For a couple of days we shuttled between reserves. We ‘did’ Santa Ana the first morning before going on to Estero Llano Grande and then McAllen Sewage Farm, the Old Hidalgo Pump House and finally a Green Parakeet roost but more about those later.
The following day we kicked off at Edinburg Scenic Wetlands, then Quinta Mazatlan before settling in at Bentsen SP for most of the rest of the day. We rounded the valley out by going to a blackbird roost at the end of Alamo, perhaps as big a spectacle as we saw all trip.
Our thoughts for the places we birded were:
Santa Ana – it was hard work here for some reason. We started early but couldn’t find any of the target birds; it’s a big place if you don’t have details. I didn’t like the look of the hawk tower, I can’t understand not filling in the middle, thereby providing somewhere for vertigo sufferers like me to retreat to. We also looked for a blind that should have been looking over Willow Lake but only found some sort of shelter thing. Not really sure what it was for.
Estero Llano Grande – what a great little reserve. Compact, helpful staff and lots of places to sit. It was hellishly breezy when we were there and so the birds stayed low. The Pauraques were great.
Quinta Mazatlan – a tidy little place although a bit busy when we were there. None of the specialities showed unfortunately.
Old Hidalgo Pumphouse – we really enjoyed our short visit there and it is worth a look. We had a couple of House Finch there, an uncommon valley bird.
Edinburg Scenic Wetlands – an odd but attractive place with seemingly a different habitat ever seven feet, the birds like it too.
Bentsen SP – great feeders and seats to watch them from too. The blinds seem to be sponsored by the local Chiropractors though. No shelves for elbows, slats not at eye level but they are at least birding blinds. I also found it odd that some of the feeders from the blinds had big trees right in front of them. We nearly got splatted on the way down to the parking lot. A truck (Dodge Ram) driven by an idiot drove straight over the main access road from a side road at speed and over a stop sign. He was lucky I was not an armed Texan because I would have shot him, I could even see the whites of his eyes he was so close!
With hindsight a few more days in the valley would have been great but we didn’t have that luxury. We would have liked to go east too but alas time beat us. Below are a few of the birds we saw.
Black-crested Titmouse – everywhere in the valley and very vocal.
Plain Chachalaca – Common in the valley but you can walk right past them.
Great Kiskadee – the sound of south Texas after Great-tailed Grackles.
Ladder-backed Woodpecker – seen at most sites.
Golden-fronted Woodpecker – ubiquitous.
Green Jay – Ubiquitouser (I know but they are).
Long-billed Thrasher – we didn’t see that many, perhaps the wind kept them low.
Orange-crowned Warbler – the default warbler at feeders, Yellow-rumped held that title elsewhere.
Altamira Oriole – we saw more at Salineño than anywhere else but this one was at Bentsen.
Inca Dove – a smart little dove.
Curve-billed Thrasher – we only saw a few.
Black-bellied Whistling Duck – a good number at Edinburg.
White-eyed Vireo – out of practice with the song until we saw one, we don’t get them in QC.
Eastern Phoebe – I had a picture.
Common Pauraque – two at a range of a few feet at Estero Llano Grande, fantastic.
Not finished yet with the Texas stuff but getting close!