Part 3 – A Grand Time in the Rio Grande Valley

This is the last in the three-part series about the Texas trip. It still amazes me when I think of how many great birds I saw in just three days of birding. This first bird is one I can see in Ohio during the breeding season, but I still got a big thrill out of seeing it on its wintering grounds down south. Meet Mr. Crazy Eyes, the White-eyed Vireo.

White-eyed Vireo - Santa Ana NWR w sig

White-eyed Vireo

This bird is mesmerizing and I just can’t get enough of it whenever I see one. And while I’m talking about familiar birds, take a look at this Orange-crowned Warbler eating…wait for it…an orange. I hope I’m not the only one that gets a little kick out of that.

Orange-crowned warbler eating an orange - w sig

Orange-crowned warbler better shot w sig

A better look at the Orange-crowned Warbler

I can see this warbler in Ohio during migration, but I got to see so many of them on this trip that I almost found myself saying, “Oh, just another Orange-crowned Warbler.” One day we visited a campsite at Falcon State Park where there were feeders set up, and there were more of this species there than anything else. It was crazy.

At the same feeding station I got my best looks ever at Northern Bobwhites. We were sitting in the car in a light rain, eating our lunch and watching to see what would show up at these feeders. The quail were feeding on the ground on Rick’s side of the car, and whenever I tried to get out to see them, they ran back into the shrubs. I eventually managed to get a photo by crawling on my hands and knees and hiding behind the car’s tires. Very much worth the pain of knees-on-asphalt!

Northern Bobwhite quail w sig

One day as we were walking along the banks of the Rio Grande I heard a very familiar sound and reflexively said, “Downy Woodpecker.” But they don’t get Downies down in the valley. 🙂 As it turns out, it was a Ladder-backed Woodpecker, which looks and sounds very much like the Downy, a bird I’m used to seeing here in Ohio. Their call note is often compared to that of a dog’s squeaky toy.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker cropped v2 w sig

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

And another woodpecker that is very similar to one of my local birds was this Golden-fronted. This species is what I think of as the western cousin to our Red-bellied Woodpecker.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker w sig

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

 

This woodpecker was at a birding hotspot at Salineño, on land owned by Valley Land Fund, an organization that protects wildlife habitat in the Rio Grande Valley. On this property there’s a large feeding station maintained by volunteers, and they even provide comfy lawn chairs so you can stay a while. Their guest registry consists of two bulging three-ring notebooks, and I was able to look back and see where I’d signed it on my first visit in 2014.

My previous visit was during a heavy rainfall, and I was huddled under the trailer awning behind a crowd of other people, and wasn’t able to see much. This time was much easier. I saw two species of orioles, the Audubon’s and the Altamira.

Audubon's Oriole w sig

Audubon’s Oriole

 

Altamira Oriole w sig copyright Kim Smith

Altamira Oriole

This location was loaded with Green Jays, Great Kiskadees, various blackbirds, and plenty of other interesting species. I’m really glad we made the 90-minute drive from McAllen to this spot.

The only bird I didn’t see on this visit that I’d really hoped for was the roadrunner. But I’m not disappointed. It just gives me a reason to come back to Texas next winter and try again. During a time when things here in Ohio are pretty bleak, this trip was excellent nature therapy!

Black-necked stilt with reflection - copyright Kim Smith

Black-necked Stilt in a roadside pond

 

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9 Responses to Part 3 – A Grand Time in the Rio Grande Valley

  1. Tracy Marr says:

    I’m a little behind, and only just read this series. It’s great I can just feel your excitement! One day I’ll get there…..

  2. Littlesundog says:

    The bobwhite has always been a favorite. We hear them more than we see them here. I have friends that have a roadrunner to visit their sliding glass door quite often. It usually brings some prize to show them – a lizard or insect! I see them on country roads sometimes, but haven’t seen any on our property. Maybe you’ll spot one on the next trip south!

  3. Annie says:

    Yes, I do believe you’ll make a return trip next year. Your photos are beautiful and posts are educational. Thanks!

  4. Gail Berner says:

    I really enjoyed your trip, Kim. I only visited once there for the RGV Birding Festival. It’s a special area – one I hope to visit again in November. Great pics.

  5. Tim Drewyor says:

    Yep, I’m jealous. Cool birds, I hope Teri and I make it there next year. I want to say, “Oh, just another Orange-crowned”. And I did like it on the orange. 🙂 Nice pictures too !

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