I now find myself in the awesome and frustrating position of searching for 1 remaining LRGV specialty species: Hook-billed kite. It's awesome since this means I've been able to tick the rest of the birds I had hoped to find down here (minus RB pigeon). It's frustrating because my search image and field have become so narrow that I must spend much time looking in one very specific habitat, the sky, for this bird. Hook-billed kites are very secretive by raptor standards. The do not perch out in the open like pretty much every other raptor I have seen this year. A birder's only legitimate shot to find this bird is to catch it on the wing. All I can really do is set-up shop at a promising location and scan the skies with the hope that a kite cruises by. Today I spent 5 hours at one spot and 2 at another. It is a challenge to sift through all the other raptors which, at least today, represented hundreds of individuals from 9 species: American kestrel, Northern Harrier, Crested caracara, Turkey vulture, Black vulture, Red-tailed hawk, Harris's hawk, Gray hawk, and Cooper's hawk. I have basically decided to treat this kite search as hawk watching practice. If I find the kite, then fantastic. If not, I'll be a better birder after the exercise than before it. While walking around on my own for extended periods of time is manageable, I will confess that sky-staring by myself from a single point can be painfully boring at times. This is why people often congregate at established hawk watches. The socializing helps to break up the certain-to-occur slow periods.
Just 25 miles in moderate wind today
I have managed to secure both permission for and assistance with Ferruginous pygmy-owl next week. Right now the attempt is scheduled for Tuesday. What this means is that I am in a holding patten for the weekend, and I intend to use this open time to continue the kite search. I all have one eye/ear on my phone the whole weekend should anything interesting turn up on either day. Raymondville, from where the owl search will be initiated Tuesday morning, is only 60 miles from Mission where I find myself now. This means I could leave here as late as Monday midday and reach Raymondville before dark that day. So, I've got 2.5 days to hunt for kite and whatever other exceptional birds might turn up.
Beyond the owl, things are slowly coming into focus. Right now it looks as tough the best time for the Yellow rail around Freeport is going to be around Dec 18-21 or so. I should have multiple cracks at this bird in this window. This timetable would also potentially give me the chance to participate in the San Bernard and/or Freeport Christmas counts. So, right now, this would make the remainder of my year look like this.
Dec 6,7,8 Kite search, LRGV birding, ride to Raymondville
Dec 9 Pygmy owl hunt
Dec 10-14 More kite (if necessary), LRGV birding - I'd try to go to Brownsville in this window. There is also a more arduous owl backup idea that could be exercised in this window should I miss it on the 9th.
Dec 15 Ride to Kingsville
Dec 16 Ride to Rockport
Dec 17 Deal with Whooping crane, Ride to Palacios
Dec 18 Ride to Freeport area
Dec 19-22 Bird San Bernard, Freeport. Yellow rails, Xmas counts, seawatching for Kittiwake
Dec 23 Ride to Brookshire
Dec 24 Bird Brookshire, Katy Prairie for Harris's sparrow
Dec 25 - 31 ?????? who knows. Could head north to chase Smith's longspur or South back to LRGV if the right bird appeared.
OK, that's it for right now. Time for bed so I have energy for kite searching tomorrow.