It rained a decent amount last night. As a result, things were fairly soggy when I started the big Tropical parula search at Quinta Mazatlan this morning. It was 46-47 F when I got rolling. This was not a huge problem unto itself, but the fact that that it only warmed to round 50F by noon ensured that bird activity was essentially nonexistent all morning. Needless to say, there was zero sign of the parula. I have been informed that this particular bird will sing under the right conditions; Today was certainly very far from those ideal circumstances (i.e. warmer, sunnier). I was at least able to find limited numbers of a few of the more expected species at Quinta. These included kiskadees, jays, hummingbirds, doves, and sparrows. The highlight of the morning though was a group of 3-4 Clay-colored thrushes scratching around the underbrush just off the trail. Conditions tomorrow will be marginally better than today, so maybe the parula will surface. Beyond tomorrow, the weather gets a bit better, but there really aren't any warm and sunny mornings in the forecast for the next week. I can feel this bird starting to slip away. Ugh.
36 dank miles (32.5 mapped + 3.5 riding around Bentsen SP)
In the afternoon I headed to Bentsen State Park for some general birding. Hook-billed kite can occasionally be found in and around the park, but, again, given the conditions today, I correctly figured it would be next to impossible to find the species today. The best strategy to finding this bird is to be on the observation tower when the birds start to soar early as the wind and morning thermals increase. You should immediately see 2 problems. First, soaring conditions the next few mornings are less than ideal. Second, baring a minor miracle tomorrow, I will be using these prime morning hours to search for the parula. Quinta and Bentsen are an ~1 hour ride apart, so if the parula were to show really early, I could "double-dip" and make it to Bentsen during prime kite hours.
Right now, I am not terribly optimistic about finding either of these birds in the next few days. I will have to carefully weigh when/if to pull the plug on the these birds/searches. The problem, as I described yesterday, is that if I pull the plug on these birds, there really isn't a whole heck of a lot to find elsewhere given the time I have left and the great distance between remaining individual species. There are really only 2 more all-but-guaranteed species left between here and Dallas: Whooping crane and Harris's sparrow. I am still working out pygmy-owl details, and, while I should have at least a decent shot at this bird, it is far from guaranteed as I sit here tonight. I should have a decent shot at Yellow rail, but this also requires coordination with other people for reasons that will become evident at the appropriate time. I think I would feel better about both the parula and the kite if the weather looked a bit better. This won't stop me from searching though. I've only got a month left, and this alone provides the motivation to get out there even when conditions aren't perfect.
Plain Chachalaca, a South Texas specialty of which there
is no shortage at Bentsen SP!
Combatting slow shutters under cloudy skies
today was a technical headache - even at ISO 1600.
In a tree this time