Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Nov 25 and 26 (Days 329 and 330) - The streak finally ends...

First, for those that are counting, we reached 500,000 blog hits today! That's half a million! I am so glad people are enjoying this so much. I was hoping I'd be able to hit this mark on the same day as species 600 (or 602, however you look at it), but I'll take it any way I can get it. I know it's late in the year, but please continue to spread the word about this blog to others who might enjoy it - either this year or beyond. I will likely keep it going in some form into the future. Although 2014 will eventually end, the fun doesn't have to.

Also, another thanks to Sonia for standing in last night on late notice! She did another admirable job, as expected.

Now for the bird-related events of the last 2 days. Those of you who have been following this blog since earlier in the year might have noticed that I have not missed many birds for which I spent serious time looking. In fact, the last birds that I missed were on the Texas coast when I left before I had found Yellow-bellied flycatcher, Black-billed cuckoo, and Mourning warbler. I also missed Alder flycatcher, but, since that bird was not going to call on the Texas coast, I really don't feel that I (or 99% of other birders) would be comfortable IDing this species without voice. Even if I saw one, without voice I wouldn't be able to conclusively identify it. Incidently, I was able to tick Willow flycatcher out west during the summer. Anyway, it has been an incredible run since the the beginning of May. I did miss a few birds here and there (Flammulated owl, Sooty grouse, Pacific-golden plover, etc), but I eventually found each of them with continued searching. Additionally, I was lucky enough to see Yellow-green vireo on the last day it was present in San Diego. I rode 300 miles (round trip) to get Rufous-backed robin and that bird left the day after I saw it. Ancient murrelet appeared right in front of me in San Diego, and I found the needle in a haystack in the single Thayer's gull at the Salton Sea way earlier than it should have been there. I got all the grouse off-lek, and poached Slaty-backed gull while in Washington state. These are some of the highlights of what has been an amazing bird-finding run the last 7 months.

With this discussion, I am sure that many of you can anticipate the news that I did not find Red-billed pigeon yesterday or today. The Upper Rio Grande Valley (URGV) was my only shot at this bird, and, as I departed today, I knew I would not have another realistic crack at this bird. After all, I can't find them all no matter how hard I am willing to try. I did feel a bit helpless looking for this species though. As it is only ever seen along the river, all one can do is pull up a piece of river and watch and wait. Looking for Red-billed pigeon is thus not terribly proactive; You just have to get lucky and have one fly by (or near!) where you are standing. Anyway, that's the story on this bird. It's a real bummer to leave this bird on the table, but given the nature of the search and the complete lack of services/support in the URGV, I needed to get the heck out of there, stat. Barring a miracle, this bird won't be joining the 2014 party. I did see a number of other nice birds in the last two days. However, as a number of things on my bike have broken in the last week, I must spend some extra time piecing them back together. I'm just going to throw up a few photos of a few of the birds and leave it at that.

Zone-tailed hawk

Greater white-fronted geese

Gray hawk through branches. I actually saw 4-5 of these the last few days.

Audubon's oriole

While the above are for documentation only, these are much nicer!

They're not terribly exciting but they show the birds in their
ground-earth habitat where they are observed 99% of the time.

White-tipped dove

Common ground-dove

Inca dove

White-tipped dove in late afternoon light!

Putting the pigeon and the URGV behind me, I am now in Mission, TX. I have now officially reach the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) where I will be spending at least the next 10-12 days. Looking at the below, I will find the 7 easy species as I look for the 5 toughies. 

LRGV will/must get (7)
Snow goose
Least grebe
White-tailed hawk
Common pauraque
Buff-bellied hummingbird
Red-crowned parrot
Green parakeet

LRGV toughies
Hook-billed kite
Tropical parula
Ferruginous pygmy-owl
Groove-billed ani
Aplomado falcon

I will start this tomorrow as I will ride ~30 miles east from Mission to Estero Llano Grande State Park where 2 Anis have been seen for the last week. This species largely moves south out of the LRGV during winter, but a few linger a bit longer and even fewer spend the whole winter. As the 2 birds have been seen at Estero each day for the past week, I must pounce on them ASAP. This is what will hopefully happen tomorrow. If I can take care of this bird, it will be a strong start to my LRGV leg! After that it will be time for Tropical parula and Hook-billed kite around Mission/McAllen. Falcon will be dealt with closer to the coast, and Pygmy-owl will be handled after that (possibly on the King Ranch). One bird at a time, one bird at a time..........

Here are the maps from the last two days.

Nov 25 - just 14 miles around Falcon/Salineno

Nov 26 - 62 miles to Mission, TX

Feeder watching at Salineno with Larry, Yvonne, Cheryl, and Don (L > R)


  1. I've put in my time at Salineno twice during the winter trying for Red-billed Pigeon with no luck. Good choice to call it off and keep moving.

  2. You'll soon forget about that pigeon with a RED-LEGGED HONEYCREEPER to chase!! Good luck and Happy Thanksgiving from the UK

  3. Hi Dorian, Looks like the birding gods are smiling on you! Hope you find the Red-legged Honeycreeper at Estero Llano!
    Best wishes!

  4. I saw this post on was from the ABA page. Don't know if it will be helpful to you but think you are in the area -- Female plumage RED-LEGGED HONEYCREEPER Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco, TX NOW.

  5. I cheat and check the list. He got it. Congrats.