • Green Jay
  • Black-crested Titmouse
  • Cave Swallow
  • Sedge Wren
  • Long-billed Thrasher
  • Clay-colored Thrush
  • Sprague’s Pipit
  • Olive Sparrow
  • Clay-colored Sparrow
  • Seaside Sparrow
  • Altamira Oriole
  • Audubon’s Oriole
  • Tropical Parula
  • Black-throated Green Warbler
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A visit to Santa Ana NWR brought me 11 lifers:

  • White-tipped Dove (bad photo)
  • White-tailed Hawk (photo)
  • Green Jay (photo + audio)
  • Black-crested Titmouse
  • Fulvous Whistling-Duck (photo)
  • Mottled Duck (photo)
  • Plain Chachalaca (photo)
  • Least Grebe (photo)
  • Green Kingfisher (photo)
  • Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet (bad photo + audio)
  • Olive Sparrow (photo)

And I'm now up to 158 for the year.

Edited by Zoroark
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A trip to the neighboring Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park and National Butterfly Center proved fruitful. While we didn't see the Code 3 Hook-billed Kite, I did manage five lifers and snagged a photo of the titmouse, and improved the other two with bad photos.

  • Crested Caracara (photo)
  • Long-billed Thrasher (photo)
  • Clay-colored Thrush (photo)
  • Audubon's Oriole (photo)
  • Eastern Screech-Owl (photo)

We will likely try to get the kite again on a day we don't feel like going far.

I obtained five additional firsts for the year.

Edited by Zoroark
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We went to Estero Llano Grande State Park and joined a bird walk, seeing 72 species and a hybrid Mottled × Mexican Duck. Six of those were lifers:

  • Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (photo)
  • Common Pauraque (photo!)
  • Stilt Sandpiper (photo)
  • White-tailed Kite (seen only)
  • Tropical Kingbird (heard only)
  • Couch's Kingbird (heard only)

And eight additional FOYs. We also stopped by Frontera Audubon Center, but it was mostly mosquitoes with a few birds.

Edited by Zoroark
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