Thursday and Friday, November 21-22—Birding

Jerry and Karen Smith invited us to travel to Port Isabel and South Padre Island for birdwatching and a seafood lunch.  We drove to their new place in Alamo, and it is very nice.  As previous RV fulltimers, this long single-wide mobile home is quite spacious, and they have furnished it nicely.  It has a large screened-in porch, great for morning coffee and reading the newspaper.  After picking them up, we drove east to Harlingen,  continuing on US 77 towards Port Isabel.  One of our key objectives in the birdwatching trip was to view the Amazon Kingfisher (Chloroceryle amazona) which had been seen at a resaca (oxbow lake) east of the intersection of US 77 and Tx-100 about a quarter of a mile.  We were successful!  Recent sightings of this bird are comprise only the 2nd time it has been seen in North America.  (NOTE:  It is the second documented ABA Area record of this species, which ranges widely from southern Tamaulipas, Mexico, into South America as far south as Uruguay and Argentina.  The first record was an individual in Laredo, Texas, in late January of 2010.  That bird stayed just over a week before disappearing in early February.)

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After viewing the Amazon Kingfisher, everything else was lagniappe.  Our next stop was at the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. Dune meadows, salt marsh and intertidal flats are all represented here, along with thickets of native shrubs and trees that are irresistible to migrating birds in their season.  Long boardwalks provide viewing for the many species of birds visiting the area.  Next door is the South Padre Island Convention Center.  Formerly, one could walk between the two on the board walks without interruption, but a political dispute has ended that, and one now has to drive or make a long walk along the highway from the Birding and Nature Center to the Convention Center to view birds and butterflies at both places.  We saw heroes, egrets, curlews, and an assortment of ducks, and I was able to take some pretty decent photos, particularly at the Birding and Nature Center.

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After birdwatching, we stopped by the local kite shop for Kay to purchase a whirly-gig to put on our RV site.  She chose a hummingbird, and it is pretty neat.  Perhaps I’ll post a picture after all the raining quits (this is being written Saturday morning).  We returned Jerry and Karen to their RV park, drove to BPVRV Resort, and Kay went to happy hour while I downloaded and edited photos.  We spent a quiet evening in the motorhome watching a few recorded television programs.

With only one more day of warm weather forecast for the immediate future, I rode to the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park next door and joined a bird tour.  There were only three of us, and it was a bit slow, but enjoyable nevertheless.  The highlight of the day for me was seeing and photographing the Malachite butterfly, so named for the mineral malachite, which is similar in color to the bright green on the butterfly’s wings. The Malachite (Siproeta stelenes) is a neotropical brush-footed butterfly (family Nymphalidae).

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We saw birds common to the area including the Green Jay, Greater Kiskadee, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, and Chachalaca, as well as a Gray Hawk and the tree North American species of kingfishers:  Belted Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, and Ringed Kingfisher.  Regretfully, I missed seeing and photographing a couple of species of the Heliconius butterfly, one of my objectives this winter in the RGV.  Heliconius comprises a colorful and widespread genus of brush-footed butterfly commonly known as the longwings or heliconians.  Kay and I made it to the pool and hot tub despite intermittent clouds.  About mid-afternoon, the skies darkened and the wind began gusting, resulting in an almost 40° temperature drop in only a couple of hours, and bringing several inches of rain.  I am looking forward to the downtime this cold, blustery weather will afford.  We spent the evening watching a Mission Impossible movie on Netflix.


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