Thursday, December 4, 2014

Dec 4 (Day 338) - Persistence pays off!

A single Tropical parula has been reported sporadically over the past 2 months from Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen. As far as I can discern, this is the only known representative of this species in Southern Texas (and all of the lower 48!) at this moment. Knowing this, I have gone "all-in" on the search for this bird. The battle started on Tuesday under very cold, very wet circumstances. I spent 4.5 dank hours searching for the bird on that day before I folded my hand on what was certainly a futile birding effort. I returned to Quinta yesterday (Wed) to resume the battle. This 7.5 hour installment played out under better conditions, but ultimately the result was similar. Round 3 was scheduled for this morning; I had already prepared mentally for the possibility of another marathon search today.

It was incredibly foggy during my ~14 mile ride to the preserve. Temperatures were similar to yesterday, so I was optimistic that there would be a decent amount of general bird activity today. I arrived at 8:15am, paid my minimal entrance fee, walked out the back door, and immediately found the Tropical parula. It took literally one minute! It was the third bird I saw behind a single Blue-headed vireo and a lone Orange-crowned warbler. After some well-earned fist pumping, I breathed a well-earned sigh of relief. This result was very welcome after the prolonged searches of the previous 2 days. I worked hard for this bird, and it felt really good to nail it today!

#608 Tropical Parula!

With this bird ticked, I immediately turned my focus toward Hook-billed kite. This Central and South American species reaches its northern limit right here in the Rio Grande Valley. There are usually at least of few (i.e. single digits) of these birds in the area. However, they can be painfully difficult to locate. The best strategy to finding one of the few birds is to find a big chunk of sky at Santa Ana NWR, Bentsen SP, or Anzalduas Park and wait for one of the birds to soar past. These birds start soaring in the mid- to late-morning, and I hustled from Quinta to Azalduas by 10:15am today to start the kite phase of things. I spent the next 5+ hours at Anzalduas diligently scanning the skies over and around the park for kites and other raptors. I was unsuccessful in my first kite search, but I did find 10 expected raptor species during the day. At 3:40pm, I received a tip that 2 Hook-billed kites had been seen not far from Anzalduas about an hour earlier. I headed to the place from which the report came, but I did not find the birds. While mildly disappointing, I actually left feeling encouraged knowing that there are kites in the general area. I will return to this area tomorrow to resume the search. Fingers crossed!

Here is the route from today. I had to break it into 2 maps since Google was being difficult. Total today was ~41 miles. This includes the miles below + 2 miles within Anzalduas.

Lastly, and just because I decided to check-in on it today, several people have pointed this out to me at various points in the year. There must be a few people with big year lists who haven't eBirded everything (like myself), but according to this I am #2  on the continent right now at 610 (and maybe 611)! The cool thing about scanning the full list of the top 100 is seeing how many of those people I have met or talked to during my adventure!


  1. What you are doing is amazing and I am thoroughly impressed. However, that list that you shared is of people who are actively ebirding their reports. As such, you are not #2 on that list - you are #1 on your solo non-ebirding non-carbon-burning birding journey. As you stated, there are many people who do not ebird - and thus the unknown is simply that, unknown.

  2. Congratulations on this bird. Your persistence is truly admirable. Great job!