The walk to dinner - no lights on walkway
side of bridge.
Anyway, when something like this happens at the end of the day, it really colors my day in a negative way. Luckily, today was such a good birding day that even this nonsense can't take the shine off of it. The plan for today was to ride from Laredo to Zapata with a couple of birding stops along the way. The most notable of these was going to be at the La Laja Ranch, a private tract to which I had been granted access. The landowners have been opening the ranch for birding festivals, and they are going to be looking to open some form of Bed and Breakfast on the property in the near future. Please keep your eye on La Laja Ranch moving forward. After my visit today, I can say with certainty that LOTS of good birds are going to be found on this property in the next few years. It has a full mile of riverfront that really looks like a rarity magnet. At present though, the ranch's best claim to fame is the reliability with which visitors see White-colored seedeater. Although I saw seedeater yesterday, I still really wanted to bird this property today. I met the owner, Edward Herbst, and his son, Ed Jr, as the Ranch entrance at 9:30 this morning. Ed Jr and I would spend a very nice 3 hours wandering around the property. We did see 2 seedeaters, and, just as exciting, I was able to add 4 year birds during my visit. The first of these was a White-tipped dove that flushed from the roadside for #594. During the walk, I was also able to add Altamira oriole (#595), Audubon's oriole (#596), and Plain chachalaca (heard-only for #597). It was really nice to find the orioles without the aid of a feeder today. I will certainly see more chachalacas in the next few days. Otherwise, even during the late morning on a hot day, the ranch was filled with birds. This is definitely a place to watch in the next few years!
Rio Grande view from La Laja Ranch
Tour guide Ed Jr
Altamira Oriole (#595)- was playing around with
the camera when this guy appeared. The settings
were all funky!
Audubon's oriole (#596)
In the afternoon, I continued south towards San Ygnacio. This is another well-known seedeater spot that I was hoping to bird for at least a while today. However, as this has been a very wet year around here (shocking, huh?), the seedeater area was so overgrown that I decided not to fight my way through it. Instead, I continued south to my final destination of Zapata. I was last in Zapata in 2008 when I saw my then lifer seedeater in the pond behind the Zapata public library. I decided to return to this small park today to do a bit of laid-back, end-of-day birding. It was filled with Kiskadees and Vermillion flycatchers, Green jays, kinglets, and assorted doves. Walking around the pond, I stumbled onto a brown bird perched on a stick. A quick glance with the binocs showed a Clay-colord thrush for year bird #5 for the day and #598 for the year! Technically this is a code 3 bird, but it was become increasingly common in the LRGV in the last few years so maybe its due for a downgrade. Regardless it was a really good find to cap off a very nice day or birding and riding. On my way back to my bike, I found my 3rd seedeater of the day. This was actually a decent looking male. He vanished after only a few seconds, but I did get a shot of him before he took off. When all was said and done, I biked ~60 miles and walked about 6.5 after the dinner fiasco.
Clay-colored thrush #598!
Bonus male White-collared seedeater at day's end
Tomorrow I am going to head to Salineno. I was going to try for the orioles there, but with those in hand most of my focus will be on Red-billed pigeon. It would also be nice to see a wild Muscovy even though I already have the counted the introduced Muscovy from South Florida. Interestingly, I saw the Pigeon and the Muscovy in the same 10 minutes when I visited Salineno in 2008! There are a bunch of places to bird in the Salineno area, so I'll spend the entire day there tomorrow. I might need to spend a day or two more depending on how the big pigeon search goes, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there. It is totally possible that I could reach 600 species tomorrow - Woo Hoo!