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Big Week 2014

Part 1:  McAllen to Freer (almost...)

Was wide awake around 3:30, so decided to get up and get going after the morning routine!  Interestingly the first bird of the trip was the cacophony of roosting Great-tailed Grackles along Monte Cristo in the black of night!  It was actually quite foggy heading up, and was barely able to make out the silhouette of a Caracara powering over.  House Sparrows were at the checkpoint (which was a breeze at that hour) along with a wheeping Hooded Oriole!

Picked up the requisite Rock Pigeons in Falfurrias (and the freeway is finally done--hooray!!) and headed west on SR 285, with plans to zigzag to Del Rio with a stop at Chaparral WMA, and hopefully enough time to scout a driving route around Kickapoo Caverns State Park, where Gray Vireo is a possibility, along with other "western" type birds.  The "100-mile stop" actually occurred out in the boonies just past Ramirez on SR 339, so I found a county road I could sneak down and hide along, and the stop turned out to be wonderfully productive, with oodles of "Valley" type birds such as White-tipped Dove, Olive Sparrow, both Brown-crested and Ash-throated Flycatchers, Long-billed Thrasher, and best of all, a singing Audubon's Oriole!  (I wasn't too terribly surprised as I had gotten them along this stretch before, but I was glad to pick it up for the trip...)  Continuing north picked up a Turkey along the road!

Brown-crested Flycatcher at the "rest stop", along with a Pyrrhuloxia and an Olive Sparrow near the end.

Continuing on, several Swainson's Hawks were posing on fence posts, including a nice dark morph bird!  Zigzagging through Benavidas, I had just finished listening to a message on spiritual warfare (hold that thought) and had just started an Edward Grieg CD when out of nowhere this Deer with a Death Wish bolted out from the scrub right in front of Bippy!  There was no time to react at all, and needless to say, colliding with a deer at 75 mph (yes, that was the speed limit) is no fun (at least the air bag worked, but I thought for a minute the car was on fire because I smelled smoke!!  It was just the explosives...)!  Besides a thump in the chest I suffered no ill effects, but the deer was caracara fare (in fact, a pair found it within a couple of hours), and Bippy's whole front end was gone, but thankfully still drivable!  But I didn't feel comfortable driving her back to the Valley (the hood was pushed back pretty good), so I called 911 and AAA, and before long the deputy swung by (a real nice guy from Brownsville originally), took the report, shared some horror stories about other deer collisions (enough that it sounded like I was pretty divinely protected), and hung around for a good long time along with his buddy (originally from Mission)!  During that time a huge liftoff of Swainson's Hawks occurred, and padded the list with other nice thornscrub birds such as Painted Bunting, Cassin's and Lark Sparrows, my FOS Western Kingbird and Bank Swallows, a singing Roadrunner, and flyover Dickcissels.  Interestingly I was at peace during this whole episode, being reminded a bit of Job's story--it's tempting to want to know why that deer chose that moment to bolt out, and why Kickapoo was on my plan but apparently not on Someone else's ☺, but you never know what's going on behind the scenes until later--and even then, you may never know until eternity; I've heard too many stories of people being "delayed" only to discover that they would have been in much worse trouble if things had gone according to their plan to complain about my plans being thwarted!

One of several Swainson's Hawks along SR 339

          

Dark morph Swainson's Hawk

Suicidal deer...

Bippy's end of it...

The impact was enough to deploy the airbag!

Meanwhile, a Crested Caracara has found the deer already while watching traffic...

One of the deputies discovers a White-lined Sphinx caterpillar along the road!

    

A pretty Painted Bunting sings across the road while waiting for the tow truck...

 When the tow truck finally showed up (he came out of Alamo!!) we headed back here, and passed a big field with another mob of Swainies in it!  All in all the bird list for the day wasn't bad (48 species), but the rest of the trip is still up in the air:  the plan is to get Bippy into the "doctor" on Monday, get a rental that they'll let me take on dirt roads ☺, and pick up in Junction!

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