Monday, March 31, 2014

The $$$ Bird, Green Pie, A Dripping Warbler

Green Jay. This is a real $$$ bird...this is one of the reasons birders come here to, birdwatch. This is why there are so many World Birding Centers. Is there anything quite like a Green Jay? Sabal Palm Sanctuary, Brownsville.

I fear for myself this spring. The birding here can just be so will I settle for anything less? Being based in the Lower Rio Grande Valley (less than an hour to South Padre Island, less than an hour to Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge), I've been exposed to a lot in the past three weeks. Migration is on, without a doubt...the first wave of warblers, flycatchers, raptors and shorebirds has washed over south Texas...I think it's safe to say that this corner of country pops out of the March Doldrums earlier than most places, which is very good for my mental health.

I see these birds on the reg, but have yet to fully come to terms with them. If there was some intermediate looking relative between Green Jay and Blue Jay (Teal Jay? Aquamarine Jay?) it would make sense, but we lack the avian context.

With each passing weekend I've been able to get a better grasp on the birding scene here, which generally involves a lot of time on eBird, Texbirds (although that's more useful for watching birder drama), and checking a couple relevant blogs before heading out and using my #7 powers to lay waste to any birds that have the misfortune of being in the area...never before have they been observed, listened to, and precisely identified with such speed and mastery. Things will never be the same.

There still hasn't been a bird I've felt the urge to chase yet, which I find baffling, but that has not instilled any sense of apathy in me. Spring migration with both trans-gulf and circum-gulf migrants coming through is really motivating to get out and bird with no abandon.

Right. Here are some more recent birds to ponder.

Red-crowned Parrots...another slice of the avian green pie down here. Aside from the local population (and the 100% exotic population in California) Red-crowned Parrot is a declining Mexican endemic, with a small range in the northeastern part of the country. It has been suggested that some of the birds here are Mexican natives (in other words, not escaped caged birds or their progeny), although it is impossible to prove one way or the other. Photographed at Mont Meta Cemetery.

I haven't visited any of the big parrot roosts yet, I just happen to see these things once in a while during normal birding outings. If you are not completely deaf, their raucous calls are hard to ignore if the birds are in the area. If you are completely deaf...then I apologize.

Black-crested Titmouse is one of the least sought-after valley specialties. No one plots a trip here salivating over the thought of point-blank views of BCTI, but that has not prevented me from growing fond of them. They are a common bird in native woodland habitats and often form the backbone of mixed flocks. Photographed at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.

Some people like to think that their puppy is cute, their kitten is adorable, or their baby is to die for. I think we can all agree this titmouse is taking to whole concept of "cute"to a whole new level.

Northern Parula is a common early migrant here, and they provide a much-needed respite from the Yellow-rumped and Orange-crowned Warbler scene. Oh, and if you have ever heard the line "warblers were dripping off the trees", I offer you this photo of a warbler dripping off a tree.

Northern Parulas rank fairly high on the crippling scale. I find the breast pattern mesmerizing (as I find many breast patterns).

Seriously though, this is a nice bird to get to see regularly. I suspect you easterners take them for granted, to your detriment. Photographed at Laguna Atascosa.

White-tipped Doves are pretty common here...this is the best I could do in the crush department so far. They are easy to find at feeding stations but getting them to sit still is rough. I like the purple spectacles these doves use to see through. Photographed at Sabal Palm.

White-tailed Hawks ply the skies here year-round. With their long wings, sharp head pattern, contrasting underwing and short tails, they look like the perfect cross between Short-tailed and Swainson's Hawks. Photographed east of Brownsville, TX.

Eastern Phoebe is not a bird that will leave the observer broken on the ground and twitching once eye contact is made, but people have strong feelings about them. It's an amicable bird. It is a birder's bird, and so it is only natural that I sponsor this practitioner of The Economy of Style. Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (one of the world's greatest birds) are saturating the valley right now. It's difficult to not see one once you get out of the city. I have lost track of the number of these I've agonizingly had to drive past when I didn't have a camera or couldn't pull over. If Green Jay is an improbable bird, then Scissor-tailed Flycatcher borders on an impossibility, although sadly I can't back up that statement with the right photo...yet. Photographed west of Laguna Atascosa.


  1. Goddamn. I knew it wouldn't be long before your Texas crushes came to light and demolished my Texas crushes. I just didn't know it would hurt this bad. Well done.

    1. Months of pain await you my friend.

    2. I read "Mouths of pain..." and found that to be an intriguing and terrifying response.

  2. Such Crush...very birding.

    I must say the White-tipped Dove and Tufted Titmouse were my faves here, in large part because it's good to see them getting some publicity (the Titmouse and wood Dove awareness organizations really need to get off their asses) alongside the well-known LRGV cripplers.
    You already crushed Olive Sparrow, which is high on my must-see list when visiting in June.

    Rose-throated Becards? Crimson-collared Grosbeak? Are you slacking off?


      No becard or grosbeak. There is much birding here, but no rare birds. The only birds I've seen here that eBird has flagged are WTSP and TEWA.